USA Today (Link) - Cathy Lynn Grossman (December 18, 2008)
Most American religious believers, including most Christians, say eternal life is not exclusively for those who accept Christ as their savior, a new survey finds. Of the 65% of people who held this open view of heaven's gates, 80% named at least one non-Christian group — Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists or people with no religion at all — who may also be saved, according to a new survey released today by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. This means 52% of Christians do not agree with the doctrines many religions teach, particularly conservative denominations.
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, calls the findings "a theological crisis for American evangelicals. They represent at best a misunderstanding of the Gospel and at worst a repudiation of the Gospel." This survey on salvation is a follow-up to a highly controversial finding in Pew's Religious Landscape survey, released earlier this year. It detailed the religious demographics, beliefs and behavior of 35,000 U.S. adults surveyed in 2007.
So Pew revisited the topic in a new survey of 2,905 adults, conducted July 31-Aug. 10, with more specific questions. Smith says the new findings reinforce the original finding that "Americans really are thinking quite broadly." Christian believers who named at least one non-Christian faith that could lead to salvation included 34% of white evangelicals, even though evangelical doctrine stresses that salvation is possible only through Jesus.
Higher levels of church attendance made some difference, particularly among white evangelical protestants. But an overall majority (54%) of people who identified with a religion and who said they attend church weekly also said many religions can lead to eternal life. This majority included 37% of white evangelicals, 75% of mainline Protestants and 85% of non-Hispanic white Catholics.
Pew's new survey also found that many Christians (29%) say they are saved by their good actions; 30% say salvation is through belief in Jesus, God or a higher power alone, which is the core teaching of evangelical Protestantism; and 10% say salvation is found through a combination of behavior and belief, a view closer to Catholic teachings. The number of those who said actions determine who attains heaven, was lowest (11%) for white evangelicals, highest for white Catholics (47%).
The number of people saying theirs is the only faith that can lead to eternal life increased slightly, from 24% to 29%, between 2007 and 2008. The biggest increase was among white evangelical Protestants — up from 37% to 49%.
Overall, the new findings are "an indictment of evangelicalism and evangelical preaching," said Mohler. "The clear Biblical teaching is that Jesus Christ proclaimed himself to be the only way to salvation." Mohler sees behind the statistics the impact of pluralism and secularism in U.S. society and the challenge of facing family and friends with "an uncomfortable truth."
"We are in an age when we want to tell everyone they are doing just fine. It's extremely uncomfortable to turn to someone and say, 'You will go to hell unless you come to a saving knowledge of Jesus,' " Mohler says.
In John 14:6 Yeshua states, "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." This is not a popular concept in the world today, which probably has a lot to do with why so many Christians appear not to believe it. However, from the perspective of the Bible being Truth and that being unchanging and reality, there really is only one way to be in eternity with the One True God. He put a plan of redemption into place that was foretold in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the sacrifice of His Son, Yeshua almost 2,000 years ago. This is a sad reality to see that so many who call themselves Christians don't actually take God at His Word or even know what His Word says. That is probably why 50% of those that call Him Lord will be shut out of the marriage.
Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went forth to meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise, and five were foolish. They that were foolish took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. While the bridegroom tarried, they all slumbered and slept. And at midnight there was a cry made, Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him. Then all those virgins arose, and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. But the wise answered, saying, Not so; lest there be not enough for us and you: but go ye rather to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came; and they that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut. Afterward came also the other virgins, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us. But he answered and said, Verily I say unto you, I know you not. Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.
How do we "know" the Lord? We know who He is by His Word and He has always known us since before He made us. We communicate in prayer and by the Holy Spirit bringing His Word for us to remembrance. John 14:26
I encourage whoever reads this to get to know the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob better and to understand His love for you and His design, the only one, to save the lost and bring them back to a right relationship with Himself through the sacrifice of love by His Son Yeshua the Christ.