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Some Presbyterians See Salvation By Other Faiths


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Some Presbyterians see salvation by other faiths

 

BeachOfEden:

 

I Found This article in the newspaper 2 weeks ago....

 

A A A LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — The Presbyterian Church USA's statement of faith says God through Jesus Christ delivers followers "from death to life eternal."

But one in three members of the nation's largest Presbyterian denomination seem to believe there's some wiggle room for non-Christians to get into heaven, according to a recent poll.

 

The Presbyterian Panel's "Religious and Demographic Profile of Presbyterians" found that 36 percent of members disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement: "Only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved." Another 39 percent, or about two-fifths, agreed or strongly agreed with the statement.

 

"There seems to be some universalist streak in Presbyterianism, where some Presbyterians are open to the idea of other paths that folks in other faiths might be taking," said Perry Chang, administrator of the Presbyterian Panel, which convenes every three years.

 

The Presbyterian Church USA, with about 2.1 million members, is the largest Presbyterian denomination in the country. A total of 3,450 Presbyterians responded to the study, which was mailed in October 2008. The panel issued the religious and demographic report last month.

 

Polls asking similar questions about views on salvation have provided a wide range of results.

 

A 2005 national survey funded by Baylor University found that 53 percent of the 1,721 adults who were polled agreed with the statement, "Many religions lead to salvation," and another 19 percent said "My religion is the one true faith that leads to salvation."

 

A 2007 poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 70 percent of Americans with a religious affiliation believe many religions can lead to eternal life.

 

Another study found that evangelical Christians may adhere to a much stricter interpretation of salvation. The 2008 report by Lifeway, the publishing and research arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, found that 75 percent of Protestants who hold "evangelical beliefs" strongly disagreed with the statement, "If a person is sincerely seeking God, he or she can obtain eternal life through religions other than Christianity."

 

Beach: Gee, what a surprise! That "Evangelicals" are said to be way stricter about others outside their own faith having any chance at salvation. In other news, the sky is actually blue! :lol:

 

 

The Rev. Dirk Ficca, a Presbyterian minister in Chicago, said a majority of Presbyterians feel that "the God they know in Jesus" can bring salvation to non-Christians.

"I'm a Christian. And so I can't think about God or about the nature of salvation apart from Jesus of Nazareth," said Ficca, executive director of the Chicago-based Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions. But "that God I know in Jesus, I find at work in people who aren't Christians."

 

" ... Some other traditions would say, 'No, God is only at work in us,'" said Ficca, who was not a part of the Presbyterian Panel's study. "And that is a big divide in the Christian community."

 

 

Chang said the panel has been asked the salvation question in the exact same way since 1996. He said in that time, there's been virtually no change in the way Presbyterians have responded.

 

The study broke down responses in four categories: members, elders, pastors and specialized clergy. The panel found that 45 percent of elders agree or strongly agree that "only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved," while 31 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed. More pastors disagreed (45 percent) than agreed (35 percent) and a majority of specialized clergy (60 percent) disagree.

 

Evangelicals and Pentecostals are more likely to claim they have had a "personal experience with a divine kind of healing" than Presbyterians, which may help explain the Presbyterian church's divide on beliefs about salvation, said Candy Gunther Brown, a religious studies professor at Indiana University in Bloomington.

 

 

"They don't generally tend to expect in Presbyterian churches that there's going to be a miraculous response to that prayer," Brown said. "And I think that does get related to theological questions about salvation."

 

Questionnaires were mailed in the Presbyterian study and recipients could choose not to respond. The report says 59 percent of members and 79 percent of elders responded. Response figures for pastors and specialized clergy were not available separately, but the study said together, ministers had a response rate of 70 percent.

It also asked a key question about the ordination of openly gay ministers. Last year, the denomination's presbyteries rejected an effort to undo a 1996 policy requiring gay clergy to be chaste.

 

When asked if the church should allow sexually active homosexuals to be ordained as ministers, 53 percent of members and 60 percent of elders responded, "no, probably not," or "no, definitely not." More pastors opposed the ordination of gays as ministers than supported it, 48 percent to 44 percent, while 64 percent of specialized clergy supported it.

___

Presbyterian Church USA: http://www.pcusa.org/

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Now this week a local Prebyterian pastor wrote this reply:

 

 

 

 

From : Ventura County StarNews

 

Why Presbyterians believe what they do

 

By Jan Armstrong, Mark R. Patterson

 

Posted March 5, 2010 at 6:58 p.m.

