Is Salvation Available Only In One Religion?
‘Christians Believe That Salvation Comes Through Faith In Jesus Christ’
• ‘Our Local Gods Give Salvation’
• ‘To Observe Formal Prayers In A Congregation With Others At A Mosque Or Any Place
For That Matter, Is One Important Way Of Being Righteous’
The ultimate goal of all religions is to prepare adherents for the hereafter and salvation. But though the goal is the same, the ways and means of achieving it differ from one religion to the other. Interestingly, every religion claims that its own tenets are the best and salvation can be attained only through them. However, it is not all believers adhere that strictly to the principles of their various religions. In other words, would people be denied salvation simply because they don’t belong to any particular religion? What happens to the free thinkers, who strive in all honesty to live uprightly? Is salvation available only in one religion? CHRIS IREKAMBA, OMIKO AWA and GBENGA AKINFENWA report.
‘When It Comes To Salvation, Being Good Is Not Enough’
(Pastor Mike Onyeka, Senior Pastor/Vision Bearer of Victorious People Assembly Intl Inc. (House of Praise), Aba, Abia State)
THE two key words in this discourse are: ‘Salvation’ and ‘Righteousness’. Incidentally, in this context, both are spiritual terms and not just ordinary English words exclusively defined by the Dictionary. Salvation means becoming acceptable to God, escaping His righteous judgment against sin with the prospect of living eternally with Him after death. ‘Righteousness’ describes how God regards or sees a person after he/she has been saved. It has to do more with relationship than behaviour. In Christian circles, it is identified more with holiness or holy living than behaviour. In daily usage, however, righteousness and holiness are used interchangeably. Perhaps it is important to state at this point that only God has the final word on who will be saved. But the Bible teaches very clearly that nobody can come to God except through Jesus. Jesus said so Himself: “Jesus said unto him I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the Father, but by me” John 14:6. Apostle Paul made it even clearer: “Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved’ Acts 4:12. When it comes to salvation, it is not enough to be a good person or to behave ethically.
Religion is not synonymous with ethics or good behaviour. It goes beyond that to deal with the issue of the ultimate nature of reality. It deals with what happens after death and the relationship between the present life and eternity. The story of Cornelius, the first Gentile convert to Christianity, in Acts Chapter 10, shows clearly that salvation does not come by living a pious life or behaving well alone, not even by being religious. In verse two, this is how the Bible describes Cornelius: “A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always.” God considered his devotion and good deeds and desired him to be saved. But he needed to come to God through Jesus in order to be saved. So, God in His omnipotence arranged a meeting between Cornelius and Peter so that Peter could preach Jesus to him, to enable him believe in Jesus and be saved.
No doubt, this is the position of Christianity, which other religions contradict, which raises the question: are all religions right in their respective beliefs about how to be saved? The answer is obviously ‘no’ for the simple logic that two or more conflicting or contradictory claims cannot both or all be true at the same time. It is either Jesus is God, as Christianity says or He is not, as Islam says. It cannot be true that He is God and that He is not at the same time. So, all religions cannot be right in their conflicting interpretations of the ultimate reality. It is beyond the scope of this short discourse to undertake an apology for the Christian belief that Jesus is the only way to salvation. But having established that the conflicting claims of the various religions cannot all be true, there is a personal responsibility on all persons to investigate the different claims as to their truth in order not to play with our eternity. For those outside of the Mosque and Church, but who live piously or ethically, it is not enough for salvation. You need a personal relationship with God.
‘Essence Of Religion Is To Have Relationship With One’s Creator’
(Imam Moruf Onike Abdul-Azeez, Deputy Chief Imam, NASFAT Headquarters, Lagos)
THE misconception harboured, especially by people that don’t practice any religion, is that religion is not necessary since the Westerners, who place less emphasis on religion are developed and live comfortably in their countries. They have good and considerate leaders, security and all other good things of life, whereas those who are seemingly religious live in underdeveloped countries and groan under abject poverty and bad leadership among others.
