You have rephrased my questions. Although it seems to be the same to ask
“how much is 2 plus 2?” or “what is the result of the sum of the numeral 2
to another numeral 2?”, the approach taken to respond tends to required
further analysis than just a simple response. Your response to my second
question referred only to non-Judeo-Christian religions, not to
Adventists, Jehovah’s witnesses, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
saints (Mormons), Lutherans, Anglicans, Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics,
Protestants, Evangelicals, etc. They all seem to profess faith based on
the Bible and the new Testament. They all claim (separately) to be the
right path and interpretation of the word of Jesus (in some way or shape),
to the exclusion of all others. Based on what you referred to, that Jesus
said: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father
except through me”, then what happened with thousands, if not millions of
people at the time of Jesus and even later, who were living in far distant
places and did not get a chance to know about Jesus? Did they come to the
Father? The beliefs they professed at their time was a “response to the
love of God”. I believe only God chooses who is saved and who is not,
regardless of deeds.

Please let me apologize for an overly simplistic answer to your original
question. It is partly a matter of my misunderstanding your question.

First, you ask about all the “Christian” denominations which are out
there?. all of which claim to be the right way to God, some of which
absolutely and directly contradict one another.

My response is to at least partially duck your question. I would throw the
question back at you. In other words, you must ask what is taught by the
Bible. Unfortunately, many if not most or even all of the religious
movements you name are the result, at least to some extent, of human
invention. It is very easy to criticize Roman Catholicism as it is perhaps
the most blatant example of teaching human tradition which is not found in
the Bible. Jesus was extremely critical of teaching human teachings as if
they were from God (Matthew 15:1-10). He did this to critique the Jewish
sects of his day, but I believe if he came to us today he would have the
same scathing comments about most of our denominations. However, it is too
easy to point to the Catholic Church as perhaps the worst offender in
terms of adding human tradition to the Bible. The Baptists, Episcopalians,
Lutherans and so forth all contain aspects of human tradition which is
taught as if it were the word of God.

The best way to evaluate a “Christian” group?s claim to be “the way” is to
thoroughly familiarize yourself with the Bible, especially the New
Testament (as it is the source of authority for Christian practice). In
Acts 17:10-12, a group of people are commended by God because they were
not just open to learning; they were also checking out Paul?s teaching
against their Bibles! In 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Paul commands Timothy, after
reminding him in 3:16 that it is the Scripture which is from God, to
preach the Word of God. Timothy is to stick to those things which are
revealed to us in the Bible and to avoid the temptation to turn to human
logic and philosophy. This is how you will be able to be sure if a
religious group is doing what is God?s will. God gave us a pattern to
follow. You need to find a group to be a part of which is dedicated to
following the actual, primitive, original teaching of God which is found
in the Bible. If you do this, you will find certain religious groups to
miss the mark immediately. Of course, all groups claim to be following the
Bible, but asking a few simple questions will reveal the untruth of this
claim in the case of many religious groups fairly easily. Other groups may
require considerable more study on your part. You might even get confused
at some point as you struggle to know what the Bible is teaching. You
might conclude that there is more than one group which meets at least the
minimum qualifications to be a true “Christian” church. The point is that
I do not really want to get into proving why each of these groups is not
following the Bible, although I would be happy to answer specific
questions if you like.

Then there is the philosophical question. Ephesians 4:4 says that there is
one church. This seems to be belied by the plethora of churches out there.
I would say that the true church of God is composed of the saved believers
in Jesus, wherever they are. It is not found in any one specific religious
group. However, some “Christian” groups are very far from the accurate
teachings in the Bible. Why has God allowed there to be so many
“churches,” so many of whom are teaching blatantly false doctrine, many of
which are not even helping people at all to get to heaven? That is a good
question. It would appear that God allows men to do what they choose with
what He has given us. God allows us “free will,” even if we abuse it. God
is not proud or happy with Mormonism or with Catholicism, or Orthodoxy or
etc, but please do not blame God for giving us the freedom to do or to not
do what he has told us to do in the Bible. You and I both have the
freedom, either to pursue righteousness and the Truth found in the Bible,
or to pursue what is pleasing to us. Many religious groups teach what is
pleasing to men, not to God. I would challenge you, in love to pursue the
truth found in the Bible, whether it ends up agreeing with your own
pre-conceived ideas about truth or not. I would challenge you to pursue
the truth of the Bible with great courage and stubbornness. Any specific
questions which pop their heads during your search, I would be glad to
give my best perspective on.

Then you ask another of those “hard” questions. What about all those
people who never had a chance to hear the gospel message about Jesus? Are
they all condemned to Hell? Isn?t it unfair that these people will be
judged by a standard which they were never even exposed to? I would say
that if that were what God does, it would be unfair. The Bible does not
provide a simple answer to your question. Romans 2:12-16 seems to imply
that those who never even hear about Jesus are somehow judged according to
their consciences. But who is not guilty of abusing their own conscience
at some time? In the final analysis, I would say that God will accept into
heaven whoever he chooses. That is not my business. Jesus clearly stated
that the way to eternal life with God is narrow and difficult, while the
way to hell and eternal separation from God is broad and easy (Matthew
7:13 ,14). Given that fact, it is my job to make sure I am on that narrow
road and to call as many as possible to be with me there on the narrow
road. It is not my job to “judge” who is and who is not on that road, but
if I see someone who appears not to be a true disciple of Jesus, I feel
compelled to warn, encourage, teach, or do whatever I can to help people
to get on that road.

As far as people who never even heard of Jesus, again, I will leave such
decisions in God?s hands. Judging is his business. However, this
description does not apply to the people I meet. Virtually every single
person I ever meet is more that well aware that Jesus did indeed exist and
that he claimed to be from God. I believe that virtually every single
person you or I will ever meet has many opportunities to read a Bible and
to respond to Jesus, so your hypothetical case does not apply to my own
life. It is an interesting question, but does not affect my daily
decisions about what I should do. I agree with your statement that “only
God chooses who is saved.” This is true, but it is a very good idea to
the encouragement/warning of Jesus that “only those who do the
will of my father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21 ) will be with God in heaven. I
personally need to focus on a daily basis on simply doing God?s will in my
life, not necessarily worrying about people I will never meet. Trying to
study my Bible regularly and applying it to my every day life gives me
more than enough to deal with in my life!

John Oakes, PhD

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