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Wrestling with the "exclusivity" of Christianity... please help! - Page 3

post #41 of 279
I just want to say I am really enjoying this discussion. The subject of Hell has been on my mind for some time, I think I did mention it didnt I? lol. Anyway, I am appreciating this discussion.

PurpleSage, I dont have time to formulate an answer, 1) Bc I have to do the lunches. 2) Bc Im not sure how to answer your question. Im gonna be thinking and praying about it today tho. I do think that answers dont always come straight away tho . And this is part of the answer to your question. Im afraid if I go into it now that I wont give a satisfactory answer and I think Ive got one, but no time to forumulate the appropriate response. So, since Im neglecting my Mum duties right now, I better see to my kids and the school run or anarchy will surely ensue

Hugs!!
post #42 of 279
Something that has been a comfort to me over the years, is that scripture states: one who does NOT know, has never been told, etc, and yet tries to live a life that is "good" (caring for family and friends, being honest in business, helping others when need arises) is a good person, even if they've never heard of Jesus or Christianity.

There is also the "once for all" - all time, all people, thinking. This approach to Christianity is that all sin has been atoned. The only sin remaining is to reject the gift of this love.

There are other things to know, and many different views and religions to be learned from, but amazingly, the message seems to be the same " *THWAP* Yer gettin' it wrong!" (Bugs Bunny voice optional, but it's there in my mind) "Now be nice to each other!"
post #43 of 279
Quote:
But this is what I don't understand - Why would God not answer everyone who asks what the truth is the same way? I'm sure there have been many, many people like myself who have prayed about this and not received the same answer as you. I can't understand a God who would do something like this - let some people go to Hell because they simply did not get the same message in answer to their prayers.
Im not sure your going to like my answer actually. One way God answered my prayers for truth, I think I mentioned it above, was to send people my way to tell my the Truth about Jesus Christ. He's done this countless times over the millenia. Im not trying to sound harsh Im just trying to spell out very simply and uncompromisingly a truth that is very difficult for some to swallow. He is answering your prayers by sending someone to tell you about Jesus Christ. Im not perfect, Im not even very good at giving this message. I stumble, fumble, bumble and doubt myself over and over but I cant help but say it anyway. He answers prayers in so many different ways, such a variety of means He uses to get thru to anyone willing to take a chance. He doesnt send people to hell simply bc they didnt get the same answer to their prayers, bc I believe he always gives the same answer, Jesus is the Only Way to the Father. He sends people to hell for refusing to put their faith in Him, for refusing to accept that they need Him and His forgiveness. I do understand that now, altho, I too wrestled with it for so long. When I gave my life to Christ, I was ready, before then I wasnt altho I had been to sunday school (well it was more like friday school, lol, my dad took us to a church meeting thingy on fridays when I was little for a while). But admittedly I didnt hear a message about Jesus Christ until my heart was very hungry for Him. It was the moment I decided to put my trust in Him that so many things about the bible began to make sense, only after I decided to trust Him did I understand what I was reading in the bible. Before then I did think it was nonsense and myth. Since then, I had a long way to go to get to any kind of depth of understanding, I wavered, I doubted, became confused about things even to the point of questioning things the very same way Jesus, the Bible, Christianity is questioned here. God didnt let me go tho. His love for me and Him seeking me out and upholding me and continuing to patiently teach me brought me back to where I needed to be, along with shaving off some unnecessary baggage I picked up from 'religion'. The main thing I learned thru that time of testing and doubting was a brokenness and a knowledge that I am a sinner and I did need what Jesus did on the Cross to reconcile me to God. I cannot speak for anyone else, about other faiths. I can only speak from a heart that is truely greatful for what God did in Jesus for me, and Ive recently become aware and amazed at the way He strings together events, chance meetings, odd scripture verses out of nowhere, all because he loves me. I see it in my life almost every day and when I ponder it I realise that it goes all the way back to the Cross, then all the way back to creation. Then I just stand in awe and worship of my awesome and beautiful Savior.
post #44 of 279
There is also an issue I want to bring up here and that is the fact of God's holiness. Something we cant, maybe even after we give our lives to Christ, always fathom, bc its something we dont possess. Holiness, from what Im beginning to understand, is something God wont compromise on. Holiness mingled with sin is tainted, it isnt holy anymore. There are stipulations as to how God will recieve us. Why would he create a creature he loves with the capacity to reject Him and His ways? Because He can, I guess, is one answer. Another way of thinking about it is that He wanted a very special creation (thats us), one that choses to love Him back simply because He is who He says He is. Who is willing to trust Him and get to know Him on His terms. God, being the creator, has that kind of special sovereign privilege (is that spelled right). Once sin was found (how it got there is debated in christian circles, original sin is for another thread I guess), I see it as if God said 'Well, lets run with this. I want to demonstrate my love, mercy, grace, righteousness, justice, sovereignty etc... Ive got a plan' Or another way of understanding is to say that God had a plan all along. He knew that if he made us this way, with the capacity to choose him or anything else that we would choose anything and everything else... and from the very beginning of creation he had this plan. I kind of also see it as if God created us but maybe with something missing, that holiness, he created us as flesh and blood with the ability to fail, not imperfect, not as defective already, but with the ability to fail.. and we did, and we do on a very regular basis. This is where free will comes is, but yes I also think it was part of God's design, His plan. He created us with the ability to seek Him out or go our own way. Yes He loves us all, and wills that we should all love Him back and know Him the way He knows us (or get to know Him bc it aint gonna happen in an instant ). He didnt leave it up to guesswork on our part, He wants to reveal who He is to us... We have absolutely no ability to know Him apart from Him showing Himself to us. Sin comes from wanting to know Him but really wanting nothing to do with Him (or saying we want to know him but really not wanting to know once he's revealed it to you), from completely ignoring Him, rejecting Him. The absense of God is sin... And all kinds of evil flow from a heart that was created to know Him but rejects Him, because he gave us the ability to be creative we create all kinds of ways of doing all kinds of things but in doing all that, without Him guiding us and correcting us along the way, we inevitably create evil ourselves. So evil doesnt come from God, it comes from an absense of Him. He did create us with the ability to do all sorts of things without Him. Its only in going along with Him do we learn that without Him all kinds of evil, sin, and such exist. Evil didnt originate with God, evil originates from the creativity God has given us and the powerful imagination He's given us, we do it by rejecting Him. Not Him. That is part of what I find so amazing about how He created us. With all these amazing abilities to do so much even without Him, but once we start talking about who He is we dont want Him. That he's so patient with us, I find that amazing.

