Thursday, December 18, 2008

Americans' View on Heaven

A recent survey sheds an interesting light on the perspective that many Americans have on the afterlife. Although the United States is generally considered a "Christian" nation, many feel that heaven is not reserved for only those that claim Jesus Christ as Savior.

This survey was a follow up to a controversial 2007 study, performed by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, that found that although 74% of Americans believe in a place called heaven where the good are rewarded, only 59% believe in a literal hell. 70% believe that many religions lead to eternal life, including a surprising 57% that attend evangelical churches.

Among the other findings:
"Christian believers who named at least one non-Christian faith that could lead to salvation included 34% of white evangelicals, even though evangelical doctrine stresses that salvation is possible only through Jesus. Higher levels of church attendance made some difference, particularly among white evangelical protestants. But an overall majority (54%) of people who identified with a religion and who said they attend church weekly also said many religions can lead to eternal life. This majority included 37% of white evangelicals, 75% of mainline Protestants and 85% of non-Hispanic white Catholics.
Pew's new survey also found that many Christians (29%) say they are saved by their good actions; 30% say salvation is through belief in Jesus, God or a higher power alone, which is the core teaching of evangelical Protestantism; and 10% say salvation is found through a combination of behavior and belief, a view closer to Catholic teachings. The number of those who said actions determine who attains heaven, was lowest (11%) for white evangelicals, highest for white Catholics (47%)."
It is now clear that the pluralism in our society has greatly influenced the Christian Church. While I respect the views of others, I don't feel that all perspectives are equally valid. A careful reading of the Bible will show that the multiple-path-to-heaven viewpoint is not taught. Jesus himself said that He is "the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" and "for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it."

Although most major religions deal with similar concepts like treating others well and doing good, they are not the same. They do not all deal with sin, forgiveness and eternity in the same manner. One offers a Savior who died for our sins and deals with the root of our human problem. Some seek to accept the teachings of Jesus when it comes to loving our neighbor as ourselves, yet reject his teachings on addressing our depravity. The whole point of the Christian gospel is that I can't love my neighbor as myself (or even truly love myself) apart from Jesus. If you'd like to explore more about what makes Jesus Christ and the Christian faith unique click here. I'd love to talk with you more about it if you're interested.

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