Saturday, July 26, 2008

Help another friend of mine.

Friend #1:

A friend is seeking ordination. And he was asked this question in the ordination process:
Article XVIII of the 39 Articles says that (BCP p 871), “Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.” What does this mean to you? What should we say to Buddhists, Muslims, and members of other religions? (less than 100 words)
In less than 100 words, my friend wrote this draft response:
Only Jesus Christ can save us. Only his saving action can deliver us from eternal condemnation. The only way I know that we can be saved is by calling on the name of Christ. I do not know for certain if people who do not call on Christ can be saved. It is possible, and I think the Bible may allow, that people who practice other faiths may be accepted into heaven. But I would never assume that any Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or atheist is somehow saved. I also believe that the greatest joy possible is to know and love Christ. I would share Christ’s love, respectfully, with people of other faiths.
Yes or No? How would you answer? Where in Scripture ought Friend #1 go? Is he on the right track, or off it? Don't be shy. Comment freely.

Pic on Flickr by Free ~ [ Saving's Life.


Cameron and Alex Grey Jones said...

I applied for ordination in the UK and was declined at the very last point after a comparatively quick and very encouraging process to that point.

Most encouraged me to think of the interviews etc. as hoops to jump through and not to jeopardize a lifetime of gospel ministry over a hoop.

There is some wisdom in this and a response that expresses a hope that theological training will assist in formulating a better response to such questions may be both true and a helpful expression of humility.

I was concerned, however, that the beginning of 'ordained' service of Christ may begin with obfuscation in areas that otherwise I would express quite clearly.

I would commend presenting the truth in love, speaking with gentleness and respect. If the message is hard, then that will cause us pain. We will naturally express our pain with our words. (cf. Paul in Rom 9:3).

For my conscience sake I tried to ask the following questions of myself:

"How would I respond if a Christian friend or parishioner gave me that answer?"


"Is that really what I think?"

Consider also that the people reading the response will be smart enough to see an person disguising their thoughts, just as one might read through cleverly constructed words of liberals.

The difficult part in your friend's response is:

"I do not know for certain if people who do not call on Christ can be saved. If people who do not call on Christ can be saved. It is possible, and I think the Bible may allow, that people who practice other faiths may be accepted into heaven."

I think this is answering a question that is not asked.*

The question is referring to a situation in which you have the opportunity to speak to people from different beliefs. What is the call of the gospel to them?

We have great examples of what the apostles would say to people in just this situation. Check Paul in Acts 17:30-31.

Others encouraged me by reminding me of God's sovereignty. If He wants someone in ministry in a certain area he will have them there. He can overrule the opinions of selectors. And if denied then God has other paths for gospel ministry for them even if it's hard to see at the time.

* I'm not sure I agree with the argument anyway and would love to see a discussion on this.

Scott said...

My question would be that if he thinks the bible may well allow for people of other faiths to get to heaven withouth Christ, then why is he so passionately sold on preaching Christ?

Is it just to cover his bases incase they might miss out, or is it just his prefered method of salvation?

I gotta be honest, if I was on the board or panel or whatever and read that, I think I would have reason to be more than just a little concerned?

Martin Kemp said...

I just reflected on this article the other day, and was stunned by the exclusiveness of it. In particular the extra clause "and the light of nature"; ie it could seem that the old line that "people will be saved by how they respond to what is reavaled to them" is not valid according to the article. But, as is the case with lots of anglican doctrine and polity, you can interpret this article so it bends in a number of directions. I think the key here is the idea of 'presumption'. The article says not to presume a universalist stance, and so as long as our candidate says he will not assume that people of other faith are saved, he seems to me to be treading similar ground to that described in the article.

Another question: does "the name of Jesus" indicate salvation must have a noetic aspect, ie there are certain things that you must know and understand to be saved? Ie does salvation have a certain epistemic access requirement? Where is this line?

Megs said...

I like your friend's ambiguity, embracing the gray, realising there's a lot we don't know. I think God is very mysterious, and to try and analyse God like a math theorem reduces God's Godness. I think a dogmatic, black and white answer to that question might create an ordination candidate who couldn't relate so well to people and their struggles. I think the wiser and more honest we grow, the less we realise we know.