However, the answers are not far-fetched. People need to know and understand the following points: Every creature of God is divinely provided with good living standard. Allah says in Qur’an 17 verse 70 “And indeed we have honoured the children of Adam, and We have carried them on land and sea and have provided them WITH At-Tayyibaat (Lawful Good Things)….” However, the non-realisation of this, which is due to bad attitude of people, should not be blamed on religion. It is just like a good car driven by a bad driver should not be blamed for any accident that may occur, as a result of the bad driving attitude of the driver. Also, it should be noted that it’s due to the poverty level of those who feel that the non-religious live better. They forget that in God’s sight, as stated in the above quoted verse, every creature is to have basic things of life by default. A question needs to be asked: “Why do we have a lot of people embracing Islam, nay religion in those developed but not too religious clime?” it’s aptly answered by some converts, who claim that after getting all the good things of life, they realised there is still something missing, which is the spiritual fulfilment. They ask themselves, after all this, where are we spending the eternity?
According to the Holy Bible Deuteronomy 8:3 “Man shall not live by bread alone.” These words signify that bread, or ordinary sustenance, is not enough to support the life of man.” Basically, the essence of religion is to have a relationship with one’s Creator and consequently have peace of mind, tranquility and the hope of meeting that Creator and dying no more. Having established the essence of religion, another important question is: since every religion claims to teach morality, including idol worshipping, how do I know which to choose or why can’t I just continue to be nice to people? Islam has three approaches namely: Firstly, it preaches morality, i.e. no fornication/adultery, no stealing, no killing, etc. just like most other religions, but it does not stop there.
Secondly, it provides what can make the good morals achievable. For instance, with the injunction of “don’t steal,” the institution of zakat provides for the less privileged, thereby enabling them to refrain from stealing. Similarly, Islam says ‘no’ to adultery and fornication. And to prevent this, it encourages marriage or fasting for those that cannot afford marriage, while it discourages negative mixing of people of opposite sexes, etc.
Thirdly, it provides penalty for whoever runs foul of the moral standards. In summary, Islam says don’t commit an offence, and makes provision for things that makes it difficult for the offence to be committed. Finally, it establishes punishment for those, who in spite of the blocking of all evil ways still go ahead to commit offence.
On the issue of what happens to those who don’t practise any religion. They fall into two categories: There are those who have been preached to and those who have never heard about religion at all. To those who have never heard about religion, Allah says in Qur’an 20: 51-52 … “What about the generation of Old?” Moses said: “The knowledge thereof is with my Lord, in a Record. My Lord never errs nor He forgets”. This means it’s only The Almighty Allah, Who knows what He will do with them.
‘Salvation Is Also In Our Traditional Religions’
(Chief Ukpebor Ogizien, Adaze of Ewohimi Kingdom and President, Esan Traditional Medicine Practitioners, Lagos)
CHRISTAINITY is not the only religion on earth. There are many others, including Islam and our traditional religion. Each of these religions gives salvation according to the adherent’s belief. Our local gods give salvation. Besides, what is salvation if not to liberate others, set people free from evil bondage and make them lead a better life? However, it must be stated that man does not act in isolation because all his actions are judged by God, Who is to decide if a particular being deserves reincarnation based on His judgment.
By reincarnation, one is to get whatever, good or bad, he/she sows. If one sows evil, he/she will reap evil and if he/she sows good, good will follow him/her. It is in this light that some people are born blind, deaf, runs mad, born with a particular disease, deformed or physically challenged. Forget the various names medical sciences may adduce to be the cause of these deformities. The fact remains that the sufferer is atoning for the sins he/she may have committed in his/her previous life. There is no resurrection and nobody is going to live with Almighty God in heaven, because heaven and hell are both on this earth.
Recently, a single lady came to me and when I consulted the oracle on her behalf, it was discovered that in her previous life, she maltreated her husband by denying him food and sex, and when she died, the husband laid a curse on her that in her next life, she would never get married or live happily. So, after the oracle pronouncement, we traced the man and luckily he is still alive. The man narrated everything that happened, including some information I did not know. Shocked by what happened to his former wife, he appeased the gods and the curse was reversed. Today, the 48-year-old lady is happily married with children. Our local gods like any other gods give salvation. There is salvation also in our traditional religions.
‘Christian Theology Has Already Defined Status Of Every Believer’
(Rt. Rev. (Dr.) Isaac Nwaobia, Bishop, Diocese of Isiala Ngwa South, Anglican Communion, Abia State)
MY answer to that question is yes, in the sense that Christian theology teaches us as Christians that the only way to God is through Jesus Christ, Who is the Son God. And John 14: 6 says, “Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.” So, for me as a Christian and Christian theologian, I cannot dream or see myself entertaining the thought that one can get salvation outside the Lordship of Jesus Christ. So, those clamouring for other ways should be able to tell us, if there are two ways to enter into the airport.
