Jesus, the Only Savior

Author Greg Koukl Published on 02/28/2013

Greg explains why there is no such thing as a pluralist Christian.

A caller alerted me to the fact that apparently there’s a president of a Baptist college who believes Jesus is not necessary for salvation. If I’m understanding his view correctly, this would make him a pluralist—someone who says that other religions are legitimate and appropriate avenues to God and that the work of the cross is not necessary at all for salvation. We Christians happen to believe in Jesus because it’s “our thing.” Jesus, though, could be completely out of the picture and salvation could still be secured through other religions.

As a point of information, this would be different from the “inclusivist” Roman Catholic view. On this view, Jesus’ work on the cross is necessary for forgiveness, but one need not believe in Jesus—and could outright reject Him—and still enjoy the benefits of the cross. The forgiveness that comes through Jesus can be mediated through the sincere pursuit of other religions. Therefore, all people, regardless of there belief systems, are potentially included—ergo the word “inclusivist”—in God’s Kingdom. To put it most directly, the good Buddhist is cleansed by the blood of Christ (though one might as why he needs the blood of Christ if he’s good already).

My caller asked this question: Should a person who is a religious pluralist be allowed to continue as a president of a Baptist college? I think the answer may be obvious when we ask the question another way: Should a non-Christian be allowed to run a Christian institution? It seems the answer to this question must be “no.”

You’ve probably noted, of course, that I’m presuming the president of this Baptist college is not a Christian simply because he’s a pluralist, which may seem like a bold thing to say. I have a very good reason for this presumption, though, and it has to do with what it means to be a Christian.

The word “Christian” has a definition. It has a broad cultural meaning, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. Rather, I’m talking about a theological definition. It seems to me, at bare minimum, being a Christian in a genuine, theological, biblical sense requires believing a particular thing to be true about Jesus. And the thing we believe to be true is not that Jesus is my savior. Rather, the thing we believe is that Jesus is the Savior, and because He is the Savior, He can therefore be my savior. Because Jesus is the Savior, He can save me.

There are other things, to be sure, that are necessary to believe in order to call yourself a Christian. But you’ve got to at least believe that Jesus is the Savior. This is the beginning. This is the foundation, that Jesus did something for us we absolutely need to have done for us, something we would perish without. We turn to Jesus because we need Him, that is, we desperately require something only He can give—forgiveness. If He doesn’t give us forgiveness, then we’re in hot water—or, I should say, hot fire.

Now, this seems so basic to Christianity I feel a bit foolish belaboring the point. The Bible teaches that Jesus is the Savior. He is not just the savior for me; He’s not just a savior for others—one of a number of possible rescuers, like a team of lifeguards might be. The Bible teaches—and Christianity is built on this teaching—that He is the Savior of the whole world, and without Him the world could not be saved.

If this is a core teaching of Christianity—so vital that denying it effaces the religion entirely so that it no longer is the same thing—then what are we to make of someone who denies this truth? If someone believes that members of other religions are as easily saved through their own religion as Christians are through Jesus, what does this tells us about the beliefs of this person concerning the nature of the work of the cross and the person of Christ?

If you say people can be saved without Jesus, then Jesus is not the Savior. These people either save themselves (making each of them a savior), or they are saved by others. Is this possible?

If Jesus is a savior, then what does He save someone from? The Bible makes it clear that Jesus saved me from the judgment I would have received if He hadn’t save me. Therefore, if one repudiates their need for Jesus, then Jesus isn’t saving them and they stand in the path of God’s judgment. What could be simpler? What could be more clear?

Now, if you believe other people can be saved through other religions, then you certainly don’t believe that Jesus is the Savior. And if you reject that Jesus is the savior, it really calls into question whether He’s even your savior, because if other people could be saved without Him, why couldn’t you? You need Jesus to be saved because you’re lost without Him. If you’re lost without Him, so is everybody else who’s in your same position, a sinner. That, by the way, includes everybody else, according to the biblical account. Therefore, everybody else needs Jesus, and it doesn’t make any sense to say that everybody else can get to heaven without Him, but that you happen to need him.

If you do say that, it’s the same as saying Jesus is not the Savior, and if you reject that Jesus is the Savior, then you’re rejecting the foundational tenet of Christianity. You are, therefore, denying the heart and soul of the faith, and it doesn’t seem to me that you can then call yourself a Christian.

This is not that hard, friends. In order to call yourself a Christian, you must fulfill certain foundational and fundamental requirements, and there’s nothing more foundational or fundamental about Christianity than that Jesus is the Savior. Not a savior, not my savior, not the savior of some, but the Savior, the Savior of the world. And because He is the Savior, He is capable of saving all of us. Because He’s the Savior, there is no other savior, and we can’t save ourselves.

Which is precisely why the apostle said, “There is salvation in none other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).