Salam (Peace) Dear Mike,
Peace be with you!
Thank you very much for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.
You have made a very clear and emphatic statement of your faith and asked the Muslim brothers not just to accept the same faith, but to also propagate it. In a nutshell your faith can be put thus: God is on one side and all the sinners are on the other side.
Christ Jesus is a man (?) “between them” who died in the attempt to bring God and the sinners together. If you believe this, you are saved; otherwise you are doomed to eternal damnation.
You have quoted Biblical verses to support this view. One such verse is the statement attributed to Jesus: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6).
The above verse is probably the most quoted one in support of the Christian claim that “salvation” is possible only through Jesus. But if we closely read the verse, we can see that this verse does not unambiguously support that Christian claim; nor does it necessarily mean what the Christians say.
For instance, the Christians would not accept that a Muslim who believes in God and Jesus (as God’s Messenger – “the way” in that sense) will enter heaven.
But please understand that a prophet of God can say that he is the “way,” in the sense that the Guidance of God comes through him, or it is through him that people come to know God and His will. Similarly, he can say that he is “the truth” in the sense that he is the bringer of the truth from God. And “he is the life” can mean that he is the one who leads us to eternal life.
Assuredly John 14:6 cannot be cited as an incontrovertible proof for your claim that one may get to heaven only if he believes that Jesus died for him. Besides you cannot quote a single utterance of Jesus that specifically endorses your belief in his blood sacrifice. On the contrary, this is what we find in the Gospel about eternal life (Matthew 19:16,17):
“And behold, one came up to him, saying, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?’ And he said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.'”
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus (Luke 10: 25- 28):
“‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
‘What is written in the Law?’ he replied. ‘How do you read it?’
He answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind;’ and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’
‘You have answered correctly,’ Jesus replied. ‘Do this and you will live.'”
Can anyone be clearer than this? To the straightforward question about eternal life, Jesus gave a straightforward answer.
Wouldn’t Jesus have known that to inherit an eternal life a person must necessarily believe that God assumed human form (i.e. that of Jesus) to suffer death on the cross? He doesn’t speak of himself as a mediator between God and himself. If what you say is correct, why would Jesus mislead the people?
You have also referred to the following verse from the Bible (John 3:16):
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
One interesting point to be noted here is an attempt by the Church to foist this verse on Jesus. In fact this is one of those exegetical remarks put in edgewise by the author or by a later interpolator.
Many Christian scholars assert that this verse was not spoken by Jesus, but rather introduced by the Gospel writer. For instance, Fr. Rudolf Schneckenburg says that the author of the fourth Gospel is commenting on the words of Jesus here, namely: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might be saved.
Note the use of the third person rather than Jesus speaking in the first person. Note that the text does not read: “For God so loved the world that he gave me, his only Son so that everyone who believes in me might be saved.”
Besides, the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, which incidentally is a very authentic translation that corrects many errors of earlier translations, clearly puts the words of Jesus within quotes, while this verse (3:16) is given outside quotes as part of the explanation by the author of the Gospel.
We must also remember that the only Gospel that contains these words is the fourth Gospel which was written at least 70 years after the disappearance of Jesus.
All this points to the fact that Jesus had nothing to do with this idea of the Father giving the innocent Son to be crucified for saving sinners. But your belief is that for “salvation” one needs simply to believe this. That is to say you don’t need to lead a virtuous life along with holding that belief to earn eternal life.
Most certainly the above idea blatantly contradicts Jesus’ real teaching given in Matthew 19:17: “If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” Jesus explained that the commandments are those in the law of Moses by giving examples from Toraic law.
Later the man called Saul of Tarsus (later St. Paul who came to the fold of Christ’s followers as “the thirteenth apostle” after Christ’s time) insisted that leading a virtuous life is not a condition to enter eternal life. See how he derides the observance of the Law, contradicting Jesus:
“For the law worketh wrath. For where there is no law, neither is there transgression.”
And again Romans 3:28:
“For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”
Paul wrote to the Ephesians, 2:8-9:
“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works so that no one can boast.”
The above verses clearly state that faith alone saves a Christian from damnation. Good works have no place.
Yet, it is true that there is an emphasis on good works elsewhere in the Bible. For instance, Jesus is reported to have said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21) And James, the brother of Jesus, wrote in his Epistle, “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:20)
But the present Christian churches that follow Paul rather than Jesus would undermine this legacy, and weaken it with a bloody mythology of human sacrifice. They simplistically dismiss Jesus’ teachings about the need for correct action, and preach that salvation exists because Jesus died on a cross as payment for our sins. Such a belief shows a total disregard for human accountability in achieving salvation.
Dr. Arnold Meyer says:
“If by Christianity we understand faith in Christ as the heavenly Son of God, who did not belong to earthly humanity, but who lived in the divine likeness and glory, who came down from heaven to earth, who entered humanity and took upon himself a human form through a virgin, that he might make propitiation for men’s sins by his own blood upon the cross, who was then awakened from death and raised to the right hand of God, as the Lord of his own people, who believe in him, who hears their prayers, guards and leads them, who will come again with the clouds of heaven to judge the world, who will cast down all the foes of God, and will bring his own people with him unto the home of heavenly light so that they may become like His glorified body – if this is Christianity, then such Christianity was founded by St. Paul and not by our Lord.” (Dr. Arnold Meyer, Professor of Theology, Zurich University, Jesus or Paul, p. 122)
According to the Bible, Jesus taught (John 8: 32):
“And ye shall know the TRUTH, and the TRUTH shall make you free.”
Let us pray to God Almighty to guide us to the Truth.
I hope this helps address your concerns.
Salam and please keep in touch.