Are only Christians allowed into heaven? (VIDEO)

Forgive if you’ve already seen the video below. But this weekend I was involved in a few really good conversations on the nature of Christian exclusivity, and so today want to share it here. If you like this video and the argument it presents, it would mean a lot to me if you would share it via Facebook and your social network. Thank you.

For more of my xtranormal videos—including my series The Smith Family Chronicles, about a young woman, Jane Smith, who comes out to her conservative evangelical parents—see my YouTube channel.

UPDATE: I thought I might bring this up.

In the comments below, Dallas Jenkins (son of Jerry Jenkins, author of the Left Behind series, and director of the 2010 faith-based feature film What If …) wrote:

If this were the only verse addressing eternal life in heaven, the point would be valid, but Jesus also said, “…that whosoever believes in me shall not perish but have eternal life.” And the Apostle Paul in Romans said, “…that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” And when Paul and Silas were asked in Acts what must be done to be saved, they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” … .  John 14:6 isn’t the only verse we go by to indicate that accepting Jesus as savior and Lord of your life is what provides eternal salvation.

But, again, “Whosoever believes in me shall not perish …” is not the same thing as saying “Only those who believe in me shall not perish …,” in the same way that saying “Everyone who passes this class will graduate” is not the same as saying, “Only those who pass this class will graduate.”

The same holds true with your other chosen quotes: “Believe in Jesus Christ and you will be saved” does not at all mean the same thing as “Only those who believe in Jesus Christ will be saved.”

If the point I make in this video about John 14:6 is valid, then the points I’m making about these other quotes are also valid.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • preve

    According to scripture anyone is eligible to enter heaven if they follow the admission process God has set up. One requirement is nothing impure may enter.

    • Matt

      I find that really hard to swallow. My job, my school, and heck, even my car has an “admission process” I need to follow to enter them.

      But that a God who supposedly loves us so much we can’t fathom it would just put up a locked gate? And you need to cross your T’s and dot your I’s to get in?

      True love is by definition unconditional. That means come as you are, you were born enough, you were born worthy. There is no “if” just a “when.” What a waste of God’s ultimate sacrifice if only those privileged enough to read God’s word or hear about Him can benefit from it.

      I think humans created this “gatekeeper” style of heaven, to keep those they don’t like out. It’s the ultimate club, and we want the “commoners” out. We want to feel special.

      As for impurity, Isaiah 1:18 shows Jesus telling us He’s made us white as snow. All of us. And later in Isaiah: “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.”

      Everyone gets in, period.

      • Carol VanderNat

        …as if any one of us could “keep” another one “out”…..

      • Diana A.

        “I think humans created this ‘gatekeeper’ style of heaven, to keep those they don’t like out. It’s the ultimate club, and we want the “commoners” out. We want to feel special.” Bingo!

        • Dallas Jenkins

          That’s a silly idea and not based in any kind of reality. Nearly every Christian I know is absolutely heartbroken and devastated by the fear that heaven might not be where everyone ends up. It’s easy to demonize Christians as people who are proud of their status, and maybe we see a few in the news who are, but those are act that way likely aren’t true Christians, because there isn’t a true Christian alive who isn’t humbled and even broken with gratitude that they are saved. And that their desire is that “no one should perish.”

          • Christy

            Jesus said: fear not.

            What distinguishes a “true” Christian from an untrue one?

          • Christy

            And it’s not silly. Diana has explained a concept present since before the age of the Church, not a modern one. That organized religion took a spiritual way of being in the world and incorporated it into an institution with rules and weights and measures, both literal and figurative, and which represents so much of (unhealthy) human psychology that accompanies tribal thinking: You are either one of us or you are our enemy. You are in or you are out.

            To be concerned with the destination of another persons soul in the afterlife in a way that compels one to believe their intrusion into the lives of others, including the legislation of morality codes upon the populous, or the need to carry out a sense of responsibility of “speaking the truth in love to them” out of fear of what will happen to them if you don’t and out of fear of how you will be held accountable for “not reaching them” is a symptom of paternalism and patriarchy: I have the truth that you lack and for your own good you should listen to me because I know better. This is not love. Nor is it loving. Nor does it carry out the Greatest Commandment.

            Somehow the Good Samaritan story of Jesus has morphed over the centuries into: tell your neighbor how he will surely suffer eternal torment in hell in the afterlife if he does not claim as true this list of things about Jesus that your denomination has determined are necessary to believe in order to be a “true” Christian.

            Jesus said, “they will know you are my disciples by how you love one another.”

          • Lymis

            ” Nearly every Christian I know is absolutely heartbroken and devastated by the fear that heaven might not be where everyone ends up.”

            Gosh, then they hide it well.

            Entirely too many of the ones I run across are obviously covering their devastation with an outward show of glee that so many people aren’t making the cut.

          • Jaye

            I’m not sure what kind of Christians you know, but I don’t know any Christians who are happy about people going to hell. (I”m talking about those Christians who believe in hell, I’m not sure I do myself).

          • Diana A.

            It would be politically incorrect to openly rejoice in the notion of nonbelievers spending eternity burning in Hell, so no intelligent Christian is going to do that. Yet it would be naive to claim that no Christian has ever rejoiced in the thought of a nonbeliever burning in Hell.

          • Jaye

            I wouldn’t say that no Christian has ever felt that way. I just don’t know any of my family or friends who do. My 90 year-old grandmother firmly believes in hell and prays fervently for those she knows who are “lost” because she really does care. Those are the types of Christians with whom I have experience. I don’t think they are just pretending.

          • Allie

            Go read the comments on any internet article about the arraignment of a murderer, and you’ll find dozens of comments from people rejoicing that the killer will burn in hell.

          • Jaye

            You’re right about that. Those people make me ill. I would still say that most Christians are not like that, but you have cited a good example I hadn’t thought of.

          • DR

            Your family and your friends do not represent macro-Christianity which actually does feel this way and expresses that publicly. Please consider not making this about you and your family. It’s not.

          • Jaye

            I didn’t think I was making it about me or my family.

          • http://www.exilemusings.blog.com Amaranth

            I went to a church once where a preacher waxed rhapsodic on how at the end of time, all would be made right because all the good people would go to heaven and the bad people would burn in hell, as they deserved.

            Someone behind me followed that statement with a very loud, satisfied, “A-MEN!” I saw no dirty looks, and no one called this lady out. It was quite horrifying.

            Needless to say, I have no desire to return to that church.

          • Lymis

            I’m not sure what Christians YOU know, but as a gay man, I’ve been told it to my face repeatedly by people who were clearly thoroughly happy (as well as intolerably smug) about it.

            Trust me, there was not a hint of heartbreak or devastation about it for them.

          • Jaye

            I told you the Christians I know. I’m sorry you’ve experienced the bad ones.

          • Jaye

            Sorry, that sounded terse.

            Perhaps I’m assuming that most of the commenters here are Christians, this being a Christian blog. It seems that those of us here do not wish Hell on you or anyone.

          • Christy

            I believe there was a viral video recently of a young child singing in a church about what kind of people wouldn’t be in heaven and the whole place erupting with applause, laughter and “Amens.”

            It’s out there. Though I understand the fervent of heart who pray over all of humanity out of fear and trembling for their eternal destination as well. My great-grandmother was one of them. It goes both ways.

