Engaging CultureChristian Media

The “Only One Way to Heaven” Issue

When I hosted the audience talk back after the play “This Beautiful City” one of the more frustrated (perhaps angry) responses from an audience member was about the “only one way to heaven” issue.  One of the audience members said:  “I’ve completely distanced myself from my right wing Christian friends because they believe there’s only one way to heaven.  I’m not interested in talking to them, discussing the issue, or having any kind of relationship until they agree that there are many ways to heaven.”  My first response was that from a guy seeking more tolerance, that was a very intolerant statement.

He sounded pretty definite that he wants the right to believe what he believes, but doesn’t feel that I have the right to do the same.  At that point, the conversation ended, because he wasn’t willing to go further.  It was an interesting moment.

This is becoming a serious issue in a post-modern culture, where truth is relative.   But part of tolerance is allowing others to believe what they want.  And yet, I’ve been accosted many times with people absolutely outraged that Christians have the audacity to believe that God might have a pre-determined pathway to eternity.   The hostility is mostly aimed at Christians, although many other religions teach their pathway is what works.  (Just try to tell a Muslim there are multiple ways to heaven, and see his reaction.)

Tolerance folks.  Oddly enough I’m finding more Christians exhibiting it theses days.  Have Christians abused it?  Absolutely.  But so has everyone.  I mentioned to the audience that after shooting film in more than 40 countries, I’ve discovered it’s not being a Christian that makes you wacky – it’s being a human being.  I have yet to find the organization that doesn’t have a few nuts – Christians, atheists, democrats, republicans, Shriners, hippies, doctors, teachers, Muslims, Buddhists – you name it and you’ll find a few oddballs.

Let’s lighten up and let people believe what they believe.  And don’t be so offended when they share their story with you.   That subject, I’ll deal with next…..


  1. Great topic.

    I fear that in our attempt to be 'outsider friendly' we can tend to water the message down. We talk about love and forgiveness (who doesn't like those things) but we brace for impact when discussing absolute truths.

    I love the point that we as Christians are told we must be tolerant and yet the same people that are demanding it aren't giving it in return.

    Tolerance is a tough one for me, I want to love them but I don't want them to feel okay with the choices that they make that are so against the way God wants them to be liviing. I find myself feeling as if my tolerance is translated as approval.

    Tough balance.

  2. Tolerance is so loaded. It is funny that those who claim to be tolerant are not tolerant of those who choose not to be tolerant. The circular reasoning that has been explained to me as to why this is so is dizzying.

  3. If we can't agree about "how" or "when" life happens, if stands to reason that we also wouldn't agree about what happens when we die.  One absolute exists, while on this earth – while consciously alive – we are all certainly "human" – in the "adjective that relates to weakness" sense.  And this truth (my perspective, of course), should suggest that we treat each other with grace, mercy, justice and love, regardless of opinion or belief.  And now I've fallen into the trap of disclaimers, which so muddies the waters of communication that I might never be quite sure that I've communicated clearly!  Unless I just say what I believe outright – clearly and concisely; but doing just that is what gets so many in trouble.

    I do believe that we are supposed to speak the truth in love.  However, while Love may sometimes call us to speak truth, other times Love calls us to shut our big fat mouths!  Obedience is key.  If we are walking with Love, then hopefully we are listening to when we should speak what (similar to Phil's delightful line about tolerance).  There is a season for planting seeds, a season for watering, a season for pulling weeds, a season for watching and waiting, and a season for harvest.  And then another season for hunkering down, eating potatoes, and enjoying the fire and some yummy hot chocolate. 

    Sometimes it's good to just enjoy some hot chocolate with friends and not feel the need to sew seeds or pull weeds.  I guess i would liken that to tilling the soil.

    All that said, while I believe in being tolerant (gracious, loving), I also agree with Anne Lamott (and my husband who quotes her):

    "If you don't believe in what you are saying, there is no point in your saying it. You might as well call it a day and go bowling."

  4. While I can't remember the verse right now, I do recall it as saying (paraphrased) don't stand in the way of someone who is doing wrong, lest you be carried along with them.

    I don't intend to argue the point of one way in case I get someone very eloquent who winds up changing my mind.

    Let us be honest, it's not what we say but how we live that will ultimately change someone.  It's not what we do in public, but what we do in private when there is no one else around that really defines what kind of Christian we are.

    Get someone to know God and as that relationship develops God will correct their erroneous beliefs.

  5. We were one of the ministries The Civilians spent time with, and I believe we are still in the production.  We had to make a decision very quickly whether we'd 'tone it down' or continue on as we were wired to.  Of course, we continued on.

    What this means is that we did our best, in humility, to press hard as always… and trust that our new friends would at least entertain some dialogue on the topic of our zealous behavior.  They did, and I am very impressed with those involved with this production.

    That being said, I'm concerned that we as believers may be tempted to tone 'it' (the message, the presentation, etc.) down in hopes that our audience will somehow appreciate it and, just maybe, make it to heaven.

    Here's the problem- our goal is not to help people make it to heaven, but rather, to make it into a deeply intimate and overwhelming experiential and interactive encounter with Jesus Christ.  That's the goal.  For someone to say that there are many roads to heaven is evidence of missing the main point.  The big idea isn't making it to heaven, it's in knowing the Lover of our souls.

  6. The big debate… Great blog…

    Option A

    Tell them what you think! Tick them off so that you are always and outsider or some religious freek across town, or a "bad religious experience:


    Option B

    Listen to them.. tolerate their stupidity,  make a friend a long the way so you have voice with them later on or are someone they can go to


    Option C

     Don't engage at all


     I have been down this road so many times, it feels real good to do option A, but gets you no where, Option C to me is not an Option.


    Thank you Phil for stepping out and engaging the culture.


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