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Is Jesus the way?

More Christians than ever are befriending advocates of other religious traditions. And many more Christians are learning about the beliefs in other religions. In light of this, Christians must reaffirm and clarify their claims about salvation.

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Dec

16

Is Jesus the way?

More Christians than ever are befriending advocates of other religious traditions. And many more Christians are learning about the beliefs in other religions. In light of this, Christians must reaffirm and clarify their claims about salvation.

Summarizing what Christians think about salvation is not simple!  The claims about salvation vary in the Bible and in the Christian tradition.

One of the most poignant biblical passages about salvation comes from John’s gospel. John quotes Jesus saying these words, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (14:6).

Christians have interpreted these words to mean various things. I believe, however, they provide a helpful basis for affirming Jesus as the only way of salvation.

Explaining in detail what I mean when I affirm that Jesus is the way goes beyond the scope of a blog.  It would take at least one book!

But I do want to make some general observations on this crucial issue. I hope that my observations help Christians hold firm to the sufficiency of Jesus Christ for salvation, while also making sense of the broader biblical witness about salvation. And I hope my comments clarify to nonChristians how Christians might think well about salvation.

I’ll make a few preliminary comments and then make two main points.

- Many Christians rightfully distinguish between Jesus being the way and Christianity being the way. The most important theologian of the 20th century, Karl Barth, rightfully distinguished between placing our trust in religion and placing trust in Jesus. 

     As important as Christianity is as an institution, community, historical trajectory, and set of ideas, we should not equate Christianity with Jesus

- The Bible frequently talks about salvation for those who do not know the name of Jesus.  For instance, Paul writes:

    “When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all” (Rm. 2:14-16).

     The story of Cornelius being “an upright and God-fearing man” (Acts 10) despite having no knowledge of Jesus is important. This incident prompts Peter to say, “God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (34). Peter goes on to proclaim that the God has sent a message of peace to Israel in Jesus Christ.

     Of course, biblical writers also regard many people mentioned in the Old Testament -- who did not know Jesus -- as saved, righteous, and/or holy. Their salvation does not depend upon their conscious awareness of Jesus. Yet I believe (and will soon state) Jesus was the source of their salvation.

- My Christian tradition – the Wesleyan theological tradition in general and the Church of the Nazarene in particular – stresses what it calls “the doctrine of prevenient grace.” This biblically derived idea is that God acts first and provides the possibility of salvation to all people. If people respond appropriately to God’s empowering and inspiring provision, they experience salvation.

     “The grace of God through Jesus Christ is freely bestowed on all people,” says my denomination’s statement on prevenient grace, “enabling all who will turn from sin to righteousness, believe on Jesus Christ for pardon and cleansing from sin, and follow good works pleasing and acceptable in His sight.”

Given these preliminary comments, I move to my two main points. These two points support my belief that Jesus is the way and that no one comes to the Father except through him. 

A helpful and decidedly biblical approach to understanding’s Jesus’ words comes from the Christian creedal confession that Jesus is the “God-man” – both divine and human. Looking at both aspects of this confession brings light to my belief that Jesus is the way.

1. As divine, Jesus is the source of salvation. I strongly affirm the oft-repeated idea in the Bible that God alone is the author of salvation. No one can find salvation outside God. When Jesus says, “I am the way,” we might best interpret this declaration as identifying the divinity of Jesus as the God-human.

2. As human, Jesus’ love is the means and purpose of salvation. We cannot find salvation outside love – God’s love for us and our response to God by fulfilling the greatest commands to love God and others as ourselves. Jesus' life, words, actions, death, and resurrection proclaim the supremacy of love as the key to salvation. The Apostle Paul says it well: “the only thing that counts is faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6).

One of the better books explaining a Wesleyan approach to understanding Jesus as the way is Al Truesdale’s (with Keri Mitchell), With Cords of Love: A Wesleyan Response to Religious Pluralism (Beacon Hill).  Because I like the book so much, I asked Al to write short piece on religious pluralism for the book I co-edited, Wesleyan and Postmodern? The summary of Al’s Weslayan and Postmodern essay is worth repeating in full:

“A Wesleyan answer regarding Christianity and other religions contains four elements.  First, we affirm the New Testament’s witness to Jesus Christ as God incarnate.”

