Must You Hear the Gospel to Be Saved?
In our shrinking, pluralistic world, the belief that Jesus is the only way of salvation is increasingly called arrogant and even hateful. In the face of this criticism, many shrink back from affirming the global necessity of knowing and believing in Jesus. There has always been a price to pay to take the good news of Jesus to those who need it and don't want it. The difference today is that those voices are closer to us than everâ€”whether in the neighborhood or on the internet. Their nearness makes them seem more numerous (which they aren't), and feel more dangerous (which they are).
These are not days for the timorous to open their mouths. A thousand bloggers stand ready to echo or condemn your commendation of Christ to a Jew, or Muslim, or Hindu, or Buddhist, or anyone else. Once upon a time, there was a safe, private place to take your controversial stand for Jesus. No more. If you are going to stand, you will be shot atâ€”either figuratively or literally. As I write this, there is news across the web of fourteen Christians killed in rioting because the other religion believed their holy book had been desecrated. What if, in your town, the "other" religion defined desecration as the public statement that their holy book is not the infallible guide to God?
The Commercialized, Psychologized Temperament - If the evangelical church at large was ever too confrontational in its evangelism, those days are gone. The pendulum has swung, with a commercialized and psychologized temperament, in the other direction. The church today leans strongly toward offering Jesus as appealing or not offering him at all. And what's new about this temperament is that we are more inclined than we used to be to let the customer, or the person who is offended, define what is appealing. The commercialized mindset moves away from personal conviction toward pragmatic effectiveness.
It feels that if the consumer is unhappy with the presentation, there must be something wrong with it. When this feeling becomes overriding, it circles around and redefines the "truth" being presented so that the presentation can be made enjoyable. If the claim that Jesus is the only way of salvation offends people, the commercialized mindset will either not talk about it or stop believing it.
The psychologized mindset defines love as whatever the other person feels is loving. The effect is the same as with the commercialized mindset. If a person or group finds your summons to believe on Jesus for salvation to be arrogant instead of humble and loving, then, if you have the psychologized mindset, you will feel guilty and apologetic. It must be your fault. If this mindset becomes overriding, it too will circle around and change not only the presentation, but, if necessary, the thing presented, so that the other person will not feel unloved In this way, the unhappy consumer and the offended listener take on a power that once belonged only to the Bible. There is an epidemic fear of man behind these two mindsets. In the name of marketing savvy or sensitive communication, cowardice capitulates to the world, and we surrender the offensive truth of Christ's uniqueness and supremacy.
What Is at Stake My sense of urgency increases the more I think about what is at stake in surrendering the universal necessity of believing on Jesus in order to be saved.
Jesus: The Only Way to God, Now Available at Monergism Books