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How to advise newly-Christian friend who thinks that only Christians can go to heaven

(313 Posts)
poguemahone Sun 12-Jul-09 20:34:40

A friend has recently become a Christian, and is very happy and excited about the whole thing.

She's having a bit of a tough time, however as she's getting into conflicts with people who don't share her beliefs. In particular she holds that only Christians will go to heaven. She's traveling in a non-Christian country so I can only imagine upset for everyone concerned.

We knew each other years ago when she was a lovely sweet girl but a bit wild, and she recently sought me out, probably because I've always been a Christian. She's keen to pick my brains on things like this, and I'm feeling a bit of pressure to get the advice right.

I've told her that:
- I believe people of all religion and none can go to heaven if they're good people.
- Although Christianity makes utter sense to me intellectually and emotionally, not everyone has been exposed to the same (cultural) background as me.
- God's fair if nothing else, so for example to discount millions of people who've never heard of Jesus, would just be unfair. (Likewise for people who've not seen great examples of Christians, who're happy with their own religion etc)

But she's asking for more info and I'm really no expert on this. Any advice?

abraid Sun 12-Jul-09 20:45:05

'In my father's house are many mansions.' This is what our parish priest (RC) tells us. He means that it is not for us to tell God whom he can admit.

lou031205 Sun 12-Jul-09 20:45:36

Sorry to say, but the Christian Gospel does not agree with any of your points. Salvation is exclusively given to those with faith in Christ.

However, she will need to learn that the way to save the world is not necessarily like a bull in a china shop. This will come with maturity. She is young in her faith, and over-enthusiastic, but as she grows, she will calm down.

Northernlurker Sun 12-Jul-09 20:49:04

OP - I think you need to reflect on your faith before you try to teach your friend. The message of Christ is clear - ' that no one comes to the Father except through me'

CarGirl Sun 12-Jul-09 20:51:31

hmm yes the bible is very clear, there is only way which is through Christ.

However anyone earnestly seeking God will find him, they don't have to had access to the bible etc because the Holy Spirit can work anywhere with anyone.

Heathcliffscathy Sun 12-Jul-09 20:56:43

i think that the clear answer from this thread is that you shouldn't take advice from evangelical christians that cherry pick from the bible in order to insist (no doubt allowed in their version of faith, which after all cannot exist without doubt) that christianity is exclusive rather than inclusive.

god of love eh? sheesh.

abraid Sun 12-Jul-09 20:56:59

' ' that no one comes to the Father except through me'

Another interpretation of this is that people who lead good lives and go to heaven are coming to the father through Jesus, even though they may not know it.

muffle Sun 12-Jul-09 20:57:24

That is the message of christianity, but it's also the message of various other religions - that you only get to heaven if you believe their doctrine. They can't all be right, and yet they all believe they are. How does she know she has the right religion?

It makes far more sense to believe in a loving and forgiving god who rewards everyone for a good life and good deeds. I'm an atheist myself but I always wonder how god supposedly loving us so much and being so caring ties in with him banishing anyone who doesn't believe in him. That would be an egotistical and insecure god, caring more about your belief in him than your being a good person. This is what makes me suspect that organised religions are actually more about people controlling other people by scaring them, than about anything do with actual love and forgiveness.

Philip Pullman was asked re his atheism, what happens if he dies and finds there is a god and a heaven after all? He replied "He'll forgive me I hope, that's his job".

Heathcliffscathy Sun 12-Jul-09 20:57:43

interpretation being a key word.

poguemahone Sun 12-Jul-09 21:01:52

Thanks abraid - I'm RC too, maybe why you and I are on the same page about this. (Look, everyone, something that the Catholics are most relaxed aboutgrin)

Thanks for your advice Lou and Northern lurker. I hadn't realised that many Christians thought like that, and maybe my friend in her evangelical tradition is learning those ideas? Lou, she is very enthusiastic and it's lovely to see. And quite open to advice about different interpretations.

Cargirl, sounds good. Can you expand please? Are you saying the Holy Spirit will bring you to Christ?

fishie Sun 12-Jul-09 21:02:14

muffle that is neat. i have always liked the the theory that heaven only exists for those that believe in it. so me and philip p will probably not be visiting it but pogue's friend and the pope will be.

whatanothernamechange Sun 12-Jul-09 21:02:46

I agree with Cargirl!!!

sleepymommy Sun 12-Jul-09 21:03:07

IIRC, on Southpark the Movie it turned out to be the Mormons who picked the right religion!!!

I am essentially christian, but sensible enough not to take every word literally.(Bearing in mind that the bible wasn't written by God OR by Jesus).

I agree with the OP's stance on things...God wants us to be good people, not condemn others for having their own beliefs.

bigstripeytiger Sun 12-Jul-09 21:05:47

All the Christians that I know agree with your friend OP, and would say that only Christians go to heaven.

CarGirl Sun 12-Jul-09 21:07:34

abraid I agree that people can know God the trinity without realising it and go to heaven that way.

My understanding is that christianity is unique as your salvation is not earned in anyway unlike any other faith.

poguemahone Sun 12-Jul-09 21:13:26

I thought my friend had somehow gotten her wires crossed on this but it seems that it's a not uncommon belief amongst some Christians that only Christians can go to heaven.

But she has asked me to explain my beliefs, which obviously differ from that. But my reasoning doesn't amount to much more than anything else just wouldn't be fair.

