INSIDE STORY: Survey: Americans see many routes to eternal life
Do we truly believe that?
I ask after reading about a national survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The most striking finding, according to The Associated Press: We remain a nation of believers, but most don’t feel their religion is the only way to eternal life.
Fifty-seven percent of evangelical church attendees polled said they believe many religions can lead to eternal life, in conflict with traditional church teaching.
“The survey shows religion in America is, indeed, 3,000 miles wide and only three inches deep,” D. Michael Lindsay, a Rice University sociologist of religion, told AP.
In this issue, our editorial council reflects on the issues raised by the study and how Christians might respond.
As for the questions I posed, here is a representative sampling of responses from folks on my e-mail list:
“Without going into a long sermon with verses, charts, diagrams and a poem, Jesus is Creator, Sustainer, Messiah and Ruler of the Universe. It is impossible to study the Bible honestly and impartially without coming to that conclusion.”
JAY KELLEY, evangelist,
Austin Street church, Levelland, Texas
“I can say that I, without hesitation, believe Jesus is the only way to attain salvation and eternal life. After all, he said that he is ‘the way, the truth and the life’ and that ‘no one comes to the Father except through him.’”
SHAWN WHITE, member,
Canyon church, Anthem, Ariz.
“Yes, Jesus is the only way to heaven. However, a particular denomination is not the only way to heaven. I am concerned that our young people may not believe that there is one way to heaven — through Christ.”
CHARLOTTE MIZE, member,
Quaker Avenue church, Lubbock, Texas
“Interesting article on religious pluralism in America. I am not encountering such thinking in my little corner of the kingdom.”
JOE BRIGHT, minister,
Sunset church, Springfield, Mo.
“Jesus claimed that there is no way to the Father except through him. I think that’s a different perspective than the question implies. Heaven is more of a relationship than it is a place. God does not want us to ‘go to heaven’ so much as he wants to dwell with us. Of course, when he dwells with us, that is heaven.”
JOEL MANERS, member,
Skyline church, Jackson, Tenn.
“Recently, I had a thoughtful individual at the church where I preach approach me in strict confidence to talk about some thoughts he has. He still believed Jesus is the only way to heaven, but he is considering whether everyone will know that they were saved by Jesus. In other words, many Muslims might make it to heaven by the grace of God and the saving power of Jesus, even though they don’t know it.”
A MINISTER who asked not to be identified
“I know when I talk to people, the trend is not to believe in hell and to believe that all roads lead to heaven — that whatever name you call on, you will be saved. I think what we’re seeing is the populace of America who is very politically correct and also very content with life, deciding that whatever you do doesn’t really matter. Kind of reminds me of Rome circa 150-300 AD. All we need are public bathhouses, but I guess the local Starbucks would suffice.”
LARA GIESBERS, minister’s wife,
North Main church, Mount Airy, N.C.
“For many years now, I have observed that conscientious people who believe others can be lost eternally do one of two things. Either they put much energy into trying to lead others to Jesus or they practice ‘intellectual evangelism.’ First, we decide that the God-fearing evangelical must be saved, then anyone who is a serious religious person. It is a way to save the world in your mind and relieve your conscience. Although God is the judge and I believe he is merciful, I think intellectual evangelism is an attempt to escape our responsibility to share the good news and participate in the growth of the kingdom.”
BRUCE WADZECK, minister and elder,
Princeton, N.J., church
“I am concerned because I have heard many things in my own congregation that would lead me to believe that many equate tolerance with acceptance of others’ beliefs. … We cannot reach a world that we do not believe is lost.”
LOUISE VENKATESAN, member,
Silver Spring, Md., church
FeedbackTo believe, one must have a basis for the belief. The Bible is the basis for Christian beliefs. It states clearly-we are “saved by Grace, lest any should boast” & Christ(God incarnate) is quoted,”No man cometh unto the Father except through me”. Believing other religions result in eternal life calls Jesus a liarray bennettBaptistTemecula, Ca
USAOctober, 21 2009