Christianity and Other Ways to God
Again, if the trumpet does not sound a clear call, who will get ready for battle?
1 Cor 14:8
A theological crisis in the US.
A recent survey shows that 52% of American Christians say there are multiple paths to eternal life. The result of this poll carried out by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life further showed that even amongst white evangelical Protestants, nearly three-quarters (72%) of those who say many religions can lead to eternal life name at least one non-Christian religion, citing Judaism and Islam as examples.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, called the survey results "a theological crisis for American evangelicals," according to USA Today.
"They represent at best a misunderstanding of the Gospel, and at worst a repudiation of the Gospel," the prominent evangelical theologian said.
But our American cousins are still a more ‘Christian’ nation than the UK in terms of religious adherence and public habit, and thus the poll results might not be as surprising as some might perceive them to be – given that the levels of nominal ‘Christianity’ will probably be much higher on the other side of the pond.
However the result of this survey is not just a matter for our transatlantic friends; but is an issue for the churches everywhere, and in the UK not least.
A generation ago, church-going was a very common activity for many in these parts. Shops were closed on that day and generally, public and sporting activities were few. In the more conservative of our communities, planes didn’t fly, ferries didn’t sail and golf wasn’t played. Much has changed since — and much of the change has taken place in the past decade.
Whilst there has been a haemorrhage in church attendance this has been not altogether a bad thing in that it has emptied the churches of those who attended merely because it was the social norm, the ‘done thing’; and the current morning attendances are probably now a more accurate barometer of religion of the ‘Christian’ variety in our nation and communities. However, there could still be a problem.
From various reports and incidents over the years it can be adduced that there are those within the Christian church, both in pulpit and pew, who would share the same liberal views as those revealed by the American survey. Here in the UK we have had church leaders and others denying the virgin birth, the deity and the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ. The ‘all roads lead to God’ of multi-faith religion, allied with political correctness and rampant secularism have all combined to remove the distinctiveness of the Christian Gospel message – and many from within the church have contributed to the ‘cracked note’ of confused belief and dubious conviction emanating from the steeple houses in our land. Even within 'evangelical' churches we see a mix of people-pleasing, power-seeking, repentance-lacking programmes which appeal to our soulish natures. Within the UK it has taken an Asian bishop (of Rochester) to 'sound a clear note' on many important spiritual issues affecting our land and its people.
In contrast to wishy-washy churchianity, the story is told elsewhere of a group of worshippers in a dangerous country whose gathering was abruptly and violently interrupted by two earnest-looking men carrying automatic weapons. The men instructed all those who were not Christians to leave the building, as those who were believers were going to be shot.
Many of those present fled for their lives but a remnant readied themselves to die for what they believed. However, the shots didn’t come. In the much-reduced gathering, the gunmen laid down their guns and addressed the relieved believers: “Good. Now that we know who are real Christians, could you please tell us about your faith in Jesus Christ.”
Whilst there will surely be few, if any, true believers who would invite martyrdom, when the chips were down millions through the ages have paid with their lives in defence of the Gospel and what they believed.
However, in the matter of defining belief, over the centuries and also more recently many words have become distorted and devalued to the point of them being worse than useless. Leaving aside the all-embracing term of ‘religion’, the words ‘Christian, minister, evangelical and church’ are now so hopelessly compromised and skewed as to be useless in any attempt to accurately describe a faith of integrity and substance.
The American poll has usefully served to separate the true and the false and has been a revealing reality check on genuine belief, whilst the above anecdote describes an all-together sterner test of faith. One wonders how many of us would pass these tests?
Entering the crucible perhaps?
There is an old adage: “There is nothing wrong with the church in the West that a bit of persecution wouldn’t cure.” But while we do not yet face life-threatening assaults, it is altogether possible that the current economic crisis, which most pundits feel will worsen, will serve as a more immediate test of how deep, in the UK, our faith in Jesus lies.
God has His ways of separating true from false; and it might not take a church poll or a group of gunmen to do it. Pray God that all who are true disciples of Jesus Christ, followers of ‘the Way’ will, having done all things, stand.
Our nation is crumbling and desperately needs to hear the unadulterated Word of God. The populace (generally) are no longer going to the churches and so the greater need is to encounter the Gospel message in the office, the street, the private home, the neighbourhood and the sports club.
Let us not shrink from or shirk the task. In our generation Christians are the people to whom God has given the great commission - not to make 'Christians', but to foster, by His Spirit, disciples of Jesus Christ. The distinction is vital, and so is the need.
The matter of who is and isn't a true follower of Jesus Christ with a life surrendered to God is a matter that lies with God and each individual concerned.
The Bible warn's against complacency and self-righteousness in the strongest possible terms. 'Externals' relating to mere religion mean nothing to God, however we need to realise that is by these things that non-believers try, if they are so inclined, to evaluate the Christian faith.
If a prosecutor took us to court for being a follower of Christ and examined our beliefs and our actions, would there be enough evidence to convict us?