In the Gospel of John, Jesus is recorded as saying: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” How then can a majority of American Christians believe that non-Christians go to heaven?
The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, following up on the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, found that 52 percent of American Christians think another faith can lead to eternal life. Here’s a snippet from the press release:
American adults express a variety of views on how people can achieve eternal life. When asked to describe in their own words what determines whether a person will attain eternal life, nearly three-in-ten (29%) say that a person’s actions are most important. A similar number (30%) says that belief is the key factor in achieving everlasting life. One-in-ten refer to a combination of belief and actions as necessary for eternal life, and almost as many (8%) cite some other factor as most important. In addition, more than one-in-ten (14%) indicate they are unsure of what leads to eternal life, and another 7% volunteer they do not believe in eternal life.
White evangelical Protestants stand out as the group most likely to name belief as the most important factor in obtaining eternal life, with 64% expressing this view. Nearly half of evangelicals (45%) are explicit in stating that belief in Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation, while another 19% are somewhat more generic in their responses, citing belief in God or, more simply, “belief” or “faith” as most important. An additional 10% of evangelicals say that a combination of belief and actions are crucial for salvation, meaning that, in total, nearly three-quarters of this group (74%) identify an element of belief as necessary for salvation.
Among evangelicals, 64 percent say Jews can go to heaven without believing in Jesus. Reminds me of a comment an acquaintance made at a party last week when he learned I had Christianity to go with my curly hair: “Well, somebody’s got to let you in.”