Progressive Christian Channel
Is Jesus the Only Way?
Another way to get at this question is to change the framework. In Speaking Christian: Why Christian Words Have Lost Their Meaning and Power—And How They Can Be Restored, Marcus Borg calls what many of us grew up with a "heaven and hell Christianity." He describes four characteristics:
- The afterlife: heaven is the reason for being Christian.
- Sin is the central issue in our life with God; forgiveness is the solution.
- What is most important about Jesus is his death, which paid the price for our disobedience.
- The necessity of believing, of affirming a set of core statements to be true.
For progressive Christians, this "heaven and hell Christianity" has become untenable, especially in light of our attitudes about other religions. In the old paradigm, the Way is about being "saved." But when we discard this heaven/hell, reward/punishment aspect of being Christian, then we don't have to worry about who's saved and who's not. Our theology shifts and we are free to find the message of liberation and transformation that John has Jesus talking about. We are free to live in the mystery of the Way. We are free to include everyone in each one's understanding of the Way of Wisdom, Sophia, Christ, Logos, Being, Tao.
As a progressive Christian and as one committed to interfaith education and dialogue, I can, with integrity, embrace this text as my own—without allowing it to take on an exclusive interpretation. It may take some time to change the dominant way of thinking about it. But I believe that working to do so is an important part of the challenge of being a progressive Christian in today's interfaith world.
The Rev. Susan M. Strouse, D.Min., is the Interim Executive Director of the Interfaith Center at the Presidio in San Francisco.