The exclusive claim of salvation by Jesus Christ is oftentimes one of the most offensive claims by Christianity. The world just doesn’t want to be held accountable to this one. First seen on Facebook, this thread was a good example of folks holding a respectful debate in the public square. Thank you to all those who contributed. Matthew
[Matthew] Either Jesus was crazy, lying or telling the truth. The exclusive claim by Christianity is one of the hot-buttons for non-believers who want to believe there are many paths to God. Christians are called to love others in all they do, including when sharing truth. Be salt, but do it in love.
[Joe] What if Jesus wasn’t being literal? What if Jesus was the personification of love, and love is the only way to the Father?
[Lauren] Our small group just discussed what salt is and what it means. We’re doing an Andy Stanley study called “What Is Christian?” He made the point that salt was a preservative at that time and was used to keep meat from rotting. So followers of Jesus are to be preserving those around us by surrounding them with love and meeting their needs. Because we love beyond what anyone else would think reasonable, we show people who God is.
[Molly] That way is the Way of LOVE. Jesus opened the gate for us to return to God, it is up to us to seek that path for ourselves.
[Matthew] Well, if Jesus wasn’t being literal and was simply saying He was synonymous with love, someone should have told His apostles, Peter and John:
Acts 4 (NKJV)
4 Now as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, 2 being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. 3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.
5 And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, 6 as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. 7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?”
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: 9 If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, 10 let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. 11 This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ 12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it.
[Kelly] John 4.8 NiV Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
[Kelly] Corinthians 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love
[Kelly] Romans 13:10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
[Kelly] John 4:16 So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him
[Matthew] Sooo… you’re saying Peter and John were wrong?
[Kelly] You may call God love, you may call God goodness. But the best name for God is compassion. Meister Eckhart
[Molly] Jesus reconciled the old law and created the Law of Love. That is the one to follow.
[Matthew] I don’t dispute for a second that Jesus taught love. The opening sentiment on this thread (which is backed up by the apostles) doesn’t lessen a message of love. That there is a shared moral ethic among many world religions is not in question. What is being asserted by these verses is a claim of exclusivity and the hope of eternal salvation offered under a single name. Though many world religions offer a shared message of love, they vary widely in their portrayal of life purpose, the afterlife, and a need for salvation. It is the claim to exclusivity that is the point of common contention. It does seem to be what Jesus taught.
[Matthew] Maybe hover in Matthew 10 for a bit. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2010&version=ESV
[Joe] So you give equal weight to the Apostles as you do the word of Jesus Himself?
[Matthew] So, you’re saying the apostles were wrong. After three years of living with Him, witnessing His resurrection and receiving the Holy Spirit, they were still confused about His precepts? I guess I’m more willing to believe you and I are confused before I’m willing to believe they were confused. Joe, do you believe in the deity of Christ? If so, what was God’s first commandment to the Israelites?
[Joe] Excellent argument. God’s First Commandment is “I am the Lord Your God. Thou shall not put other gods before me.” Therefore you must NOT weigh the opinions of the apostles the same as you would God or Jesus, lest you put the opinions of men before God’s.
[Kelly] Apostles are men, whom receive their own interpretation which is always subject to flaw and self explanatory experience that in itself can be misinterpreted.
[Matthew] I’m not saying the apostles’ words ring louder than Jesus’ teaching. God forbid! But to dismiss their teaching as errant is to say Jesus failed in His mission to establish the early church through the apostles. If the apostles were guilty of spreading false doctrine and that false doctrine is now Scripture, God is either inept or wicked. Inept, in that He was quickly undermined by human error after Jesus’ departure and could not protect His Word. Wicked, if He chose not to protect it and has allowed His truth to be contorted. So I think we probably need to understand that Jesus chose these men; not the other way around.
[Jeannie] So you don’t believe in free will? That God can either be all good OR all powerful. Not both?
[Kelly] Isn’t his truth contorted already with other versions of Christianity
[Matthew] Kelly, what people do with truth once they have it does not reduce the truth itself. People will reject and bend truth as their fallen natures call, or they will adopt a humble heart, die to self-will and bend themselves to align with the truth.
[Matthew] Joe, of course I believe in free will, but the prayer is “Thy will be done,” not “my will be done.” Subjecting your free will to His is still exercising free will. I’m not saying the Christian claim to exclusivity is a comfortable one. I do assert as we step under His lordship, we must cast aside all other notions that there are many paths to God. That’s not what God taught the Israelites. That’s not what Jesus taught the apostles. That’s not the Gospel taught by the apostles to the early church.
[Matthew] As for God being all good and all powerful, those things are true.
[Joe] Matt, if you read the bible carefully you will see vast majority of Jesus’ teachings were in parables. Yet, his apostles took his words literally. I believe the literal interpretation, while well-intentioned, was and is a mistake.
[Matthew] I guess I’m assuming His apostles knew Him better than we do?
[Matthew] I just want to say how much I appreciate being able to have a calm, engaging debate about this topic. Thank you, all.
