"I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me." – John 14:6
So, this debate has been going for a while, so I'd like to take a moment to reflect on it. The problem, stated briefly, is why do you have to go through the Christ to be saved? If you're a good person, Buddhist, Muslim, Druid, Wiccan, what-have-you, and you live a good life, why are you thrown into the fiery pits of hell when eh-so-so-Christians get a free ride right through the Pearly Gates with a nod and a pat on the back from St. Pete?
I think, firstly, the argument is a fair one if taken at face value, and has been addressed by the Magisterium: through the Christ is Salvation.
Okay, we're done here.
Or. Are. We?
The question of Salvation is a tricky one, first-and-only, because it is in the provenance solely of Christianity, and that is the context that the neo-pagans and the neo-pantheists miss entirely: they are debating Christian virtues informed by a Christian context and want to be allowed into the Christian Wedding Feast and not be left outside, improperly dressed, without enough oil, wailing and gnashing their teeth.
Because the wailing and the gnashing of teeth is not where the party's at.
Do you see the double standard here?
Salvation belongs to our God.
And when I say 'our' I mean 'our' as in Christian, because no other religion before, and no religion since has the concept of Christian Salvation (which requires its dual: our fallen nature, which Christians and non- are quick to forget for themselves in this debate).
Let me back up this statement.
Pantheism, Greco/Roman-style: nope. You could be a servant at the dining table, but only if you were a hero of supernatural success, or you were so super sexy Juno wanted to impregnate you after turning you into a goat. That was 50/50, the other 50 was you were flung up into the heavens to hang there, upside-down for all eternity. You want that? I think not.
Your other other alternative was to put a coin in your mouth so Charon could row you into Hades (the place) where you'd forget everything and basically be a vegetable for Hades (the dude) and Persephone to walk over your head.
Pantheism, Hindu style: Okay, talk to a Hindu. Get a synopsis of Hinduism? Great. Talk to another Hindu, get a different story? Great. The great wheel keeps on turning, but the gods don't much involve themselves with us, because there are the gods, doing their thing, and here we are, turning on the great wheel, getting reincarnated. When we attain perfection, we're good, but is there a morality to it? There is rightness and asceticism but every action and thought is permitted so long as you think and do them perfectly, with various conflicting definitions of perfection.
Manichaeism: Good vs. Evil. Except not. Good was pure spirit and light, Evil was physicality, so what did this mean. It meant the body, people, were evil, and the worst thing you could do was capture a spirit into a body, i.e., have a baby. So, you abstained from physical things and tried to be spiritual.
What was the reward? At the end of time, the equally empowered forces would gather in armies and one of the sides would win, hopefully yours. Nothing was said of a reward for fighting (and winning).
In neither case was God: a) present, nor a Father, nor a Savior. Creation was something that just happened, and the gods came from that, just like we did. In consequence, the gods were just like us, only moreso.
Buddhism: Hinduism 2.0
Islam: Catholicism as rewritten by a crazy guy (debate with me in this, but only after you've read the Noble Qu'ran, too, like I have).
New Age Crystals: Coexist, but only insofar as everyone chillaxes with pan flutes
Confucianism/Taoism (or is this New Age)/Shintoism: These are right ways to live now, by respecting your Elders, and there some talk of Shamanism/Spiritism, but what does it buy you or them?
Capitalism/Communism: Same thing these day, bb, be he the State or Business has one thing in mind: itself, and you are raw material, a cog in the tooth wheel to be (re)educated, worked to death and then spit out when you die ... if you're lucky to be worked to death. There's always the firing squad for the Communists or Capitalisms (they call them 'drones'). Both philosophies are well-captured in this past century, as well as their effects. The one thing both lack? Joy. Hope. Love. Whatever you want to call it. Both drain humanity from human. Their color is grey. Read and enjoy Ayn Rand and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I've read both.
It is only in Christianity that God so loves us that He incarnated Himself for our salvation. Not only did He create us, but then, by His Incarnation, He adopted us as co-hiers of His Glory. No other god, before or since has offered this to us, and not because He has to or because we've earned it, but it's something freely offered to us.
The thing is: we have to take it.
He gave us free will. We can look Him square in the eye (we can't, actually, but He looks at us and knows us, better than we know ourselves), and say 'nope,' and take our ball and walk away from Him.
He could force us to love Him. He could make us accept our salvation: robots programmed to face Him always, saying 'Holy, Holy, Holy' all the time, as the Cherubim (freely chose to do, I point out here).
Or, He could let us choose to say 'Holy art Thou, O LORD,' freely, any time of the day, week, year, decade, or never. He could choose to allow us to walk away into whatever the hell we want to do, live the life of self-pleasure, and die that way, sure in our self-righteousness, for obviously, we know better than God.
That's what I choose, every time.
And what is the cost of that choice? Nothing. It's freely given to me.
What is the cost of salvation?
A sacrifice, once, for all, and for all time.
A perfect sacrifice, and only God is perfect, so God had to sacrifice Himself to Himself to pay for all my sins, and everybody else's sins.
Sin, Hebrew: an arrow that misses the target.
If we aren't dead-set staring straight (back) at God, singing 'Holy, Holy, Holy' we're missing the boat.
We're missing the boat.
So that's the cost of salvation.
But here's the reward.
When I lift my head up out of the cesspool of my sins, out of myself, and look up to God, and cry: 'Oh, God, save me.'
God, right there, saves me. Not that time, not the next time.
Every time I turn from my sin, and turn back to God, reconcile with Him, God saves me. He saved me once to pay the price of Sin, and He saves me now, to pull me up out of my sins.
And the payoff for God?
Nothing, God doesn't need to save me, it doesn't make Him feel better.
He does it because He is God.
I am the shepherd, He says, and we are His sheep, and He laid down His Life for us and knows us and calls us by name, and He goes out into the wilderness to rescue a lost sheep and bring that lost sheep, me, back to His fold.
Because He is God.
Salvation belongs to our God.
Not because He is a Jerk and only plays with the cool kids who are total jerks, just like Him.
That is not Christianity. There are Christians who are jerks, yes, but Christianity, the followers of the Christ, follow Christ because He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and no one comes to the Father, except through Him.
And in following Christ, are made better by it, even as they start out by being total jerks, even if they end up that way. Put down that stone, please, and first look in the mirror and say: 'Yup, I'm not a total jerk, and I never have been, so I'm free to judge others on their journey.'
Did that? Great: now you can cast your stone at me.
I'll die for it: you, and your beliefs: the stone you throw at me. Happily. To be Christian is to give oneself to God. Totus tuus. And if 21 Coptic martyrs don't convince you (one of who was not a Christian, but became one that day, seeing the faith of the others), then, sure, I'll put myself on your path, so that you might be saved. A soul? Yours? Worth it.
Follow your own way. Follow it to its very end. Find out the reward of your way is. I beg you. Get to the very bottom of it. Know it better than anything else in the world. See its fruits.
Then ask yourself, what is the Christian way? Look at the Church, in all her flaws and imperfections, what is it really there for? Look to God and see Him beyond the hate you have for Him (this hate is not coming from Him, by the way), all the things you've heard and seen that you blame Him for.
Then, ask, seek, and knock.
For whosoever seeks will find, whoever asks will be given, whoever knocks the door will be opened unto him.
God loves you. He is not going to hand you a stone when you ask for bread. He has made you and, seeing what He has made, has declared it very good. You were created in God's image and likeness. He loves you, more than you know.
And I do, too.
I'm praying for you.