In an earlier post, we discussed panmillennialism (the belief that in the end, everything will somehow “pan out”). Panmillennialism is probably the most commonly held view of eschatology (doctrine of end times) in the Bible Belt, and if we get to the core of it, what we’ll find is that panmillennialism is driven by theological apathy. Unfortunately, many Christians don’t see the value in studying prophecy. I maintain that there is a lot to benefit from eschatology, but you can read the original post and decide for yourself.
Today, I’d like to look at Christian Pluralism. If panmillennialism is the apathetic approach to eschatology, then Christian Pluralism is the apathetic approach to soteriology (doctrine of salvation). It teaches that there are many different ways to be saved, so long as those ways involve Jesus somehow.
Christian Pluralism is distinct from Universalism, which teaches that all paths lead to heaven. It is also different from forms of pluralism that teach that leading a moral life results in salvation. A Christian Pluralist would say that all or most who call themselves “Christians” are saved. Church of Christ, Roman Catholic, Free Grace, Lordship Salvation, Calvinist, Arminian, so on and so forth. They might pick out a few groups such as Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses and say that these groups are not saved, but in the end, they believe that there are ways to be saved other than “faith alone in Christ alone.”
Now, before I go any further, can a Jehovah’s Witness or Roman Catholic be saved? Absolutely! …through faith alone in Christ alone. But, to believe in Christ for eternal life is not to believe in self for eternal life, so the instant a Jehovah’s Witness believes in Christ, he is in conflict with the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ doctrine. Moreover, once someone has eternal life (by grace through faith), he cannot lose it (after all, it is eternal), so even if a saved person changes his belief and becomes, say, a Jehovah’s Witness, he remains saved. Thus, we certainly have countless saved Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Catholics, atheists, Muslims, and so on. The Christian Pluralist approach to the question is different though, because he believes that various forms of works-based salvation are as sufficient for salvation as Free Grace is.
Christian Pluralism is not a biblically-derived theology, but some have found this passage confusing:
but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:31 NKJV)
A Christian Pluralist may argue that many people who are trying to earn their salvation still believe, “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” and therefore are saved.
The problem with using this passage to support Christian Pluralism is that words have meaning. John defines the term, “the Christ, the Son of God,” a few chapters earlier:
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:25-27 NKJV)
Jesus said, “He who believes in Me […] shall live.” That’s the doctrine of Faith Alone in Christ Alone. Jesus said, “whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” That’s the doctrine of eternal security. When someone holding to a works-based salvation says, “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” he means something entirely different from what John meant. He does not believe that Jesus is the Christ, but that He is only a co-Christ with man.
On a superficial level, I actually agree that the requirement for salvation is to believe that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” If we think about it, every false gospel will somehow be an assault on that statement. Every works-based salvation message will somehow rob Jesus of His Christship and give the Christship, at least in part, to man.
Remember: Jesus is the Christ and you are not.