One of the speakers at our recent Southern Baptist Convention noted that the Chinese have one word that can mean either “crisis” or “opportunity.” He elaborated that every crisis is an opportunity, and every opportunity is a crisis. Though the spiritual crisis sweeping our world is truly multi-faceted, the dominant aspect involves the question: Is Jesus Christ the only way of salvation, or do any and all religious roads lead to Heaven? This question has become the focus of national attention since Franklin Graham was dis-invited by the Pentagon as the speaker for its scheduled National Day of Prayer service. Graham, you will remember, was disinvited because of statements he made about Islam – statements directly referenced by the Army spokesman as “not appropriate.” Kathleen Parker, used her column in The Washington Post to take on Graham and his “… offense … expressing his belief that only Christians have God’s ear, that Islam is evil, and that Muslims and Hindus don’t pray to the same God he does.” She points out that Graham’s views “don’t sit well with secular Americans or even non-evangelical Christians. Evangelicals under 30 believe there are many ways to God, not just through Jesus.” She quotes a survey showing that nearly two-thirds of evangelicals under 35 believe that non-Christians can go to heaven.
Besides denying the uniqueness and Deity of our Lord, the next most repulsive conclusion produced by this “crisis” is that it reduces the genuine religious differences of all religions to a bland, simplistic common denominator which says “all religions are equal.” When you hear the mantra, “all religions are equal,” you can be sure of two things:
1 – They don’t know what they are talking about, and,
2 – They haven’t really studied anyone’s religion very closely.
Saying “all religions are equal” insults thoughtful followers of every religion. Talk to your Muslim friends for a while, and you’ll discover that their beliefs and our beliefs are radically different. But, talk to a Buddhist, and you’ll discover that their beliefs are different from ours and from the Muslims. The same is true for followers of Judaism, Hinduism, and so on. It’s easy to say “all roads lead to heaven” when you haven’t studied the map carefully. What we must find is an accurate road map that tells us which road leads to heaven. Find that road and you will end up at the right place.
Though it is not popular to say it, we have found the authentic road map; it is the Bible. Such belief leads some to consider us “unenlightened,” “out of touch” and “arrogant.” It is the Bible, not my social setting or my desire to get along, which tells me Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). We take the words of the early Apostles over the latest and most popular columnist when we share “Nor is their salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
By now, you are reading this column and wondering, “Gary, where and what is this special opportunity in this time of spiritual crisis?” Aha, I’m glad I got your attention and that you have read this far. I’m happy to report that religious skeptics and antagonists like columnist Kathleen Parker are, by far, the minority in America. Thom Rainer’s two-year research team of 15 found that only 5 percent of Americans are overtly antagonistic and argumentative toward the church and Christians. They report that 160 million Americans (that’s 50 percent of our nation) say they are open for someone to share Jesus Christ with them. He writes, “Our research has indicated, doctrine is important to the formerly unchurched; it was also important to them when they were lost and unchurched. Surprisingly, the formerly unchurched indicated a greater interest in doctrine than longer-term Christians.”
As never before, it is time for Christians to rush into the vacuum that this spiritual crisis is revealing with the saving message of Jesus Christ. Lives are empty. Hearts are hungry. Ears are receptive. Most of all, the Holy Spirit is at work preparing people to receive the Gospel.
If Jesus is truly the only way, the most unkind thing would be to keep it to ourselves.
If Jesus is truly the only way, the most loving thing is to share Him with others.
Let’s suppose that you and I are standing 50 feet away from the edge of a cliff. If you fall off, you will drop 1,800 feet before you hit the jagged rocks on the canyon floor. There are no guard rails to keep you from falling. As we stand there chatting, we see an old man walking slowly toward the edge. As he nears the edge, we realize that he is blind and has no idea of the danger he is in. Suddenly he calls out, “Which way should I go?” What would you think if I yelled out, “It doesn’t matter. Go any way you like”? Would I not be criminally responsible when he falls to his death? If I care about him at all, I will call out, “Don’t take another step. I’ll come and get you.” And then I will take him by the hand and lead him to safety. Love compels me to speak the truth and to do what I can to save his life.
Let’s not let this crisis continue without taking every opportunity to share Him! Tell someone about Jesus today. (Gary Taylor is the Missouri Baptist Convention’s director of evangelism.)