From Steve Singleton... Is Christianity the exclusive "way of salvation"?


Is Christianity the exclusive 

 "way of salvation"?

skeptical of exclusivist claim of christ

The stimulus to our thinking

I saw this bumper sticker on the car ahead: "God is too big for just one religion." This calls for a closer examination.

Of course, in one sense, this statement articulates a great reality. Everyone can admit the truth of the title of J. B. Phillips's great book, Your God is Too Small. We never envision God as bigger than He really is, only smaller. We regularly underestimate His capacity to love, to empower, or to execute His perfect justice.

Foolish attempts to diminish God

This attempted shrinking of God is not limited to Christians, those whom Jesus sometimes describes as "you with such little faith." The same thing happens among ex-believers as well. John Shelby Spong, in his attack on biblical Christianity, Why Christianity Must Change or Die (HarperCollins, 1998), praises a theology professor who became an atheist because, he explains, "he felt he could no longer be part of that faith community whose god was too small to be God for him and his world" (xviii). Yet in the name of enlarging our view of God, Spong goes on to deny that God is either omniscient (all-knowing) or omnipotent (all-powerful) (see pp. 4-10). "The God I know," Spong confides, "is not concrete or specific.... This God can never be enclosed in propositional statements" (p. 4).

Such a god is not the Supreme Being of the Bible. Lacking omniscience and omnipotence, it is not Supreme. In fact it is not even a Being, but an impersonal something like "The Force" of the Star Wars movies that influences us from the Beyond. In the words of John A. T. Robinson, Spong's theological mentor, "God is, by definition, ultimate reality" (Honest to God [SCM Press, 1963], 29).

Robinson, Spong, and others must see themselves as too intellectually sophisticated to believe in "God the Father, the Almighty." God's greatness has dwindles away, as well as His power, His knowledge, and even His personality. Listen to Paul's commentary of such intellectually motivated, self-imposed exile: "Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools.... They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator--who is forever praised. Amen" (Romans 1:22a, 25).

Too big for temples

The God that reveals Himself in the Scriptures is much bigger than we conceive Him to be. Nearly 3,000 years ago, Solomon perceived this: "The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain You. How much less this temple I have built?" (1 Kings 8:27). Paul confirmed this view of God in his famous sermon to the philosophers of Athens (Acts 17:24-25):

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.

The god we invented?

Although acknowledging God's infinitude, Paul is already addressing the fallacy underlying in the statement, "God is too big for just one religion." That fallacy is conceiving of religion, in typical, post-modernist fashion, as a human construct. For religion to be valid--having divine, dynamic power because it transcends the transient and culture-specific and connects us to what is real or rather to Him who is real--it cannot be a human invention, moving from us to Deity. It must instead be a divine provision, moving from Him to us.

Paul then continues in this same trajectory (verses 26-31):
From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. "For in Him we live and move and have our being." As some of your own poets have said, "We are His offspring."

Therefore, since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the Divine Being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent. For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead.

Boxing God in

God dismisses all human-invented religion as "such ignorance," and He asserts His universal authority by commanding "all people everywhere" to repent and submit to the One He has raised from the dead. Of course, this refers to Jesus Christ, our Savior and Master.

Those who reject God's revelation about Himself in the name of making Him bigger inevitably diminish Him. For example, those who seek to impose the cultural value of pluralism on religion suggest that God's love is too vast to reject equally sincere believers of all faiths. Spong states, "I have surely met holiness in Jews, Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists, which I am not willing either to deny or to denigrate. So what does 'God's only son' mean to those of us who cannot and will not be bound by the religious prejudices of the past?" (pp. 11-12).

To Spong, "holiness" must mean something other than the biblical sense of likeness to the character of Yahweh (see Leviticus 19:2) and moral purity (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8), for his examples are inconsistent with each other in how they exhibit the attribute.

For the Christian, however, holiness has one source, Jesus Christ Himself. It is not something we achieve through rigorous discipline or ascetic practices. Along with righteousness and redemption, we receive holiness as a gift when we put on Christ (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). Accepting all religions in the name of God's love eliminates God's righteousness, His goodness, and His truth. It tells God, "You must become smaller so you can fit into my preconceptions." But God replies, "I am who I am. I will be what I will be."