“Second, we affirm that the promised Spirit of God unfailingly and creatively acts in the world.  The Spirit seeks to draw all people to eternal life in Christ and prepares the way for the gospel’s proclamation.  We must seek to discern and cultivate the Spirit’s work.”

“Third, we affirm that religions can become vehicles the Holy Spirit uses to draw people to Christ.  But religions are at best incomplete anticipations of the fullness of God manifest in Christ.”

“Finally, we Wesleyans abhor mean-spirited opposition to other religions. Instead, we seek to understand and dialogue with those from other religions.  We dialogue because we want to serve, not obstruct, the Redeemer’s prevenient work.”

I think Al’s words dovetail nicely with my earlier comments and affirmation of Jesus as the only way. Of course, we both could and should say more about these important issues than what I've offered in this blog.  

In sum, I find the classic Christian view that Jesus is divine and human helpful when I talk about the centrality of Jesus as the way. Christians would be wise to remain Christocentric: they should keep Jesus the center of how they understand salvation.

To the question, “Is Jesus the way?” I answer, “Yes!”

Posted in 2009 under John Wesley, Holiness, and the Church of the Nazarene

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Comments

Ron Hunter Jr.

12.16.2009
4:57pm

Thank you Tom for this post, it is at the core of my concern with a “New” Christianity. Conspicuously absent in your treatment is any mention of the Cross and the Resurrection. These are decidedly Christian tenets which would seem inseparable to the person of Jesus. Perhaps this would be areas best fit for subsequent chapters of the book the blog cannot be, but I would ask; How we could speak of salvation as the participation of God from the Love of Christ without a necessary confrontation with the Cross? A Pew study is mentioned in the December issue of the Christianity Today as pointing out that fewer Christians hold to an exclusivity in Christ with respect to salvation. Another interesting thing that I have watched was a monologue by Julia Sweeny: Getting over God where she wrestles with what she was taught about God to the eventual atheism.
It seems that the embrace of Pluralism can all to easily dismiss away Christ so I think you are correct in stating initially that this is

 

Thomas Jay Oord

12.16.2009
9:26pm

Thanks for your response, Ron.

I do mention Jesus’ death and resurrection briefly in the blog essay above, but you’re right that I don’t develop their importance.

My failure to do so doesn’t mean I think them unimportant.  They are central.  And I think many whom I label “New Nazarenes” would agree about their centrality.

My failure to develop the important themes of cross and resurrection is an unfortunate result of trying to keep my comments brief. One of these days I’ll have to develop them by writing a book on these subjects! : )

Thanks again…

 

Jerry Kester

12.17.2009
7:52am

I would love to see you write a book on this important subject. Can I pre-order my copy? While I deeply love the church - your reminder that salvation is in Jesus is wonderful to think about.  Keep thinking out loud Tom.

 

Dave Troxler

12.17.2009
9:46am

Tom,
Thanks for your blog and the subsequent comments about the Cross and Resurrection.

Another example of course is the woman from Samaria in John 4. She starts from her cultural perspective as it pertains to genuine worship, despite her personal track record, but earnestly wants an answer to her search for a meaningful relationship with God. 

In Jesus’ response, He notes “the gift of God” (Jn 4:10 NIV) and again when referring to the water He will “give” (4:14).  God is willing to offer that gift to anyone who asks. That certainly seems to transcend Christianity, for seeking to know God is global.  It is the person of Jesus that makes God known.

Certainly that woman, as did Samaritans in general, had a concept of Messiah from which to start.  My question, will we love others enough to know their cultures and “gods” in order to pronounce Christ like Paul did at the Aerogapus for their “unknown god”?

It is at this point the discussion of the Cross and Resurrection becomes important to share.

