August 26, 2008
A few months ago, the Pew Forum released its survey of the religious landscape in the United States. Among other things, they found that 57 percent of evangelical Christians—those who follow Jesus and read the Bible—agreed with the following statement: "Many religions can lead to eternal life."
I want you to think about the staggering implications of what you just heard; I will repeat it: 57 percent of Bible-believing evangelicals believe that many religions can lead to eternal life. Incredible.
Jesus Himself made His own position clear: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6). Either Jesus was right, or He was wrong. What Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Hindus say about the person of Christ cannot be reconciled. They are conflicting truth claims. They may all be false, but they cannot all be true.
This is called the law of non-contradiction—going back to Aristotle: If proposition A is true—that it conforms to reality—then proposition B, making a contrary claim, cannot be true as well.
But if nearly six out of ten evangelicals do not believe the most basic tenets of the faith, no wonder the Church is losing its influence in culture. Because what we believe affects how we live.
The same poll shows that 84 percent of evangelicals believe in "absolute standards of right and wrong." But when asked to "delineate these standards," nearly 40 percent say they rely on "practical experience and common sense." It is like the Book of Judges: "Every man did what was right in his own eyes."
There is a remedy for this—a remedy that an Augustinian monk by the name of Martin Luther discovered back in the sixteenth century. The Church in Luther's day wallowed in its own corruption, sold indulgences, and refused to allow people to read the Bible in their own language. Luther compared the state of the Church to the Babylonian exile of Judah, when God punished the Jews for disobeying God and worshiping false idols.
So what did Luther do? He went back to the teaching of the apostles, the faith entrusted to the saints once for all. He studied the works of the ancient Church fathers, who wrote at a time when the Church's faith was marked by unity. He studied the early councils of the Church. In short, he recovered the orthodox faith.
This led to a Reformation, transforming not only the Church, but Western society and culture as well.
This is what I am trying to do in a new book titled The Faith: Given Once, For All. I have gone to the sources that Luther did, the early Church fathers. I have listed the essentials of the faith that all true Christians have always believed—the minimum, irreducible, non-negotiable tenets of Christianity, without which one cannot be a true Christian and the Church cannot be the Church.
I am convinced that this is what people need to defend and live the Christian faith in these extraordinarily challenging times. And that is why I am devoting an entire week of "BreakPoint" to discussing it.
At my age, 76, I have one burning desire: that is that the rest of my life be used to advance God's kingdom—and to see a new Reformation come, just as Luther did, that reforms the Church and the culture. So, I hope you will read The Faith—and learn how to equip the Church to know what it believes, why it believes it—and why it matters.
The original commentary first aired on February 4, 2008. This is part one in a five-part series.
Chuck Colson’s daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.
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From BreakPoint, July 31, 2008, posted with permission of Prison Fellowship, www.breakpoint.org.