[Joe] Forest for the trees?
[Joe] Also, you are assuming the bible has never changed from its original Aramaic, was never manipulated to justify control (why are there two versions of the New Testament?), or eliminated voices of any female followers like Mary Magdaline too.
Matt Schoenherr https://youtu.be/bSM3qMvN9JA
Only 66 books in the Bible — why the Apocrypha and Gnostic Gospels…
[Kelly] Forest for the trees
[Michele] This string is fascinating, and like Matt I am impressed to have witnessed a civil dialogue about religion. I find it a bit ironic that you’re using the argument that the word of the apostles shouldn’t have the same weight as the ones of Jesus himself when in fact the entire Bible is the writings of others. You either think it can be relied on to explain the words of the lord or you don’t. I too believe some versions/translations aren’t as accurate as others – but that could just as easily support Matt’s point.
[Kelly] I find truth in many places but I don’t limit my search for it either.
[Joe] Michele, why not? If you’re going to use the book as the basis of the argument (which in itself is debatable to its lack of completeness and accuracy as I’ve already pointed out) then the argument over who said what and what’s more important is a valid argument to have.
[Matthew] Joe, actually, the argument for both translation and transmission errors has long been laid to rest. Of all the books of antiquity on the planet, the 66 books that make up the Bible prove to have the greatest historical evidence of authenticity. We have over 5700 copies, shreds and pieces of the Greek New Testament documents alone. The next best documented book? Homer’s Iliad at around 2300 copies. Funny, no one ever refutes that we have the Iliad. I think that’s probably because there’s not much accountability called out in the Iliad. Most errors found in the copies we have are simple spelling errors.
[Joe] Matthew, then why are there two versions of the New Testament? King James and Catholic.
[Michele] You can’t on one hand say the apostles writings can’t be relied on because they mischaracterized Jesus’ intentions and on the other point to other writings and say – this part is really what he meant. You are essentially picking and choosing to fit what you’d like to be the case or what you think it should be. You’re by no means unique in that – people across the globe manipulate religious teachings to suit their own needs. At the end of the day it comes down to faith – even if there wasn’t reams of archeological evidence to support biblical writings – I’d still believe it was true.
[Joe] Michele, I think you’re misunderstanding my comments. Yes, I do question the absolute validity of the bible. I believe it most likely has been manipulated, and at the very least exclusionary based on the heavily patriarchal mindset of the time it was written. However, for the sake of this argument, I am allowing the assumption that it is at least reasonably accurate. Therefore, my argument of weighing the words of Jesus heavier than the words of the Apostles holds according to either version of the new testament. I have a spiritual concern with the thought of God not allowing those who care for others, but are not Christian, being excluded from Heaven, but a serial murderer who accepts Christ on death row doesn’t. I have a moral concern with those who take Matt’s argument much, much farther and kill others based on the belief only Christians get into Heaven. In respect to the latter, there is no fundamental difference between this form of Christianity and terrorism (radical Islam or others.)
[Matthew] Joe, I hear your heart-cry, man. I am also in the process of wading through the doctrine of hell to get a better understanding for the heart of our Father. I would clarify one thing though: true Christian fundamentalism looks like Jesus, the same way true Islamic fundamentalism looks like Mohammad, the same way true Buddhism looks like Buddha. You know the tree by the fruit it bears. If “Christian” behavior or teaching doesn’t reflect Jesus, it’s just wearing a Christian label. Further, if you can’t see it in the life of Jesus, it doesn’t reflect the Father. Jesus is our intercessor. As the “Last Adam,” He models to us what a perfect human life was intended to look like. Through Him too, we also know the will of the Father. Jesus modeled crazy, supernatural love. He also taught there is a judgment and a need for repentance and a saviour. I guess I want to confirm the confusion you feel around the doctrine of hell and salvation; I’m right there with you, brother. I’ve recently stumbled across some teaching that is helping me make sense of it, but I’m still working through that process. That material explores where the notion of eternal conscious torment for sins came from and how the Bible may not actually teach that at all (though the context we understand seems to point to it.)
[Joe] Matthew, I can appreciate that and also appreciate this conversation. I can tell you I am at peace in my relationship with God and His order. I do believe in Jesus and His purpose in showing us love as the way. In my spiritual journey, I’ve gone from obedient Catholic alter boy to a person who no longer actively subscribes to organized religion, or as I affectionately refer to them as “God’s dealerships.” I no longer feel the need to attend a dealership for my soul’s maintenance. I do not fault those who do believe in organized religion, though those who take it to extremes do bother me. For a great many people they serve as a regular reminder to be good and kind to one another. I find no fault in that. I’ve learned to seek His wisdom through love and understanding, and pray for His peace when I cannot understand why things the way they are. None of us will know for sure who is right (if there’s a right at all) until we can ask Him for ourselves. Until then, the more I can model and encourage others to show love and acceptance. And hope He has a sense of humor.
[Jeannie] Of course He does! You’ve seen a giraffe haven’t you!