If you live a righteous life without Jesus Christ, or you claim you don’t go to church, but you are righteous, well, the Christian theology has already defined the status of every believer. And it says those who receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour are the children of God—John 1: 12. If you don’t receive Jesus Christ, it is very clear from the scriptures above that the person is not a stakeholder in heavenly matters, which means he/she has no salvation. So, if their religions tell them that that is the way, let them believe it. But for me as a Christian, I believe that the only way lies in the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Those people are on their own, and that is my position.
‘Don’t Just Accept Any Religion Without Knowing Authenticity Of The Claim’
(The Rt. Rev. Dr. Isaac Ayo Olawuyi, Bishop, Diocese of Lagos Mainland, Methodist Church Nigeria)
THE key words here are ‘Salvation and Religion’. The word ‘salvation’ means many things to many people. It may mean salvation from danger, trouble, evil, sin or death. As a verb, the word means to save. To save from what? Who is the Saviour?
The second key word is Religion, which may also assume different meanings, depending on the perspective from which it is viewed. In this context, religion may be seen as a belief system through which one seeks his salvation. In this case, one may believe in God or gods or something else for the salvation of his or her life. We have many religions in the world. In Nigeria, there are three main religions: Christianity, Islam and Traditional Religion.
Each religion claims a way to salvation. Let us quickly examine the common grounds among them. All these religions claim a belief in God, messengers, prayer, salvation, judgment, life after death and Paradise. Each of them also has a way of encouraging conversion to their side. While Christians believe that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Muslims claim that salvation belongs to Allah (God) and that Muhammed is the only messenger. The Traditional Religionist too believes that all salvation comes from God Almighty (Olodumare) through His intermediaries. With all this, every religion assertively proclaims salvation through belief in God and His Messengers. No religion is to be condemned. No one has the right to rubbish a particular religion for one reason or the other. But any individual who really seeks salvation for his or her soul should not just accept any religion without seeking to know the authenticity of the claim. We have seen cases of persons who earnestly sought salvation from God and took extra steps to know the truth. They placed the three religions before God and prayed that He should show them the true way to salvation. Eventually, they had a revelation that showed them the right one.
Further more, salvation has to do with a change of life. Any religion that cannot effect a change of life may not be able to save the soul unto eternity. A true religion should bring about salvation of soul evident in the new life of the believer. As it is written in the Bible that, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). In a believer’s life, old behaviour of sinful life must give way to a new one that must portray the nature and characters of God. For instance, the attributes of God are love, peace, joy, goodness, patience and truth. If all these attributes are not found in a person claiming to have faith in God or a follower of a particular religion, such person or his religion should be examined to know whether it is true or false. There are some people that appear righteous, but they don’t go to the mosque or church, what happens to such people? It is true that some may believe in God, but don’t feel the need to go to the mosque or church. The mosque and church are places of worship; they are houses of prayer. But neither the Church nor Mosque can save anyone, as salvation belongs only to God.
Having said this, what is the rationale in believing in something, but denying an involvement in it? If you believe in work you have to work, if you believe in football, you will watch it, and if you believe in doing good, you must do good. So, if you believe in God, why should you refuse to go to His house to fellowship with His people? Why should a believer in God refuse to go to the house of God for corporate worship and prayers? Any one who denies his father’s house or refuses to go there is either fighting with his father or something is wrong with him.
‘There Are Many People Living Outside Church/Mosque That Maintain Holy And Conscientious Lives’
(Rev. Fr. Ojaje Idoko, Director of Pastoral Affairs, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja)
THIS is one issue every human being would be glad to answer with certainty, but it is not that easy. Christians depend heavily on the Holy Bible to lay claim to the assertion that in Jesus Christ alone is salvation achieved, because He says in John 14: 6; “I am the way, the truth and life; no one comes to the Father except through me”. As a Christian, this much I hold to be true and that is what I preach. But do Muslims, African Traditional Religionists, Buddhists and adherents of other religions believe me?
They may not, because their holy books tell them otherwise.
But Jesus said in the Bible, “Go ye to all the earth and preach the Gospel. Anyone who hears and repents will be saved.” There is a category of persons that do not belong to any faith, but are simply being good and holy, as taught in the holy books. This has the same meaning as what Saint Paul said in Athens. “Whom you ignorantly worship, him I declare to you” (Acts 17:23).