          • DR

            Read an internet page that isn’t focused on your own mindset. You’ll see it.

          • Jaye

            I’m doing that right now.

          • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

            Dallas, how can you believe that Jesus would torture you so? He doesn’t want his children to live “heartbroken and devastated.” He purchased every soul on the cross. Every single one. HE decides each person’s fate. And you don’t get to know what that decision is.

            You don’t get to carry that burden. That’s His to carry.

          • http://kingmaalbert@hotmail.com Al

            That’s a nice thought, Dallas, and it may even be true for true Christians. It’s the other ones that worry me though. You know, the ones who speak on God’s behalf and make the fine distinctions between those who God finds worthy and those He doesn’t.

          • DR

            You choose a very limited filter via which to see Christians, Dallas. If you chose to set the one you default to aside – for just a moment – you’d see the huge amount of Christians on the internet, on the blogs, at the gay pride parades etc. who express actual *glee* when talking about those who believe in hell. I know you and other mainstream Conservative Christians want to believe that you are the default – and who knows, maybe you are – but it’s not anyone’s issue other than your own that your type of Christianity doesn’t get the press as being mainstream because the collective group of you simply aren’t doing enough to shout down the others who delight in gay men and women, for example, going to hell and are endlessly expressing it on the internet. That’s not anyone else’s problem to solve but yours.

      • Allie

        If we’re doing Isaiah, my favorite bit is chapter 55, which includes this:

        For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.

        For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

        For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:

        So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

        For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

        Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

        I like the idea that the Lord’s word will accomplish what he meant it to do. It’s very comforting.

        • Matt

          Thank you for this, Allie! I have always struggled with the concept of explaining to folks that God isn’t like us. His ways are different. “Wrong” may not equal punishment in God’s world, “right” may not always equal reward as here on Earth. We just have to trust that He knows what He’s doing and in meantime love one another.

    • Brian

      @Preve – “Admission process?” if there are any requirements what did Jesus mean by what he said in Luke 12:32, “Fear not little flock, it has pleased your father to give you the Kingdom.”

      And as for purity, Jezus already asked his Father to forgive all of us from the cross. And the image from Revelation, of the crowd of people washing their robes in the blood of the lamb, their garments-all of the vast crowd-were covered in blood (their sins). In Jesus’ time, only the Pharisees were so obsessed with purity. Recall how Jesus chided them about bathing and washing their utensils.

      I think it is altogether reasonable to examine how Jesus lived his life as a human being. He was far more charitable and understanding of the “fringe folks” than he was on those who were supposed to be their leaders. It’s not, “WWJD,” as that is more about speculation, I think the best focus is on “WDJD (What Did Jesus Do).”

  • Carol VanderNat

    What if “heaven” isn’t a place you go to when you die? What if we’re living eternal life right now? The question of “getting in” is ridiculous…we are eternal souls, and we are ALL already “in”…..

    • Jill

      I always feel we are living our heaven or hell as we live here. So much depends on the small choices we make daily. I’ve seen people create their own hell, and I figured I can at least create my own space of contentment here since this is the physical life God gave me to live.

  • preve

    Scripture, not me, scripture says God has determined a particular way. Why do you find it so hard to accept he’d set down the way to enter heaven? The word says in Revelation that nothing impure can enter heaven, so He gives a way people can be purified and maintain daily purity and be able to make it through the ‘gate’ (a biblical term, not my term). The way doesnt pre-disqualify anyone from accepting the way and everyone is capable of accepting that way. How loving and gracful. God has given instruction about how to enter His presence from Genesis through Revelation. It does involve needing and accepting purification.

    • Christy

      Understanding a closeness with God in terms of purity is a very Jewish notion. Jesus proclaimed that The Way to oneness with God was not through the keeping of purity codes but through The Way of Jesus and told us and showed us what that way entailed in the Greatest Commandment.

      • preve

        ‘The way’ to salvation and all that comes with it is repentance. One can’t practice spiritual love towards God or towards others until one is a spiritual being which takes place through repentance and recieving Jesus’ forgiveness – something one has to consciously seek to recieve. Spiritual birth which opens the way to practice spiritual love comes by way of repentance and forgiveness which cleanses and purifies us of sin.

        • Christy

          Yes. Repentance. In the Greek, metanoia, which means: to turn and go in a new direction, to think or understand anew, changed. The second miracle of Easter is the transforming power of unconditional love. The one that feeds the hungry and clothes the naked, that visits the prisoner and invites in the stranger, that suffers the little children and remembers the widow and the orphan, that gives their cloak and their coat, that walks a second mile, that forgives 7×70, and that lays down their life for their friends. THIS Divine love TRANSFORMS us…turning us and the world upside down…for good. Knowing how deeply we are loved we are set free to love others in the same selfless, compassionate way.

          You keep using this word purify. Do you believe in sanctification in this life?

        • Lymis

          ” Spiritual birth which opens the way to practice spiritual love comes by way of repentance and forgiveness which cleanses and purifies us of sin.”

          None of which requires ascribing to any particular religious doctrinal views.

        • Brian

          As someone who grew up being constantly told Catholics were not saved, I have grown tired and fed up with people who portray Jesus as the divine cop who is ready at any second to slap the cuffs on “sinners” at any second and throw us all into the dungeon. There is a very good, but unfortunate reason so many people would rather be atheists than Christian and that is because he is so badly represented by his followers. We should always encourage people to pray to Jesus and get to know him so they can find their own relationship rather than beating them unmercifully over the head with their “sins” so they will want to repent before they pray or spend time resting in the Lord’s presence. So many people treat that as a mistake and return to the business of whipping sinners in an effort to expose their sin. We sinners already know what our sin is; we don’t need to have it thrown in our face along with a warning of God’s eternal judgment and someone’s sadistic idea of punishment in hell if we don’t.

          • Diana A.

            Exactly. Thank you Brian!

          • Jill

            And if we keep sidestepping the God is Love phenomenon (and what is Love: patient, kind, not proud, DOES NOT DISHONOR OTHERS, protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres) with all the hell n’ damnation business, we are going to forget who God is and then what is the whole point?

            To prove who’s right and who’s mistaken? God is way cooler than human beings’ petty arguments.

    • Oz in OK

      “Scripture, not me, scripture says…”

      I find it interesting that ‘preve’ includes that in their posting. It looks to me like a variation on ‘Oh you can’t argue with me about this! It’s what the BIBLE says!’

      *Looks at the number of well-reasoned rebuttals*

      Boy, it amazes me that they think this line actually works.

  • Dallas Jenkins

    If this were the only verse addressing eternal life in heaven, the point would be valid, but Jesus also said, “…that whosoever believes in me shall not perish but have eternal life.” And the Apostle Paul in Romans said, “…that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” And when Paul and Silas were asked in Acts what must be done to be saved, they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

    We can argue about whether or not Paul was speaking for Jesus and/or God the Father, and we can argue about whether or not Jesus simply meant that believing that he existed was enough (he said later that it wasn’t enough, because even the demons believed he existed), but John 14 isn’t the only verse we go by to indicate that accepting Jesus as savior and Lord of your life is what provides eternal salvation.

    Jesus (and the apostle Paul) were explicitly clear that there’s nothing YOU can do to earn your salvation, that’s it’s by grace and mercy because we’re all sinners who could never achieve true holiness (including Christians), so it’s pretty clear that there is a difference between being a good person and accepting Christ as savior and Lord of your life.

