Jesus came to seek and to save those who are lost, and He commanded them to repent and believe the Good News. The Bible does not consider only blatant Satan worshipers to be lost; it also condemns those who are sincerely following the false gods of other religious systems and those moral, religious people who trust in their own righteousness. The Bible does not teach that it is sufficient for them merely to add Jesus to what they currently trust. Rather, they must renounce the shameful ways of their old religions and turn to trust Jesus only. Placing faith in your own righteousness or the salvation of another “god” is to follow a god and religion of your own making. Rendering the honor, worship, and faith that is due to God alone to anything or anyone else is idol worship. An idol is anything that takes God’s rightful place in your life. Dr. R. Albert Mohler reminded the SBTS family in opening convocation chapel on Tuesday, August 21, of the Apostle John’s warning in 1 John 5:21, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” Dr. Mohler clearly explained many of the diverse forms that idols may take. He also included a very clear missiological application by declaring, “Idolatry is belief in a false god.” Indeed, the Bible states in Psalm 96:5, “For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the Lord made the heavens.”
The God of the Bible is a Triune God; one God who exists in the three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is not true that adherents of all religions are worshiping the same God their own way. I have always taught that those who worship any other god than the God of the Bible are worshiping a god of their own making, and that by very definition they are idol worshipers. The cults and major world religions are not worshiping the biblically revealed true and living God, but rather a substitute of their own imaginations, i.e., an idol. The task of missionaries is to call them to repent of that, believe the Good News and place their faith in Christ alone. We do not implore them merely to add Jesus to the religion they have already followed—whether that is Hinduism, Islam, or the self-righteousness that banks salvation on a moral life and church membership. Jesus plus nothing is salvation, Jesus plus anything else equals heresy. The risk and danger inherent in insider movements, over-contextualization, and C5 forms of missions methodology is one of merely adding Jesus to existing religious systems, and the missionary may be the last one to recognize that it is happening.
The missionary message seeks to present lost people with the truth that God is holy, you are separated from Him due to your sin, Jesus is the answer, and that you must repent and be born again. Islam has distinctly different beliefs from Christianity, as does Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and every other ism. Trusting in these systems and the hope they hold forth, even sincerely and faithfully, is missing the mark and practicing open rebellion to the Word of God. We do not call people to add Jesus to them, but to turn from them and trust in Him.
Advocates of insider movements argue that those who embrace Jesus while remaining in their own religious systems are often the best evangelists and most winsome witnesses to others in their socioreligious contexts who have yet to embrace Him. They also state that these “converts” will come to know and embrace Christian truth exclusively over time. I hear and understand the arguments, but please be very careful. The tendency of a fallen world is never to drift toward orthodoxy and sound doctrine, any more than a leaf that falls into the raging river floats upstream and up Niagara Falls. Polluted pools of water do not become pure on their own simply with the passage of enough time, especially if the source of the pollution remains.
Pluralism and inclusivism have proliferated in recent years due to burgeoning postmodernism and a post-9/11 desire to avoid even the appearance of arrogance or ethnocentrism. Because of this sensitivity, we may be reticent to call others to repent of their religions and trust in Christ alone. Resist this reticence! Proclaim the Good News! Salvation is found in no other! Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) The Apostle Peter declared, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) If you believe that in your missions context you must incorporate methodologies of insider movements and C5 over-contextualization, please be careful. At the beginning, middle, and end of all you do, remind them, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols.”