FAQ'S ABOUT RELIGION
AREN'T THERE MANY PATHS TO HEAVEN?
Ah, let me count the ways…how many? Well now…let’s see…uh…ONE! But wait, why would we espouse such a blunt, exclusive, unpolitically correct answer as that? You might have the opinion that in our so- called enlightened society, that holds to values of tolerance, inclusiveness, and “do your own thing-anything goes” would lead us to believe that it’s OK to be spiritual or NOT, religious or NOT, God fearing or NOT and as a jail inmate in a Bible class said (paraphrased)…“I believe that anyone who lives a peaceful life, does good works, and believes that will put him in good stead with the Almighty, really has nothing to be concerned about eternal life.” Besides, the famous television personality, Oprah, seems to believe there are many paths and she was reared a Baptist! So how is it we would proclaim that there is one and only one path to eternal life? Here’s the answer…because eternal life with God in heaven is a gift of God, that He sent his only son, Jesus the Christ, to become human and live among us, to teach us about God the Father Creator, that is, the GOOD NEWS of the Gospel, to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to feed the thousands, to love all humankind and then to die a terrible death on the cross, the worst execution method ever conceived. Jesus did this voluntarily, to take ALL our sins (yours and mine) past, present and future on Him who was without sin just to save us from ourselves. That’s why. Where did this come from? It came from the Holy Bible. Take a look at the book of John in the New Testament, chapter 3, verse 16 (you know, the one you sometimes see on TV sports events held up by the guy with the multi-colored Fro). But, let’s back up and lay a rock solid foundation for this seemingly rigid belief.
Christians believe in several doctrines (no need to cringe—doctrine just means a belief or several beliefs held by various groups as in church, political parties, workplaces, etc.). They are important and are helpful for us to learn the TRUTH. A little Theology will make things more understandable (steady now-- it just means study of God). You might check out “What do Churchy Words Mean?” on this site.
Doctrine of the Sovereignty of God: Before, not after, creation of the universe with all the galaxies, all the solar systems, all the planets, our earth and us… God was. He is the maker and ruler of the universe. He owns EVERYTHING. God is able to do anything and everything, in any way He wants, according to his will. Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. (1Chonicles 29:11b). God is the very definition of the word LOVE. God loves us so much that He wants a personal relationship with us and, in His love, he manifests Himself (appears as) three persons in ONE, that is, the “Trinity.”
Doctrine of the Trinity: The Trinity is God, the Father Creator; God the Son Redeemer Jesus the Christ; God, the Holy Spirit Counselor; sometimes called “three in one and one in three.” There is ONE God, that is, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The word Trinity is not found in the Bible but is described throughout. Isaiah 44:6b says…“I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.” Genesis 1:2b says…“…and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” John 1:1 refers to the “Word” as Jesus when it says…“In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” Matthew 28:19 says…“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”To sum up; God is God, the Holy Spirit is God and Jesus is God and we are free to so believe.
Doctrine of Free Will: God created us “in His image” according to Genesis 1:26, a mystery to humans, but when we consider He has free will and wants us to love him freely without making us “dance to His tune” as a puppeteer, then we can understand better. Apart from Christ, we are dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1) and wholly disposed to hate God. We only want darkness, and so we freely choose to reject Him. We freely choose to love and to serve Jesus only if the Spirit changes our hearts (John 3:1-8). However, we must remember that God is in control and should we get out of control; He will, with patience and long suffering, correct us as a loving Father. We reject Him at our peril.
Doctrine of Original Sin: Christians believe all are born in a sinful and depraved state, in need of God’s cleansing salvation due to the rebellion and disobedience of our original parents, Adam and Eve, as described in Genesis chapter 3. There are some who reject this doctrine but others uphold it based on the recent past of some 3,500 years of human history. We only have to read newspapers and watch television to corroborate this doctrine, much to the shame of the human species. But, there is reason for hope in God’s gift of Salvation.
