Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

You are here

Friday, July 4

Off topic: How many ways to be saved

In a recent closed meeting between Barack Obama and several Christians including Franklin Graham, Obama was asked whether he believed that Jesus is the only way to salvation. His answer, which the reporter, a Mr. Rivers, called brilliant, was Jesus is the only way for me. I'm not in a position to judge other people.

This kind of verbal evasion drives me crazy.

1. It suggests that there are different ways for different people. For example, Buddha could theoretically be a another way if you choose to believe it. That is not a biblical point of view. Consider Acts 4:12:

NIV Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

TEV Salvation is to be found through him alone; in all the world there is no one else whom God has given who can save us.”

NJB for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.’

NRSV There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”

Sounds pretty clear to me that there is only one way to salvation and that is faith in Jesus Christ. It doesn't bother me theologically if the non-Christian says that there are a number of ways to heaven. I don't expect him to have formed his theological position from Scripture alone. But the Christian who accepts Scripture as trustworthy can't at one and the same time trust Jesus for salvation and hold that he lied to us about how to be saved. It matters not that according to a recent Pew poll 67% of evangelicals believe that there are alternate ways to heaven. It is shocking and unfortunate, but how we feel about truth doesn't change it one whit.

2. The I'm not in a position to judge other people is both a bit arrogant (face it, who is there who doesn't hold opinions of right and wrong even if they have to do with the actions of another?) and unrealistic. In America, at least, we live under the rule of law. Every law is the codification of a moral judgment. So our very society judges those who break laws. Jesus says You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act Matt 7:16 NLT. Scripture doesn't ask us to be blissfully unaware and unconcerned with the conduct of others. We are not to be judgmental (in the negative sense) but we are to discern.

Granted, believers may differ on how a specific verse should be understood, but that merely brings us to a more careful review of the passage. We can differ with Scripture if we choose, but once a verse has been exegeted properly and supported by the majority of serious scholars, we reject it's clear teaching at our own peril.