    To be clear, I agree that Jesus is the “decider,” but if we want to make it crass, he made it pretty clear what would tilt the decision, and being a good person had little to do with it.

    • Allie

      None of those verses say “and if you fail to do this you will NOT be saved.” I guess you failed the part of math class where they discussed sets?

      • Christy

        Actually, many Christian schools do not teach set theory and are opposed to it.

        From A Becka Book curriculum description:

        ‘Unlike the “modern math” theorists, who believe that mathematics is a creation of man and thus arbitrary and relative, we believe that the laws of mathematics are a creation of God and thus absolute. All of the laws of mathematics are God’s laws. Our knowledge of God’s absolute mathematical laws may be incomplete or at times in error, but that merely shows human frailty, not relativity in mathematics. Man’s task is to search out and make use of the laws of the universe, both scientific and mathematical.

        A Beka Book provides attractive, legible, workable traditional mathematics texts that are not burdened with modern theories such as set theory. These books have been field-tested, revised, and used successfully for many years in Christian schools. They are classics with up-to-date appeal. Besides training students in the basic skills that they will need all their lives, the A Beka Book traditional mathematics books teach students to believe in the absolutes of the universe, to work diligently to get right answers, and to see the facts of mathematics as part of the truth and order that God has built into the real universe.’

        For further explanation see more here: http://boingboing.net/2012/08/07/what-do-christian-fundamentali.html

        • Christy

          At its heart it is about being anti-humanist and anti-modernist and understanding God as knowable, unchanging and in a post-enlightenment literalism does away with the mystery of the ineffable, the truth of myth, and forces it into a neat, measurable, objective box. It rejects relativity. It embraces absolutes. It rejects multiple right answers. It embraces only one possible right answer.

        • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

          Holy shamolley — they reject set theory?!?!? WTF indeed!

        • Allie

          Thanks for the info, you just made my day a little darker. ;)

          Seriously, every time I think I’m familiar with the limits of this particular insanity I learn it’s bigger than I was aware. I already knew that some of these folks reject the theory of relativity because they don’t understand the difference between that and moral relativity.

          • Christy

            Sorry Allie. I’ll try not to bring up the issue of proscribed gender roles (even in sex) for a few days in order to give readers a chance to recover.

    • Christy

      I guess it depends on what we mean by “believe.” The Hebrew word translated as believe in English has picked up a post-enlightenmnet literalism that has morphed from it’s more rightly understood meaning of “trust” or “follow” to something now too often meant: to hold as literally true, to believe is historically accurate or having literally happened.

      Re: “Jesus (and the apostle Paul) were explicitly clear that there’s nothing YOU can do to earn your salvation, that’s it’s by grace”

      That’s right. Nothing you can do… including believing. No one said anything about being a good person…those are assumptions of theology that we have been taught to put up as a straw men agaisnt what we think other denominations teach as earned grace. Grace in exchange for believing makes it just as transactional as grace in exchange for “being good.” Grace is free. We can’t help but become new creatures when the transforming power of Divine unconditional love is made deeply known to us. That’s not the same thing as believing and is actually a work of the Spirit, not any work of our own.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Dallas: please see my addendum to the post itself.

    • Tim

      I second John here on the logic part. At one point I wouldn’t have seen the difference in the two claims without it being pointed out to me. Thank God for Intro to Logic.

      In any case, Dallas, there are so many variables here that make it impossible for us to know, aren’t there? Isn’t that kind of the reasoning in the video? I mean, how narrowly would we have to interpret scripture to get into heaven? Or what type of relationship? How then could we tell if we were the right type of “Christian” to get into heaven?

      I appreciate your family and your ideas. Unlike most faithful readers of this blog, I am with your family on a few end-times aspects, though I am also as certain that we can’t know if we are near that point or not. Tim and Jerry are also unusually good writers. However, Christianity isn’t first and foremost a set of absolutes, it is first and foremost God’s offer to overcome them. Even one absolute of this sort in Christianity undermines the whole which is simply an offer, by God, to walk with us day to day and to trust that he has the cosmological stuff taken care of.

    • http://www.donmburrows.com Don M. Burrows

      I would only add the following to the good points already made in response to Dallas:

      1) The entirety of the farewell speech of John 14 is a complicated mess, so gleaning precise meaning — precise enough to condemn fellow humans to hellfire — is fraught with problems. Dallas suggests “there’s nothing YOU can do to earn your salvation,” yet only a few verses later in John 14.21, Jesus says, “They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.” (NRSV, which pluralizes the Greek to make it gender-neutral.) What does this mean? There have been barrels of ink devoted to it already, alongside the faith-vs.-works controversy. The only thing I think we can say for certain is that it’s far from certain what we can say (much like a lot of the Bible).

      2) The whole farewell speech has been read as a discourse on the succession issues going on in early Christianity as the first generation of leaders died and conflict arose as to which communities laid claim to his mission. Thus the exclusivist language, manifested over and again by Jesus’ use of the first person, is seen as emphasizing Jesus’ centrality and asserting that no one else (i.e., no other leaders in the Christian community) can take his place as mediator to God except the paraclete, often considered to be the Holy Spirit. See “The Departure of the Way,” Bruce Woll, JBL 99.2: pp. 225-239. (http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/3265814)

    • http://www.exilemusings.blog.com Amaranth

      “To be clear, I agree that Jesus is the “decider,” but if we want to make it crass, he made it pretty clear what would tilt the decision, and being a good person had little to do with it.”

      What about the parable of the sheep and the goats?

  • preve

    ‘The way’ to be purified from sin-that thing that makes us impure-is by the shed blood of Jesus. If there was some other way God wouldn’t have asked the Son he loves so much to make that sacrifice.. He doesn’t do unecessary things. That blood had to be shed to made atonement for us. It’s a gift and as such one has to accept it to recieve it. One has to hold out ones hand and say ‘yes’ to the gift of the way God made to be purified. God doesn’t force it on us. There are plenty of people who don’t want anything to do with God let alone spend eternity with him. God doesn’t force them into his presence now or for eternity if they don’t want to be there. Purification from sin is what God made clear in both testaments was necessary to dwell with him now and forever and one has to be consciously involved with God and the way he made (his Son ) to recieve it.

    • Lymis

      As people have said, even if everything you say is true about one way to gain salvation, there is nothing that says it is the only way God can open himself to people.

      • http://johnshore.com Slick

        Lymis, I agree with Preve. Preve, I agree with Lymis. I think you are both correct.

    • Christy

      If we ascribe to substitutional atonement, then the debt is paid whether anyone “reaches out their hand to acknowledge the debt is paid” in whatever form one might make that out to be.

      “There are plenty of people who don’t want anything to do with God let alone spend eternity with him.” There are some. But this is a straw man put forward and taught from many pulpits to marginalize those who are different from themselves and promote a dualist worldview: either you’re with us or you are against us. This is tribal thinking.

      A more accurate statement might be: There are plenty of people who do not want anything to do with the God that has been presented to them. As so many theologians and others have said, “Tell me about the God you don’t believe in and maybe I don’t believe in that God either.”

      Another truer statement might be: There are plenty of people who have nothing against God, it’s those people claiming to be Christian they have no desire to have anything to do with. Gandhi is one such famous person. There are many more. And it’s a valid point.

