When Speaking of Other Religions – Discussion

I am blessed by the activity and comments to date during this study.  I hope that we are finding our place and that people are growing because of the time that they are investing here.  It appears that we are settling down and people are realizing that they can come and go while keeping track of the conversation from a distance.  It appears that many are interested enough to keep coming back to our study of When Christian’s Get It Wrong by Adam Hamilton.  I still have a few copies of the book, if you are in the Davenport area stop by the church.  Please comment and join in the discussion, remember the only rules I have are that your comments are not vulgar or insulting, and you do not call people names.

This is a very interesting chapter as I shared yesterday.  As I read this book I become more and more aware that the people who control the conversation in this country are on one end of a large spectrum or on a totally opposite side.  This chapter covers an issue that I have worked through in my own head for a number of years.  That question is what happens to devout, seemingly faithful followers of other religions(in my own questioning it is those of Muslim faith) when they die.  As a fairly “conservative” Christian I was taught the theory that Hamilton calls “Christian Exclusivism” where the only way to get past our sin and separation from God is through acceptance of Christ.  In fact, at one point in my journey I said that it boiled down to one question, “You in or you out?”

As I have grown in my faith and developed my own understandings this point of view seemed wrong.  In its purest sense this left no room for young children, mentally challenged, and people who spoke languages and dialects that had not been translated in such a manner that a real and complete understanding of the Gospel message was possible.  At this point I felt that the things started to fall apart.  When pushed, I was not able to say that the God I understood from my reading of Bible would categorically reject such groups.  I was forced to look deeper at this question.

In all honesty I would like to say that what Hamilton calls “Christian Universalism” is the answer.  But again I can not reconcile my reading of the Bible with such an open-ended concept.  Like Hamilton, I see in Scripture a God that gives choices to humans.  This theory removes the choice and in the end what we do or did not do would be disregarded.  Were that the case it would seem that most of our lives were just a scripted play of some sort.

“Christian Inclusivism” would be where I would have to put myself at this time.  God can offer the gift of salvation as God so desires.  This takes away the problem that I have with humans doing something to ensure their salvation.  Grace is a free and undeserved gift that God offers, if we recite the proper prayer or follow the correct patterns as a requirement for salvation, we remove grace from the picture in my view.  I agree with Hamilton when he writes on page 53, “salvation is by and through Christ, and it is received by faith. It (this view) makes clear that salvation is a gift from God, given not based upon human actions, nor even as a result of our theological knowledge.  It is given by God, through Christ, to whomever God wishes to give it.”

I realize that this may not be what other people believe.  I have studied enough of the Bible to know that people from the exclusivist camp can and will quote verses where Jesus speaks of their position.  But I also know that I can quote Jesus speaking in terms of the position that I hold.  I am where I am from my own learning and watching people live out their lives.  I believe that Jesus came to give us a glimpse of the richness and fullness of God.  Being a follower of Christ, for me, is about much more than finding my ticket to heaven.

What do you think?   How did you get to this point?  Do you know anyone of a different religion?  How do they live out their lives?  Lets get past the simple talking points and really dive into where we are and how we came to believe what we do.

Peace and Grace

ron

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9 thoughts on “When Speaking of Other Religions – Discussion

  1. I really, really liked this chapter AND Adam Hamilton’s sermon.

    This topic has been a huge question in my mind throughout the years…from the exclusiveness of some Christians and if you don’t do something their way you are not Christian/saved. I still struggle with the baptism issue as I was baptised in the Methodist church, as were my children and my husband in the Catholic church. We were “sprinkled” as some would say. As an adult I have become close to others with different Christian beliefs which have made me question whether I was really baptised? Am I going to go to hell because I wasn’t “dunked” and chose this when I was at an age of consent? They were better at quoting Scripture that seemed to back this up and because of this I have questioned if I really am saved at times due to theology. Yet it seemed silly to be baptised again…dunked..but I have considered it “to cover my bases.” Some of you my laugh.

    I have seen both sides of the coin where Catholics think Protestants aren’t as good as they are or have the “in” with God and also some denominations or people in them that say Catholics aren’t Christian. Neither of those views sat well with me.

    Most recently, I have been struggling with the issue of those of different faiths that seem to really be opposite and opposed to what I believe. We have a young family that moved in to our neighborhood who are the most caring, loving, serving people. I was so excited and asked what church they belong to. My heart dropped when the wife said they were Latter Day Saints/Mormon. How could this be? They talked about Our Father, and live out many of our Christian values. They have invited us to Church functions and get togethers and I have to say they are the kindest, most loving group of people. Plus they are VERY educated and I wonder how can people so smart be so wrong. So I question how this could be? How could they be so wrong? Or I am wrong?