The offensiveness of Christianity

This is a significant part of the offensiveness of the cross, an aspect that modern Christians, sadly, try hard to avoid. We Christians, if we are inclusivismtrue to our God and to His religion, are exclusivists. We cannot be obedient to the Master who revealed Himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life if we deny His claim that "no one comes to the Father but by Me" (John 14:6). Jesus' claims are exclusive, and His earliest followers understood this clearly. Peter, Paul, and John all agree that their Master is the only salvation available (Acts 4:12, 1 Timothy 2:5-6; and 1 John 2:2).

Exclusive, yet inclusive

Christian exclusivism doesn't mean we Christians seek to exclude others. Our divine mandate is to "go into all the world and proclaim the Good News to every human being" (Mark 16:15), to "teach all nations" (Matthew 28:19). That's inclusive, as inclusive as the generous heart of God.

The teachings of Christianity justify its audacious claim on all of humanity. In Christ, for example, racial and cultural distinctions no longer have significance (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11). Gender roles in Christian marriage involve mutual rights and responsibilities (1 Corinthians 7:2-5; Ephesians 5:21-33). The fruit of the Spirit, growing in each Christian's heart, is what we need for the "healing of the nations": love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22-23; see Revelation 22:1-3).

Christ's aim is world conquest, though not with the scimitar or the M-1, but with persuasion (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)! These are principles that people of all nations can endorse, and as they put them into practice, they can experience throughout the world the unity that marks God's blessing.

God desires an intimate relationship with His creatures, but in order for that relationship to be possible, He must change us, first by redemption (saving us from the multi-effects of sin in our lives), then by sanctification (accepting us as bearers of Christ's holiness, then transforming us by His Spirit in ever-increasing holiness). In other words, He must remake us into His image; we cannot remake Him into ours.

If we resist this work of God in our behalf, we will be excluded, not by His choice, but by ours. True religion--that which comes from God Himself--is big enough to include everyone, everyone, that is, who is willing to be forgiven and transformed.

Want to go deeper?

Here are some resources to aid you in exploring the claim of Christianity to be God's only way of salvation.

Recommended for purchase:

James R. Edwards. Is Jesus the Only Savior? Eerdmans, 2005.

Geivett, R. Douglas. "Is Jesus the Only Way?" 177-205 in Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus. Ed. by Michael J. Wilkins and J. P. Moreland. Zondervan, 1995.

Dennis L. Olkholm and Timothy Phillips, eds. Four Views of Salvation in a Pluralistic World. Zondervan, 1996.
John Benton. One World, One Way Evangelical Press, 1993.

Recommended for online reading:

Carol Brooks. Arrogant Christians?

Many thanks to brother Steve Singleton, for allowing me to post from his website, deeperstudy.com.

From Jim McGuiggan... The Irish Wolfhound

The Irish Wolfhound

The government was exterminating the little Jewish boys, they were enslaved to the point where they cried to God because the bondage was so severe. They were brothers and sisters, suffering the same agony and oppressed by the same enemy and yet we have Exodus 2:13. If that was the situation, how come they were oppressing each other? You'd think since they were enduring oppression from their enemies that that would be enough, how could they turn on each other and do the enemy's work for him? Wasn't there enough pain in the world for the People of God to face? Weren't there enough enemies who bullied and butchered? In Exodus 2:13 we have one brother wronging another (and by consequence, wounding the man's family--do we ever wrong only one person?). There, there, in the land of injustice, where Hebrews should have stood by each other and had good reason to stand by each other; there, we find brothers and sisters wronging brothers and sisters.

And in a world filled with tireless evil, vicious, brutal, evil; slimy, rotting evil; crushing, debasing, cruel evil—in a world filled with that we find churches grinding each others bones. We find journals, bulletins, taped-sermons and all kinds of church media devoted to the exposure of some preacher, church or other on matters of teaching. Ah, yes, but surely the critics are dealing with something foundational like the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus? Maybe his atoning death? The certainty of judgement? The one true God? The truth and trustworthiness of Scripture? Some central affirmations of Scripture—surely? No! Take one quick glance around at these papers and see for yourself. With the porn industry, the booze industry, the drug industry, the vice industry, the abortion industry; with the many open sewers pouring out filth, with countless open wounds around us, caused by gangsters, corrupt landlords, politicians and war mongerers, Rolex-watched prime-time evangelists of hype, nonsense and a ceaseless diet of "give us more and more of your hard-earned money"—with all these in front of us as enemies, who do we pick a raging battle with? Some other little assembly, that, with Bible in hand and God set in their trembling little hearts, has taken on these tyrannies. That's who some of us dedicate our papers, sermons and letters against to scorn and destroy!