      To insist that everyone the earth over understand God in the way in which a certain segment of Christianity does and insist on using the same language to describe what that relationship is like is not only terribly limiting to the ineffable nature of the Divine but is also wrought with hubris. To hear, yet not understand was a common theme in Jesus’ teaching.

      Jesus came to transform the old (mis)understanding of how to be one with God. It was not about a bookkeeping religion of purity codes: “It’s not what a man puts in his mouth that makes him impure,” he taught. “It’s what comes out of him”…from his core…from his essence… his character…who he is. It is not about becoming pure. It is about becoming transformed into a new way of being in the world in how we are in relationship with and show love both to God and our neighbor. The Way of Jesus transforms us into a new being, and a new way of being, to one who becomes more like God in order to be one with God by being compassionate.

      • David S

        Spot on Christy –

        “To insist that everyone the earth over understand God in the way in which a certain segment of Christianity does and insist on using the same language to describe what that relationship is like is not only terribly limiting to the ineffable nature of the Divine but is also wrought with hubris. ”

        As much as some of us try to diminish God and put him in a very limiting box; He will not be contained. And how shallow is one’s faith that the mere suggestion that He operates outside of our narrow understanding causes retrenchment?

        I am always suspicious of anyone who says they know for certain God’s will. They usually back it up by saying “scripture is absolutely clear…”.

    • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

      I have paid hospital bills and put money in the accounts of friends and family in need without them knowing. I have also been on the receiving end of such kindness in my times of need. You do not have to “accept” a gift to receive it. In these cases, the receiver had no choice. The bill was paid.

      Why would God be less generous than His creations?

      • Diana A.

        Right on point, especially your last sentence.

    • Brian

      preve writes: “God doesn’t force … us. There are plenty of people who don’t want anything todo with God let alone spend eternity with him.”

      My operative definition of SIN is to be without. Without what? God.

      Jesus told his apostles, “I am the Alpha and the Omega.” The way I understand that, is that he is the beginning of all things and the end. The Word spoke the universe into existance, and at the end of time, all of his creation will return to him. It’s not a matter of forcing anyone (or anything) “into his presence now or for eternity.”

      Jesus also told his followers “to pray without ceasing.” Why? I think it is because through our prayer we open our hearts to God. We allow our hearts and souls to grow acclamated to his presence within and among us. However, if after we die, we find we are in God’s presence because, quite frankly, there is no where else to go, what then?

      The people who are the most likely candidates to not be overjoyed and finding God’s presence fills the universe and there is nowhere to run and hide, no mountain big enough to fall on them to hide them from the truth of God, are those who ignored Jesus’ warning “not to judge.”

      Why? Recall the time when the Pharisees accused Jesus of healing through the power of the devil (Beelzubel). Jesus told them, point blank, that they were blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Any time, anyone judges another person, they are in effect judging the Spirit/spirit that dwells within them. If that Spirit is the Holy Spirit, they are judging God; they are rejecting God.

      Why would someone reject God? I have meditated for a very long time on the statue of King Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel. It is the famous statue with the feet of clay. It became the perfect image for me of what my faith was like before God struck it at its feet and the entire edifice crumbled and turned to dust. God, in his time, replaced that agonizing void in my life with a Real Faith; a living and growing relationship with him.

      For those people who have rejected God, I think it is entirely possible that they will experience being in the devine presence as the worst possible hell. I say this because there are different ways of looking at Love. One is a life altering and life changing power that is an unquenchable heat and thirst that burns away everything that is not genuine; that strikes a self-created, self-chosen faith that is not of God. He took away my heart of stone and gave me a heart that could receive and share his Love; unconditional Love.

      Unfortunately, even today, too many christians refuse to believe that God could possibly Love anyone that does not conform to another human being’s idea of what it means to be holy.

  • Lymis

    I don’t do the chapter and verse thing with the Bible, never have, and am not particularly interested in engaging in it here, but how do the people who claim that verses like this prove that only Christians go to heaven deal with things like Jesus’s statement that he has other sheep that are not of “this fold”, his clear granting of Heaven to the man who was crucified with him (and could only be counted as “believing” in him by a huge stretch of what “believing” is supposed to mean), and the fate of all of God’s chosen who died before Jesus was born?

    Even if you do have to accept Christ to get into heaven, if in fact the soul lives on after death in a form we’ll recognize as a person, who is to say that person cannot encounter and accept Jesus after death? For that matter, who’s to say that the idea of “in a mirror darkly” and “then we shall see face to face” doesn’t mean people are MORE able to fully choose Jesus after death than while alive?

    • George

      Great thoughts. My question is, “when is Jesus done with us?” There may be more time to hear and believe the good news than we think. What do we do with Jesus preaching to the dead? (1 Peter 4:6)

    • Rachel G.

      I believe we will be surprised who is in Heaven, but there had better be dogs and horses or I ain’t going!

      • Diana A.

        And cats! Don’t forget the cats.

        • http://shadsie.deviantart.com Shadsie

          Knowing cats, they might be ruling the place.

          • Diana A.

            Ya’ know?

  • Tavdy79

    If by “Christian” you mean people like Scott Lively, Michelle Bachmann and Papa Ratzinger, I think the question makes the wrong suggestion. For me, heaven is wherever is free of people like them, therefore Christians cannot get into heaven.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Guess I’m out, then. Bummer.

    • http://www.simotasia.com/words/ Collin Simula

      Paul said in Romans 12 “do not repay evil for evil.” Although where you are coming from is understood and your anger is somewhat justified (or at least understandable), I think the challenge of this whole Jesus-following thing is to not come back at hate with hate, to not come back at prejudice with prejudice.

      That’s what this thing called grace and mercy is all about. I like to imagine heaven is a place where all of our shit, sins we’ve committed, as well as our prejudices against each other wash away, and where you can see people like Bachmann, and she can see people like you, and everyone can see people for who they are—an image of God.

      So I agree with John, if heaven is a place absent from people like that, we’re all out, because none of us are any better.

    • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

      Trust me, no one can come face-to-face with their creator and remain a smug, self-justified person. I think, in heaven, all people will be changed.

      • Diana A.

        I agree with this.

      • Jill

        I do trust you Nicole!

        • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

          Awww! *hug*

    • http://shadsie.deviantart.com Shadsie

      I remember a joke:

      Some guy dies and winds up in Heaven. He’s being shown around by an angel. They go through a corridor and the man finds a door. The angel says “Oh, no, don’t open that!”

      “Why not?” the man replies, “I can hear voices on the other side.”

      The angel answers; “Those people think they’re the only ones here! We wouldn’t want to spoil that for them!”

      • Krissy

        I heard that joke, only the punchline is “Shh, be quiet. Those are Lutherans–they think they’re the only ones here!”

        (and I say that as a Lutheran, albeit a liberal one)

        • Carol VanderNat

          And I heard it as: “Shhh…those people are Dutch Christian Reformed…etc..”

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevin.murphy.961556 Kevin Murphy via Facebook

    All dogs go to heaven …

  • http://coffeeandcotton.com Robyn

    This post today goes well with the excerpt I read today by Richard Rohr:

    A lot of people have done it “all right.” But when you look at them you say to yourself, ‘If that’s salvation, I don’t know that I want to be saved.’ If those are the people in heaven, I don’t want to go there. Is that what heaven is going to be like? A bunch of superior people who tell you when you’re wrong all the time? Is that the life Jesus promised? That can’t be it! ~Richard Rohr in ‘Everything Belongs’

  • http://www.facebook.com/tyedyegye David Larson via Facebook

    As always, excellent!

