Thursday, January 22, 2009

Burning Questions: Do only those who believe in Jesus go to heaven? Or can non-Christians be saved? Part 1

This is another in our series of questions people ask, and its a doozy. We talked about this on Sunday and again on Wednesday. I'll try and break this up, because I know most people don't like reading long blog posts.

Here's the thing. In our culture, where most Americans take a "buffet" approach to religion; one of the most reprehensible traits is to be "closed minded" or "exclusive". By responding "no" to the question of "non-Christians going to heaven" most folks would react as if you had just used a racial slur.

If you watched the inauguration speech, you know that our country has changed/is changing, its different than most generations have always viewed it. President Obama referred to our "patchwork" society of many different races and faiths. I think this is cool, so don't hear me saying its not. At the school where my wife works they had a "passport night" where different families with different heritages set up booths about their country and the kids go around visiting the different booths- eating the food, making a craft, checking out the traditional garb, and getting their "passport" stamped. It was incredible. There was a ton of people there and from all over the world...all going to this school in suburban St. Louis MISSOURI. Missouri, a bastion of anglo-culture (you may know my stance on Branson being the white-people's Mecca) can be an extremely diverse place if you start to really look around.

Anyways, my point is that in our society to be seen as "exclusive" is one of the worst ways to be viewed. That's what makes this question so rough. "Are you going to be so arrogant as to claim that Christianity has a monopoly on truth?" So we champion diversity in our American ethos, but how else does that play out existentially? Is exclusivity really a hateful thing? I would argue that it is not, and in fact can be a very loving thing.

Our most important relationships are all exclusive. Thats what makes marriage so special. You are saying "I am not concerned with what else is out there, I choose you." Another way of putting that might be, "Sarah, you have a monopoly on my love, attention, and care." It's not up for grabs. In this sense, love is exclusive; because love is particular.

When Sarah and I were looking at dogs, we went to the mall (mistake I know, kind of sad, and definitely overpriced). Did you know that a lot of these mall pet stores have like, replacement policies? In other words, if your puppy gets sick and dies within 30 days don't worry, they'll replace it for free! Oh ya, try that one with your 10 year old: "Here Tommy, Scooter the puppy you've loved for a month died, but look, here's a new one thats just as good!" No man, its not just having a puppy that the kid loves, he loved that particular puppy that he named Scooter.

SO, idea of the day: exclusivity is not universally synonymous with hate/evil/wrong/bad.


Chris and Jenny said...

Me like. Exclusivity/exclusivism can be a good thing. It's the whole 'tolerance' misunderstanding all over again. Openmindedness easily turns to 'gaping-mindedness', with an easy-in, easy-out policy. Johann Wolfgang Goethe said, "Thinking expands, but lames". Somewhere along the line you're going to have to close your arms around something/someone, say this is what I choose to live, and start living! A decisive act begins with an ultimately exclusive thought. However, we need balance. Thought and action becomes each other's check and balance.

Professor RJ Gumby said...

Was it John Cougar Mellenkamp who said "You have to stand for something or you are gonna fall for anything"?

I think the problem is the question asked from a Christian frame of reference. "How will [insert name of non-Christian group here] be saved?" The real question that should be asked is "where do you think you are going?" And not in a I-know-something-you-don't-know way. Bring our the other persons ideas and in the discussion, then we can work in the Christian view of salvation.

And I have a lot to worry about sometimes, asking myself that question repeatedly.