Ask Augustine: Why Do Evangelical Christians State That Sincere Worshippers of Other Religions Will Not Be Saved?

Paul Tambrino, EdD, PhD
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Ask Augustine with Dr. Paul Tambrino


Ask Augustine is a weekly column where professor/author Dr. Paul Tambrino discusses various theological questions with wit, clarity and substance.

Question #12- Why Do Evangelical Christians State That Sincere Worshippers of Other Religions Will Not Be Saved?

 

This question reflects a deep-rooted concern about sincere adherents of non-Christian faiths.

At a time when Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, as well as other non-Christian friends work and live beside us each day, something would be very wrong with us if we did not feel such concern.

First, it needs to be emphasized that beyond the stark factual statement “the Bible offers no hope” (for those who insist “res ipsa loquitur” – the thing speaks for itself), all is speculation.“The Christian faith is true for everybody, and that all need God’s forgiveness and rescue from the power of sin and Satan.”

For indeed, the New Testament, exegeted (interpreted) rationally and without reading into it what cannot be read out of it, does tell us that the Christian faith is true for everybody, and that all need God’s forgiveness and rescue from the power of sin and Satan.

In the New Testament all are called to turn to Jesus Christ and become God’s adopted children. Eternal life comes only to those who do this.

Now “perhaps” God in His infinite mercy does allow for other ways to come to salvation, but if so, He certainly does not reveal that in Scripture.

Despite this, some pursue two lines of speculation. First, there is “universalism,” the belief that regardless of the New Testament witness to the contrary, God will somehow bring all who leave this world as nonbelievers to share the inheritance of those who die living in Christ.

Recently I was shocked to hear an ordained clergyman in a prominent mainline denomination say at a multi-faith conference, “When one is at death’s door, a person’s belief does not matter.”“The New Testament speaks only of penitents being saved through the grace of God in knowing about, and coming to trust, the crucified and risen Lord.”

You see, Universalism raises at least two questions. When Jesus and the apostles warned people of eternal loss if they did not repent (Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 26:16-20), were they bluffing? Do we know more about God’s purpose of grace then they did?

The second speculation is that of “inclusivism,” which argues the possibility of salvation for sincere devotees of other faiths in which Jesus Christ is either unknown or is rejected as divine Savior.

But, on what (biblically speaking) might this possibility be based? Definitely not on sincerity or devotion as such, nor on personal merit (for no one has any), nor can it be based on any intrinsic efficacy (effectiveness) of unchristian rituals.

On what then would such an “inclusive” belief be based? Some say that if non-Christian devotees come to know themselves as guilty, defiled and unworthy, and then confess and renounce their sins and ask for mercy from whatever gods there may be, they will receive the forgiveness they seek because of the Jesus they do not yet know, but will know hereafter.

God forbid we should dispute this; but have we reason to think there are such people???

The New Testament speaks only of penitents being saved through the grace of God in knowing about, and coming to trust, the crucified and risen Lord.

It offers no hope that sincere worshippers of other religions will be saved without faith in Jesus Christ.

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