  • April Haynes

    I love this discussion, as its basis is why I became an agnostic at the age of 13. I have found my way back to God, and in Jesus, too. I’m still wrestling with the idea of heaven–I think I’m more inclined to think of some kind of collective consciousness/energy that lives on after our time on earth–but one thing I’m pretty darn sure of is this: if there is a heaven, God isn’t letting people in only on the basis of what they claim to “believe.” An earlier point was made about the meaning of “believe,” and to me, someone who claims to believe in Jesus as their savior, but then acts in a way that’s diametrically opposite of his teachings is not at all going to wind up in heaven. Conversely, someone who says that they’re a Buddhist, or secular humanist, or whatever, but who unfailingly loves his/her neighbor, does for others, praises creation and the people in it, etc., etc. are the true believers and will be welcome into heaven. So, believing in Jesus is NOT about dogmatic praise of a supernatural entity, but of attempting to follow his teachings. IMHO. But, I’m still exploring…

    • Diana A.

      I think you’ve nailed it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrewchow01 Andrew Chow via Facebook

    I thought Christ made it quite clear in the parable of the workers invited to the banquet…that it’s none of our business who the Master invites to sit at the table. What business is it of ours, to debate who gets to go to heaven? Our business is to do as Christ taught, to love one another. Telling people they are going to hell, is not very loving. John the Baptist did that, but Christ taught that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, and we are all invited. Whether we get to go, or not, depends not on us. It’s scary to lose control, but that’s the way it is with Grace. The Law is all about Control. Grace is all about surrender.

    • Pancakes

      Well said Andrew. I’ve now wrote down those first three sentences on a card and pinned them to the wall.

      Wise words.

    • Jill

      And that’s where religion and faith seem to diverge. Collectively humans have fashioned religion to make it ‘our business’ if merely to state with absolutism who’s getting in/who’s not. And yes, that is a game of control. It’s a message that says don’t listen to your God-given intelligence and intuition and turn yourself over to those who know more than you, to tell you who God is and how he views you.

      For me, religion says what I should think and when I should think it. Faith tells me I have to be responsible for my own thoughts AND feelings AND actions because, as my faith dictates, if we are all connected then we are impactful on everyone.

  • http://www.buzzdixon.com buzz

    This touches on something I’ve been pondering over for quite a while now: Exactly what it is we’re supposed to believe when we “believe in Jesus”?

    I don’t recall Jesus every telling anybody they had to believe he was God incarnate in order to obtain salvation. I do recall the verse where he quotes Rabbi Hillel to the rich young ruler re “Love God, love your neighbor as you love yourself”.

    When he does encourage people to believe in him, it always seems to be in the context of “believe in me when I tell you these teachings are the way to salvation” not “worship me if you want to live”.

    I get a lot of people stirred up b/c I tend to rely on those two occasions when God addressed humanity directly as opposed to the numerous incidents of prophets, psalmists, and apostles interpreting what God inspired in them. The Decalogue and The Sermon On The Mount seem to be written in the same elegant, simple-yet-complex style; the various holiness laws and rules about running churches seem tongue tied and bombastic in comparison.

    More and more the thing that bothers me most about contemporary Christianity is the fact that it seems to be based on fear, not love

    • Jill

      Perhaps the phrase ‘believe in me’ is more akin to ‘trust me’? I’d love to know what the original Hebrew text reads for that statement.

      Yes, fear is about control, and love is about openness. How can the masses be reigned in and subjugated through love???

      • Christy

        Believe did mean something more akin to trust or follow.

      • Larry

        you’d have to look at the Greek.

        it’s the idea of “believe into”, it is NOT getting at mere factual information or doctrinal/mental assent… it does lean towards a trust, an entrusting to, a dependence in/upon.

        makes “faith” in Jesus far more experiental and relational, IMO.

        • Jill

          That’s right– I do remember something from my bible study days (if vaguely).

          Thanks Larry. Another way to say it, don’t worship me–connect with me.

  • Christie

    If Jenkins were correct, then God would be a bigot and heaven would be filled with mostly white people. God is not a bigot.

    • Larry

      that’s a pretty powerful, if not racist statement there.

      • Larry

        I don’t think Jenkins (or anyone’s) view has any impact on whether there is a healthy, thriving church of Spirit-filled Christ-followers in Asia, of Africa, or anywhere.

        While in their own cultural context, it’s quite likely they maintain a vibrant faith in the exclusivity of Christ.

        God is not a bigot at all. I guess I don’t get what you’re driving at.

  • Christie

    Forgot to add this: for more information and thoughtful discussion on this issue please read the book “Love Wins,” by Rob Bell. Reading this perspective assisted in maintaining my faith. I had become so disenchanted with the church and all the “God/religion-based” condemnation and hippocracy that I nearly walked away.

  • charles

    very nice John…..

  • Ben P

    I am not comfortable with the idea that Christianity is black and white exclusive but to say that these verses do not mean that Christ is the way can take power away from Christ. I am not comfortable with that either. It is like saying “I am the way, but not the only one, just a pretty good one.”

    I really like the video but have trouble with the explained away verses afterward. And to simply say that because you have validity on the one point means your other points have it too simply by relation is not always true.

    I am all for going against the grain but I always try to look for the log in my eye when pointing out the speck in someone elses.

    • Diana A.

      No one can take power away from Christ or any other member of the Trinity. The mere notion that one can is absurd.

      • Ben P

        I am not saying that one has the ability themselves to take power from Christ, that statement would be absurd and my belief/knowledge of Christ would infantile. However, one could leave Christ’s power unacknowledged. Christ’s power is not in question, rather acceptance and acknowledgment of it.

    • Christy

      re: ““I am the way, but not the only one, just a pretty good one.”

      What if we looked at this a bit differently: There is only one way to be one with the Divine. Jesus’ way is that way; other ways are also the way. They are not different ways just different manifestations/explanations of it.

  • http://shadsie.deviantart.com Shadsie

    *Blink.* I used to read Left Behind, got about halfway through the series years ago. Now I read Slacktivist if that tells you anything about me now.

    One of the reasons why I’ve become very glad of finding arguments for Universalism or at least “alternate” views on Hell isn’t because I “wanna be a sinner” it’s because I have a lot of problems seeing myself as “good enough” for anyone. I’ve had a lot of confirmation in life that no matter how well I do something or how good I get at one endeavor or another – one tiny mistake can bring things crashing down. God needs to live me as I am or not at all. I expect him to be better than typical humans. If he’s not, I’m screwed.

    Beyond that, one of the biggest complaints I’ve seen athiests (online) give about believers (in any religion, but especially Christianity) is that “They’re doing it for reward,” “They’re only being good to get into Heaven.” A few, conversely, will talk about how they’re so much better because they’re literally “good for nothing” (which I actually think is just as bad because those who crow like that are obviously “doing good” at least in part because it makes them feel like they’re “better” than other people). In my opinion, doing good shouldn’t be about either afterlife cookies or being “above” the stinking herd, good should be for its own sake. To “bring Heaven to Earth” as it were. I think maybe “doing good for the sake of Heaven” is a good lesson for children and new converts who need that particular psychology, but it should eventually give way to a deeply internalized morality that would stay with you even if the beliefs you orginally based them on came crashing down.