 

John Thatamanil

12.17.2009
11:03am

While I find this a lovely articulation of one way of forming core Christian convictions, I find it unfulfilling and inadequate. Is Christ the only way to the conviction that God is love and that the way to God is by way of love? Hardly. Devotional theism is a common feature in a variety of traditions. Even Pure Land Buddhists can and do affirm that we cannot be saved other than by the compassionate grace of Amida Buddha.

Also, why not radicalize John 14:6? To affirm that Jesus is the Way is to affirm that his way of living life—the cruciform life—is the only way to God. But if so, then only those who live the cruciform life can come to God not merely those who affirm with their lips some conviction in the proposition that Jesus saves.

It would follow then that all those who live the cruciform life—and we would do well to affirm that such a life cannot be lived apart from the empowering grace of the Spirit—are walking in the way to God. But that would surely include a cloud of non-Christian witnesses, bearers of compassion to the world that God loves.

A core Christian conviction: only God can bring us to God. God is not merely the Goal but always also the Way. But this is not only a Christian conviction. To confess that Christ is the way for Christians need in no way rule out the wideness in God’s mercy that insures that God will be the way for others in other ways. All this we can affirm as Christians from looking hard at the love of God disclosed in the Christ.

At any rate, thank you for engaging this vital conversation.

 

Mark W Wilson

12.17.2009
11:51am

Many emergent writers and Greg Boyd in The Myth of Christian Religion regard religion itself as an enemy of God’s purposes. Much of this attack on religion has focused on Christendom and a post-modern/emergent rejection of it’s distortion of Jesus and his mission. To be consistent, we can not limit a critique of religion just to Christian expressions. Perhaps religions (including the Christian forms)are more a tool of the enemy than God.

Christ’s experience with the Pharisees, Christian history, and experiences on the mission field suggest that the most religious people are the most resistant to the gospel. In both Africa and India the gospel has spread more quickly among the animists than among the Hindus and Moslems.

Do you have any examples where the Holy Spirit has truly used religions to draw people to Christ? Aren’t they far more often a hindrance? How can we engage in a serious critique of the “Christian religion” without extending that critique to all religions? Don’t all religions lead to a spiritual pride that keeps us from humbly accepting grace and gift of Jesus?

 

Curtis

12.17.2009
11:55am

Tom, nicely said.
This subject was the subject of my MTh thesis in which I argued for “salvific optimism” because Jesus is the Way. Salvation is never in spite of Jesus but always because of Jesus. I remember Brian McLaren saying that too many Christians quote John 14 with the implication that Jesus “in in the way” of salvation and not the way to salvation. The debate for Christians might be epistemological, regarding what must be known about Christ for our salvation, but should never be ontological. Christians must be unified on the affirmation of Jesus being the way to life.

 

Jo Ann W. Goodson

12.17.2009
12:11pm

“A core Christian conviction: only God can bring us to God. God is not merely the Goal but always also the Way. But this is not only a Christian conviction. To confess that Christ is the way for Christians need in no way rule out the wideness in God’s mercy that insures that God will be the way for others in other ways. All this we can affirm as Christians from looking hard at the love of God disclosed in the Christ.” This would be my response as well. I chose the path of Jesus but I believe that there are many paths to God. Others are on a different path and for me only God can and will decide who is in and who is out. I will share my story and the Jesus story to any who would want to listen but there is no way that I would ever tell someone they are on the wrong path.

 

Will Campbell

12.19.2009
9:11pm

IMO, the pre-existent Christ/Logos is the only way any person in any faith tradition is convicted of the fact that God is love, and the Christ incarnate in Jesus born, lived a sinless life, died, and resurrected is the only way to full relationship with God, whereas the gift of the Holy Spirit necessarily empowers all people to good works, but acceptance of the Christ is necessary lest we fall short with any of our Cruciform works - no matter how many, and how true they are. Moreover, lest Christians become foolishly arrogant, it is not Christianity that is salvific, but only the Christ .. and we can certainly more of the fullness of Christ in relating well, and favorably with our neighbors be they of other faith traditions or of no faith tradition.

