Worship Wars 17: Jesus Is the Only Way To Salvation, John 14:6
Thursday, December 18, 2008– In perusing my usual blogs, websites and news stories this morning, I went to Dr. Al Mohler’s site, as I usually do, and once again he finds something in our culture that is crucial and brings the full force of Scripture to bear on the issue. Today the issue is the Crucial Question: “Are there many paths to heaven or is Jesus the only way to salvation?” Here is the link to Dr. Mohler’s column:
This is an essential truth, a core doctrine of our faith, known as Solus Christus from the Reformation. We are saved by God’s Grace Alone, Sola Gratia, through Faith Alone, Sola Fide, in Christ Alone, Solus Christus. Any variance away from this core doctrine of the FAith would be heresy, it would be another gospel, a false gospel. We find this doctrine in verses like John 14:6
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Or in Acts 4:11-12
This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
This doctrine has been a core doctrine of the Church since its founding and has been one of the main reasons for our missionary imperative and the Great Commission.
Dr. Mohler refers to a recent USA Today story about a Pew Report that reveals something which some of us who have pastored for a while can readily back up:
“The report indicates that 52% of those belonging to churches and denominations that teach that Jesus is the only way of salvation reject that teaching.”
I pastored a small, elderly, traditional, neighborhood SBC church from 1992-2007, and the dominant age group was the GI generation from the Great Depression and WW2. The next dominant age group was from the Korean to early Viet Nam era. Then we had a big gap and the next generation was a few Boomers and then a few Gen Xers. In this small church I made every effort to preach expository sermons, doctrinal sermons, through various books of the Bible and through the great doctrines of the Church.
Despite years of Sunday School and sound, biblical, doctrinal teaching, we still had a doctrinally confused congregation. One dear woman who was dying of cancer, kept telling me, “I hope I have been good enough. I hope I have been good enough.” I would remind her that her salvation rested in Christ alone and she would say, “I know”. When one of the deacons of the church died of cancer, his widow said, on more than one occasion, “I know my husband is in heaven because he was a good Mason, a good church member and a good Christian”. She used to be a Sunday School teacher, as did her husband. One of the long term Sunday School teachers of the children, and her husband- another leader in the church, had a daughter who had married into mormonism and had raised their grandchildren as mormons. I would frequently contrast what the Bible taught with what other world religions and cults believed, and this family would get up and walk out during my sermon if I mentioned the mormons because they believed the mormons were, in their words, “just like Baptists”. I tried to talk with them, to reason with them, to present the evidence, all to no avail. The subject was closed.
Ultimately, the church sided with the family that thought mormonism was OK, and I was asked to leave the church. Although that was just one issue that led to my firing, it was a major contributing cause.
Although Dr. Mohler seems to emphasize in his column that the majority of the reason why heresy is found in evangelical churches is bad preaching, allow me to say that an equally important contributor is bad ecclesiology. At least in my experience, there is a pernicious view within a lot of churches that says, Relationships are more important than truth. The church I pastored would not exercise discipline for any sin or heresy. Adultery? Accepted. Heresy? Accepted. Theft from the church? Accepted. Cheating on church payroll taxes? Accepted. Racism? Accepted. Preaching sound doctrine? Fired! This church was rebellious at its founding, (I did talk with the founding pstor). No pastor stayed beyond 3-4 years in its 60 years except me. The pervasive view of the pastor by the church was that pastors are employees of the church and are to do the church’s bidding. Upon my being asked to resign, the church leader whose daughter was a mormon, said, “We can do better without a pastor, we have before.”
The last funeral I conducted in that church, in January of 2007, at the dinner for the family afterwards, I was engaged in a conversation with the older ladies who had cooked the meal. The topic was their favorite TV preachers. All of these ladies were lifelong Baptists who loved the old fashioned, revivalistic, evangelistic sermons of the evangelists who used to conduct 2 week revivals. They had opposed me the entire time as I preached verse by verse through books of the Bibles or preached on doctrinal themes. Their favorite TV preacher???????? Joel Osteen. The Baptist faithful, and they liked Osteen’s preaching. God save us!
At my new church, founded in 2005 with biblical principles, with Elders, a Pastor and staff, who love the Lord, the Word and sound doctrine, my teaching as Sunday School teacher and Care Group Leader is welcomed, accepted and approved. The adult SS class and the Care Group both are dominated by people a bit younger than my 50 years down to people in their 20’s. They enjoy and approve the teaching I offer, the same teaching that was disapproved in my former church by the older generation.
Due to a family relationship back home when I visit, I attend a Methodist church. In the past 23 years and with 4-5 pastors and one “revival” I have never heard a biblical, Gospel sermon in that church. It is a small church,in a small town in Oklahoma, in a very conservative area. I have heard lots of good moral lessons, a lot of good psychology, but no doctrine, no gospel. I have another family relation that attends a church in the Charismatic tradition. When we went to church there we heard some motivational, inspirational talks, but no gospel, no doctrine.
Yes, the evangelical church is in crisis. Baptists are in crisis. We desperately need a return to biblical, expository, doctrinal preaching and we need to start churches that have a biblical ecclesiology, not this Americanized democratized “relationships over truth” hybrid that has wrecked the faith of millions. If half the Church in America believes Jesus is not the Only Way, the Only Truth and the Only Life, and that other religions, like Islam, worship the same God we do, there is no wonder why our culture is such a mess- it looks like the Church.