(Backdated entry, copied from a reply I made to a very old email thread. The original thread was about born-again Christians being too exclusive, and rather aggresively asking about the fate of people who have never heard the Gospel. Please note that while I finish on the tone that the decision is “up to you,” I am still of the mind that the ultimate conviction is from our Lord, to whom one cannot call unless one is first called by Him. Some vestiges of Arminian thought remain.)
I am much agreed that you don’t have to be a Christian to live a good life and to have a concept of goodness. But that doesn’t change the fact that Jesus said He was the only Way. Not His teachings and values, but He Himself. He didn’t say that the way to salvation was to follow His teachings; He said that the people who would be raised up would be those who looked upon Him and believed. (John 6.40)
Is that an exclusivist way of looking at salvation? I don’t think so. The Scriptures are clear that with Jesus’ sacrifice, salvation has been made available to ALL as a free gift, accessible simply by faith. Remember how the curtain in the Temple tore when He died? That was a real-life symbol for Jesus bringing the redemption of God to all humankind, not just those who subscribed to the tyranny of tradition and ritual. That’s about as inclusive and universal as you can get.
Regarding those who have not heard the Good News, I can produce no satisfactory reply to you. I only know that God is an infinitely just God who will give everyone his fair chance who has not heard. He tells us rather, not to judge those outside the Church, but instead bring them the Good News.
Do not think for a moment that by stumping a Christian with the question of the unsaved, you are off the hook for having heard the Good News and not believed it. This News you have received is clear that, despite your attestations to having lived a good life, you have NOT, in fact, lived a life that is spotless and absolutely free of sin. I know of only two kinds of entities who can claim that: a newborn or unborn baby who hasn’t yet acted out the stain of original sin — which you are not — and God Himself — which you are not.
The man who thinks that God will save him by virtue of a good life must first search the Scripture to see what a good life is. The New Testament’s first painting of Buddy Jesus isn’t quite so buddy-buddy, is it? Just the thought of sin is as bad as the sin itself. Just being angry with your brother will put you in danger of judgment. Even the Pharisees, much renowned for their “spotless” lives, He denounced for their hypocrisy.
That was precisely why Christ said He was the only Way: We cannot save ourselves on our own by our good works. But we have a much easier, much simpler Way in Him. Far from being an exclusive gospel, this Good News we bring is one of loving, universal redemption in the God who died for all people that all would be saved — simply by accepting Him into our hearts!
Other people who haven’t heard the Gospel? God will worry about them, and rest assured that He will be fair. What I’m worried about is YOU. You have heard the most compelling Message that man has ever heard: that your redemption and assurance of eternal life are fixed simply on your acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior. His hand is open to you, He knocks on the door of your heart. Will you let him in and embrace Him as your Lord?
Or will you continue to believe that truth lies somewhere else other than in the One Man who claimed to be God and Savior of the World — and rose from the dead to prove it?
You claim that none of us will know where we’re going until we’re there. I beg to differ. I know where I’m going, and I know it with all my heart. Whether you want to come along for sure is up to you.