Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Is Jesus the Only Way?

A question:

> a human being profess faith in Christ while in this life or else never come
> to the Father, and so be cast into outer darkness or go to hell? Is there no
> way that the Trinity may use other religious traditions to lead those who
> are not Christians to eternal life in God, or is it your view that the
> Trinity does not use these other traditions? and do you believe that those
> who lived prior to Christ's saving ministry are condemned to eternal alienation?

At the very beginning of the Bible, we are told that God created humanity in His image and likeness. Among the many implications, one is that every human being has within themselves the innate capacity to respond to God. Because of free will, some chose to respond, others don't.

I don't believe it is given to us us humans to understand all that the Trinity is and does. Athanasius summed it up well in his creed: "Father incomprehensible; Son incomprehensible; Spirit incomprehensible." We know of God through His acts of deliberate self-revelation, we know Him in personal relationship but we can never, in this life, know Him completely or perfectly. God will do as God will do and all we can do is praise, thank Him and rejoice in His love for us.

Jesus does say "I am the way, the truth and the life." He also says that "in my Father's house there are many mansions." Paul tells us that there are those who have never heard the Law lived as though it were engraved upon their hearts. I've always thought that those latter 2 verses when connected to being created in the image and likeness of God meant that there could people who never having even so much as heard the name "Jesus" and who would never have a chance to hear the Gospel, could respond to God and live in relationship with Him and be redeemed and sanctified. But in this day and in the Information Age, it is increasingly unlikely that there are people who not know of Jesus.

A few years ago I read an article in Scientific American about tracing genes or genomes or something and how the further back one goes the gene pool gets smaller and smaller. In that same article there was to me the amazing discovery of what happened to the 10 Lost Tribes of Israel after the Assyrians conquered the Kingdom of Israel and carted those tribes out of Israel. According to this article and genetic studies, a goodly number of them were deposited at various points along the Silk Road.

What has fascinated me the most about this bit of history is that the tribes were hauled away in the 7th century BC and the late 6th century BC we have Confucius, Lao Tze, the Buddha all offering a moral code that is staggeringly similar to that of Judaism. I have heard theories that say the similarity is based on just plain common sense, that the shared moral code is just the way people work best together. And yet, now we know that Jews were placed along the main thoroughfare of that day. I have no way to prove it, I have no idea how to go about proving it, but it is my personal, untested and untestable conviction, that the reason so many of the world's religious traditions have so much in common is because of those 10 Lost Tribes, used by the Holy Spirit as witness to the One True God.

Having acknowledged that there is much the world's religious traditions have in common, we must also acknowledge the ways in which they diverge from Christianity. I think that we ought not minimize those differences. I think we must also closely examine the goals, so to speak and for wont of a better word, of those religions. What Christianity and the the religions share in common can lead to knowing God, but I also think that which is different in those religions will lead people away from Him.

"By their fruits you will know them."


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