Christ the Wisdom and Power of God

18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written:

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;

the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”c

20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.
-1 Corinthians 1:18-25

 

Thomas Jay Oord

12.20.2009
8:21pm

Thanks to all of you for your helpful comments.  One of the joys of writing a blog is learning from the helpful responses. I’m sure if I were to write this post again it would be improved in part thanks to your good comments.

I want to respond briefly to Mark’s questions about religion. I tend to see religions as necessary forms and structures without which we would likely become more disoriented than we already are.  But we always face the temptation to idolize the forms and structures at the expense of the Spirit. We must continually beware to resist this temptation, without demonizing the forms and structures themselves.  At least that’s how I see things…

 

jerry carr

04.15.2011
10:34pm

Tom, sisters and brothers in the family of God:
Thank you for the many interesting comments.
Just wanted to add a few quotes that have been helpful on my journey of being with God:
  “One can be wrong in truth and right in grace.” Late Dr. Joe Davis of SPU.
  ” God has not asked me to keep the score but only to play the game.
Suggestion for reading “Wideness in God’ Mercy” by Clark Pinnock.
Another quote:“It’s all right to believe certain things just don"t let certain people know you believe them.” - Dr. Joe Davis again.

 

Tara McClees

05.01.2013
11:53pm

First, I agree wholeheartedly that Jesus is the way. Second, I also believe in God’s prevenient grace that works with people even before they know anything about Jesus. I think that there are ideas of value in every religion and Christianity is often too hostile toward anything different from itself.

 

Patti J Niebojewski

10.10.2013
10:39pm

October 12, 2013
I enjoyed reading your blog. Thank you for sharing.

Jesus is the only way! The scripture John 14:6 was one of the scriptures that I heard the night that I gave my life and heart to Jesus and became born again of the Spirit by grace through faith. It resonated with me because I was looking for the truth for some time and felt empty and sinful. I encountered Christ that night at the age of nineteen and was totally washed from all sin in my life.  I have been a church girl all my life.  Growing up Methodist, I believed in Jesus since I was a little girl. This night in a Nazarene Church, I learned God is a personal God for everyone who would choose Him, and we can know Him! I chose Him that night, and I am grateful for His love, grace, salvation, mercy and blessings.
Word Count 150

 

Elena Simeonova

10.10.2013
11:36pm

I rejoiced as I read this affirmation of the centrality of Jesus for a person’s salvation. Although God may use other religions to bring people closer to Himself, as He uses many other things, without accepting the good news in Christ there is no salvation.

It was a little puzzling, though, to read about the emphasis on the distinction between Jesus and Christianity. It is clear that we are saved by God alone; that the community of believers is not perfect; etc., but still, it is in the context of the Church that God has chosen to bring those seeking salvation. Christianity is built on the teaching of Christ.

 

Phillip Anderson

10.10.2013
11:57pm

Thank you for this short and clarifying blog. I loved the book With Cords of Love: A Wesleyan Response to Religious Pluralism as well. The key with it is that Al never compromises the aspects of the belief that Jesus is the only way. I would affirm the 4 elements of Christianity and other religions. I also affirm that we should never be intolerant to other religions. I appreciate that we should approach all aspects through love, the same love as God’s love for us and all of creation. However, being loving, and affirming and Christ-like, does not in anyway mean watering down or softening the message of Jesus Christ. Paul is a great example. He knew the Gospel was for everyone, he knew that Jesus is the way, but he never pulled any punches and proclaimed God’s love through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I fully agree with prevenient grace and the work of God going before us, speaking to all humanity with our work being to recognize God’s prevenient grace and proclaim the essence of that grace through and in the person of Jesus Christ. I am not sure though, that God’s grace can and does work through all facets of religion. There has to be times when extreme religious practices take a person further from being able to recognize God’s grace. Death, mutilations and practices that represent evil are not grace and far from loving. It is in these that a solid stance on the justice of God against sin will take on the life it needs through the death and resurrection of Christ to give pardon to even the worst sin is important.