    In other words, for me, Heaven is a hope that helps me find personal meaning, but it’s not a “reason” for living life ethically. As weak and even sometimes horrible as I feel for it, I *do* need to imagine things beyond what I know right now to find my personal hope and meaning — the idea that “maybe everyone will get to Heaven/get the chance/become equal” is a good help in the not being proud department, and also in killing the fear. In a world where we all truly have the same chance – what other reason to do good is there besides “for the sake of good?”

    • Larry

      this fascinates me. I find that the concept of reward is lost on many devout evangelicals. (those who merely use heaven as “fire insurance” and live otherwise I wouldn’t label devout).

    • Jill
      • Diana A.

        Yeah, me too! Thanks for sharing this!

  • http://www.facebook.com/leavalencia Lea Valencia Noring via Facebook

    Excellent. Very logical, too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/leavalencia Lea Valencia Noring via Facebook

    Christ is “The Gate.” Those who pass through the gate don’t have to even be aware of it. (IMO)

  • Larry Petry via Facebook

    “everybody want to go to Heaven, but nobody wants to die.”

  • Allie Bolen via Facebook

    I feel thinking that way is just sad! It’s as if God set up some type of lottery system to get into heaven, “Oh sorry you aren’t christian must go to hell even though you did everything I told you too and loved everybody unconditionally”. Makes no sense!

  • Allie Bolen via Facebook

    By the way, many Hindu’s, Muslims and other religions believe in Jesus, they just don’t believe in him exclusively! Always on point John which is why I love you! :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/bill.steffenhagen?sk=wall Soulmentor

    I think too many Christians focus too narrowly on Jesus the man and not enuf on Jesus the idea. When he says,”No man cometh unto the father but by me,” is he speaking primarily about his personhood, or might he be speaking metaphorically about his “way”, his behavior and teachings…..about Love? Do Christians NEED to have a human body to worship? Is Jesus’ “Way” not enuf? Is that not what he actually wanted us to focus on? What was the point of his existence and teaching if not to give us an example of how we should relate to each other and what kind of human behavior we should strive to emulate? If God is Love, then why is Love not enuf? When he was crucified, was that possibly meant to be the ultimate illustration of how we kill Love? I think he died to show us how we do KILL LOVE, not to make us worship HIM. I suggest that was never his intent.

    Is it possible that Christians as a whole have missed the point all along?

    If we look at Jesus from this other perspective, as a WAY to BE, it changes how we interpret his words and suddenly, “Whosoever believes in me shall not perish …” takes on a different, perhaps more enlightened meaning……and suddenly may include a whole lot more of humanity. Christian “Faith” then becomes inclusive as opposed to exclusive. Hindus can do it. Moslems can do it. Jews can do it. Atheists can do it. And indeed, that would change THEIR perspectives on THEIR religions also. We would all be blending into something that would need a new label. HEY!!! Even homosexuals can do it!

    Yeah, I know that would destroy the fundies’ (of any religion) “faith” in their own righteousness and shatter their exclusionary illusions of grandeur. What a loss that would be to this world!! (OK, I succumbed to a bit of snark. It felt good.)

    • Jill

      Soulmentor trying to change the power structure of fundamental religion. How presumptuous of you. (sarcasm: free of charge :)

    • Christy

      He never went about seeking worship. He looked for followers…of the narrow way. The way of love. The way of compassion. The way he taught and the way he lived. The way we are to love God and neighbor and to treat each other. And yes, even the birds and the bees can do it.

    • Christy

      Soulmentor, Robin Meyer (and others) actually makes a case for this in his book “Saving Jesus from the Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus” where he makes a distinction between the pre-Easter Jesus and the post-Easter Christ and how the Church has come to view Jesus over time.

      http://www.amazon.com/Saving-Jesus-Church-Worshiping-Following/dp/0061568228

      • Larry

        here’s a question: how can we be sure we have a more accurate picture of Jesus than his original followers (and their respective communities) did?

        • Christy

          We can’t. No one could. And even then it would have been subjective.

          • Larry

            right.

            so… would his followers have an equally subjective insight?

            or would it have a different clarity of sorts, (different than ours) given their closeness to Jesus?

          • Christy

            It would necessarily have a different clarity of sorts, just as those closest to MLK Jr. necessarily had a clarity of him that those reading a book about him 2,000 years from now most likely will not.

          • http://www.facebook.com/bill.steffenhagen?sk=wall Soulmentor

            You’re right, and keep in mind that some of the Biblical authors never met him, therefore their writings are based on emotionalism and “faith”, NOT personal knowledge.

        • Lymis

          Because some of us aren’t mimicking a historical dead person. We are in a current relationship with an eternally live Person.

          I’m no more interested in making claims about the Apostles’ unique relationships with God than I have any business making judgements about yours.

          But I have my own relationship with God. And it has far more to do with understanding the working of God in my world and the promptings of the Holy Sprit in my heart and mind than with “accuracy” of what God was getting up to 2000 years ago with people who aren’t me.

          You think Peter, Thomas, and Judas had the same “accurate” picture of Jesus, just because they were contemporary with his human lifetime?

          • Christy

            I like this.

          • David S

            Lymis -

            Spot on! You cut to the core of the legalistic bent in some parts of the Church.

            Why do we not have faith that God is working in everyone’s life…right now…today?! I know He is working in mine. Why do other Christians try to deny or downplay the very real role of God in my daily life? Because I don’t subscribe to a very narrow and specific set of beliefs?

            I think it’s a power thing.

          • Christy

            It’s the incorporation of big R religion and the big C church, IMHO. An organization that turned an innately subjective, individual, personal experience of God (the Divine) and with God into a replicable, measurable, objective system of being “sure” who is in and who is out as a means of coping with the very human discomfort we have with death and the vulnerability we feel about the unknown and the mysterious nature of the ineffable.

      • http://www.facebook.com/bill.steffenhagen?sk=wall Soulmentor

        Thank you. That looks very interesting. Made me think of STEALING JESUS by Bruce Bawer. http://www.amazon.com/Stealing-Jesus-Fundamentalism-Betrays-Christianity/dp/0609802224

  • Dan Oberman via Facebook

    There’s no other name under heaven by which we must be saved- Acts 4:12. John 4:6, One mediator between god and man, Jesus Christ, etc

    • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

      Correct. Jesus died for all sins no matter of religion or race or creed. He is the final decider and we don’t get to influence what he does after this life.

  • Kristi

    If you follow this logic, Jesus and his disciples were never Christians, they were Jews, so if only Christians get into heaven, then we won’t see Jesus or the disciples there.

    • Larry

      right. i was wondering about the emphasis on terms. I feel I don’t hear many “christians” saying “only Christians get to heaven.” I have heard them say, “Jesus is the only way to heaven.”

      is this nuance part of what you’re getting at, John? Or are the two statements synonymous in your eyes?

