The exclusivity of the Christian gospel is an unmistakable theme that runs throughout Scripture. In the Old Testament, the Lord plainly told the Hebrew people:
You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. (Exodus 20:3-6; cf. 20:23; 23:24; 34:14; Leviticus 19:4; Joshua 23:7; 2 Kings 17:35)
In the New Testament, the message is equally clear. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). The apostle Peter proclaimed to a hostile audience, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The apostle John wrote, “… but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36). Again and again, Scripture stresses that Jesus Christ is the only hope of salvation for the world. “For there is one God [and] one mediator also between God and men, [the] Man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5) Only Christ can atone for sin, and therefore only Christ can provide salvation. “And the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (1 John 5:11-12).
Of course, those truths are antithetical to the central tenet of postmodernism. They make exclusive, universal truth-claims, authoritatively declaring Christ the only true way to heaven and all other belief-systems erroneous. That is what Scripture teaches. It is also what the true church has proclaimed throughout her history. It is the message of Christianity. And it simply cannot be adjusted to accommodate postmodern sensitivities and immoralities.
There are some, however, who flatly reject the straightforward exclusivism of Scripture. In their version of orthodoxy, Christians should see members of other religions and non-religions not as enemies but as beloved neighbors, dialogue partners, and even collaborators. In light of that apparent openness to non-Christian faiths, it is not surprising that some find all broadly Christian religions to also be equally valid.
Without question, the Bible’s claim that salvation is in Christ alone by faith alone is certainly out of harmony with the notion of “tolerance.” But it is, after all, just what the Bible plainly teaches.
The Bible is sharply negative toward false worship, the worship of idols, rather than the true God. Paul’s missionary labors were not only positive, but also negative: to turn the Gentiles away from their idols to serve Christ (as in Acts 17:29-31, 1 Thessalonians 1:9).
Only by turning a blind eye to the Bible’s clear teaching, can broad ecumenism be entertained with any enthusiasm.
This article is adapted from a John MacArthur article from The Master’s Seminary Journal.
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