There's this story about the Irish Wolfhound that enjoyed a big juicy bone and then hobbled off on three legs. Ummm...I don't believe I'll tell it.

©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.

Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com.

From Mark Copeland... Jesus' Superiority To Angels (Hebrews 1:4-14)

                      "THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS"

                 Jesus' Superiority To Angels (1:4-14)


1. The subject of angels has certainly become a popular one lately...
   a. Bookstores are filled with books dealing with angels
   b. Popular TV shows and movies depict angels working in our lives
      ("Highway To Heaven", "Touched By An Angel", "The Preacher's
      Wife", "It's A Wonderful Life")

2. Angels were also an important part of the Jewish religion...
   a. Angels assisted with the giving of the Law at Mount Sinai - cf. 
      Deut 33:2; Ps 68:17; Ac 7:53; Ga 3:19
   b. They appear throughout the history of Israel, coming to Abraham,
      Daniel, and many others

3. Since the purpose of "The Epistle To The Hebrews" is to show the 
   superiority of Christ and the New Covenant to the Law of Moses...
   a. It is necessary that the writer has something to say about angels
   b. So it is that we find the comparison of the Son to prophets
      followed now by a comparison to angels - He 1:4-14

4. The premise is clearly stated that the Son (Jesus) is "much better
   than the angels" - He 1:4
   a. The reason in a nutshell is that "He has by inheritance obtained
      a more excellent name than they"
   b. That name is "Son", a title that only Jesus can properly wear...
      1) Angels may be called "sons of God" collectively - cf. Job 1:6
      2) But no angel can be called this name individually!

[As evidence for the superiority of Jesus over angels, the author 
proceeds to offer scriptural support from the Old Testament.  His first
two quotations are to prove...]


      1. The first is Ps 2:7
         a. A psalm depicting the enthronement of the Messiah (the 
            Lord's Anointed)
         b. In which Jehovah calls the Messiah "My Son"
         c. The "begetting" has reference to the resurrection of Jesus 
            - Ac 13:33; Ro 1:4
      2. The second is 2Sa 7:14
         a. This passage had immediate application to Solomon, David's
         b. But as the Messiah who would receive the throne of David 
            was also descended from David...
            1) It's ultimate application would be to the Messiah
            2) I.e., Jesus, the "son of David" - Mt 1:1; Mk 10:47; Jn 7:42

      1. Collectively they were called "sons of God", but never 
      2. This not only demonstrates Jesus' superiority to angels...
         a. It proves that Jesus Himself was NOT an angel!
         b. Contrary to what some (such as JW's) believe

[The superiority of Jesus over the angels is further illustrated as we


      1. The term "firstborn" does not always mean "born first"
         a. It is also used in the Scriptures as a metaphor to describe
            one who occupies the rank and privilege of being firstborn
            (without literally being "firstborn")
         b. Used by God in this way to refer to the nation of Israel 
            - Exo 4:22
         c. Used by God in this way to refer to David, youngest of 
            eight - Ps 89:20,27
      2. It is used of Jesus in this way to stress His preeminence over
         a. As Paul explains in Col 1:15-18
         b. By virtue of being the Creator, He maintains the rank and
            privilege of "firstborn"!

      WORSHIP HIM...
      1. The quotation in verse 6 is from Deut 32:43 as found in the
         Septuagint version
      2. The angels of God were to worship Him
      3. Note well:  No created being is or was ever worthy of worship!
         a. The angels themselves refused to be worshipped - Re 22:8-9
         b. The apostle Peter refused to accept worship - Ac 10:25-26
      4. Yet Jesus received worship!
         a. From the wise men - Mt 2:11
         b. From the leper - Mt 8:2
         c. From the ruler - Mt 9:18
         d. From His disciples in the boat - Mt 14:33
         e. From the Canaanite woman - Mt 15:25
         f. From the man born blind - Jn 9:38
         g. From the women and other disciples following His 
            resurrection - Mt 28:9,17
         h. From the disciples following His ascension - Lk 24:52

[That Jesus is worthy of worship, especially now, becomes more evident
as we consider how...]