    This chapter helps me feel better about all of this. However it is a lot for me to wrap my mind around.

    I apologize for not really being able to write what I am feeling or to put it to words. I am not that eloquent…..and may be rambling. But thanks for listening.

  2. I have to say this has been the most intriguing chapter to me thus far. I definitely appreciate the concise and straight-forward way that Hamilton defines these three “sectors” of the Christian belief spectrum.

    Like Ron, I grew up believing more of the Christian Exclusivism rhetoric. Christian Universalism never has been something that sounded right to me. Today, I would say I fall mostly under the description of Christian Inclusivism (on this topic, anyway). The term “inclusive” makes me cringe a little, because of it’s use in many areas of the church that I don’t agree with, so I don’t particularly care for the label, but I will say my beliefs fit in this area.

    The part I have struggled with the most over the years was when Jesus says “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV) To my reading and studying, I found it very hard to reconcile that with people of other faiths or of no faith getting into Heaven. If Jesus said you can’t get there without Him, then you can’t. It wasn’t until I was in seminary, in a class on John Wesley, that I realized that by condemning these persons in my own mind, I was limiting God. Who is to say when a person can come to Christ? Perhaps, like me, it is as a child. Or as an adult. Even Christian Exclusivists would agree that people who come to Christ at either of those times would go to Heaven. What about on the death bed? OK, we can accept that, too, right? What about after death, upon meeting Christ face-to-face? Uh, well. Hmmm. I believe that at the time of meeting Christ, what you choose to do then is of utmost importance. Someone who professes to be a Christian all of their life, but who rejects Christ in the end is no more deserving of Heaven than a Muslim who accepts Him when confronted at the Judgement. I do still believe John 14:6, that He is the only way to the Father. However, it is the act of limiting the time in which you have to choose Him that I believe is the issue.

    @Carol – Baptism is another issue I think of along these same lines. It’s God’s grace that is important, not the method in which it was received. God doesn’t baptize someone in “spots”, it’s all or nothing. To those who say that God “can’t” extend saving grace to an infant at their baptism, I ask, why not? If it’s what He chooses to do, than it’s done. I also don’t believe that just because you are immersed at an age of consent it means your salvation is guaranteed. God can, and will, choose to convey His salvific grace to each person in His own time. I don’t want you to think I am belittling baptism – it is an important means of grace, and God can and does often use it for His purposes. However, so many people get wrapped up in the actions that they miss the significance of grace itself. Communion, prayer, fasting – all of these can be just as powerful. I don’t mean to try and give you an answer or tell you what to think – just sharing my personal beliefs!

    I have always thought it would do the church a lot of good to explore other religions – how are we the same, how are we different, why? It would not only give us an understanding of what others believe, but I think it would strengthen a lot of our own beliefs. As a United Methodist who attended a Presbyterian seminary, I found that I had to learn exactly why I believe the way I do and be able to articulate that, otherwise it was very easy to be persuaded to just follow the crowd. Granted, Presbyterian and UMC issues are a lot closer than Christian and Muslim (or Hindu, or whatever), but the same principle applies. Perhaps this would be an idea for a short term study or Sunday School class. It would definitely be interesting to bring in leaders of other religions in our community and listen to what they could tell us, and hopefully ask questions to further dialogue between the two sides.

    • Angie, I have often thought of this too – re comment: What about after death, upon meeting Christ face-to-face? Uh, well. Hmmm. I believe that at the time of meeting Christ, what you choose to do then is of utmost importance.

      I agree there are a lot of things we don’t know.

