When in 2007 Pope Benedict reaffirmed the doctrine that there is no salvation outside the Church, he stirred up a maelstrom of controversy. People around the world, non-Catholic Christians, non-Christians and even many Catholics objected.
When in 2007 Pope Benedict reaffirmed the doctrine that there is no salvation outside the Church, he stirred up a maelstrom of controversy.
People around the world, non-Catholic Christians, non-Christians and even many Catholics objected.
The same kind of thing happens whenever an Evangelical insists that salvation can only be found in Jesus Christ. People take offense, for themselves or for their friends, even if they have never given “salvation” a moment’s thought.
The idea that salvation is only found in Christ is rooted firmly in the Bible. Speaking of Jesus, St. Peter boldly tells his persecutors, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
The apostle was reiterating an idea he first heard from Jesus himself, who said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The exclusivity of that claim was shocking when it was first made and is no less shocking today.
What gives this issue its emotional charge is the fact that almost everyone is acquainted with people of other religions (or of no religion at all) who are decent and kind. Many are sincere in their religious beliefs and earnest in their practice. Others are equally sincere in their unbelief.
So when the exclusive nature of salvation is asserted, people object.
It would be a serious mistake to use Christianity’s insistence that Jesus is unique to infer the idea that other religions do not contain truth or express beauty. Indeed, to say so would flatly deny biblical teaching, which maintains that God has left testimony to himself in nature, in conscience and in religious traditions.
As Bob Andrews, pastor of Our Savior Missionary Church in Chicago, put it: “Not all roads lead to God, but God has signs on every street."
The Christian claim is not that Jesus proves Buddhism wrong, but that Jesus fulfills all that is right and beautiful in Buddhism. Christians resonate with the Muslim longing to be right with God. They find that Jesus satisfies that longing. They believe the Hindu yearning to achieve unity with God is experienced through a faith connection to Jesus. Every religious tradition contains beautiful signs, which, if conscientiously followed, lead to Christ.
Years ago I met Don Richardson, author of “Eternity in Their Hearts.” Richardson said that he has discovered “redemptive analogies” — signs pointing to Jesus — in tribal religions around the world. Not all roads lead to God, but Richardson has found signs on every corner.
While some Christians discount the value of other religions, a wiser approach would be to affirm their value and look for links to a biblical faith. The Bible translator Lee Bramlett found just such a link in the language of the Hdi culture of Cameroon.
Page 2 of 2 - Bramlett knew that in the Hdi language, verbs routinely have an i, a or u ending, but the root word for love, dv, came with only two endings, i and a. He asked the Hdi about it.
“Could you dvi your wife?” Yes. It would mean that though you once felt love for yourwife, you do so no longer.
He asked, “Could you dva your wife?” Yes, they said, but only if she merits it.
He then asked, “Could you dvu your wife?” The Hdi men laughed in surprise. No, that would mean loving your wife no matter what she did — even if she never cooked another meal or fetched water from the well. Even if she committed adultery, you would still love her.
Bramlett then asked, “Could God dvu people?” After a long silence they responded,“That would mean God would keep loving people all the time, no matter what they did, even if they sinned more than anyone else.”
The distinctively Christian idea of God’s unconditional love suddenly became clear to the Hdi.
And the sign pointing to Christ was painted in bold letters in their own language.
Shayne Looper is the pastor at Lockwood Community Church in Branch County, Mich.