 

There can be little doubt that this article inflamed emotions and deepened the pool of misunderstanding within and outside of the church. While this is certainly regrettable, it must also be acknowledged that the article raised deep and complex ideas worth discussing and wrestling over.

 

Whatever else this article may have raised, it provides a brief opportunity to broadly discuss an idea that billions of people over thousands of years have held to be true and vital. It provides an opportunity for greater understanding and, thus, tolerance, even among those who strongly disagree.

 

Misunderstood concept

 

Few concepts are more inflammatory, misunderstood, and criticized today than the Christian belief that Jesus is the only way to God and salvation. Within a pluralistic culture, few ideas are more confusing and insulting. Small wonder then that a minority of Presbyterians (and for that matter, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, Catholics, etc.) are questioning and even rejecting the church’s ancient teaching of the centrality, uniqueness and exclusivity of Jesus.

 

But there is a reason the church has always held strongly to this teaching and why it must continue to do so.

 

Jesus is, and always has been, the center of the Christian faith. His followers have held that he uniquely unveils to us both the heart and nature of God and what it means to be truly human. As God enveloped in the bounds of human flesh, Jesus is the singularly unique and authoritative point where God steps out from behind the impenetrable veil of deity to reveal with unprecedented and unrivaled clarity who he is and what he desires.

 

Thus, the Presbyterian Church affirms in the first words of its Constitution, “All power in heaven and earth is given to Jesus Christ by Almighty God, who raised Christ from the dead and set him above all rule and authority, all power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but in the one that is to come.” This singular idea has been restated in thousands of languages, through millions of churches, by billions who believe it true, hope-filled, wondrous and inescapable.

 

Desire to be faithful

 

It is essential that those offended, troubled or confused by this idea understand that those holding it to be true do so with no desire whatsoever to offend, trouble or confuse. It does not come from either arrogance or judgment, but from the desire to be faithful. For the church has grasped this idea for a very simple reason: Jesus himself taught it. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells his disciples: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you have known me, you will know my Father too” (John 14:6-7a).

 

The New Testament, which was written to spread the good news of Jesus, interprets the meaning and significance of his life, and explains its implications, reaffirms these words of Jesus through innumerable passages. Over 20 centuries, creeds, hymns, works of art and literature, testimonies, sermons and prayers have joined this refrain proclaiming that Jesus is not one among many, but the greatest and most beautiful One.

 

The reason for this is simple: Jesus has captured our hearts. The riveting accounts of his loving touch of lepers disdained and ignored, his courageous stands against injustice, self-righteousness and hypocrisy, his brilliance expressed in simple stories, and so much more, describe a man unlike any the world had seen before or sense.

 

Jesus has captured our hearts! He has done, taught, achieved and provided what no other person, teaching or philosophy has, rendering him unique and without equal. But there is more!

 

Soon, Christians celebrate Jesus’ rising from death to life (which is alone enough to reveal him unique). Having broken the power of death and burst the bonds of time and space, he roams free, not as idea or principle, but as living and present Lord.

 

We have watched him heal the sick, give hope to the hopeless and break the power of evil and injustice. We have seen countless miracles, changes and events that can have no other source than the presence of Jesus at work among the world he loves. We have joined followers of Jesus in Europe, Africa, Asia and Central America united in the joyous certainty that the Jesus of the Bible has been present among us, has blessed us, and is powerfully wonderfully and certainly real.

 

Our experiences, explainable only by the presence and power of God, compel us to declare that Jesus is Lord, and thus the way, the truth, and the life, the only way to the Father.

 

Hard belief

 

There is no question that this belief is hard. It appears arrogant and disrespectful. It is unpopular and counter to the values our culture holds most dear. Christians know all this, struggle with it and grieve that so many — some from within our churches — fail to understand why this belief is nevertheless held dear and essential.

 

It is certainly not from any desire to offend or confuse. It is held and proclaimed only because the Christian church, across the whole of its existence, stands united by its experience of the matchless wonder, beauty, majesty and goodness of Jesus.

 

Thus, we reject culture’s desire to understand Jesus as but one way among many and instead remain convinced of his singular, unprecedented, unsurpassed Lordship. This is what the vast majority of Presbyterians believe!

 

— The Rev. Mark R. Patterson, Ph.D., is senior pastor of the Community Presbyterian Church in Ventura. The Rev. Jan Armstrong is executive presbyter of the Santa Barbara Presbytery (Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties).