The bible teaches that all have gone astray and that even our goodness is like filthy rags in His sight. Its because only in Him is there any potential for goodness. What Im saying is that I think we think we know what goodness is, and what God is saying is 'you have an idea but you really dont have a clue. You think you know what goodness is and how to do good, but you really dont, let me show you.' He doesnt look at the outward things, He looks at the depths of our hearts, something we dont really have the ability to do, altho we think we do. But I bet we find ourselves doing something small, a little white lie and justify it, but up there I said something about holiness, and if you mix holiness with even a little bit of sin, it isnt holy anymore. Just like heaven, God wont compromise on this one thing. He'll bear with us patiently while we learn, while he tries to reach us, but if he lets us into heaven with even the tiniest bit of sin it wont be heaven anymore. (thats what the link talks about in the first post I made in this thread). So, what He's done is sent His son, the perfect sinless One, to take our punishment, to be rejected instead of us. The remaining time we have after accepting the gift of salvation is 1) to continue to be humbled and learn God's ways, often failing but ever forgiven and ever learning, and 2) call others to Christ. To go and make disciples of Jesus Christ. The full gospel. Covering sin, hell, God's love, atonement, the cross, the need for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.


So many words... I hope some of it made some kind of sense.
post #45 of 279
Ugh, please forgive all the typos and grammatical errors... sigh
post #46 of 279
Thread Starter 
Thank you for the many many thoughtful posts. A few of you pointed out something that DH and I are very aware of - that we can't just try to interpret the Bible in a way that pleases us. I think that is what our elder meant when he said that our concerns were a result of modern liberalism. We were raised in a culture of inclusiveness. There are parts of the Bible that are difficult to understand, and a few bits we sort of wish weren't true -- but we can't just ignore those parts.