There are many people living outside the church or Mosque, but they maintain holy and conscientious lives. What will God do about them? There was a time, when the Catholic Church held and taught that “Outside the Church, there is no Salvation”. The Church being referred to is the Catholic Church formed by Jesus Christ on the Apostolic Confession of Peter, to whom He gave the keys of the Kingdom. It was taught that the power of the Key, which is to open or close the door of the Kingdom resides in the Church.
At a later time, it was reasoned that no one could limit the love of God, which saves us. At the moment, the Catholic Church teaches that while faith and belief in Jesus Christ gives the assurance of salvation, there are others outside this faith, who through no fault of theirs and having no access to this faith in Jesus Christ and His salvific message still live good and holy lives. Such people, the Church commends to the mercy and grace of God. We remember too that many people profess faith in Jesus, yet live in sin and crime.
After all, on the Cross of Calvary, two persons were crucified with Jesus for criminal activities and one of them said: “We are paying for what we have done”. Jesus did not take into account the thief’s previous life, but only his confession at that moment: “Jesus, Son of God, remember me when you enter your kingdom,” said the thief. And Jesus replied: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” The final decision of who goes to Heaven or Hell resides with God the Father, Who in His mercy and love does not wish that anyone should perish.
‘Salvation Is Based On Individual’s State Of Mind’
(Dr. Sefiu Arifayobiega, Arole Faleye 111, an Ifa Priest)
ONE’S faith is in one’s mind. It’s only when you go to a church with faith that you can receive salvation. When you go to a mosque, you can only receive miracles when you have faith. All this means that salvation is based on the individual’s state of mind because that is what counts with God. There is nobody on this planet Earth that has faith that will not receive salvation. Be they Pastors, Imams or Traditionalists, we are all believers. There are many people that will make heaven, but who have no affiliation with any church, mosques or even any shrine, solely because their hearts are right with God. It is our qualities and character that will take us to heaven, not religion or denomination. Praying regularly or staying in church for several hours doesn’t guarantee one’s getting to heaven. Orunmila has a lot to do with this because it makes us to understand that it is only God that knows His own people (Orun lo’meni o la). One Ifa line talks about this thus: E je a so tito, e je a s’ododo, oun lo difa fun Okete n’ijo to ma dale orunmila, e je a so tito, e je a s’ododo, e ni ba so tito ni male a gbe.
‘Only Religion Approved By Allah Teaches Total Submission To His Will’
(Professor Dawud O. S. Noibi, Executive Secretary/CEO Muslim Ummah of South West Nigeria (MUSWEN)
RELIGION is one and the same and has been so from the beginning. The differences we now know are merely the results of human handiwork. Salvation is winning God’s pleasure and consequently, being saved from His displeasure and His punishment in this world and, more importantly, in the life to come. Salvation is attained only through doing God’s will in one’s daily life both in terms of beliefs; formal acts of worship and in one’s actions generally. This is because doing God’s will is the sole purpose for which He created humans (and the Jinn). (Qur’an 51:56). That was what each and every one of God’s prophets/messengers taught the respective peoples to whom God sent them. So, the long chain of prophets brought the same message from the same Source, as hinted in the Qur’an 4:163-165. Any deviation from that message was the result of man’s handiwork.
Hence, Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was directed to invite followers of all prophets that had preceded him back to the basics of that primordial religion, namely, total submission to God’s will (Qur’an 3:64).
That total submission to the will of God, known in Arabic as Islam, was the religion taught by all Prophets from Adam (pbuh), who was the first of them all (Qur’an 3:31) and completed by the last of them, Muhammad (pbuh). (Qur’an 33:40). Hence, Allah declared in the Qur’an that the only religion approved by Him is that which teaches total submission to His will, namely, Islam (Qur’an 3:19). It is obvious from the above comments that, from Islam’s point of view, righteousness is not about “membership” of any particular mosque. Indeed, every Muslim is a “member” of all mosques, as he is entitled to worship at any mosque anywhere in the world and is free to do so without any inhibition, as the mode and language of the formal prayer are the same across the world. To try and observe the formal prayers in congregation with others at a mosque or any place for that matter is one important way of being righteous. A formal prayer observed in congregation with other worshippers is 27 times more meritorious than one observed individually by choice. That principle of communal worship or service to Allah also applies to virtually all the other practical ordinances of Islam.
However, inability on the part of any individual to abide by this principle in particular circumstances does not necessarily diminish his or her righteousness.