Is Jesus the only way to salvation? [Questioning faith #10]

Ted Grimsrud—December 12, 2022

One of the interesting aspects of Christianity for me now, as I step back and allow myself to question much of the faith I have wrestled with these past 50 years, is the notion that there is a clear distinction to be made between being a Christian and not being a Christian. Many Christians seem to assume that you are either in or out. I now question that notion of clarity. First, I question is experientially. This is not the reality I am in now. I actually don’t know if I’m a Christian or not. Second, as I think about it more, I question it intellectually. Does it even make sense to make such an either/or distinction about human convictions, beliefs, and identities? One area where these questions apply, I think, is how we conceive of salvation.

The standard Christian salvation story

I became interested in Christianity when I was a teen-ager. The way things were explained to me centered on my need to accept Jesus as my personal savior. Basically, the idea is that we human beings start out in a place of estrangement from God due to our sinfulness. To have a relationship with God, to be allowed to spend eternity in heaven, to be “saved,” we need to make a move. Our default status is that we are unsaved and bound for eternal separation from God. The only move that works, the only way to change our status, is to confess to God in prayer that we recognize our sinfulness and that we trust in Jesus as our savior from sin (and he is our savior only because of his violent death as a sinless sacrifice where he takes God anger toward sin upon himself), and that we will commit ourselves to living as Christians (which basically means going to church, reading the Bible, praying regularly, and sharing the message of salvation through Jesus with other people).

Now, this salvation story I was told was a particular version—evangelical Protestantism. There are quite a few other versions. However, in its essence, the story is pretty similar in all the various Western Christian traditions. The key elements are that we are born estranged from God, something has to happen in our lives to change that and make salvation available, and the only way that can happen is a self-conscious commitment to Jesus Christ as our savior. That is, Jesus is the only way to salvation. Explicitly becoming a Christian is our only option if we want to gain salvation.

Continue reading “Is Jesus the only way to salvation? [Questioning faith #10]”