I've been doing a lot of prayer and thinking. And I have reaffirmed that I honestly believe that Jesus is the only way to God. What does that mean to non-Christians? I have no way of knowing, and I guess DH and I should accept that. We love our friends of all faiths. We welcome discussions about our faith... but as far as witnessing goes, I guess our lives are the best witness we can offer.

This issue is far from closed for me. I think it will require a lot of continued study, prayer, and thought. But I feel more at peace with where I am at right now than when I made that original post.

Oh, and btw... there are some issues that we disagree with at our church. But we love our pastor and many other aspects of the community. We don't feel like we have to have a church where we agree with everything 100%...we don't mind being challenged in our beliefs, and feel we grow that way (whether or not we ultimately agree or disagree with the church). So we don't feel especially compelled to leave this church at this time.

Thanks... and I'll look forward to reading anything else that gets added to this discussion.



ETA: It is also my understanding that those who have not heard the word can still have salvation. DH and I used to joke then that missionaries often went out and doomed people. Like they were better off not hearing the Word, and still having the possibility to be saved instead of hearing the word and rejecting it and consequently being condemned to eternity without God (hell). We were mostly joking, though, of course.
post #47 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by ILoveSweetpea View Post
Thank you for the many many thoughtful posts. A few of you pointed out something that DH and I are very aware of - that we can't just try to interpret the Bible in a way that pleases us. I think that is what our elder meant when he said that our concerns were a result of modern liberalism. We were raised in a culture of inclusiveness. There are parts of the Bible that are difficult to understand, and a few bits we sort of wish weren't true -- but we can't just ignore those parts.

I've been doing a lot of prayer and thinking. And I have reaffirmed that I honestly believe that Jesus is the only way to God. What does that mean to non-Christians? I have no way of knowing, and I guess DH and I should accept that. We love our friends of all faiths. We welcome discussions about our faith... but as far as witnessing goes, I guess our lives are the best witness we can offer.

This issue is far from closed for me. I think it will require a lot of continued study, prayer, and thought. But I feel more at peace with where I am at right now than when I made that original post.

Oh, and btw... there are some issues that we disagree with at our church. But we love our pastor and many other aspects of the community. We don't feel like we have to have a church where we agree with everything 100%...we don't mind being challenged in our beliefs, and feel we grow that way (whether or not we ultimately agree or disagree with the church). So we don't feel especially compelled to leave this church at this time.

Thanks... and I'll look forward to reading anything else that gets added to this discussion.



ETA: It is also my understanding that those who have not heard the word can still have salvation. DH and I used to joke then that missionaries often went out and doomed people. Like they were better off not hearing the Word, and still having the possibility to be saved instead of hearing the word and rejecting it and consequently being condemned to eternity without God (hell). We were mostly joking, though, of course.
So glad you and dh have come to peace about it and that you are wanting to stay at the church you are at. Yes, there are parts of the bible I still don't 'get' and I've been walking with the Lord for 22 years. But I have come to trust the heart of the Lord and have realized that I don't have to understand everything to trust Him. After all, I don't understand everything my dh does but I trust that he has my best interests in mind. I've known my dh long enough to know that about him...

Good luck on your adventure!!!
post #48 of 279
I wanted to add, and this is in no way an insult, that this thread very much reads like it was written by English speaking people raised in the Western world.

There are a lot of cultural biases in our society that support Christianity as it is interpreted here. From federal holidays to the religious beliefs of every President we've ever had.

When I read discussions about religion (even those translated into English) I eventually start to pick up on the bias and what they take to be "logical" concerning their religious beliefs. And if you read enough of it, it starts to feel self-evident. That is the same for every religion I've studied.

For example, 90% of the population of Indonisia is Muslim. The odds are overwhelming that if you or your child had been born and raised there by a native family, you would be too.

