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Many Paths to Heaven (Wall Street Journal)

Monday, July 7th, 2008

(Editor’s note: This post is a follow-up to my earlier post of Pew religious survey graphics.)

wsj heaven and hell pew

Churches Work on Their Message:
The Challenge: Welcoming Nonbelievers While Emphasizing One True Path

July 3, 2008; Page A7. The Wall Street Journal.

It has long been a challenge for Christian pastors:

To spread the gospel, they must welcome nonbelievers without judgment. Yet they must also make clear that there is but one true path to salvation — the path they teach.

As the Rev. Mark Roessler of Tucson, Ariz., put it: “The church itself has to be real inclusive — ‘Y’all come!’ — but real exclusive on how you get to heaven.”

Tensions about how to achieve that balance have flared in the past decade with the growth of “seeker friendly” churches that emphasize inclusiveness — in part by going easy on the Scripture, with sermons as likely to quote Hollywood as the Gospel.

Conservative pastors raised fresh concerns about the seeker-friendly approach with the recent release of a massive survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The survey, widely promoted as an authoritative overview of religious values in the U.S., found that Americans believe deeply in God. But when it comes to doctrine, Americans are strikingly flexible.

Some 70% agreed with the statement that “many religions can lead to eternal life.” That includes 57% of evangelicals, who traditionally put great emphasis on the Christian teaching that a personal relationship with Jesus is required for salvation.

Another surprise: Nearly 70% of Americans, including 53% of evangelicals, told pollsters that “there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of my religion.”

What does this all mean?

Continue reading at Wall Street . . .