Doctrine of Salvation: On our own, we can do NOTHING to rise from our depravity. Salvation is a gift of love from God. God is a righteous being who cannot and does not abide SIN which is anything that separates us from Him such as our loving worldly things more than we love Him, as loving ourselves (narcissism), loving clothing, jewelry, cars, and money, etc., etc., etc. All this is called idolatry. Jesus extended this definition to matters of the heart, for example looking at the opposite sex with lust is as sinful as committing adultery with them (Sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7). So, we are damned without God’s gift. How? You say. Two important words are Belief and Repentance. You see, once the Holy Spirit changes an individual’s heart, faith takes hold and belief and repentance are possible. Jesus tells us we must be “born again” as he told Nicodemus, a Jewish religious ruler (John 3:3-21). Salvation requires us to believe that Jesus (God) died on the cross to wipe our sins away and to repent, or feel sorry in our hearts for our sins, then turn around and walk in a new direction beside the Holy Spirit (God). Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, emphasis added). That is the one and only path to Heaven.
If Christians believe these doctrines, then what do other religions believe that is any different? According to www.gotquestions.org/how-to-get-to-heaven.html, here is a compressed description of each. Atheism: No heaven or afterlife. Baha’i: No need for salvation, man not born sinful. Buddhism: Reaching Nirvana requires following the “eight-fold” path. Confucianism: Appropriate life behavior. Afterlife is unknowable. Eastern Orthodox: Good works essential to reach heaven. Hinduism: Are many gods. Moksha (salvation) reached when freed from reincarnation and bad Karma. Islam: Obey Allah, perform good works. Martyrdom only guaranteed way to heaven. Jainism: Good works to be cleansed of bad Karma. No Creator or higher gods. Jehovah’s Witnesses: Different levels of heaven. The 144,000 receive salvation through Christ. Others must earn way by good works. Judaism: Can lose salvation but earn it back through repentance and good works. Jesus is not the Messiah. Mormonism: Different view of heaven. To reach highest heaven must comply with religious requirements including good works and proselytizing. Worshipper and spouse become gods. Roman Catholicism: Emphasize baptism or strong desire for it, including martyrdom required. Accepting Christ and performing sufficient acts of purification also required. Others go to hell or purgatory. Scientology: Salvation through knowledge of self and universe. Many soul lifetimes to expel bad “images” causing irrational behavior leading ultimately to self-control of thought, life, matter, energy, space and time. Shinto: Salvation to life with ancestors dependent on penance and avoidance of pollution of the soul. Sikhism: Influenced by Hinduism. Salvation is by living an honest life and meditating on god to be released from cycle of reincarnations. Taoism: Abandoned quest for immortality and adopted teachings of Buddhism regarding the afterlife. Unitarian-Universalism: Believe anything you desire about afterlife. Should seek enlightenment and not be concerned about the afterlife. Wicca: Salvation not needed since there is no sin. Live in harmony with Goddess Earth. Zoroastrianism: Afterlife much dependent on actions. No reincarnation. If judged for Hell, even the condemned can go to heaven after a sufficient time there.
There is confusion about this subject as reported by the Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2008 to clear up definitions from the 2003 survey. A quick summary shows that all Americans believed that Catholicism, Protestantism and Judaism led to eternal life from 69 to 74 %. Religions of Islam, Hinduism and even “People with no religious faith” were believed to lead to eternal life by 52 to 56 %. Even Atheists were shown to have eternal life by 42%. Jesus said in Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Christians believe there are no excuses for failing to find the path to eternal life, even for those who live remotely, for the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 1:20 “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so men are without excuse.” Our thinking and hearts must be changed just as Paul tells us we separate ourselves from God through ignorance by the hardening of our hearts (Ephesians 4:18 paraphrased).
Dear Reader, please consider these things and pray for true enlightenment from God. All things are possible with God. Jesus tells the story of a young rich man who asked Him “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus knew he had performed well within the Law of Moses but still clung to his riches and told him that he should sell his belongings and follow Him and the young man hung his head and walked away. Jesus then told His disciples that “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples asked Him “Who then can be saved?” Jesus replied “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God” (Mark 10: 17-27). Does this mean we can live a life of sin and depend on God to rescue us regardless? Surely it means we should respond to God’s call or nudge and remember those two important words, belief and repentance. Praise Almighty God.