My response to a friend:
Why is there such a narrow minded stance on how we go to heaven?
I think the first two questions are cut from the same cloth so though there may be some redundancy in the answer I will try to speak to them specifically.
One of the first things we need to look at in this area of asking questions are “Who are we?” and “Who is God?”. Seems almost obvious and the answer seems almost so obvious it would make us just gloss over it and not really spend time there. But it’s important. Very important. Why? Because in your own question you have presumed an answer. You asked “how we”. I think you understand there is a distinction between us and Him. But what is it about heaven that makes it so special? Well…God is there simply put. Heaven is where we will be with Christ fully.
To begin properly we should start with God. Who is He? Well in short, He is perfect. The bible says He can have no sin in His presence. Not because it would hurt Him. Not because He’s wearing a white suit and sin is grape juice. But because His holiness kills it. He is so pure that sin dies in His presence. Not only this but God has to be uncreated. He is Creator, Judge, Jury and Executioner. He assumes everything because He is the only one who is able.
Who are we? We are obviously created. But more than that we are made in His image (totally long topic). Thus we are eternal and will live forever (either in heaven or hell). However, we are fallen. We are tarnished with sin because of Adam. Our nature inherently is “depraved”. Another way of saying this is that we desire total autonomy and separation from God. We do not desire His ways nor His laws. We are wretched. This is really not too hard to demonstrate simply by observing other humans or even children. We never have to teach our children to hit, scream, lie or hoard. It’s in our nature. More can be said but I think this is a fair thumbnail sketch of who we are and who God is.
This presents the situation and the dilemma. Dilemma because how does a Holy God who is Just keep His justice and yet still bring His “image bearers” to Him? The problem is our sin. What happens to it? If God simply ignores it He is not Just. If He brings us in without the consequences of breaking obvious laws He is not good. What can He do? Obvious answer insert here. Jesus.
Thus to answer your question it has to be narrow minded on how we go to heaven because frankly there is no other way to pay for our sin. This is the big hang up with the other religious faiths I’ve studied is how do we deal with our sin? It cannot be ignored or overlooked thus it is in Christ where our sin is dealt with. Christ bearing the wrath of God the Father suffers on our behalf because Christ was the only one who could. There has never been any other way to deal with our sin than Christ.
Christ himself was an exclusivist. In the sense that he didn’t include everyone. He was not an inclusivist nor a pluralist. His claims to divinity are pretty obvious as well his claims to be the only way to the Father. Biblically we find support from Christ, the prophets and apostles that God did not have to redeem fallen man but chose to.
Why do we say people who have faith in Christ are the only accepted ones?
Tying into the answer above. Our faith in Christ is crucial because he is the only one who is able to save. We need a Savior. Simply because of our sin and God’s wrathful justice that awaits to deal with it. We cannot save ourselves with good works because we can do no good works. No other “savior” type if sufficient either. The reason faith in Christ is the only acceptable way to God the Father is because that is the only way He has provided.
The big problem we have is our sin and God’s wrath which is aimed at us. How do we deal with it before God deals with it at judgement? God’s eternal wrath must be the punishment or “justice” we deserve.
Those “accepted” are accepted because they are “in” Christ. My pastor painted an interesting picture with words, he said in a fire the safest place to be is where the fire has already burned. Standing in Christ we stand where God’s wrath has been satisfied. We get there by repentance and faith. The critical proclamation made in Scripture is by Peter “examine yourself, to see that you are in the faith”, “make your election sure”, this can’t be a matter taken casually the consequence is God’s mercy leaves and turns the unredeemed over to their sin and they will never be redeemed.