 

Buck Zeller

10.11.2013
5:46am

Somewhere in this world, the Christian Bible is outlawed.  There are children and adults seeking the truth, perhaps in Hinduism, maybe Islam, and they cannot find the relational love they so desire.  Missionaries try to share the gospel, but it is dangerous and they do not have enough resources.  The fundamental would say “Oh well, they should have stood against their government to find Jesus!” However, is that all Salvation is, a matter of instruction?  Is this true, the more we grasp in terms of knowledge the more we are saved?  Uhmmm, is this enlightenment theology?  I once prayed for hours over this debate, could a person be saved without hearing the “Gospel” for this is an important question for our theology.  God calmly and distinctly answered, “let me worry about them!”  In short, God has been saving the lost long before Christ (thanks Doc Oord) and long after Pentecost without the help of Paul, Peter, Reverend Billy Graham, you and I.  So in short, I do not believe in false Gods, but I believe the Love of God goes beyond our intuitional teachings and human evangelism techniques.  Thanks Dr Oord for being diplomatic yet frank.

 

Gabriel Benjiman

10.11.2013
6:50am

In light of Oord’s statement: “Christians must reaffirm and clarify their claims about salvation.” History may help to illustrate the importance of friendships with those of other faiths and our clarity and reaffirmation of our beliefs…
Prophet Muhammad’s most memorable encounter with the gospel came through “Bahira” (Sergius), a Nestorian monk in the Syrian Desert in 582 A.D.  Tradition accepts Sergius as the monk who influenced and may have even lead the youth Muhammad to Christ. Tradition also records that Sergius cautioned Abu Talib (Muhammad’s uncle) to protect Muhammad from the Jews because he recognised young Muhammad as a potential prophet of God.   
  I contend it is the same Sergius who later became Bishop of Constantinople (610A.D).  It would make sense if a young Sergius (as a monk), was wrestling with the strong Eutychianism which overran the Nestorian Christian community in Najran. Sergius may have shared his thoughts with Muhammad, concerning the deep debate which existed between Eutychianism and Nestorianism.  His conclusions would have then been monothelism (singular will), a response which proposed a “happy medium” between two personalities and two natures of Christ.  He promoted this when he became Bishop of Constantinople . 
  The “monothelism” teaching of Sergius may have lead Muhammad to believe Jesus as being completely controlled by the will of God eclipsing His nature and will.  It may shed light on Islamic theology’s emphasis on the absolute will of God!  It would also then render Jesus as a good man completely under the control of the Supreme will of Allah (God)!  The Christianity Muhammad encountered was not that of the established Christian faith but a confused medium between Nestorianism and Eutychianism. 
So, Christianity was open to friendship and peaceful dialogue even before the establishment of Islam as we know it.  Is it possible that the early church missed its opportunity to influence Muhammad because of its own internal divisions and controversies and a lack of understanding of its own Christological beliefs? Seems to me Prevenient Grace should also be taken seriously as it has the potential to rewrite the future or change history. Ultimately friendships with those of other faiths are vital but so is our Wesleyan, Christian unity and reaffirmation of our own beliefs.

 

Dean Jenkins

10.11.2013
10:55am

I too affirm that Jesus is the way!  But, since Jesus is “fully God” as well as “fully man”, couldn’t we say just as fervently that “God is the way”?  Particularly when we think about those who have not heard the gospel and believe that through God’s prevenient grace, salvation might be available to them?
  As much as I do affirm the truth that Jesus is the way, I struggle with the notion that billions are doomed to separation from God simply because of where they were born and the community of faith that they were raised in.
  I will do my best to proclaim the truth of the gospel that I have experienced, and to lead as many as I can on that path.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t hold out hope for Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, etc.

 

carolyn

10.11.2013
6:15pm

The answer to the question Is Jesus the Way? is really broken down in this blog into two further questions… #1 Is Jesus the only Way? and #2 Is Jesus the means to salvation? It seems to me that the blogger answers #1 in the negative and #2 in the positive. If one can be saved unto God without knowing Jesus, as the blogger suggests, then Jesus is not the only way but, rather, prevenient grace is the Way. Jesus, if I understand the blog correctly, provided the means for grace to flow more extensively.