  • Oz in OK

    I’ve always had a problem with the idea that being a Christian was the ‘only’ way to get to Heaven. To me, it comes down to logistics. When Jesus was crucified in 33 AD, 99.9% of the world had never heard of Him. That means that people all over the globe were born, lived and died having never heard the word ‘Christian’ once in their lives. This went on for a *long* time – so what of these people? Are they consigned to Hell because they never had the chance to hear about Jesus?

    A god that would take millions and millions (maybe billions?) of people and cast them into hell – the entire time these people are asking ‘Who are You? We never even HEARD of you!’ – is not a god I wish to know. Sounds less like God and more like Cthulhu or something…

  • Paula Hepola Anderson via Facebook

    I agree that to make a positive assertion of who goes to heaven is not to say who does not go. Paul was also adamant in saying that salvation is a gift to be given not earned, which to me says that to be a Christian is not the coin that earns you a place in heaven. We know that God’s will is that all are saved, and has provided that mediator, but that doesn’t mean that being unaware of that one means is to fail to earn it – that again would be working your way to heaven and that would suggest Jesus’ death was not necessary. Knowledge is not salvation. I suggest reading “Justification by Faith – A Matter of Death and Life” by Gerhard O Forde for excellent discussion.

  • Dan Oberman via Facebook

    also, if there are other ways to heaven, why did Jesus need to die?

    • Lymis

      Because he’d be really, really old if he didn’t?

      If the promises of Christianity mean anything, one of the biggest things is that being a living human being is neither the most important thing, nor even the most significant thing, about our existence. Why shouldn’t Jesus die? He was living a human life. Humans die.

      For me the most important thing wasn’t that he died, but that death didn’t hold him.

      • Diana A.

        This is great, especially the first line.

    • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

      Also, in my opinion, sin had to be overcome. Jesus was the one to do it. All sin for all people. Now there is nothing between us and God, no matter who we are. It’s done.

  • Juliet Lester Neary via Facebook

    I love this. I feel that Christ died for everyone’s sins, regardless of their religion.

  • Jackie Yetseaux via Facebook

    God will be nothing less than completely successful at anything that He sets out to do. He will have his way in everything and shall have every last soul with him when their time comes to leave this plane.

    • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

      Yes. This!

  • Jack Bennett via Facebook

    Don’t have the bandwidth to view videos but may I suggest these:

    • Romans 2:13-16 ~ FOR IT IS NOT THE HEARERS OF THE LAW WHO ARE RIGHTEOUS IN GOD’S SIGHT, BUT THE DOERS OF THE LAW WHO WILL BE JUSTIFIED. 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.

    • 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 ~ For since death came through a human being; the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, SO ALL WILL BE MADE ALIVE IN CHRIST.

    • 1 Timothy 4:10 ~ For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, WHO IS THE SAVIOR OF ALL PEOPLE, especially of those who believe.

    • 1 John 2:1-2 ~ My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus, the Christ, the righteous; and his is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and NOT FOR OURS ONLY BUT ALSO FOR THE SINS OF THE WHOLE WORLD.

  • http://www.facebook.com/IamMrLoud Eric Watson via Facebook

    What about John 3:18 “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” NIV

    • Lymis

      Really?

      Has it occurred to you to even read the verses on either side of it?

      “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.”

      Taken in context, it’s nearly impossible to read that as “Just believe in Jesus, period.” Instead, it’s manifestly clear that people who do evil are avoiding the truth of God, and people who do good and live in truth are doing so in God.

      Jesus isn’t just some guy who came to have a group of people ghostwrite his biography and help market his self-help program. The Christ, co-eternal with other aspects of the Divinity, came to earth in the human form and human experience of Jesus. This text seems to me to be far more about aligning ourselves with the Christ, the human experience of the Living God, than it does with professing a particular creed or religious allegiance.

      People who believe are not condemned. How do you know they believe? It isn’t because they say so. It isn’t because they profess so. It isn’t even because they think so. It is because they live their lives in truth and light. God has the monopoly on that, but Christianity doesn’t.

      • Christy

        Very nice, Lymis. Carl Jung would likely have some thoughts on this as well.

      • Jill

        Ah! Deep breath of relief.

  • Larry Petry via Facebook

    John, I don’t think one verse says it explicitly. You have to look at the whole content of Scripture. In the Gospel accounts, Jesus makes allusions to and assumptions of divinity. He also makes allegiance and commitment (“faith”) to him the turning point re: eternal life.

    • Christy

      But what do we mean by eternal life?

  • Larry Petry via Facebook

    Keep in mind, in his context, Jesus has little to say about World Religions, many of which had yet to emerge on the scene.

  • Eliot Parulidae via Facebook

    Absolutes from nowhereland and everywhereland do not visit scriptures. I think it’s enough to say that exclusivism has no special claim.

  • Olu Damba Soyombo via Facebook

    Perhaps hermeneutics, that moldy theological term ought to be brought down from the attic again. All those gotcha passages Jenkins and most evangelicals site involve Jews ( newsflash:, those kosher eating, Sabbath keeping “Christians” were Jews ) talking to each other ( and the occasional gentile proselyte) about um, 1st century Jewish tweets. “Saved” to them meant something radically different from what it has been made to mean to the anxious southern Baptist living in Kentucky, circa 2012 AD. Believe me, our 1st century Jewish folks had better things to worry about and were busy working out Jesus’ apocalyptic statements ( “arrival of the Kingdom, Day of the Son of Man”), usually interpreted to mean impending judgment of Israel…like literally the end of *their* world ( 70 AD, anyone?). Jesus pointed the way forward ( salvation) for a traumatized Israel. This story endures…and we get to live it out today by, you know, following Jesus. I have loosely sketched out the narrative-historical hermeneutic, which i subscribe to and which authors and bloggers like Andrew Perriman thoughtfully expand upon. The standard, decontexualized, evangelical hermeneutic certainly gets butts in seats on Sunday. It is preached with good intentions ( sometimes), but sorely lacking in my opinion.

    • Trina

      Hey Buddy! Small blog world, eh? LLOL! How funny is THIS! This is a great blog, youve been holding out on me. No fair. : ( But this is SO why we are friends.

      Hugs,

      Trina

  • Kirsten A.S. Mebust via Facebook

    I’d say you’ve got a good start. How would we know that God will not have mercy on all? The promises in the scriptures are for people to believe in, to be sure, but nothing limits God’s capacity for love beyond those promises. The meaning of salvation needs exploring, and also the way in which God’s intention seems from the beginning to involve people who are neither Christians nor Jews (see that God has a relationship with non-Abrahamic kings in Canaan in Genesis, for instance.) The scriptures were written for people who believe, and therefore their promises are aimed at people who already believe. Telling us to believe is more like a parent saying, “I won’t let you fall, believe me,” than saying, “You are my favorite and I’m going to let your brothers and sisters fall.” I think there’s more to be said than you have. But it’s a good start.

  • http://www.facebook.com/IamMrLoud Eric Watson via Facebook

    I don’t know, I’m not sold. John 3:18 “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” NIV. That seems pretty limiting to me.

    • http://www.enesvy.com Nicole

      You don’t have to be “sold.” You just have to be open.

    • Christy

      There’s a lovely reply to this same question elsewhere on this thread about taking this verse in context with the surrounding ones. What I and others here have explained using other words is this: whoever follows The Way of Jesus is not condemned, but whoever does not follow the way of Jesus suffers already because they do not follow the way of the One who is Divine in human form.

