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The following email exchange between an evangelical supporter and one of the Jesus Christians illustrates how they have handled their somewhat universalist approach in the context of their more evangelical traditions.

Hi, I have been a Christian since September last year. I had never heard of your group before today. A non-Christian friend of mine lent me a copy of your comic book, "The Liberator". I read some of it, and I will read more of it soon.

One thing troubled me though. On the back it says, "A good Hindu will be closer to God than a self righteous Christian". I think I know what you are getting at, but it is a bit ambiguous from that statement.

I took a look at your web site and what you seem to be saying is that to be saved you must have faith in God (as in the God of the Bible), and not in works (or anything else). But how does this fit with saying, "A good Hindu will be closer to God than a self righteous Christian"?

If a Christian is someone who has recognised that they cannot attain righteousness by themselves, but only though God, then what is a self righteous Christian?

I may be wrong, but doesn't the Hindu religion teach pantheism, in contradiction to the truth as revealed in the Bible? Isn't being a "good" anything not "good" enough for God, as "all our works are like filthy rags to him"?

Please could you explain the comment: "A good Hindu will be closer to God than a self righteous Christian".

Thanks, Ed

Dear Ed, Thanks for writing.

Obviously there is a lot of confusion caused by various interpretations of various words and phrases amongst professing Christians.

You are quite right that "self-righteous" and "Christian" are more or less contradictions if one has a correct understanding of Christianity. I was using the term Christian in a looser sense in the sentence that has bothered you.

However, it does concern me that, whereas the Pharisees were self-righteous about their good works, a lot of professing Christians today are self-righteous about their lack of good works... and that is an even worse abomination than the one that Jesus confronted. The doctrine of salvation by grace has been taken out of the overall context of the teachings of Jesus. In fact, it is almost impossible to teach such a doctrine just from what Jesus taught. Over and over again Jesus talked of salvation being linked to good works. (e.g. Matthew 25:34-36; Luke 19:8-9.)

I personally prefer a phrase used in Hebrews 6:1, that talks about repentance from "dead works". The various religious rules and rituals of both the Pharisees and the institutional churches today are dead works if they are not based on the teachings of the only begotten Son of God. There can be salvation through no other person than through Jesus Christ himself (Acts 4:12); and if someone has told you (based on the writings of Paul, or Scofield, or Calvin, or Billy Graham, or the Pope or anyone else) that you do not have to obey the teachings of Jesus to be a Christian, then I think you are going to have to argue that one out with Jesus himself when you get to heaven, and I don't think God will be impressed with whoever else you may wish to quote as justification for not at least trying to obey the teachings of Jesus.

So the whole teaching about good works being some kind of a heresy is, in itself, one of the worst heresies in the history of the church.

Now, having said that, let us look at the other half of the offensive statement... the "Good Hindu". It seems that people in Jesus' day had a similar problem with Jesus talking about a "Good Samaritan". "Don't they teach pantheism?" they probably shouted (or something similar). And yet Jesus did not let it stop him from setting up the Good Samaritan as an example of someone who met the criteria that he (Jesus) gave for obtaining eternal life.

See, his rule was to love God and to love your neighbour, and he said that the Good Samaritan (despite his totally off the wall theology) still loved God and loved his neighbour. (Luke 10:25-37) So, in more biblical terms: A good Samaritan will be closer to God than a self-righteous Jew (or Pharisee).

Can you see the comparison that I am drawing? And I am drawing it along the same lines that Jesus drew it. The fact that it does not fit in with what you have been taught about everyone who does not belong to the Christian religion going to hell, does not matter. The fact is that it is consistent with what Jesus taught. Religious affiliation has nothing to do with salvation. If you don't believe that, you don't believe Jesus!

Consider Abraham. He was not born again. He never accepted Jesus as his Saviour. He was not even a Jew. He was a member of a pagan religion, but he was sincere, and his sincerity caused him to leave his own people and travel to a foreign land in search of the one true God.

Nevertheless, he did not "find" God in that new land, nor did he find some religion to join. It was just his stepping out in faith (even while he was a pagan) that impressed God and caused God to accept him. The eternal life that God gave to Abraham was paid for by Jesus, thousands of years later.

And so the true meaning of God's grace is that you don't have to belong to the "right religion" (including the so-called Christian [institutional] religion) in order to find salvation.

Salvation comes through faith in God, in whatever circumstances one finds oneself. In Romans 2:14 we are told that when the heathen do by nature the things contained in the law they become a law unto themselves. God judges them according to the light they have and according to how much they are walking in that light.

I hope I have given you something to think about. I would appreciate hearing your further thoughts on this matter. There is much information available on our website about the subjects of faith and sincerity, which may also prove to be of interest.

Christian love and peace,

Dave McKay

for Jesus Christians

(See also The Good Hindu.)

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