In Defense of the Faith
Thursday, July 03, 2008
Jack Kinsella - Omega Letter Editor
I just can't get the results of that recent Pew Poll on Religious Attitudes in America out of my head. It so troubled me that I kept going back to it, thinking that somewhere I must have misread something.
But no, there it is, big as life. The question was formed as an agree/disagree statement.
When asked, "Do you agree that many religions can lead to eternal life?" fully 83% of mainstream churches, (including both mainstream Protestant and Catholic) indicated that they agreed with the statement.
What does that really mean? These are, ostensibly, Christian churches. That is to say, churches founded on the teaching of Jesus Christ and the writers of the New Testament.
We often speak of 'milk' issues and 'meat' issues in our briefings and discussion forums. The 'meat' issues are the 'deeper' things of Scripture; like Bible prophecy, Dispensationalism, eternal security and so on.
But one cannot grasp the 'meat' issues until one first has a handle on the 'milk' issues. The most important of these is salvation.
If one is not saved, according to the Scripture, there is no possible way one can grasp the deeper doctrinal issues.
"But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1st Corinthians 1:18, 2:14)
The milk doctrine of salvation is summed up in a single verse of Scripture delivered by Jesus Christ Himself:
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me." (John 14:6)
Does this mean that Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to salvation? Let me put it another way: does this leave room for another path to salvation?
Not according to the Apostle Peter: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other Name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
If Jesus Christ is NOT the only way to heaven, then, by definition, Christianity cannot lead to heaven at all.
The essence of Bible Christianity is this: "You can't do it, so Jesus did." Whether or not one is saved depends on whether or not one agrees with that statement.
"For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law." (Romans 2:12)
This is the condition of every human being -- either they are under the Law of Moses or they are not; spiritually, all humanity is either Jew or Gentile.
But the Bible also speaks of a third creation of God -- a 'new creature' in Christ.
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new." (2nd Corinthians 5:17)
It teaches that those sinners who recognize their hopeless state under the Law can be justified through faith that, "God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)
What does 'believing in Him' mean? Does it mean believing that there was once a Jewish carpenter named Jesus who was a wise man and a good teacher who was put to death by the Romans?
In a word, no. Not even close.
It means understanding that God loved me so much He stepped out of eternity and into space and time in the Person of Jesus Christ, to live the life expected of me.
And, having lived the life God expects of me, He suffered the penalty that I so richly deserved -- on my behalf.
It is that understanding that breaks down the barrier between me and God. Without that understanding, the death and resurrection of Jesus is irrelevant to my own condition. If my condition is not hopeless apart from Christ, then it isn't hopeless at all.
And if Christianity is not the only way to heaven, then, again by definition, there must be several 'heavens'. No man has ever seen heaven. So how do we know that it exists?
Because it says so in the Bible. That's where we learned of it. If the Bible is accurate about the existence of heaven, then it is equally accurate about its entrance requirements.
According to the Pew poll results, 83% of mainline Christian churches do not meet the minimum requirements necessary for admission.
"I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of My mouth. " (Revelation 3:16)
While the response to the first question stunned me, the response to the question: "There is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of my religion" absolutely floored me.
In the first place, the premise of the question itself assumes that there can be more than one 'truth.'
This is illogical to the point of delusional. There can be many variations of truth, in the sense that there are many variations of 'red' -- but only one of them is pure 'red' -- the rest contain shades of red.
There is only one 'truth'. Everything else is different. And things that are different are not the same. For example, the Bible is the Word of God, and therefore, infallible "for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." (2nd Timothy 3:16)
Today's column contains the Word of God -- but it is NOT infallible on any of those issues. And if this column were to conflict with the Word of God -- (ie; by denying Jesus is the only way to heaven) it would NOT be an alternate 'truth' even though it contains the word of God.
This may be a good place to restate the bedrock truths upon which the Omega Letter is founded.
First, we believe that salvation comes by grace through faith in the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ as FULL propitiation (payment) for our sins.
"And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our's only, but also for the sins of the whole world." (1st John 2:2)
There is NO alternative religion that can lead to eternal life apart from Christ. If there is, then Christ is dead in vain.
"I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." (Galatians 2:21)
We believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, inerrant in its original languages, and preserved by God through the ages. It contains the full and complete record of God's interaction with man.
We reject any suggestion that there can be more than one 'truth' on the basis of ordinary logic and the dictionary's definition of the word, 'truth.'
We believe that salvation is eternal, and that, while man has free will to accept or reject the offer of salvation procured for him by Jesus, God in His foreknowledge is already aware of the choice each of us will make.
This in no way eliminates free will from the equation. When my kids were little, I often knew what choices they would make before they did.
The fact that I knew what their choices would be had no effect on the choices that they made at the time that they made them.
"For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren." (Romans 8:29)
This is by no means a complete statement of faith -- but it is the bedrock upon which Biblical Christianity rests. It is the 'milk' of the Scriptures. Without an understanding of the Cross and the role it plays in one's salvation, one can never grasp the meaning of the word 'truth.'
"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God." (1st Corinthians 1:18)
Pew's poll results DO serve as a wake-up call to us all, however. Don't assume that just because somebody goes to church on Sunday that they have already 'finished their milk' -- so to speak.
Odds are 83% in favor of the assumption they haven't even picked up the glass.The Omega Letter Daily Digest, Volume 15, Issue 26. To receive your daily Omega Letter by email, six days per week, click here to learn how to become a subscriber.