Pastors and Salvation in Christ Alone

From CP:

I would like to see this same survey asked of 20somethings, 30 somethings, and then 50somethings.

A recent survey conducted by LifeWay Research found that while a majority of Protestant pastors believe Christianity is the only way to obtain eternal life, there is a small percentage who strongly feel other religions offer eternal salvation as well.

The survey asked 1,000 Protestant pastors the question, “If a person is sincerely seeking God, he/she can obtain eternal life through religions other than Christianity.”

Seventy-seven percent of the pastors questioned said that they strongly disagree with the statement and seven percent somewhat disagreed. Another seven percent somewhat agreed and five percent strongly agreed. Three percent said they are not sure.

The educational level of the pastor played a role in their decision making. Pastors with a graduate degree were more likely to strongly agree with the statement, and less likely to strongly disagree, compared to pastors with a bachelor’s degree or less.

The study also found that evangelical Christians held stricter views on the universality of eternal salvation compared to mainline pastors. According to LifeWay, 85 percent of evangelical pastors were more likely to strongly disagree that there are other ways to eternal life other than Christianity than mainline pastors at 57 percent.

Only two percent of evangelical pastors strongly agreed with the statement, while 11 percent of mainline pastors strongly agreed.


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  • JoeyS

    Does it take in account the bate and switch? It seems probable that many believe that Jesus is ultimately the way but that he might be revealed through different religions, or during different stages of life (afterlife, etc.). Does the survey account for that or does it make it more dualistic?

  • Phil Miller

    Very poorly worded survey question, imho. It is worded in a way that makes it sound like the way one obtains eternal life is through the religion of Christianity, not necessarily through Jesus.

  • Tom F.

    Bah. Poorly, poorly worded question. Whether an evangelical is extremely exclusivist or inclusivist, I doubt any of them would be happy with individuals finding salvation “through” other religions. Change the wording to “in spite of”, or “irregardless of being part of another religion”, and I bet you would double all of your proportions of those who don’t “strongly disagree with the statement”. Maybe triple.

    Of course, conversely, the fact that 43% of mainline pastors could still manage to agree with the statement indicates a deep theological difference between those pastors and most evangelical pastors.

  • Just Sayin’

    But this is only a survey of pastors in the U.S., which is hardly indicative of the rest of Christianity.

  • Karl

    I too am frustrated with the wording of the question as it leaves no room for a Christocentric inclusivism a la (for example) C.S. Lewis among many others.

    “Is it not frightfully unfair that this new life should be confined to people who have heard of Christ and been able to believe in Him? But the truth is God has not told us what his arrangements about the other people are. We do know that no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.” -Lewis, Mere Christianity.

  • Gosh, I’m just a short stagger away from 60-something, and I’m in the 5% who are sure people receive infinite blessing without professing (or even knowing, or even knowing but all the same not professing) Christ. When I talk with evangelicals who claim a strict understanding of who receives salvation, they are very clear, at first. Then we talk about what ifs. What if a 12-year-old girl in an isolated tribe in the southern hemisphere understands and accepts the gospel of a visiting missionary and desires to be baptized, then soon realizes that, if she does, she’ll be without a family or her tribe?

    So, though she has heard and understood the gospel, then rejected it for reasons that, I think, touch us all deeply, does it mean she is condemned for eternity? The answer I invariably get back is that when she dies, God will do something to make her salvation possible. In other words, even people who consider themselves firmly committed to the strict interpretation that one is saved only through Christ make up a corollary sub-doctrine giving the same result as my belief.

    Somehow, we’re all sure, there’s a decency and fairness in God that is greater than our dogmas. To me, my conclusion is more forthcoming about this, but I suspect someone of the other point of view would be insulted by that, which I wouldn’t want to do. Still, I feel it to be my most honest explanation for what I believe.

  • P.

    Did the survey measure mainliners who consider themselves to be evangelical?

  • Joshua

    I think the introductory is paragraph is misleading. The first sentences seem to imply pluralism:

    “other religions offer eternal salvation as well.”

    But the actual question asked may imply inclusivism:

    “If a person is sincerely seeking God, he/she can obtain eternal life through religions other than Christianity.”

    Technically, inclusivists believe that people who sincerely seek God, even from within other religions, may ultimately be saved through Christ.

    In any case, I think it would be more appropriate, and honest, if more participants said “I don’t know.” Because they don’t.

  • DRT

    Like Scot, I believe age would give differences.

    I am also intrigued by the large city and small town stats. Are evangelical churches more insular in general?

    I like some of the language the RCC uses in this. I believe that you get the fullest experience of what Jesus taught through Christianity, but that does not mean it is exclusive to Christianity.

  • DRT

    …and (aside from wanting an edit button), the dualism of Jesus or no Jesus has to go in my view. This plays into our thoughts so deeply that it is difficult for people to see beyond the simple yes or no. I believe there are plenty of professing Christians who are likely to be among the last and plenty of non-Christians who may be first. But it is not a simple saved or no, it is a long line with some at the front, and some at the back. How god dissects the line is best left to him and not me.

  • Jason Lee

    This survey question is crap, but so are many survey questions regarding theology. Should have asked directly about belief in Jesus Christ.