 

Nicholas Carpenter

11.14.2013
7:29pm

It’s funny how we have to be reminded to keep Jesus at the centre of our faith because one would think that is such a basic foundation to Christianity that to steer away from that would be (potentially) destructive to nearly all else in Christianity. So often people cling to certain doctrines, moral or political issues, or maybe even specific scriptural passages as the centre of their faith. But our faith is brought to fruition and actuality because of Jesus, and if we do not keep a Christocentric faith than we are not truly living out a Christian faith.

 

Cory Bernaiche

11.17.2013
9:39pm

Your article was helpful and it is important to understand how we, as wesleyans, understand who Christ is. Although I think this article is helpful, I think the beginning of the article was a bit overstated. It seems that your statement suggest that christians who are comfortable with other religions have lost sight of their foundation in Christ. I believe even though someone can see potential in other religions does not mean they have lost Christ. I think everyone, not just those who befriend other religions, need to reaffirm Christ. We can lose sight of this in our everyday life.

 

Rachael Snyder

11.18.2013
9:27pm

The discussions surrounding religious pluralism run deep in the fearful veins of modern evangelicalism. When I think about these issues, I consider the person living in a secluded tribe with its own religion and traditions. If this person responds in kind to the light that has been given, to whatever goodness Holy Spirit has revealed though not necessarily Jesus, are they saved? My core reaction is that they would, but theologically this becomes difficult to me. I affirm that Christianity has the soundest explanation for the world, the person of Jesus, and the human condition. It also is most satisfying to me. However, to those who have not been exposed to Christ, I want to say that God’s grace covers them. Then the question changes for me regarding those who have been offered Jesus and the Way but have rejected it in favor of their own religions. It seems to me that this would be a rejection of the full light that had been revealed to them. Although there may be some truths within these other religions, the fuller revelation of truth should move them to a life within Christian community.

 

Jonathon Wren

11.21.2013
1:26pm

I think this discussion is very appropriate and needed within the confines of Christian religion.  We so often approach our faith as a religion.  We approach our faith as a hope for a better life, a list of rules, and a selfish intent of benefit.  This should be discouraged once we come to religion.  Religion is said vehicle for sure, but should be used to move towards Christ and a true relationship with him that has not selfish motivations.  We are loving and engaging Him because He is the way, not because He is the way we get to Heaven.  The love we experience from Him should motivate us to live a “Christian life”, not us living a Christian Life so that we can get to God.  Our focus should purely be on Christ and modeling ourselves after Him, and nothing else.  Religion is a vehicle, not a means to an end.  We move from Religion to a Christ centered faith.

 

Steven Coles

11.21.2013
8:02pm

I struggle sometimes to say that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. I know that may sound odd, but I think God is much bigger than we tend to depict God as in the world. I do agree that Jesus Christ death and resurrection on the cross was significant to the purposes of salvation, but I do not see that loving work to be something that does not affect everyone in a way that could not lead all of creation to salvation. This is something that I am processing through in my own life and will continue to do so, but I think you blog has helped me to start rethinking something about the Christian faith in regards to salvation.

 

Robbie Schwenck

11.21.2013
9:57pm

It’s always good to be reminded that Christians should be Christocentric. It seems obvious, but it’s not hard to see how often many Christians get too caught up in other aspects of our faith to a point that the focus on Christ is lost. I like the idea (which might not be exactly what is stated in this post) that we don’t necessarily have to say people must have a certain knowledge and understanding of who Jesus is, in order to affirm that Jesus is the means to any salvation that is attained. Also, keeping Christ’s love and grace in mind can help us to remain hopeful and trust that God can work salvation out of any situation.