      1. They are created spirits to serve God (called "ministering 
         spirits" in He 1:14)
      2. Their service can be as powerful yet transient as "wind" or 
         "flames of fire", if need be

      1. The author is quoting from another Messianic psalm - Ps 45:
      2. Notice that the Son is called "God"! - He 1:8
         a. The Hebrew writer clearly proclaims the deity of Jesus! 
            - cf. He 1:3a
         b. Yet in the next verse we read where it says "God, Your God
            1) Here we find a distinction of personalities within the
            2) Which we learn through later revelation involves the 
               Father and the Son (and the Holy Spirit)
      3. The Son, Who is God, has been enthroned, and reigns over an 
         everlasting kingdom with righteousness
         a. A kingdom of which Daniel said "shall never be destroyed" 
            - Dan 2:44
         b. A kingdom of which Gabriel (an angel) told Mary:  "there 
            will be no end" - Lk 1:33
         c. Both Paul and John wrote of this kingdom - Col 1:13; Re 1:9
      4. This Son, Who is God and King, has been "anointed" - He 1:9
         a. Of course, the word "Messiah" means "anointed one"
         b. In this passage, the emphasis is on how Jesus has been 
            anointed with gladness "more than Your companions"
            1) Who are these "companions"?
            2) In view of He 2:11; 3:1, it is likely the followers of
               Jesus, His brethren!

[As God, King, and Messiah, Jesus is certainly greater than angels!  
But there is even more...]


      1. Now the Hebrew writer is quoting from Ps 102:25-27
         a. A psalm which addresses God using His covenant name Yahweh
            (or Jehovah)
         b. This is the name that God used to identify Himself to Moses
            - Exo 3:13-14
      2. But the Hebrew writer by inspiration knew this psalm equally
         applied to Jesus!
         a. Such would be blasphemy, unless Jesus is truly Deity!
         b. So while the Son is distinct from the Father (cf. He 1:9),
            He and the Father are also the same!
      3. In this chapter, then, we find evidence relating to the nature
         of the Godhead...
         a. There is one God, but three distinct personalities within 
            the Godhead (Father, Son, Holy Spirit)
         b. As Jehovah, Jesus is not "a god", or any sort of created 
            being (contra JWs, Mormons, etc.)
         c. As the Son who is distinct from the Father, the Son is not
            the same in personality as the Father (contra the Oneness 
         -- Though not a biblical term, the word "trinity" does help to
            convey the Biblical evidence as to the nature of the 

      1. In the beginning it was He who created the earth and the 
         heavens - He 1:10
         a. As the author had already stated in He 1:2c
         b. As both John and Paul professed - Jn 1:3; Col 1:16-17
      2. He is also eternal, therefore unchangeable - He 1:11-12
         a. The heavens and the earth "will perish", "grow old" and "be
            changed" - cf. 2Pe 3:10-12
         b. But Jesus will "remain", be the "same", and "not fail" 
            - cf. He 13:8

[The superiority of Jesus over angels is illustrated with one last 
comparison in this chapter...]


      1. The psalm quoted now is Ps 110:1
         a. This psalm is quoted or alluded to more than any other 
            psalm in the NT
         b. It refers to the Messianic reign of Christ that began when
            Jesus sat down at the right hand of God - cf. He 1:3; Ac 
            2:34-36; 1Pe 3:22
      2. That no angel has been asked to sit at God's right hand...
         a. Once again proves that Jesus was not an angel (contra JWs)
         b. Only Jesus, as the Son of God, has been so invited, and is
            truly the Sovereign!

      1. While Jesus sits enthroned in heaven, angels are "sent forth 
         to minister (serve)"         
      2. They minister for those "who will inherit salvation"
         a. They have certainly ministered in the past - cf. Lk 1:11-38
         b. They will certainly minister at the time of Christ's return
            - cf. Mt 13:36-43
         c. But to what extent they minister in the present, the 
            Scriptures reveal little (cf. Mt 18:10), and we should be
            careful to refrain from vain speculation

1. In a very forceful manner, the writer to the Hebrews has shown 
   Jesus' superiority to angels:
   a. Jesus is the "Son" (not angels)
   b. Jesus is the "Firstborn" who receives worship (not angels)
   c. Jesus is "God" enthroned and anointed (not angels)
   d. Jesus is the "LORD" (Yahweh) who is the eternal creator (not 
      angels, who are only created beings)
   e. Jesus is the "Sovereign", reigning at God's right hand (angels 
      are but ministering spirits)

2. While angels certainly have a special place in God's plan for 
   redeeming man...
   a. They are not to become the object of worship or adoration - Col 2:
   b. Only Jesus is worthy of such worship and adoration!

