One of the most popular contemporary worship songs in recent years is the song, “In Christ Alone”, written by Townend & Getty. Countless young people have sung it numerous times. But do they believe it? Sadly we often sing without thinking and thereby sing what we don’t think.
In “The Disconnected Generation” Josh McDowell records the findings of his survey of 3700 young people in churches in North America. Among the results:
- 46% suspect that “it does not matter what religious faith you follow because all faiths teach similar lessons”
- 65% of Christian youth either believe or suspect that there’s no way to tell which religion is true.
If these surveys accurately reflect the thinking of much of American Christian youth, we have reason to doubt whether they really believe that salvation is in Christ alone, no matter how enthusiastically they may sing the words.
Of course the notion of “salvation in Christ alone” is a complex one. D.A.Carson (in The Gagging of God) suggests there are three basic categories within which people approach the question of whether there can be salvation apart from Christ. He identifies them as Pluralism, Inclusivism and Exclusivism.
In simple terms, a pluralist believes that all religions have equal moral and spiritual value, and thus offer the same potential for achieving salvation. Salvation is not in Christ alone. An inclusivist maintains that all who are saved are saved by the person and work of Christ alone, but that conscious faith in Christ may not be necessary. Salvation is in Christ alone, but perhaps in a Christ who is not known. Exclusivists insist that only those who place their faith in the Christ of the Bible are saved. [Carson, p.278].
So as we consider this life-and-death issue, it comes down to two fundamental questions:
- Can people be saved apart from Christ?
- Can people be saved by the Christ whom they do not know?
In a short series of upcoming blogs, we will explore the key elements in these questions. For a fuller introduction to the debate, a series of audio messages is available on our website.