Book Review:

“Ten Things I Learned Wrong from a Conservative Church”

by John Killinger

Third wrong teaching:

Jesus Is the Only Way to God

The thoughts and assertions of this chapter are a natural byproduct of the previous chapters. If God is not a moral judge, and Jesus did not have to die, it follows that Jesus is not the only way of salvation. Killinger begins by referring to a 1980 announcement by the President of the Southern Baptist Convention that God does not hear the prayers of those who do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah. He then continues: “Conservatives have this thing about Jesus, that since the incarnation two thousand years ago he is absolutely the only way to God for anything, whether we’re talking prayer or salvation” (p. 51). He’s correct! We do have this “thing” about Jesus, but He has been “the only way” for people throughout history, not just since His incarnation! Speaking of Abraham’s faith and salvation Paul says: “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Romans 4:5). And again, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’), that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Galatians 3:13-14). The people of the Old Testament era were saved by trusting that God would send the Savior just as we in the New Testament era are saved by trusting that God has sent the Savior. We are all saved the same way, and not just since the incarnation of Jesus: “You are My witnesses," says the LORD, "And My servant whom I have chosen, That you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there be after Me” (Isaiah 43:10).

Religious Pluralism

Faith in Jesus as the “head crusher” of Satan (Genesis 3:15) and the Redeemer from sin is the only way of salvation and always has been. But Killinger is a religious pluralist. He believes that any religious belief will also lead to the same God, and that Jesus is not necessary. He says: “So Jesus, who in person was the great leveler, the wonderful unifier always breaking down walls and reaching out to the unredeemed and untouchable, has ironically become the great divider, separating people into the saved and the unsaved, the righteous and the unrighteous. Today, more than anything else, he prevents his followers’ acceptance of Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Shintoists, pantheists, and liberals” (p. 51).

He works to disprove the Christian’s “proof passages” in which Jesus declares or is declared to be the exclusive means of salvation. He “disproves” John 14:6 by stating that we can’t “accept the literalist point of view that everything in the Bible means exactly what it says” because the Gospel of John is of a “semi-fictional character” (p. 52). Regarding Acts 4:12 he says something similar: “The raison d’etre given for Christianity in the Book of Acts, our at-times-somewhat-dubious ‘history’ of the early church, is that it is the Spirit-filled extension of Israel’s own mission – to be the salvation of the world” (p.53).

Then he presents his own “proof passage” for his assertion that Jesus is not the only way. It is found in the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican. There Jesus said of the Publican: “this man went down to his house justified” (Luke 18:14). Killinger’s contention is that the Publican didn’t know about Jesus, nor did he send his disciples to proclaim Jesus to him, but he still was justified. He says: “The man did not have to know the name of Jesus. He was a humble man before God, aware of his shortcomings, asking for divine mercy” (p. 54 - italics his). This is not a argument – first of all, Luke clearly states that this is a “parable” (Luke 18:9) to illustrate a specific point (in this case pride vs. humility) and not a real person or situation.

There are several passages which clearly state that Jesus is the only way. There are none that say, “There are many ways to God, Jesus is not the only way.” This is religious pluralism, and this thinking is very clearly contrary to the entire context of Scripture.

        Isaiah 49:6; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 2:10,31; 24:47; John 3:36; 10:9; 14:6; 1 Corinthians 3:11; 1 Timothy 2:5-6; 1 John 2:2, 23; 5:12.


Throughout this chapter, Killinger makes it clear that He does not believe that Jesus is the only way to eternal life. At one point he reminisces about some Jewish friends he knew as a boy. In his youth he wanted to talk to them about Jesus because he was concerned about their eternal salvation. But he never did and now he says: “I no longer worry about their salvation. I know that like the tax collector in Jesus’ parable, they are justified” (p. 59). He clearly believes that these Jewish friends of his will go to heaven right beside Christians – making the two religions “equals,” neither greater or more valid than the other. But at the same time he says this: “Christians find something special in Christ. They ought to. Were it not for him, they would have not been grafted into Israel’s stock... heaven knows where they – we – would have wound up in the panorama of world beliefs and religious understandings, had we not encountered the Gospel of Christ” (p. 54-55).

Do you see the problem here? If the religion of the Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist, Shintoist, pantheist, and liberal is just as valid or efficacious as Christianity, than what could possibly be special about encountering the Gospel of Christ? He does not give an answer to this question, but the answer is: NOTHING. If Jesus isn’t the only way to salvation, then there can be nothing special for us or anyone in Christ.

Jesus Wouldn’t Do That

Possibly the most common of all “arguments” against the Biblical teaching of salvation through Christ ALONE is the assertion, “The Jesus I know wouldn’t condemn those who don’t know Him.” Killinger uses that line of thinking as well:

“I cannot for the life of me, after all these years of study and discipleship, believe that the Jesus of history or the Christ of faith would endorse a view limiting salvation to those who have publicly confessed him as their personal savior and are willing to follow him in the ritual of Christian baptism” (p. 63).

There is a major flaw in such a line of thinking. It is true that God does not want anyone to be condemned (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). What this assertion overlooks is the Biblical doctrine of sin and the fact that we all deserve punishment in hell (Genesis 2:17; Isaiah 3:11; Ezekiel 18:20; Romans 6:23; Galatians 3:10). It also overlooks the truth that God has provided the antidote to the problem of our sin through Jesus, Who became man and made the full payment for the sins of all people (1 John 2:1-2; 2 Peter 2:1; John 3:16). This message of freedom is so important that God instilled into human beings a natural knowledge of the true God (Psalm 19:1-4; Acts 17:24-27; Romans 1:20), that they might seek and find Him through His revealed Word. The Gospel is the means by which people come to know the true God and what He has done, so that they may trust in Him for salvation. Jesus is the only way. It is for this reason that the true God has sent His people – throughout history – into “all the world” (Matthew 24:14; Mark 16:15) and to “all the nations” (Matthew 28:19; Luke 24:47) as His witnesses and ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). Salvation is found in Christ alone!

Note: The familiar commission Jesus gave was not a new one. Old Testament believers had this commission as well. Both were sent to proclaim the good news of salvation, through the one true God, to the unbelieving world of their time. The prophets Jonah, Nahum and Obadiah were each sent to foreign countries, and Elijah and Elisha also witnessed to foreigners during their ministries (1 Kings 17:8-24; 2 Kings 5:1-19. See also Psalm 67:1-2; Psalm 96:3; Isaiah 45:22; 49:6). They too proclaimed the good news!

Note: This study was prepared for the Bible Class at Zion Lutheran Church, Lawrenceville, Georgia by Pastor Nathanael Mayhew.

If you would like more information about this study,
please contact Pastor Mayhew