And that is one of the most obvious problems with the idea that one needs to accept Jesus as ones savior. I realize there is the "if you never heard of it, you get a pass" line of thinking but that does not account for the effect of family of origin and cultural bias. In this day and age of global media and internet, there are less and less people who will not have at least heard of Jesus Christ.

I just cannot, or I suppose will not, embrace a religious ideology based on the idea that God favored my child by having him born into a place where it is outside the norm to not be Christian while he clearly disfavors other children by putting them in the same situation but with a different religion.
post #49 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thisbirdwillfly View Post
I just cannot, or I suppose will not, embrace a religious ideology based on the idea that God favored my child by having him born into a place where it is outside the norm to not be Christian while he clearly disfavors other children by putting them in the same situation but with a different religion.
I would not embrace such an ideology either. ETA: I personally do not see this ideology emanating from the Bible or from Jesus Christ's words or life.

That said, I think that many religions can and do inculcate exclusivity. People can use religious texts to say or support just about any human agenda they want to. That does not mean that God or Truth is exclusive or in agreement with such an agenda. I believe one's journey, and/or relationship, with God is sacred and very, very personal.
post #50 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thisbirdwillfly View Post
I just cannot, or I suppose will not, embrace a religious ideology based on the idea that God favored my child by having him born into a place where it is outside the norm to not be Christian while he clearly disfavors other children by putting them in the same situation but with a different religion.
post #51 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thisbirdwillfly View Post
I wanted to add, and this is in no way an insult, that this thread very much reads like it was written by English speaking people raised in the Western world.

There are a lot of cultural biases in our society that support Christianity as it is interpreted here. From federal holidays to the religious beliefs of every President we've ever had.

When I read discussions about religion (even those translated into English) I eventually start to pick up on the bias and what they take to be "logical" concerning their religious beliefs. And if you read enough of it, it starts to feel self-evident. That is the same for every religion I've studied.

For example, 90% of the population of Indonisia is Muslim. The odds are overwhelming that if you or your child had been born and raised there by a native family, you would be too.

And that is one of the most obvious problems with the idea that one needs to accept Jesus as ones savior. I realize there is the "if you never heard of it, you get a pass" line of thinking but that does not account for the effect of family of origin and cultural bias. In this day and age of global media and internet, there are less and less people who will not have at least heard of Jesus Christ.

I just cannot, or I suppose will not, embrace a religious ideology based on the idea that God favored my child by having him born into a place where it is outside the norm to not be Christian while he clearly disfavors other children by putting them in the same situation but with a different religion.
You know, according to many Christians, these kinds of things may all be "taken into account" by God. For example, the Catholic Church not only says that those who never heard about the Church will be judged with that in mind, but that those who heard but were unable to understand or to whom it honestly seemed wrong will also have that taken into account.

Now, it can be very difficult, even with ourselves at times, to know how honest we are being in our decisions and assessments, or to see when we are actually being pig-headed or letting pride get in the way. All those things would still apply.

But the principle that anyone who hears about Christ and rejects him will always go to Hell is not a doctrine of all Christians, and that isn't confined to the more liberal types. The Orthodox, Catholic Church, or classical Anglicanism would not say that either. It tends to be only a certain kind of Protestant that takes that view.
post #52 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by hotmamacita View Post

That said, I think that many religions can and do inculcate exclusivity. People can use religious texts to say or support just about any human agenda they want to. That does not mean that God or Truth is exclusive or in agreement with such an agenda. I believe one's journey, and/or relationship, with God is sacred and very, very personal.
I do agree with this. You can't just become a Muslim, Jew, Budhist, SCientologist or anything else unless you believe their core beliefs. The problem with the word "Christian" is that it has been adapted by many groups and means many different things to many different people. You don't see that as much in the other above mentioned religions. It's rampant with Christians. "Christians" are also more willing to mame and kill their own kind than any other religion. (that said, I am still one... or a 'Christ-follower', as I'd rather be known)

And anyone and everyone can "justify" what they believe to themselves and others, with or without the bible. Some religions have written their own books and I understand why some would feel "why is the bible any different?"

