“The New Look of Evangelicalism?”

“Do you think Jesus is THE way or merely A way?” Franklin Graham posed this question to presidential hopeful Barack Obama some time back. The answer, some say may be reflective of the new face of Evangelicalism. Barack Obama answered saying, “Jesus is the only way for me, I’m not in a position to judge other people.” Is this a new look for Evangelicalism? A recent poll by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life indicates so. Daniel Pryfogle, owner of Signal Hill a consulting group that works with churches and whose father and grandfather were Baptist Preachers, agrees saying “I can affirm the particularities of my belief in Jesus and in the Gospels and affirm the idea that there are other paths. That will be hard for others to hold together. But I think we can do it and say, ‘This is evangelical’.” This is alarming and yet hardly surprising.

The Raleigh News and Observer ran an article citing this survey entitled “Evangelicals increasingly tolerant of other paths.” The writer Yonat Shimron says that the answer from Presidential hopeful Barack Obama may be the growing attitude among Evangelicals. The surveyed polled 35,000 Americans with 57% of the Evangelicals stating that they believe that many paths lead to eternal life. The article goes on to state, that one of the authors of the survey found the results “consistent with the overall finding that Americans are not narrow-minded about religion” and that this new evangelicalism “doesn’t want to appear intolerant.” The writer even states, “these evangelicals haven’t abandoned the core tenets of their faith. They still believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus and in the literal truth of the Bible.” Is this true? Is a core tenet not being abandoned here? Apparently, some are calling the data into question because they believe that some of the responding evangelicals may have interpreted “many paths” to mean “many denominations”.

Even so, this is a story to look at and to be alarmed over. This most certainly is not the Evangelicalism that I would subscribe to and this finding definitely gives up one of the core tenets of our faith. The exclusivity of Christ for salvation is a non-negotiable, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no one comes to the Father but by Me”, is not a “yeah that works for me but other ways are possible” kind of quote. The article quotes Dr. Danny Akin who says, “Anyone who claims to be an evangelical and who says it’s possible to go to heaven other than through faith in Jesus Christ is not an evangelical”. So then, is this a new look for Evangelicalism? I hope not, if so we as Baptists need to distance ourselves from any movement or group that calls into question the exclusivity of Christ. We have to be ready in a culture that continually says, “no truth is absolute therefore no religion can have exclusive claims” to give an answer. The answer may not make us more sophisticated or popular, but it is the only answer for a dying world. “There is one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.”

Comments 0

  1. Amen! This is a very alarming, though not unexpected, reality in the church today. Not only is not evangelical, it’s not Christian. If we affirm that there are “other ways” then we are denying the substitutionary atonement of Jesus. That is not acceptable. Good post Nathan.

  2. I think you’re missing the point of Obama’s response. I too believe Jesus is the way for me (and everyone, as he does too) but doesn’t believe that the “accept Jesus or you’ll go to hell” approach is a good way to approach the subject. Christ didn’t, and we shouldn’t either.

  3. Meagan, how exactly are verses like John 14:6, Matt. 10:32-33, Matt 12:30, Acts 4:25, and so many others NOT saying accept Jesus or you’re in danger of judgment? It seems that Jesus position was your reaction to Him determines your entire destiny! Outside of Him is death and judgment. That is exactly the way He and the entire Bible approach the subject.

    If Obama believes Jesus is the way for EVERYONE why didn’t he say that when he had the opportunity? How can we say that is his view when he didn’t say it? I think Obama’s response is pretty self-explanatory. He doesn’t want to offend others. He wants to be seen as tolerant, so he doesn’t think Jesus is the only way. He has a right to his personal beliefs, but let’s just call it what it is.

  4. Megan,

    I think your missing what Obama means… He does not believe that Jesus is the only way. Here is an indicting article you should read in the Fox Forum by Cal Thomas.


    Quote from an Obama interview “I believe there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.”

    Later in the article “Falsani correctly brings up John 14:6 (and how many journalists would know such a verse, much less ask a question based on it?) in which Jesus says of Himself, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ That sounds pretty exclusive, but Obama says it depends on how this verse is heard. According to Falsani, Obama thinks that ‘all people of faith — Christians, Jews, Muslims, animists, everyone — know the same God.’ (her words)”

    Later in the article “Obama again: “I don’t presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. When I tuck in my daughters at night and I feel like I’ve been a good father to them, and I see that I am transferring values that I got from my mother and that they’re kind people and that they’re honest people, and they’re curious people, that’s a little piece of heaven.”

    I think I got Obama’s point, thats the troubling thing and why I thought it necessary to write the article, this is not orthodox Christianity. It is extremely alarming that 57% of Evangelicals claim this kind of belief. This is not the teachings of Christ as you put it. Even in Matthew 25, an oft quoted chapter by Obama, Jesus speaks clearly that those who are His sheep will inherit the Kingdom and those are not will meet judgment.

    I agree in one sense that we should never have a “turn or burn” attitude of arrogance, we should out of love and humility seek for those “outside of Christ” to run to HIM. However, if they do not, the Bible says they are outside of Christ (The Door: John 10) and they will not enter into His Kingdom. This a tough message, very UN-PC. Yet, this message needs to be delivered with broken hearts to a broken world. Again as Cal Thomas ends the article above and as ended mine there is only one mediator, if you do not have Him you do not have the Father.

  5. I believe the reason we are seeing this is most preachers and churches aren’t preaching the gospel anymore. Paul said the gospel is the power of God to change lives and we have given up on it because of popularity with the world. We must get back to preaching that Jesus Christ is the Lord and He is our substutite giving us salvation through His life, death, and resurrection.

  6. B21 fellas,

    I like what you all are doing with Baptist21. The purpose of the blog and these initial posts are helpful. Thanks to Nate for pointing me to B21–not to be confused with T4G.

    Pete Schemm

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