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Is it possible to be a Christian but also believe there are other alternative routes to a relationship with God?

(26 Posts)
Servalan Sun 05-Jun-11 15:44:00

I have recently become a Christian. I have felt God moving in my life and I have recently had an experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit which felt very tangible - something I was sceptical about before it happened to me. I've come to this point by being involved with a local church, doing an Alpha course and having supportive Christian friends around me.

One thing that put me off Christianity before in the past was the conviction that I hear expressed that the only way to God, or to be saved, is through Christ. I find this hard to get my head around, as I know there are people who feel a strong relationship with God through other belief systems. For example, my dh is a Buddhist, who states that he has felt a very tangible connection with God through meditation. My dm talks about feeling a strong connection with God through nature. I find it hard to discount the experiences of people I know well and respect.

At my church, it has been said on more than one occassion that the only way to God is through Christ. The church I belong to is pretty evangelical, and I don't know if that's the belief across Christianity.

I keep wondering if maybe God gives people chances to get to know him through various means, and a relationship with him through Jesus is just one of those means.

Maybe this is just me being unable to be sure - or my woolly liberal tendencies grin I know for certain that coming to Christ has helpled me connect with God and don't discount in any way the importance of that, or who Christ was/is.

Not sure what I'm trying to say really - just trying to get my head around it all I guess

ExpatAgain Sun 05-Jun-11 15:46:50

how refreshing, seriously! Not particularly religious but one of the most off-putting things for me about more evangelical believers is how convinced they are that their way is right and everyone else is damned to hell or whatever..deeply arrogant and unchristian imho.. I'll get off this thread now!

Thistledew Sun 05-Jun-11 16:08:42

It is a nice thought, and one I personally sympatise with, but I think that the very definition of being a Christian is that you accept the definition of God and manner of worship described in the Bible. I think there are plenty of passages within the Bible that proscribe the manner of your relationship with God. If you have another way of developing a relationship, or define God in another way, then no, you are not a Christian.

AMumInScotland Sun 05-Jun-11 16:32:20

It's a tricky one. In general, Christian teaching is that Christ is unique, and the only way to God. But lots of Christians actually recognise what you're saying and see the problem. Personally I still count myself a Christian, but think that God talks to everyone in different ways, and that their experience is as valid as mine, so I have to say I'm with you. But whether that puts me outside the definition of Christian depends on the definition you use....

Servalan Sun 05-Jun-11 17:09:08

Thanks, it's good to get some feedback. I'm really struggling with this one, and I know it's something I may find I have to accept.

Because I'm so new to this, I am still reading the Bible - I'm working my way through the New Testament - on Corinthians 2 so far - still got the Old Testament to go - don't know how it's going to affect the way I see things. I do know that since I've started going to Church and opening my mind to Christianity I have had many positive changes in my life, I see how God moves in my life, and my experience with the Holy Spirit last week was such a strong physical reaction that I can't deny what happened to me. I find Christ's teaching has helped me let go of grudges and has opened me up far more to forgiveness, and I find striving to live my life in the way I am learning about hugely positive.

I know I hope for my dh to respect and understand what has been happening to me - which he does - but in the same way, I feel I need to respect and understand what has happened to him too, but obviously I want to serve God the best way I can at the same time!

MrsCadwallader Mon 06-Jun-11 06:35:27

I am a Christian and yes, I absolutely feel that there are many other ways to know and experience God. I simply cannot believe in a God that would exclude vast swathes of humanity simply because they happened to be born in a part of the world that did not practice Christianity, or who chose a different path to 'enlightenment'.

God wants us to be in an active relationship with him. That is all. As a Christian I believe it is because of Jesus that the world is saved, but on an individual level I don't think it is necessary to 'know' him in order to know God. For me Jesus is the best and easiest way to know God, but I also accept that it works differently for other people - either culturally or personally, IYSWIM?

AMumInScotland Mon 06-Jun-11 09:55:45

If your church is quite evangelical, they are likely to fairly strict in their interpretation of things like this. There is one line in the Bible where Jesus says "No-one comes to the Father except through me", and that's the one they're likely to quote at you to prove their point.

