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How Christians view other religions

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Various interpretations of John 14:6, one of
the most commonly cited verses in the Bible

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Christians viewpoints on non-Christian religions:

Most Christians hold one of the following three beliefs about other religions and faith groups:

bulletJohn 14:6 is often quoted by conservative Protestants as one proof that a person can only attain Heaven after death if they have believed in Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ) while on Earth. This is been referred to as exclusivity or particularism.
bulletThere is a movement among many fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians to accept the inclusive view. This viewpoint was also adopted by the Roman Catholic Church during the 1960s. They believe that the only fully true religion is their own particular branch of Christianity, but that it is possible for some non-Christians to be saved and attain Heaven even though they have never heard of  Yeshua or have never heard of Christianity.
bulletFinally, there is the position found frequently among Christian liberals and progressives: that all faiths are true and valid when interpreted within their own culture.

We realize that the interpretation of John 14:6 is a hot-button item among many Christians. The exclusivist and inclusivist interpretations are also the source of much animosity by non-Christians against Christians. However, explaining all three interpretations is important because the typical Christian only hears of one of the three viewpoints in their church.

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English translations of John 14:6:

Since Yeshua of Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ) and his followers were all Jewish, he would have spoken to them in Aramaic. In spite of the double translation -- from his reported words in Aramaic into written Greek, and from Greek into English -- most common versions of the Bible translate this verse almost identically. The main difference among translations is whether the words "I am the way...but by me" are a a direct verbatim quote or a paraphrase of Yeshua's actual statement.

bulletAmerican Standard Version: "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me."
bulletKing James Version: "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
bulletNew American Bible: "Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
bulletNew International Version: "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
bulletNew Living Translation: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me."
bulletRevised Standard Version: "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me'."
bulletYoung's Literal Translation: "Jesus saith to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one doth come unto the Father, if not through me'." 1

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Quotations:

bulletAnon: "Interpreting a biblical text out of context is a pretext."
bulletMarcus Borg: "Jesus did not speak of himself with the exalted titles of John's gospels, nor did he speak the great `one way' verse of John 14:6"
bulletC.S. Lewis:
bullet"Though all salvation is through Jesus, we need not conclude that He cannot save those who have not explicitly accepted Him in this life."
bullet"We do know that no [one] can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him.
bulletMatthew J. Slick: "Yes, Christianity is the one true religion. That may sound awfully dogmatic and narrow-minded, but the simple truth is that Christianity is the only true religion. Jesus said that He alone was the way to the Father (John 14:6), that He alone revealed the Father (Matt. 11:27; Luke 10:22). Christians do not go around saying Christianity is the only way because they are arrogant, narrow-minded, stupid, and judgmental. They do so because they believe what Jesus said."  2
bulletBishop J.S. Spong "Q&A on The Parliament of the World's Religions," weekly mailing, 2007-SEP-05: "True religion is not about possessing the truth. No religion does that. It is rather an invitation into a journey that leads one toward the mystery of God. Idolatry is religion pretending that it has all the answers."
bulletWallace D. Wattles, in "Jesus: The Man And His Work:" "In John 14:6 If Jesus Christ says I am the way, the truth... he simply means that without having faith in the teachings of Jesus Christ... reaching the kingdom of God was not possible."  3

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Topics covered in this section:

bulletExclusivist interpretations commonly held by by fundamentalist and other evangelical Christians
 
bulletA pluralistic interpretation by a Unitarian
 

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This section is currently being expanded to include other interpretations of John 14:6

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References used:

The hyperlinks below were used to prepare the above essay, but are not necessarily still valid today.

  1. Other biblical translations are available at: http://www.biblegateway.com/
  2. Marcus Borg, "Jesus," HarperOne, (2008), Page 145. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
  3. Matthew J. Slick, "Is Christianity the One True Religion?," Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry CARM), 2005-2008, at: http://www.carm.org/
  4. Wallace D. Wattles, "Jesus: The Man And His Work," at: http://www.rgveda.com/

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Site navigation:

Home Religious Info. Basic Info. > Other religions > here

 

or HomeChristianity > History, beliefs... > Other religions > here

 

 or HomeChristianity > Groups > Other religions > here

 

or HomeChristianity > Relationships to other religions > Other religions > here

 

 or HomeSpirituality > Religious tolerance > Other religions > here

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Copyright 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2008-MAY-10
Latest update: 2007-MAY-14
Author: B.A. Robinson

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