  3. I can identify with some of your comments Carol. I was raised Baptist and baptizing by emersion was “frowned upon.” When I first came to St. John’s and witnessed a baptism I was not real pleased about it. But now I truly feel whether you are baptized completely or “sprinkled” does not matter. It is our hearts that matter and why we are doing what we are doing. I still have questions regarding baptizing babies. It seems to me that baptizing a baby is more “Okay Lord, we are dedicating this child to you until he can make his own decisions.” I believe baptism is sacred and a decision every person should make for themselves, when and if they are able that is. I am not so much on what denomination a person is. Although I think the Catholic religion is strange (and I have had alot of catholic friends). I don’t mean that in a critical manner it’s just that it seems so “set.” Everything is read. The preacher says something, the congregation says something. It’s so structured it is hard to believe it can be meaningful. I’m having a hard time explaining myself but…..
    I TOTALLY failed the pop quiz on page 41! As a Baptist, and I can laugh a little at this now, it was like “We are the only religion who really knows what’s goin on!” If you hung out with a catholic person it better not be a guy and you better no consider marrying him.
    I also have never thought of hell as being a temporary place. I always thought you either were in heaven or in hell. That was it. I still feel that way I guess. Another thing I have never thought about which is intriguing is on page 51. It says that the inclusive view offers that those in the Bible were saved by faith before Jesus was born. That is baffling to me. I have not heard that before or picked up on it in my study. It is bothersome to some degree because I don’t feel you can have eternal life just by having faith. I mean, I have always felt it is important to ask God for his forgiveness and to be the center of your life. Now that I think about it though, I could be doing that every single day. Hmm….

  4. Sorry guys, what I meant to say in that first sentence was “Baptizing any other way BUT emersion was wrong.” Sorry about that.

  5. As for what happens in the great beyond to people in other denominations and faiths, it isn’t for us to decide. God will decide the fates of all of us, and, addle-brained though I may be, I’ve not read anything in any of the major holy books that says God has delegated that power to any of us.

    In John 14:6, the passage reads: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” , which could be interpreted to mean “Do the things I taught you: be merciful to your enemies, help those worse off than you, leave the place a little better than you found it, and you’ll have a place with God. Oh, and if you miss some little detail that the current local organized religion says will keep you out of heaven, don’t sweat it. Just do as I have taught you.”

    Remember, Jesus spoke in parables. He wanted His followers to think and use their heads as something other than a place to put a hat. I personally think that if Jesus saw kindness from someone of ANY faith, he’d put in a good word for them to the Boss.

    But don’t take my word for it. This is from Luke 10:30-37.

    In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coinse and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

    “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

    The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

    Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

    There you are. As related by The Man Himself. Since Samaritans didn’t-quite-follow the religion as proscribed by the Pharisees, this is a pretty powerful statement on the weight Jesus put on following a given doctrine as opposed to doing the right thing.

    Finally, let’s see Mark 16:15-“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” Mark 16:16 doesn’t say “And kill them if they refuse to listen.” Again, it’s not our place to ‘enforce’ those things best left to God to deal with. Down that road lie crusades, pogroms, and jihads. We’ve all seen it.

    Everyone, just live the best life you can. Do your best, and God will judge-no matter your faith.

    The Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius is responsible for the following quote, which I think fits well to the topic at hand:

    “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

    Sorry, Ron, if I hijacked your thread. I’ll go back to my corner now.

    Do svidaniya. Go Reds!

  6. “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV) – I have read this scripture many times and intepretted it to mean one thing, but as I read it today I saw other meanings. That Jesus died for our sins so as sinners it is only through him that we can make it to heaven. I can also see some points to what John says that people can come to heaven through the principals of Jesus. I guess I hear a lot of rhetoric from some people who call themselves Christians and I don’t know their heart or actions so I try not to judge them. I do know a lot of people say you don’t get to heaven through works and I believe that is true and I also understand you should not promote your works, but I do think we honor God with our works. I also think it is important to be good to each other, show love and support for people in the United states and around the world.

    I think in giving thought to this subject again I realize because I was not necessarily comfortable with it I pushed it down and chose not to think of it. I would like to think that people are Judged by living their beliefs, but I am not sure if it is that simple. I can certainly agree with the Christian Inclusivism explained by Adam Hamilton that Jesus Christ is the way, but that God can give slavation to any one he chooses to. Pastor Ron I feel like you are asking us to go out on a limb. I have had friends of other religions. Many of the people I have met from other religions have been wonderful people. I guess if I would have to go out on a limb I would have to believe they do have the opportunity to go to heaven and be saved. In my adult life I have often thought as Angie that once in heaven and presented with Jesus they would have the opportunity to accept him as their savior. My only issue with this internal belief is that if I were to present it to my non-Christian friends, to them it would sound arrogant, but that is still something I have thought of. I feel like I too am not rambling, but this is definitely a complicated subject to discuss. I think for now I am going to leave it at that 🙂

    • To comment on my thought that it would sound Arrogant, don’t get me wrong I am in no way ashamed of my Love for Jesus Christ and I would go out on a limb for him. I guess what I mean by that is I don’t know if that thought would promote discussion, but it was a thought that I have also had.

  7. I Loved the chapter!!!!! We are not called to be the Judge, but to Love!!!!

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