Abraid, do you mean that non-Christian people who lead good lives (the sort that Jesus would be proud of) are going to heaven through Jesus? Or is that too simplistic?

lou031205 Sun 12-Jul-09 21:27:22

The Bible is very clear on these matters. What is crucial in any discussion is whether an individual believes that the Bible is the Word of God. No Christian I know believes that God actually wrote the words, we know that Paul wrote a letter to the Ephesian church, for example, which is now known as the book of Ephesians.

However, there scripture that "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness," (2 Timothy 3:16)is something you either believe or don't. If you believe it to be true, then you can't choose to ignore the scriptures that state that salvation only comes through accepting Jesus as your Lord. That is an active decision, not a passive 'happening'.

If you don't believe it to be true, then frankly you can believe that anyone, or anything can go to heaven. But then you have to ask yourself if you are really a Christian, because that belief is not compatible with the Gospel of Christ.

traceface Sun 12-Jul-09 21:27:53

I agree with Cargirl and Northernlurker. If 'all' you had to do to get to Heaven was 'be good', then there was no point in Jesus' death - and that is what the entire Christian faith is based upon - the fact that Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment for our sin. God wants us to be with him and to be in relationship with him, but our in-built badness separates us. By allowing Jesus to die in our place, he has provided a way for us to be with him - to simply believe that Jesus took our sin to the cross with him. As a response to that, we try to live lives that are pleasing to God, following the example of Jesus - not for the sake of 'being good' but out of gratitude for what we have been saved from (eternity separated from God) and given (eternity with God in Heaven). if when we mess up, we simply say sorry to God again, and he forgives us.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John3:16) - not for those who are 'good' - those who believe smile Relax - we don't have to be perfect.

and pogue as for the upset that you're thinking of for your friend being in a non-christian country - you are right. It will be hard for her to see these people who she knows won't get to Heaven without Jesus, and hard for them to hear if she talks to them about it. As Christians we can pray that God will guard their hearts and give your friend wisdom and gentleness in her conversations and relationships.

poguemahone Sun 12-Jul-09 21:45:45

Lou, I think you're saying that neither I nor all the other people who disagree with you on this are really Christians. hmm

For the record, I have to disagree with you there. Thank you for explaining your views, though. I'll try to explain both views to my friend.

Pinkfluffyslippers Sun 12-Jul-09 21:50:01

Hi Everyone,
I disagree with your friend's belief. This thread reminded me of last Monday's Thought for the Day by Rabbi Lionel Blue. He said the following (See BBC website for the whole text). . TO me it answers the question but others (no doubt ) will disagree but it certainly creates a nice image of heaven:

For me death isn't the end and I believe in a beyond life but not an afterlife because, when we die, time and space die with us so there is no after or before. That beyond life is not so mysterious - we can enjoy a foretaste of it in this life. If for example we do something generous for the sake of heaven, heaven happens. You can tell it by the telltale glow it leaves in you. You've done good - you feel good.

I feel that same glow in me reflecting the light of the Sabath candles in my kitchen. Also at Anglican compline in almost empty churches. In quaker quiet. In Carmelite silences. At cemetaries when those I've loved speak in me. Even at cocktail parties when holding a canape in one hand and sherry in the other, a bit of me moves out of me and from somewhere near the ceiling looks down on us all with compassion.

This beyond life is my heaven, home and destination. Some call it conscience, for me it's a friend with a human face as it were, my soul, my guardian angel, my whatever. For sixty years it's led me into common and uncommon sense. Try it yourself!

And if you say "Ah what about The Judgment?" What about The Judgement Indeed!

My teacher told me God will take you one by one to him, sit you on his knee and tell you what you're life was really about. That will be your heaven and your hell. And then the party starts. My grandpa said. "If you live as a good Jew in this life, you'll enjoy yourself like a non-Jew in the next." Thanks grandpa - "from your mouth into God's ear."

Copyright BBC


AMumInScotland Sun 12-Jul-09 21:55:37

The tricky thing about the 2 Timothy quotation is whether you take "God-breathed" to mean in the sense of "dictation" or "inspiration". One can believe that the scriptures were inspired by God without necessarily believing that every word is there because God specifically wanted it there.

And personally, I believe that Jesus death on the cross caused a one-off complete and utter change in the reality of God, humanity, and their relationship.

I don't claim to know who is going to be in the new creation when this one ends. I'm not a universalist - I don't think everyone will get a chance at it, no matter what they have done in this life. But equally, I don't think that it will only be Christians - I think that people can have a relationship with God becuase Christ made it possible, but I think that includes people who do not acknowledge Christ.

FAQinglovely Sun 12-Jul-09 22:04:17

I believe that only those that have accepted JEsus as their Saviour will get to Heaven.

So yes I believe that only Christians will go to Heaven - and not all of those that "say" they are Christians either.

FAQinglovely Sun 12-Jul-09 22:05:58

Jesus said that no-one goes to the Father except through him - so therefore they 'aint going to get there through the milky way grin

edam Sun 12-Jul-09 22:10:17

Tell her to calm down a bit. It's tiresome the way some people who have just embraced A, B or C feel the need to make everyone else do the same.

Even if she's right, being patronising or rude to new acquaintances is hardly going to persuade them, is it?

godzillasbumcheek Sun 12-Jul-09 22:20:02

I'd tell her not to tell people what she believes. how does it crop up in conversation?

would you like a cup of tea?
That depends. What religion (if any) do you practise?
well not that it matters but i am an aetheist.
Well you won't be going to heaven because you're not a Christian.
But i didn't ask to go to heaven, i don't even believe in heaven!
GOOD, because you're not gettin' in


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