But if you look at pretty much everything Jesus did instead of that one single thing he said (which you could interpret in different ways), he was always very very inclusive - he reached out to all the people who the religion of his day thought were unacceptable, and offered them his unconditional love. He never put any conditions on his acceptance of them, never made it difficult for them to see him and talk to him and feel that God had a place for them.

I really don't think that Jesus could have meant "do it this one way or you're out" - it doesn't match everything else that he did and taught.

If you've got "woolly liberal tendencies" (and I'm glad you do!) you may find there are things which an evangelical church gives you problems with, because they take a quite specific view of a number of things which not all Christians agree on. But if you challenge them, you're likely to be told that "all real Christians" believe what they do. You may or may not start to feel that you don't belong there, or that questioning is a bad thing, or that you have to compromise in big ways to stay inside their definition of acceptable. If you start to feel that way, please consider whether they are really behaving the way that Jesus did, or if they are putting their own restrictions on access to God. Some churches and some Christians behave as if excluding people for thinking the wrong things is a higher priority than including them because God has grace enough for all.

DandyDan Mon 06-Jun-11 23:05:28

"No-one comes to the Father....etc" is not quite the same thing as "no-one comes to God". Christians have a unique and (for me) the most full and desirable relationship with God (that He wants for us) because we have been given Jesus as our example, and God as our father; but it doesn't mean that those who aren't Christian can't experience God at all. But our understandings of our relationship with God might be very different.

Servalan Tue 07-Jun-11 18:26:01

That's an interesting way of looking at it DandyDan - shall go off and ponder...

venusandmars Wed 08-Jun-11 18:50:21

I think that the underlying problem is that our concept of God is constrained by the limitations of our human understanding, and our social constructs, and I believe that God is so much bigger than all of that.

I believe that for each of us our ability to 'access' God is dependent on our circumstances and our culture. If your understanding of the love of God is through Christianity - great. If your dh has had different circumstances and experiences and his understanding of God is through Buddhism - great. If someone else sees the wonder of the Gods love through the miracles of nature - great. We all live in the same world, but the way this world is experienced by an Eskimo is vastly different from the way the world is experienced by an African tribe. In the same way I like to believe we all have the same heavens and God, but our experience of it might be different.

However that is my world view, not the view of any established religion.

teddies Wed 08-Jun-11 19:02:36

"in my Father's house are many rooms"......
I have absolutely no problem with the idea that God reveals himself to people in different ways, in different cultures, for different reasons. A loving Creator would not have damned three quarters of his creation purely by accident of their birth. But then I am a definite woolly liberal backslider (and a happy one) who believes that there are many ways to God, and that we should not hope to know the mind of God, and that the people who wrote the books of the Bible came from different cultures with different faith communities to minister to.

MaryBS Thu 09-Jun-11 10:39:02

There is an interesting article in May's edition of Christianity magazine on this, covering Universal Universalism (originally suggested by Origen, that in the end, everyone will be saved, even the devil), Post-Mortem evangelism (for God to be just, each person would need to get a chance to repent and receive Christ AFTER death), Religious Pluralism (that God is present in other religions) and Anonymous Christianity (for those who have never heard the gospel or for those who have lived a "Christian" life, without being one). Well worth a read if you can get hold of a copy.

thingsabeachanging Thu 09-Jun-11 10:50:35

My problem with most religions is that you have to ask what you believe in.

Personally I believe in GOD, I believe he gave us all brains and the power of independent thought. I also believe it would be disrespectful not to use that independent thought to guide your own beliefs rather than just doing as you are told.

The above is the main reason I struggle to allign myself with any religion. As a consequence I often feel very alone when it comes to spirituality.

IntergalacticHussy Thu 09-Jun-11 10:57:07

definitely. it all comes down to the 'in my father's house there are many rooms' passage for me, although i'm no theologian.

MaryBS Thu 09-Jun-11 11:25:31

I know some branches of Christianity will tell you that in order to belong you have to believe exactly what they are teaching (or else!). For me, my faith has been a journey, and as such has changed as I've explored my faith and what I truly believe or don't believe. I sort of like the fact that we don't all believe the exact same thing, we're not clones and are different, with different experiences, its more inclusive, somehow. I've said it on MN many times. That Jesus spelt it out - you have to love God and to love each other, and that is the essential in religion. Most of us fail at that some or most of the time, but that is the ideal that Jesus set. Yes he said that no-one can come to the Father except through him, but he also says whoever has seen him has seen the Father. Why not whoever knows the Father also knows Jesus?