As innumerable angels proclaimed with a loud voice:

   "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and
   wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!" 
                                                    - Re 5:11-12

Let Jesus, and not angels, be the focus of your interest and adoration!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2011

From Gary... Bible Reading February 25

Bible Reading   

February 25

The World English Bible

Feb. 25
Exodus 6

Exo 6:1 Yahweh said to Moses, "Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh, for by a strong hand he shall let them go, and by a strong hand he shall drive them out of his land."
Exo 6:2 God spoke to Moses, and said to him, "I am Yahweh;
Exo 6:3 and I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty; but by my name Yahweh I was not known to them.
Exo 6:4 I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their travels, in which they lived as aliens.
Exo 6:5 Moreover I have heard the groaning of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered my covenant.
Exo 6:6 Therefore tell the children of Israel, 'I am Yahweh, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm, and with great judgments:
Exo 6:7 and I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God; and you shall know that I am Yahweh your God, who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
Exo 6:8 I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it to you for a heritage: I am Yahweh.' "
Exo 6:9 Moses spoke so to the children of Israel, but they didn't listen to Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage.
Exo 6:10 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
Exo 6:11 "Go in, speak to Pharaoh king of Egypt, that he let the children of Israel go out of his land."
Exo 6:12 Moses spoke before Yahweh, saying, "Behold, the children of Israel haven't listened to me. How then shall Pharaoh listen to me, who am of uncircumcised lips?"
Exo 6:13 Yahweh spoke to Moses and to Aaron, and gave them a command to the children of Israel, and to Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt.
Exo 6:14 These are the heads of their fathers' houses. The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel: Hanoch, and Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi; these are the families of Reuben.
Exo 6:15 The sons of Simeon: Jemuel, and Jamin, and Ohad, and Jachin, and Zohar, and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman; these are the families of Simeon.
Exo 6:16 These are the names of the sons of Levi according to their generations: Gershon, and Kohath, and Merari; and the years of the life of Levi were one hundred thirty-seven years.
Exo 6:17 The sons of Gershon: Libni and Shimei, according to their families.
Exo 6:18 The sons of Kohath: Amram, and Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel; and the years of the life of Kohath were one hundred thirty-three years.
Exo 6:19 The sons of Merari: Mahli and Mushi. These are the families of the Levites according to their generations.
Exo 6:20 Amram took Jochebed his father's sister to himself as wife; and she bore him Aaron and Moses: and the years of the life of Amram were a hundred and thirty-seven years.
Exo 6:21 The sons of Izhar: Korah, and Nepheg, and Zichri.
Exo 6:22 The sons of Uzziel: Mishael, and Elzaphan, and Sithri.
Exo 6:23 Aaron took Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab, the sister of Nahshon, as his wife; and she bore him Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.
Exo 6:24 The sons of Korah: Assir, and Elkanah, and Abiasaph; these are the families of the Korahites.
Exo 6:25 Eleazar Aaron's son took one of the daughters of Putiel as his wife; and she bore him Phinehas. These are the heads of the fathers' houses of the Levites according to their families.
Exo 6:26 These are that Aaron and Moses, to whom Yahweh said, "Bring out the children of Israel from the land of Egypt according to their armies."
Exo 6:27 These are those who spoke to Pharaoh king of Egypt, to bring out the children of Israel from Egypt. These are that Moses and Aaron.
Exo 6:28 It happened on the day when Yahweh spoke to Moses in the land of Egypt,
Exo 6:29 that Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, "I am Yahweh. Speak to Pharaoh king of Egypt all that I speak to you."
Exo 6:30 Moses said before Yahweh, "Behold, I am of uncircumcised lips, and how shall Pharaoh listen to me?"

From Gary... The best thing!!!

Last night I had a small conversation with our group leader Kathy, just before our weight watchers meeting and the topic turned to prayer. And so, because of this, the topic kept coming to my mind today.  Seeing this picture was the icing on the cake (weight watchers icing- of course). Now, I am thinking... do we really BELIEVE THIS or perhaps we just give the topic "lip service" and consider it a topic for intellectual consideration only??? And then there is this passage from the book of James...

James, Chapter 4
 13  Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow let’s go into this city, and spend a year there, trade, and make a profit.”  14 Whereas you don’t know what your life will be like tomorrow. For what is your life? For you are a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away.  15 For you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will both live, and do this or that.”

 We can't do everything on our own.  Sooner or later we all come to this realization. Let the God of all the universe guide you- PRAY!!!  Expect God to work in your life; continually seek his will for you through the mediums of both HIS INSPIRED WORD AND PRAYER.  Then, think of this picture and remember that whatever happens, ultimately, it WILL BE THE BEST THING FOR YOU!!! 

Kate- It could be even the door to the little room we talked about could be one answer.  Who knows???