 

Megan Krebs

11.22.2013
8:59pm

This is a highly affirming and helpful blog, but I would like to see the Christian Church do a much better job of this. In recent years, it has improved. For instance, a picture that began circulating the Internet during the Arab spring was of Egyptian Christians surrounding praying Muslim protesters to protect them from police violence during prayer. This is the image of the Church that has remained in my mind and the one I wish to pass on to the people I pastor. Wesleyan churches can be expected of nothing less than being radically loving toward peoples of other faiths. If we truly believe in prevenient grace, then we should look toward points of contact and connection rather than hastily jumping toward the areas of divergence.

 

Topher Taylor

11.22.2013
9:42pm

I am okay with accepting that Jesus is the only way, truth and life as long as it can be understood like Paul understood and that people who don’t even know Jesus can still follow and obey the laws that they know to be true. I’m still not sure how I feel about people of the OT having salvation through Jesus. It makes me a little uncomfortable because the Israelites in the OT and more than likely Jewish people today had no concept of the trinity as Christians claim. What they had to offer was a relationship with God through sacrifices and carrying out the laws of the Lord, amongst other things, and there was no personal savior. It’s easy for Christians today to say that all prophecies led to this God-person that is Jesus Christ, but I don’t think it should be so easy to say that the source of salvation is through the person of Christ. I like the idea behind prevenient grace in that God comes before and offers salvation to all, but I’m pretty sure this wouldn’t have been an entirely acceptable answer for most people living in the OT times, and maybe even today.

 

Jared Trygg

10.08.2014
7:41pm

Tom,

This is a great explanation of how Christ remains at the center of salvation as opposed to Christianity. Christianity does not equal Jesus, which is not always an idea that is very easy to explain. By placing Jesus at the center of salvation for everyone, including those who lived before him, the idea of salvation becomes more than just a reality for each person living here and now. It is a universal offering of relationship with God as opposed to only those who are “lucky” enough to be born into a situation where they would hear the name of Jesus. Salvation comes from the loving sacrifice Jesus made as opposed to any worldly symbol.

 

Mary Forester

10.09.2014
5:05am

I think that the points that that Tom makes are very important. I know that we all agree that Jesus is the only way to salvation. Can we obstruct the work of God in other’s lives because of our lack of love for others…no matter who they are? If prevenient grace is always calling others toward Him, by our own lack of faithfulness, are we obstructing the work of the Spirit to move among the people because of the way that we treat others? If we are filled with the love of Christ, should that not consume our lives and be reflected in our actions towards others? An additional interesting point that Tom makes that I think correlates with this issue is that Christianity should not be equated with Jesus. We fall into our own denominational views and forget that maybe the lines that we have drawn may not be what Jesus intended if we are excluding others from experiencing Christ.

 

Linsey Mather

10.09.2014
7:39pm

Tom-
First , I love your clarification regarding Christianity and Jesus. You are right. It is important to recognize Jesus is the way rather than saying Christianity is the way. Christians and Christian institutions have contributed great things – but they have also made some awful and hurtful decisions. We should look to Jesus first.
The concept of prevenient grace is absolutely key when discussing the idea that God could be at work – even in other religions. I loved Truesdale’s words here: “We dialogue because we want to serve, not obstruct, the Redeemer’s prevenient work.”
But are we really dialoguing as much as we could? I am not so sure. This is something I would like to see more of.

 

Kelli Simmons

10.10.2014
8:40am

Tom,
I think your comment about God’s prevenient grace being at work for all people is critical to how we understand and respond to others of different faiths. Attacking and going on the defensive is not how I believe Jesus would have his followers respond to anyone. We will never compromise the Gospel message, but live it as a light to the world. In this way we can reach others.

 

Jerimy W.

10.10.2014
10:39am

God, out of God’s infinite love for us, is at work in our lives before we even recognize our need for God’s love and reconciliation.  Before we even realize that we stand separated from God, God’s prevenient grace is flooding our lives and softening our hearts to the wooing of our loving Creator.  Even more, this love is not picky – it does not discriminate based on the choices we have made (or have not made) in life.  Instead, God’s love is for all; and God’s love for all is so deep, so fierce, that God gave God’s Son in order that we may have a way to God.  Even amid all our sin, even with our backs turned to God, the incarnate God lived as a human, suffered as a mortal and died as a criminal so that we may have life everlasting.  Our religion cannot save us, but the Author of our faith most certainly can!
Oh, how I love Jesus!