Thistledew Thu 09-Jun-11 13:01:52

What if you don't have a belief in the existence of a deity? I have spiritual beliefs centred around the idea of all life forms being connected, but I do not have a theistic belief in the existence of a deistic entity.

For Christians who are happy to accept there is more than one way to God, are you still able to accept as being sympathetic to your own beliefs the idea that there may be no deity?

AMumInScotland Thu 09-Jun-11 13:28:34

I guess for me it maybe depends what you mean by "all life forms being connected" - if you think that gives some form of "joint consciousness/purpose" then I don't think that's too far from how I think of God, as being all through the fibre of the universe and continuous throughout time, even if you don't think of God as existing separate from everything else.

But if you don't think there's anything analogous to that, then I don't think God/no God are really compatible positions. But I'm still happy that you have something which has meaning for you, and if it cause you to think in "ethical" terms about nature, then that has to be a good thing IYSWIM?

MaryBS Fri 10-Jun-11 03:48:53

Thistledew, I certainly think it is possible to have SOME compatibility. For example, there is a "benign force" in my life which I believe to be the Holy Spirit, which brings comfort and strength at times when I am low. Your own experiences and beliefs may suggest another influence.

The existence of God (or not) is not dependent on whether or not we believe in him.

zozzle Fri 10-Jun-11 14:48:09

For a Christian its only through Christ. You can certainly feel closer to the Christian God through nature though - after all he made nature (that's different to being closer to God through belief systems that worship nature itself - ie Paganism etc).

Have you read Gary Thomas's book Sacred Pathways:

http://www.garythomas.com/sacred-pathways

He's a Christian and there's a chapter on each of the pathways that bring people close to Christ - which he calls: Naturalist, Sensate, Traditionalist, Ascetic, Activist, Caregiver, Enthusiast, Contemplative and Intellectual. Most people have one pathway that fits closest with their personality.

imgonnaliveforever Sat 11-Jun-11 21:28:42

I also go to an evangelical church, and also became christian as an adult, and also struggled with this. But lots of other religions, like Judaism and Islam, believe that theres is the only way to God. I think the basic thing about Christianity is that Jesus is the only way to salvation, but I agree that it's a really hard teaching (though not the only hard teaching you will encounter, I'm afraid, if you're beginning your journey as a christian.)

Two things that I've found helpful:
1. Theres a bit in Romans that talks about people who haven't heard about Jesus, saying that their consciences will testify for or against them (in other words they're not just damned cos they didn't know). I think lots of people fall into this category, even in this country, cos although people have heard of Jesus a lot of people haven't actually heard the core Christian message.

2. There's a book called "God, that's not fair!" or maybe "That's not fair, God!" which is on this subject. It's very good.

Wellnerfermind Sat 11-Jun-11 21:38:45

'I keep wondering if maybe God gives people chances to get to know him through various means, and a relationship with him through Jesus is just one of those means.'

Well said. This makes complete sense to me.
If everyone thought this the world would be a much better place.

Kallista Mon 13-Jun-11 05:49:56

I have decided to become a Noachide because the beliefs of that system really fit in with my beliefs about God. The chabad lubavitch website has a good section on this.
They believe that muslims and christians are their 'brothers'.
They don't seek converts; rather they encourage people to follow the seven (i think!) laws, and live a good life.

onclefestere Tue 14-Jun-11 15:54:43

No, I'm with Mrs Cadwallader on this. In my father's house there are many rooms.

WillowFae Thu 16-Jun-11 22:00:32

Kallista - on the UK Noachide website it says that all other religions are false.

WillowFae Thu 16-Jun-11 22:15:25

imgonnaliveforever - see that's where I've always thought missionaries are cruel! If people will be judged on their merit if they haven't heard about Jesus then those people who have been told by missionaries but don't believe are then stuffed!

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