The truth is that everyone has to find their own way. But the OP did ask for opinions and why we (meaning those that cared to answer her) feel the way we do. I think everyone has been honest in sharing and the thread has gone very well, considering this is such a hot topic to most people. I appreciate that!! Good job everyone!!
post #53 of 279
Just my 2 cents: We don't know what is truly in people's hearts and it is not any of our business to determine who will be going to hell. That is God's decision. I feel really sad when people do this. We should be respectful of the beliefs of others. Since I am married to an agnostic I get to practice that a lot. I try not to worry about my dh (whereas my sis will just tell him he's going to hell and she probably thinks I am to since we are a different denomination) he is a good person and it is between him and God. I try to set a good example for him and I pray for him. Any info I give him about God is me just sharing my feelings not preaching or condemning him.

You can pray for your friends and you can just share your experience with Jesus with them at appropriate times. As a former agnostic I feel that I was led back to Jesus with a friend of mine who never preached at me but I saw Jesus at work in her life and it made me want to welcome him back into my life. God bless you!
post #54 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by springmama View Post
As a former agnostic I feel that I was led back to Jesus with a friend of mine who never preached at me but I saw Jesus at work in her life and it made me want to welcome him back into my life.
This sort of thing and the general desire Christians have to be with God in Heaven make me wonder....

would you believe in God and Jesus if there was nothing to gain by it?
post #55 of 279
Quote:
But the principle that anyone who hears about Christ and rejects him will always go to Hell is not a doctrine of all Christians, and that isn't confined to the more liberal types. The Orthodox, Catholic Church, or classical Anglicanism would not say that either. It tends to be only a certain kind of Protestant that takes that view.
Correct. I apologize if implied otherwise.


Quote:
Originally Posted by AbigailGrace View Post
I do agree with this. You can't just become a Muslim, Jew, Budhist, SCientologist or anything else unless you believe their core beliefs...
There are no pre=requisites to becoming a Muslim. In fact, a person can chose to convert alone and in privacy. As far as I know, converting to Buddhism is a private process as well.


Quote:
Originally Posted by AbigailGrace View Post
...The problem with the word "Christian" is that it has been adapted by many groups and means many different things to many different people. You don't see that as much in the other above mentioned religions...
That will come as news to the Sunnis, Shites and other sects of Islam. Just to scratch the surface there are Reform, Conservative and Othrodox Jews. Buddhists also fall into three main catagories,Theravada, Mahayana, Tibetan and then are subdivided from there.

I have no knowledge of Scientology, so I cannot speak to that but I strongly disagree that Christianity stands alone in having been adapted in widely different ways. Including core beliefs.
post #56 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by Thisbirdwillfly View Post
There are no pre=requisites to becoming a Muslim. In fact, a person can chose to convert alone and in privacy. As far as I know, converting to Buddhism is a private process as well.

I never said differently. People can choose Christ in privacy as well. And neither the poster, nor I, said there were "prerequisites" to joining a religion. She said "...many religions can and do inculcate (meaning, To teach (others) by frequent instruction or repetition; indoctrinate) exclusivity (meaning, admitting only members of a socially restricted or very carefully selected group)." That's her opinion that I happen to share.

That will come as news to the Sunnis, Shites and other sects of Islam. Just to scratch the surface there are Reform, Conservative and Othrodox Jews. Buddhists also fall into three main catagories,Theravada, Mahayana, Tibetan and then are subdivided from there.

I understand why you might think I meant something I didn't. I apologize if I wasn't clear. I do know there are different forms of all religions. I guess what I meant was that you will never hear the controversy in other religions that you hear in talking about what a "Christian" means. Again, just my opinion.

I have no knowledge of Scientology, so I cannot speak to that but I strongly disagree that Christianity stands alone in having been adapted in widely different ways. Including core beliefs.
And I am no expert on other religions but I have been around the block in the "Christian" world... Again, these are just my opinions.
post #57 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2xy View Post
This sort of thing and the general desire Christians have to be with God in Heaven make me wonder....

would you believe in God and Jesus if there was nothing to gain by it?
Would you work for an employer if he didn't promise to pay you?

Love and move in with your husband if he didn't promise to love you, too, and take care of you?

