When Oprah came out and proclaimed her belief that all paths lead to heaven, she was heavily criticized by mainstream Christianity, including me. Interestingly enough that episode has remained in my memory banks and I think about it often. Since then I have observed her love for people growing immensely and I am reminded that God is love. Jesus said, "They will know you by how you love one another"
This argument has been a long standing one for many years and over the last few years I have committed myself to understanding the salvation perspective of numerous sects of Christianity.
I think it's intriguing to see that various sects of Christianity have different explanations of 'how to get saved' and some even think you can lose your salvation. What I found in my studies is that there is more than one context of the word 'saved/salvation' that demanded my attention. I am by no means an expert in this and I trust that if you have something to say, you will carefully examine all the passages that use the words 'saved' and 'salvation' before replying, but once you do.. I welcome the dialogue.
I believe that if anyone wants to believe in the heaven of the Bible, then they need to take into consideration what the God of the Bible showed his prophets about salvation through Christ alone. Since no one has any factual evidence heaven exists, because we take it by faith, then to outcast someone because they believe in their own deity, by faith also, just doesn't sound very loving to me.
I recommend you watch the Robinson Crusoe with Pierce Brosnan. His character went through an interesting journey with a tribal man's journey with faith also. I'm not saying to watch it as a means to sound doctrine, but as a thought provoking move on our part to understand where other people are coming from.
According to scripture, Jesus is the only way. The Bible also clearly shows that Jesus paid for all mankind. Now, this topic goes into a variety of studies and man has tried to pinpoint an exact formula to salvation. But if we live by an exact formula then we leave the realm of living by faith and God says we can only be saved by grace, through faith.
From what I have found, there are 3 contexts of the word 'saved' (or salvation).
1.Saved from the coming destruction (which some believe happened in AD70 and some believe is yet to come..then there is disagreements on when he is coming..before or after the tribulation, if in fact the tribulation was not in AD70.)
2.Then there is saved meaning salvation from our bondage here on earth...which mostly consists of a spiritual bondage through what we believe or don't believe.
3.Then there is salvation of our immortal souls.
The 1st 'saved' has incredible amounts of evidence to take into great consideration that the 'saved doctrine' is applied to what happened in AD70. People disagree on that. This 'saved' would definitely be "Jesus way only" because it was he who prophesied about the coming destruction of Jerusalem. If people didn't believe him and chose not to obey him when he said to flee, they would not have been 'saved' from that destruction. Those who believed and obeyed were saved. This also applies to the doctrine many believe has to do with "you must obey to be saved" I believe a lot is taken out of context in the 'obey to be saved' teaching.
The 2nd 'saved' is to save us from worry, anxiety, fear, etc. Which I believe Jesus certainly is the only way. But perhaps there are people who don't believe in God who have found victory over these things, but they would have to dialogue with you about that. I'm just sharing what I believe.
The 3rd 'salvation' is of our souls and it is clearly evident that there is enough scriptural evidence to seriously consider that it means all humanity is saved for eternity. But there are disagreements to that as well. I feel that when we carefully reconsider the three different types of salvation in their original context, it seems to me that 'all' means all. To lump all three types of salvation together is where I believe the many denominations get their wires crossed with one another. I came to this conclusion after studying every passage in whole that used the word 'saved' and 'salvation'...but I could be totally wrong. I recommend you look them all up yourself and see what you find.
In light of these observations, it drastically changes what 'evangelism' should be like.
I chose not to get into the scripture references and here's why:
I spent over a year studying every passage out in great depth. It was much like penciling through a complex maze to each dead end until I found the one that went all the way through. I could diagram the entire journey out for you, but that would be like reading the last chapter of the book and missing out on the wonderful journey of the whole story.
For me, I needed to study all the various paths that various sects of Christianity teach about salvation. I needed to know for my own sanity. With each version of salvation, as taught in churches today, they all left me with too many questions that revealed holes in their studies and their 'leaders' couldn't answer my questions.
Maybe you're already a believer and you're scratching your head and wondering why this even matters. I mean, after all, you're already a believer so why would it matter now which teaching is 'sound doctrine'. What Jesus did for us is not contingent upon our understanding of some religious forefather's interpretation of the Bible.
Here is why I feel it is important to understanding the depth of what Christ did for humanity...because evangelism will be quite different. Some studies are fundamental and if you don't 'choose' then you go to 'hell'. This makes your salvation about what YOU do (choose) instead of by grace because of what Christ did.
Another will guide you to think you can lose your salvation, which means you, as a human, somehow has the full power to undo what Christ did. Thereby leaving you living in fear.
Then there is a path that will tell you that you are predestined, but only certain people and only God chooses who goes to heaven and who goes to hell. By this belief I wonder why any of them would even bother going to church if they might be one of the ones to burn anyway. It also means that God would be tossing his own creation into hell on a whim and his only purpose for their lives was ...what?
All three of these beliefs have so much to do with hell. They all also have similar style of evangelism, coercion, fear, and intimidation.
Then there is a belief that there is no hell and all souls are saved, they just haven't realized it yet. This is the salvation of all mankind because of Christ. This evangelism is loving, kind, and gentle. There is no hidden agenda, there are no threats of burning forever. Only love. And love taught with patience.
There is so much I have witnessed in various sects of Christianity in this study of salvation. But it's not up to me to tell you what to believe. But I encourage you to know what you believe and why you believe it, as well as what you don't believe and why.
It's a good thing that my understanding or misunderstanding does not affect what Jesus did for me.
Before you shout with hostility that you have the right interpretation, because of your religious forefather that taught that doctrine and your religious ancestors passed it down through the ages, please carefully consider looking up the passages yourself FIRST.
God gives grace to the humble. And He resists the proud. Child-like faith does not mean ignorantly and blindly believing one sect over another. YOU are responsible for what YOU believe.
One day I will face Him and say "This is what I believe and here is why."
Others will say, "I believe this because I chose to believe what my pastor said I should believe."
Then others will say, "You're really real? I tried to understand, but it just wasn't clicking for me! Wow Wow you are real!!! Rejoice rejoice!!"
So do all paths lead to God? We each are on 'a' path, a journey, a walkabout. Each person has a path to walk, but our path is not a path of religion. Our path is wherever God guides our life on this earth. If God is not willing that any should perish and He is our guide and sovereign God, then wouldn't He guide our lives, our paths, to Him? His love beckons us and He can reach anyone because He is everywhere. He reached Saul (Paul) on the road to Damascus and God didn't speak in King James English in order to reach him. He spoke Paul's language and only Paul heard Him that day. Just some things to think about. Have fun studying!
And since I have not revealed where I stand on this matter, don't be so quick to cry out 'Heretic!' at me. People thought Jesus was a heretic too. And it shouldn't matter to you what I believe, only what you believe. For your belief will greatly determine how you love others. Does your belief spill over with abundant fruits of the Spirit? Are you known by how you love one another?