On this Reformation Day, I cannot help but reflect on all of the various avenues of personal salvation being advanced around the world and even in the U.S. In our multicultural context, it is often suggested that there are many paths to God. I typically answer with, "You're right. There are many paths to God, but only One of them gets a favorable response when you arrive." The Muslim, the Hindu, the Buddhist or the animist all claim to know how one gets to God. Even apart from these other major religious of the world countless others have arisen to claim an understanding of salvation. When one of these options do not fit one's personal tastes, western individualism kicks in and a new private salvation idea is invented that supposedly "works for me."
There are even supposed Christian teachers today who will not put there foot down and assert the Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one gets to the Father except through him. That type of exclusivism is rather unpopular in our present times. Many choose not to remain so exclusive regarding salvation because either they do not want to risk the negative backlash in the form of an accusation of intolerance, or they do not want to field the question of "what about the people who die without hearing about Christ and thus were never given the chance to choose him?" The bottom line is that ours is a culture that cannot handle the concept of "need to know." We distrust government and therefore require that it remain accountable to us, having to no secrets that are withheld as "need to know." By extension, we then can't imagine that God may have a way of handling the "what of those who have never heard?" issue in a manner that is none of our business. Will we place our trust in the One who saves even if we don't know every detail about how he saves?
Another trend has been universalism: the belief that because Christ died for everyone, everyone will be saved regardless of how much of Christ they learned about in this life. This view tries to answer the above question about those who haven't heard by suggesting that God will forgive people their ignorance if they are responsive to some form of intuitive God-sense. This also must be rejected because it makes salvation possible through any message that one can craft, making the message of Christ of no effect. Salvation is possible in Christ alone. All other attempted avenues to heaven are damnable error.
The Reformation message of solus Christus ("Christ alone") is more pertinent now than ever. In Reformation times at least the debate was over whether salvation is in Christ alone or in Christ plus the church by means of the sacraments. Now the issue is whether salvation is in Christ alone, or if its in Christ or some other pathway that makes me a generally good person. People must be taught that "there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).