In the sixth chapter of Love Wins Bell leaps into the puddle of all people ending up in heaven and splashes all sorts of religions all over the place. He affirms that Jesus is the only way to God and that Jesus is saving (or drawing) all people to himself. What is supposed to be edgy in this chapter is that Bell says that people can find salvation in Jesus in other religions besides Christianity. This ruffles all sorts of feathers.
Of course, the Bible does not teach that Christianity saves people. Christianity is a word given to categorize people who are trying to follow the teachings of Jesus. Other religions don’t save people either, they are names given to people who are trying to follow a certain set of teachings, customs and rituals. So, the questions becomes can you follow a different set of teachings, customs and rituals and still be following Jesus?
It’s an interesting question to put it mildly. Can you be a Buddist Christian? Can you be a Islamic Mormon? Can you be a Duck fan from Corvallis?
While Bell wants to say, ‘for sure!’, it can’t be just announced that easily. What we refer to as salvation or what we believe is following God is also described in other faiths – and the two are not always compatible. What one practices in another religious system can be sinful for a person following Jesus.
I prefer McLaren’s treatment of this issue in his New Kind of Christian trilogy where he makes a distinction between being a follower of Jesus and being culturally a Christian and, in another way, being culturally traditional in your customs, but being a follower of Jesus (which remains preeminent).