A relationship is always two-sided... not always fair, not always give and take. Not always equal. But always two-sided. What do Jews, Buddhists, Muslims get out of their religion? You can't tell me nothing...

And I don't just desire to be with God in Heaven... I enjoy His company here on earth. IMO, Heaven's just a bonus!
post #58 of 279
Quote:
I just cannot, or I suppose will not, embrace a religious ideology based on the idea that God favored my child by having him born into a place where it is outside the norm to not be Christian while he clearly disfavors other children by putting them in the same situation but with a different religion.

But that is not the idea at all. Jesus, who was not a white European, said that he was the only way. That there is one way is not an exclusively Western idea, and Europeans weren't even notably monotheistic until Christianity anyway.

Actually, the Bible addresses the "location" issue, and about people who have not heard the Gospel specifically preached. God knows their hearts, and is just and loving. They are not out of favor having been born by chance in culture that is not infused with Christianity, nor any less able to choose God. I have heard so many times, as well, of people in what Christians would call "unreached" areas being met by the Lord, and only years later, sometimes many decades later, running into a Christian and realizing "So that's the God who captured my heart!". Actually, in the area of Ethiopia where my husband comes from, before Christian missionaries arrived, there was a prophet of sorts who was essentially preaching the Gospel without knowing the English phraseology for it. Although Ethiopia has an ancient Orthodox Christian church, many of the southern parts were simply animist and even Ethiopian Orthodoxy hadn't reached them. This man just had an encounter with Jesus, and began telling people about it.
post #59 of 279
I believe the Bible is true and that Christ said those words.

I honestly believe that God has His plan. I know he desires that none should be lost. I believe we do not know exactly how he will work out this salvation thing. I don't believe in assurance of salvation for me or anyone else nor do I believe in assurance of Hell. I also don't have any working definition of what will happen on the judgment day except that we will be judged and His judgment will be surprising to some. Right now I just want as much of God as I can get. even if I am not chosen by him at the final judgment. He is still worthy of all worship and glory and honor. I am crazy about him and i want others to know how great he is. Weather or not they want him is their business. I do not worry about wehat others choose or what God chooses for them. I do not even concern myself with heaven or hell. I show Gods love to people for His sake and not to "get people saved" its not a scam. it is between me and God. I don't know if I am making any sense. I think as a whole we are way to concerned with heaven and hell and not nearly concerned enough about what coming to the Father means for us personally. How sad if we spend our whole lives trying to keep people out of hell without ever tending to our own souls. and we certainly spend too much time being worried about things that are between God and other people.


as a side note...Also I think there is only one truth....if two people get different contradicting messages then one has to be wrong. and I think that the lie comes from satan. or our own minds telling s the pretty illusions we want to believe. Careful who you are listening to.
post #60 of 279
Quote:
Originally Posted by ILoveSweetpea View Post
From what I can understand reading the bible and from what I can understand by what my pastor says, Christians believe that Jesus is the ONLY way to God. DH and I struggle with the notion a great deal. Our church is fairly conservative, and when we have spoken to our Elders there they have affirmed that the only way to God/Heaven/Salvation is through Jesus. All others need to be saved.

DH and I have friends of other faiths. Maybe we aren't being good Christians, but we've never attempted to convert them. We don't believe they are going to hell... we just can't believe that. I don't understand how someone who seeks God and lives a moral life could be condemned to hell just because he or she is not Christian.

Our elders have told us that such thinking is just the result of modern liberalism. They tell us (and we do see) that the bible is pretty clear on this issue.

How can we accept this? Do we have to accept this? This is such a troubling issue to us. Are there any alternative ways to interpret the scriptures? How do other Christians reconcile this? Do other Christians really believe that (for example) Gandhi is in hell right now? That just seems ... unthinkable!!

Please help... anyone! Thanks!
I know that many people believe that Mormons (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) aren't Christian, but we believe that all people who live honorable lives, even if they don't "accept the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ" will have a place in what is called terrestrial kingdom.

You can read more about it a book called Preach My Gospel found online at

http://broadcast.lds.org/Missionary/...17_eng_007.pdf
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