Saturday, 28 August 2010

What About Other Religions?

This is a follow up, with further thoughts, to my previous post. The question obviously arises, "What about good people following other religions -- will they be saved?"

I was once asked, during an Alpha discussion, "Can a good Buddhist be saved?" My answer was this: "I don't think so, but a bad Buddhist might." What did I mean by that?

I believe, as I have stated constantly, that God has revealed Himself to all mankind, throughout all history, both through an inner awareness and external evidence, sufficiently enough that no one has any excuse for not realizing His existence. In fact, I believe that this innate awareness is the basis for all religion. Various religions are either an attempt to reach, or please, or satisfy, or mollify this Entity, or an attempt to avoid Him by focusing on something else often most notably our own inner self or strengths, which is the oldest lie in the book, "...you will be like God,..." (Genesis 3:4). Christianity, on the other hand, I believe is the first and only, "non-religion," completely unique among the panoply of faith or belief systems, in that it is principally a record of something that has happened in history. The term, "gospel" means, "good news," and that is what Christianity is. It is a reporting of what this God has done for the salvation of His people: He has come to us, because nothing we can or could do could enable us to reach Him, and He has paid the price necessary for us to be in a true relationship with Him forever. Yes, there is much theology beyond that, but basically Christianity is a record of how God accomplished something on our behalf that we could never do on our own.

So what about this ,"bad Buddhist"? Well, first of all, let me say that I believe, along with my Calvinist friends, that salvation is all, 100%, of God. God draws us (we could not even seek Him if He didn't) and it is He, and He alone who regenerates us, fills us with His Holy Spirit, and brings us into His kingdom. I don't believe at all in, "decisional regeneration," that by making a decision for Christ, we are saved. I believe the only legitimate decision we can make to follow Him is made after He has already given us new life, in response to our realization of what He has aready done.

But let's say God is revealing Himself to a practising Buddhist, or one of any other faith. Buddhism may be all the religion this person has ever known. He may have been reaise from childhood in it. But if God is truly drawing this person, even though he might continue all the rituals of his religion, he would have to, I believe, begin to have the dawning of doubt that what he was practising was true. I believe he might, after performing the prescribed religious rituals in public, return to the privacy of his room and pray to the God he somehow knows is there, saying something like, "Whoever You are out there, I know that You are something more than what I have been taught. Thank You." In other words, he would have to begin to believe that his own religion, whatever it is, is wrong. It does not have all the answers. It is not bringing him closer to fulfilling his need to know and worship the true Creator of the universe and all that is in it.

Can people be saved through other religions? I would have to say no. People are not saved by religion, but by God Himself. But can He save people of other religions? Why not? I suppose one could say that God can save people out of other religions, just as He can out a wooden and dead professed Christianity.

Now I know I will be accused by some of arrogance for my conviction that Christianity is true and all other religions false. Believe me it is not arrogance, but just the opposite. My true sense is one of great humility and thankfulness. One will remember the saying that communicating the truths of Christianity is just one beggar telling another where to find bread. And that's all it is. I am doing my best to communicate what I believe, and to do it with gentleness and respect, as we are commanded to do.

We can only then pray that those with ears to hear will hear.

Take Care

(h/t G.K Chesterton; The Everlasting Man)

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