    • Christy

      Eric, here’s the verse in NASB: He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the [a]only begotten Son of God.”

      [a] or unique

      It could be even more limiting if we look at it this way: Calvinsits who hold to selective predestination would read this verse entirely differently than free will Arminians and look to it as weighty evidence of their position. They might read it as: He who believes in God/Jesus is not judged because his belief is evidence of God having chosen him; he who does not believe has been judged already by God and therefore is not one of the elect. Because he has not believed he was not predestined and is therefore condemned already

      They see belief as evidence of having been selected to be the elect and not condemned. And unbelief as evidence of having been already condemned to be an unbeliever in this life.

  • Aggie

    John,

    I continue to enjoy your posts and feel drawn to a lot of what you say– even with my continued agnosticism (or existentialism, or whatever). From my perspective, the Bible probably teaches both that only Christians go to heaven and that non-Christians could go as well. Yes, this is my blasphemy– the Bible is not consistent!

    The theological subtleties of ideas surrounding salvation are more difficult than some other stuff though. I think this rumination better illustrates my point…

    I love 1 Cor 13 and its sentiments. Beautiful stuff! The Sermon on the Mount is powerful and I can acknowledge its force and see my many, many failings there.

    But this same Bible has God commanding the killing of babies and children (1 Sam 15:3), stirring up wars (Jo 11:20), sending famine and violence (Dt 32:24-25), killing 70,000 people because a king took a census (2 Sam 24:15-17), hardening people’s hearts (Rm 9:18), commanding that people be stoned for trivialities like picking up wood (Nm 15:32-36), killing people himself for other seeming trifles (Acts 5:1-10, 1 Chr 13:9-10), commanding that certain prostitutes be burned to death (Lv 21:9), commanding people to kill their own children/spouses/dear friends if they worship other gods (Dt 13:6-10), commanding that a rapist must marry the unengaged woman that he violated (Dt 22:28-29), and torturing people in hell (Rv 14:9-11).

    I tried for years to reconcile this stuff and I just can’t do it anymore. It made me feel like a complete fraud. I can’t approach the Bible one way and all of life another. What I have written will be offensive to some– but I think it should be totally unobjectionable. I just don’t think it should be shocking to say that baby-killing and stoning people don’t mix with being patient, kind, keeping no record of wrongs, and the like. Sometimes the Bible teaches things that are wonderful and amazing. Other times, frankly, it seems utterly horrific.

    So I say hold to the good and don’t try to excuse the bad. Then instead of worrying about “clobber passages,” you can just say things like “this verse advocating the stoning of homosexuals is obscene.” This may seem like it makes life more confusing, but I have come to the conclusion that trying to explain why the Bible is a unified message is much, much more difficult.

    The Bible does fail in many ways IMO, it’s love that never fails. Maybe I’m wrong and I’m just too much of a spiritual dumb-ass to understand all this. But if there are times when it’s OK to kill babies and children, then I admit that I have no idea what “God is love” could mean…

    • Jill

      Aggie, I cannot speak to any disagreements with what you wrote, I am savoring every honest line. I can’t add anything because I love this so much I’m absorbing it. You said the words I couldn’t find.

      As Soulmentor has said a few times here (which I also love), is it about replacing God with the Bible? The Bible is not God. God is love. And yes, you truly know what God is love means because it shows in your words.

    • Susan

      Beautifully put. I’ve been on this exact journey and come to the same conclusion. The Bible is an ancient book that chronicles the history of an emerging people. Those people eventually gave rise to Jesus of Nazareth, whose life of love has been (and continues to be) a revolutionary gift to us all.

    • Lymis

      “The Bible does fail in many ways IMO, it’s love that never fails.”

      So true.

      Somewhere along the line, people have come up with this misguided idea that the only way something can be true is if it is literally factual, and that therefore the two choices regarding the Bible are absolute literal belief in each word on the one hand, or chucking the whole thing on the other.

      But that only applies (if it even does then) if you buy the idea that the Bible is supposed to be understood as dictation taken down by humans word for word from God.

      I’ve always seen the Bible as a written record of one group of people’s relationship to God. That God is real, and their experiences were their experiences, but just like a diary or a memoir, how they interpreted what they experienced and what they wrote about it, and what else they mixed in with it is as much a reflection on the people who did the writing as it is on the God they were writing about.

      If I spent the week with someone famous, I’d take pictures and write about it, and be sure to include all my impressions and interpretations, hopes, memories, and fantasies about what it meant. But it wouldn’t be an accurate description of that person, just of my experience of them, however truthfully I wrote it down. And someone else who spent another week with that same person, or even someone else who spent the same week with them that I did, would truthfully write something that might be very different – because it would be about their experience, not mine.

      The idea that a nomadic desert community in the 4th century BC could encounter God and decide that God wanted them to slaughter their enemies says more about how those people saw the world and their place in it than about God, though it can also be seen as a powerful example of the fact that God meets us all where God finds us, and works with us from our own individual starting points, wherever that may be.

      It doesn’t mean God wants babies smashed against rocks. It means God is able to work in the hearts and minds even of people who think that it’s what God wants from them.

  • Don Rappe

    Somewhere in this string is a reference to the “parable of the good Samaritan”. This parable is part of a slightly larger story which might be called “Jesus’ response to a theological test question.” The test question was implicitly about who would be saved. That Jesus made a person of another religion the hero of the story, constitutes the answer. Jesus seems to have been a universalist.

  • Trina

    Hey y’all! I just wanted to introduce myself and say hello. I am new to this blog and boy do I love it! I found the link from a friend over at The Wartburg Watch. It’s a good blog so check it out. Right now, the conversation is regarding one you have here often: homosexuality and Christianity. Feel free to go by and add to the discussion. Let’s see: I’m 34, black, HOT HOT HOT (okay, kidding), would identify as a Christian, but you know, many others woudln’t. Hmmm… I am straight BUT I do support gay marriage and all that shabang. There migh tbe a pun there. HOld up? Is this a family site? jCan I say words like damn and you know, the s-word? Let me know. Dont want to ruffle feathers. I love blogs that challenge my thinking on Christianity in particular. I grew up Baptist, then was church of God. Got into a lot of crazy Jesus stuff that was NOT him and then went Reformed/neo-Calvanist at a pretty popular southern baptist church in the DC Metro. Not hard to figure out.

    After some really bad experiences, and exhaustion from trying to submit to my brothers, and focus on my sin… I quit that and went rogue. Now the blogs have to deal with me. But hey, I still love Jesus and that’s all that counts. Yessiree.

    Anywho, I have a lot of catching up to do here. I wish I could put this blog on a plate with a side of country bacon… DELICIOUS!

    Many kisses,

    Trina

    • Diana A.

      Cool! Nice to meet you!

    • Christy

      You sound fun! Glad you found your way here. Welcome! Oh, and all that $#!*, it’s ok here.

  • Richard Bogere

    In regard to the video about the dialogue over John 14:6b, which says, “No one comes to the Father except through me” is quoted and interpreted out of its immediate context. The interpretation given is that Jesus decides who comes to the Father. The developers of this video conveniently left out the first part of the verse which clearly states, “I[Jesus] am the way and the truth and the life.” Notice the definite article “the.” Jesus is not “a” way meaning that He is one among several ways. If anything, He has already decided that its only those who go THROUGH HIM that will get to the Father.


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