 

Mark Mounts

10.10.2014
10:56am

Prevenient Grace is the essential part of partaking in what Christ accomplished on the cross.  Without prevenient grace our relationship with God is still separated by sin thus, there is no relationship with the Father without acknowledgement of Christ.  I appreciate the Wesleyan approach to understanding Christ as the center of our lives and examining our religion through the lens of Christ.  When Christ is our lense to look at the world and decisions that we make daily, it becomes very apparent that without Him we are very lost creations without a purpose.

 

David Hater

10.10.2014
2:39pm

Tom,
In your blog you make mention of Karl Barth and his idea of the difference between religion and Jesus with regards to salvation.  This is important because it is true that church, nor doctrine, nor anything else but Jesus can bring salvation.  It is when we lose sight of this and start placing our salvation on other things that we get into trouble.  Your second point I found interesting because you mention we cannot find salvation outside of love.  When looking at this, I believe you are right in that God is love, and therefore our salvation, our love comes from Him.  I have often heard people use the term love, who knows not God or Jesus, and think that if God is love, how can they truly know what it is to love or be loved?  Interesting blog on a foundational scripture passage, I enjoyed reading it.

 

Austin Lamos

10.10.2014
6:46pm

As I was reading this blog I was thinking about Acts 17 where Paul finds an idol to an “unknown god.” I think that this is somewhere along the lines of what we are talking about here. There are people in this world who do not know Jesus, and who have never been given the opportunity to hear the Gospel. There are other people of have been hurt by a perverted version of what people call Christianity. These people may be serving or seeking after him but not be aware of whom they are seeking. They may be following and serving Jesus more than many people who identify themselves as Christians. To some this idea that people may be able to find and serve Jesus outside of “Christianity” may be a reason to not worry about evangelism. To me it encourages me to be like Paul in Athens and inform people about the “unknown God” whom they are serving.

 

Melinda

10.10.2014
8:07pm

Tom,

Thank you for your thoughts!  I loved how you made a distinct difference between Christianity as the way and Jesus as the way.  I feel that so many times Christians are wrapped around the logistics of their particular religion and forget that ultimately, Jesus is the only way.  As a children’s pastor I have had parents question as to if my curriculum was denomination based.  They did not want me to teach out of our denominations theology.  I am grateful for the passion they have towards our denomination, at the same time they need to realize that it’s Jesus first, He is the only way.

 

Dustin J.

10.10.2014
8:19pm

This blog reminds me of the question I heard in my undergrad, what matters most, to follow doctrine or to follow Jesus?

As you have stated we need to keep our focus on Jesus and the grace, love, and relationship we can have with Him. If we start to get muddled in the other things of our belief systems we might lose sight of Jesus. Although other areas and topics are important when it comes down to the questions of how do we get to heaven or have eternal life the answer is Jesus.

I also think the emphasis on prevenient grace is important when thinking about those who might not encounter God directly. God reveals himself to everyone in different ways. The grace of God does not play favorites but rather is all inclusive for anyone to receive.

 

Paul Darminio

10.10.2014
10:10pm

I think that this approach is significant.  I think that there are many Christians in the world who hear about the possibility of God welcoming people into his kingdom in ways we have not thought possible and hoped that those words could be true.  Instead of arguing against Scripture and looking for loopholes, Tom has done the important work of showing how this could all be possible with just a slightly different interpretation of Scripture.
  While this blog entry is not an exhaustive work, I do not think that is what most of us need.  I think we feel in our hearts that our loving God would not damn so many to hell, but our ideas of theology leave no room for God to work.  This entry opens the door for God to have that kind of freedom to love without violating, and perhaps not even being in conflict with, what most of us would consider orthodox Christianity.

 

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Thomas Jay Oord is a professor, author, and theologian from the Northwest. Read more