Q&R – Which Religion is Right? – by Greg Albrecht
How can we know which religion is right, and further—if Christianity is the only right “religion”—will only Christians go to heaven?
In our postmodern society, it seems that every belief system is afforded equal weight. Well-meaning wishful thinkers like to point out that world religions share many things in common—and if everyone would just focus on these commonalities, perhaps we could “all just get along.”
Yet even a brief survey of world religions reveals huge contrasts and contradictions. How can so many contradicting ideas, philosophies and doctrines all be right? Of course, logically, they can’t all be right. But then how can we know which one is right?
The answer to the first question (how can we know which religion is right?) may astound you: They are all wrong!
Religion, by its very nature, is part of the problem, not the solution. Religion essentially says—whether it is religion in the name of Jesus Christ, or whether it is Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, etc.—that our task as humans is to find ways to please and appease God. Religion claims that we find God through our efforts. Religion contends that we can either save ourselves, through our deeds, or that we can help God, in some way, to save us, by our performance. Religion alleges that we can enhance our standing with God based on what we do.
By that definition, the Christianity of the New Testament is not a religion. True Christianity teaches that we are saved by grace, through faith, and that faith is not of ourselves. Authentic Christianity maintains that God rescues us from the mess in which we find ourselves, not on the basis of our performance, not on the basis of our goodness, but on the basis of his goodness. Christ-centered Christianity says that God loves us unconditionally, meaning that he loves each of us right now just as much as he ever has or ever will. Our good deeds, or bad deeds, do not influence God’s love for us. That’s why the collective message of Jesus is called the gospel—a word that means “good news.” The message of
Jesus is good news. The message proclaimed by religion is bad news, because it’s all up to us. Therefore, there is no right religion. All religion is wrong!
Second question: Are only Christians going to heaven? Answer: If you listen to religion, whether it masquerades as a church or ministry within Christendom, or whether it is obviously a non-Christian religion, you will essentially be told that rewards in the afterlife are reserved for those who diligently follow the rules and dictates of a specific religion. Generally, the message is that one is rewarded then for what one does now—and because we (our religion) have a better understanding of what one ought to be doing now—then of course religion teaches its followers that the highest rewards in the afterlife will be given to those who were part of the “right” religion during their earthly life.
What does the gospel of Jesus Christ say? On the one hand it does not equivocate. Jesus is the only way, the only door, the only name by which humans might be saved. That means that heaven is the gift of God, eternal life in his presence, in his “house” if you like, that he gives by his grace. The kingdom of heaven is given to those who come to God and accept that he alone has the ability to do for them what they cannot do for themselves. Heaven is God’s gift to those who completely, without reservations, surrender any idea that their religious rituals and regulations will somehow manipulate God into allowing them into heaven. The kingdom of heaven is God’s gift to those who know that they cannot qualify for, deserve or purchase a ticket for heaven. Heaven is God’s gift to those who renounce the religious scalpers who stand outside of the gates of heaven selling counterfeit tickets, in return for the loyalty and obedience of those who fall for such a ploy.
But, saying the name of “Jesus”—and pasting fish-symbol bumper stickers on cars—is not one and the same as accepting Jesus without reservations. Attendance at the “right” church does not guarantee heaven. Churches don’t make ironclad reservations for heaven. People who don’t go to church can have a personal relationship with God, in which they unconditionally accept him and his grace. People who have never had the “right” Christian rituals applied to them or participated in the “right” religious ceremonies can and do have a valid, real relationship with God.
Heaven is not conferred by religion. Religion is not God’s middle man. Religion does not arbitrate for God here on earth. No religion has the power to make reservations in heaven. God alone gives his heaven to those who, as Jesus said, allow God to transform them to become “like little children” (Matthew 18:1-4).
Therefore, it is the height of arrogance for anyone, Christian or non-Christian, to tell the rest of the world that God loves them and them alone, and will give his kingdom only to those who follow, practice, and subscribe to their religious beliefs. The most well known passage in all of the Bible begins, “God so loved the world …” (John 3:16). That passage is inclusive, not exclusive.
No one has the right to pretend to monopolize God. No one has the exclusive franchise to represent God here on earth, and no one can tell the rest of the world that they and they alone are the sole travel agents selling tickets for a one-way trip to heaven.