 

BeachOfEden: To me, this pastor did not do anything to address the main ideas of the orginal article..nor did he try and answer these criticisms about stating "Jesus Is the Only Way" seems intolerant. To me, Bishop Spong does a much better job addresses these issues. What's your take on all this?

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I have been an elder in the PCUSA for 44 years. In that time I have seen these various topics addressed at all judicatory levels. There are still a lot of evangelicals in the denomination, but most of the Presbyterian seminaries take a pluratistic stance, hence the difference in percentages between clergy and laity. As with all of the "mainstream" denominations, there people in the denomination with points of view that cover the entire spectrum. The folks quoted in the second post represent a more evangelical point of view, but they certainly do not represent me.

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I have been an elder in the PCUSA for 44 years. In that time I have seen these various topics addressed at all judicatory levels. There are still a lot of evangelicals in the denomination, but most of the Presbyterian seminaries take a pluratistic stance, hence the difference in percentages between clergy and laity. As with all of the "mainstream" denominations, there people in the denomination with points of view that cover the entire spectrum. The folks quoted in the second post represent a more evangelical point of view, but they certainly do not represent me.

 

It would be interesting if you could write your view point on this..to give a non-Evangelical PCUSA view.:)

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A few comments on the article by Armstrong and Patterson:

 

They cite “the first words of the Constitution” of the PCUSA. That is only sort of the case. What they have cited are the first words of the Book of Order, which is the second book of the Constitution, the first being the Book of Confessions (more on that later). That citation can be seen as Jesus (hence Christianity) being above all religions and people, or as Jesus being head of the Christian Church. I don't think there is much argument on the latter. They later stated that Jesus is “the center of the Christian faith.” And again, they are consistent with the first of TCPC's eight points, which makes a similar claim.

 

But in their desire to quote from the Book of Order they might have looked a few paragraphs further, where it says that “there are truths and forms with respect to which [people] of good characters and principles may differ.” Perhaps that might have moved them to be less absolute in their claims.

 

And as to the Book of Confessions, the first book in the PCUSA Constitution, they might have tried quoting from the Confession of 1967 (C67), as I will in a moment. But people of their persuasion would prefer to forget that it is part of the denominational constitution. To begin with, C67 speaks of “God's message of reconciliation and ... labor of healing the enmities which separate [people] from God and from each other.” And then later, and more specific to the question at hand, “The Christian finds parallels between other religions and his own and must approach all religions with openness and respect.”

 

I should add the C67 also says the “The church ... is commissioned to carry the gospel to all....” Now, for some, the gospel says that Jesus is the only way to salvation, and that means “going to heaven.” however, for others, gospel and salvation have to do with freedom from oppression in this world either as well as, of even instead of, the next.

 

Jack Spong is a good proponent of a progressive Christian perspective, as are many members of the Jesus Seminar, such as Marcus Borg. Unfortunately, there is no similar person within the PCUSA. I might add that Armstrong and Patterson are engaging in a debate that has gone on in the PCUSA and some of its antecedents for nearly a century now, and their point of view is not as representative of a "vast majority" as they would have us believe.

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I meant to add one more comment, namely, how can people profess to have "no desire whatever to offend, trouble, or confuse," and still insist that theirs is the only true religion? Seems a bit disingenuous to me.

Edited by grampawombat
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I believe that even though Jesus arrived on earth in one, limited human body...His heart, character and inner-divinity is huge...unimaginably so. So even tho He says He is the Way...it doesn't (necessarily) mean what humans think it means. The Way of Jesus very well could be that He looks at the heart of each person and sees that that person could be somewhere on the path EVEN when the FINITE human eye DOESN'T see it.

 

Jesus sees, for instance, that a persons heart is in actuality saying yes...when all we are seeing is what is on the outside, and so all we may be seeing is the person saying no. We do not see intent, God does. We don't truly see the heart, God does. We don't really see the path a person is truly on, but God does. God also sees the past and the future...where as we in comparison only see one dimensionally.

 

 

Anyway, just because Jesus said He is the Way....may not mean the limitations some think it does. I think in order to interpret Jesus' statements correctly, we need to look at His life and use that as the measuring stick.

Now this week a local Prebyterian pastor wrote this reply:

 

 

 

 

From : Ventura County StarNews

 

Why Presbyterians believe what they do

 

By Jan Armstrong, Mark R. Patterson

 

Posted March 5, 2010 at 6:58 p.m.

 

There can be little doubt that this article inflamed emotions and deepened the pool of misunderstanding within and outside of the church. While this is certainly regrettable, it must also be acknowledged that the article raised deep and complex ideas worth discussing and wrestling over.

 

Whatever else this article may have raised, it provides a brief opportunity to broadly discuss an idea that billions of people over thousands of years have held to be true and vital. It provides an opportunity for greater understanding and, thus, tolerance, even among those who strongly disagree.

 

Misunderstood concept

 

Few concepts are more inflammatory, misunderstood, and criticized today than the Christian belief that Jesus is the only way to God and salvation. Within a pluralistic culture, few ideas are more confusing and insulting. Small wonder then that a minority of Presbyterians (and for that matter, Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, Catholics, etc.) are questioning and even rejecting the church’s ancient teaching of the centrality, uniqueness and exclusivity of Jesus.

 

But there is a reason the church has always held strongly to this teaching and why it must continue to do so.

 

Jesus is, and always has been, the center of the Christian faith. His followers have held that he uniquely unveils to us both the heart and nature of God and what it means to be truly human. As God enveloped in the bounds of human flesh, Jesus is the singularly unique and authoritative point where God steps out from behind the impenetrable veil of deity to reveal with unprecedented and unrivaled clarity who he is and what he desires.

 

Thus, the Presbyterian Church affirms in the first words of its Constitution, “All power in heaven and earth is given to Jesus Christ by Almighty God, who raised Christ from the dead and set him above all rule and authority, all power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but in the one that is to come.” This singular idea has been restated in thousands of languages, through millions of churches, by billions who believe it true, hope-filled, wondrous and inescapable.

 

Desire to be faithful

 

It is essential that those offended, troubled or confused by this idea understand that those holding it to be true do so with no desire whatsoever to offend, trouble or confuse. It does not come from either arrogance or judgment, but from the desire to be faithful. For the church has grasped this idea for a very simple reason: Jesus himself taught it. In the Gospel of John, Jesus tells his disciples: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you have known me, you will know my Father too” (John 14:6-7a).

 

The New Testament, which was written to spread the good news of Jesus, interprets the meaning and significance of his life, and explains its implications, reaffirms these words of Jesus through innumerable passages. Over 20 centuries, creeds, hymns, works of art and literature, testimonies, sermons and prayers have joined this refrain proclaiming that Jesus is not one among many, but the greatest and most beautiful One.

 

The reason for this is simple: Jesus has captured our hearts. The riveting accounts of his loving touch of lepers disdained and ignored, his courageous stands against injustice, self-righteousness and hypocrisy, his brilliance expressed in simple stories, and so much more, describe a man unlike any the world had seen before or sense.

 

Jesus has captured our hearts! He has done, taught, achieved and provided what no other person, teaching or philosophy has, rendering him unique and without equal. But there is more!

 

Soon, Christians celebrate Jesus’ rising from death to life (which is alone enough to reveal him unique). Having broken the power of death and burst the bonds of time and space, he roams free, not as idea or principle, but as living and present Lord.

 

We have watched him heal the sick, give hope to the hopeless and break the power of evil and injustice. We have seen countless miracles, changes and events that can have no other source than the presence of Jesus at work among the world he loves. We have joined followers of Jesus in Europe, Africa, Asia and Central America united in the joyous certainty that the Jesus of the Bible has been present among us, has blessed us, and is powerfully wonderfully and certainly real.

 

Our experiences, explainable only by the presence and power of God, compel us to declare that Jesus is Lord, and thus the way, the truth, and the life, the only way to the Father.

 

Hard belief

 

There is no question that this belief is hard. It appears arrogant and disrespectful. It is unpopular and counter to the values our culture holds most dear. Christians know all this, struggle with it and grieve that so many — some from within our churches — fail to understand why this belief is nevertheless held dear and essential.

 

It is certainly not from any desire to offend or confuse. It is held and proclaimed only because the Christian church, across the whole of its existence, stands united by its experience of the matchless wonder, beauty, majesty and goodness of Jesus.

 

Thus, we reject culture’s desire to understand Jesus as but one way among many and instead remain convinced of his singular, unprecedented, unsurpassed Lordship. This is what the vast majority of Presbyterians believe!

 

— The Rev. Mark R. Patterson, Ph.D., is senior pastor of the Community Presbyterian Church in Ventura. The Rev. Jan Armstrong is executive presbyter of the Santa Barbara Presbytery (Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties).

 

BeachOfEden: To me, this pastor did not do anything to address the main ideas of the orginal article..nor did he try and answer these criticisms about stating "Jesus Is the Only Way" seems intolerant. To me, Bishop Spong does a much better job addresses these issues. What's your take on all this?

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