While answering another question, I made a statement that I thought was universal in Christianity:

Jesus is the only route to heaven; without him, you go to hell.

Are there Christian denominations that disagree with this statement? If so, which ones and why do they disagree with this statement?

  • I distinctly remember a quote from Luther (my memories might be incorrect) that says that once you get to know about Jesus (and understand, of course) then Jesus is the only way, but some of those people who have never heard about Him might still be saved, based on their conscience.
    – vsz
    Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 15:53
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    By the way, the existence of forms of Christianity that would deny this claim does not negate the fact that more than 98% of Christianity, not to mention the Bible and Jesus himself, attest to this fact. You can find 2% of the population that doesn't think we landed on the moon or that we are descended from space aliens. Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 12:13

7 Answers 7


Catholics believe that Only those baptised in Jesus' name will go to heaven.

But we also believe that

God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments. ccc 1257

So, there is hope for:

  • People who never have heard of Jesus, even those born before him.
  • Children or catechumens who die before baptism.
  • People who die a holy death, but lived a bad life.

These people receive a different kind of the same Baptism one would receive in a Church, and it's all done through Christ.

  • 2
    But does the Catholic church believe that Jesus is the route to salvation for those three groups you mentioned?
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 3:47
  • What happened to the Thief on the Cross? Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 10:20
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    @joe Yes, but Jesus it's Jesus' initiative that brings those others in to Heaven. One can't expect a member of some remote tribe to be Christian spontaneously and it doesn't fit with any notion of justice to condemn them to hell for being poorly catechized when no attempt at catechesis was ever made.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 16:50
  • This answer is all about whether baptism is required to get into heaven. The question is about whether Jesus is required.
    – Joe
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 23:23

It's not a denomination, but there are a number of people that would call themselves "Christian Atheist". Christian Atheism rejects the existence of God, but follows the moral teaching of Jesus.

There isn't an official "Church" or denomination. (Why would there be?) It seems to be more of a movement and growing trend.

At least one Reverend from the Protestant Church in the Netherlands would fit the profile, and teaches this view from the pulpit.

They wouldn't consider Jesus to be the only way to Heaven, because to them, Heaven is a myth.

  • 2
    I must be missing something in their doctrinal statements. Reading their documents Speaking about God and Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, they clearly recognize that agnosticism is very common in modern society, but they speak of God as real and living.
    – Joe
    Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 0:30
  • I was off-base. What I'd seen was one quote from one official, and not representative of that denomination in general. I came across that denomination while formulating what was going to be my original answer, and posted that stinker of an answer without doing proper research. As such, I erased my wrong answer and went back to what I was going to post in the first place. Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 1:38
  • I suspect the Christian atheist "church" gets more press on this site than from just about anywhere else... Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 12:10

The "emerging church" in general, and Brian McLaren in particular, have often been accused of holding this position. Like good Agile developers, they hold to a set of core principles that are more important than others. In particular, they hold that Jesus' preference for people over doctrine means that any doctrine that excludes people is wrong. Some extend this to mean that the Emerging Church would say that no doctrine (including the "idea" that Jesus is the Way, the truth, and the life) can trump one's eternal worth or destiny.

Also, Unitarians consider themselves to be Christian but reject both Jesus as God and Jesus as the only means to God. Flying directly in the face of Lewis' trilemma, they regard Jesus as a good teacher but nothing more. Additionally, Unitarians are members of the "Unitarian Universalist" association - a group that encompasses both Christian and non-Christian groups.

  • +1. Did not know about the Unitarians. Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 2:31
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    Tom Lehrer's old joke from the Civil Rights era- Q:how do you get a Unitarian out of your neighborhood? A:Burn a question mark on his lawn. :) Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 11:49

I suppose that depends what you mean by "Christian denominations". I'd say that anyone who rejects the idea that salvation is by Christ is, by definition, not a Christian denomination. But if you mean, groups that call themselves Christian, then the answer is clearly yes.

I tried to find some clear references from doctrinal statements of churches on the web. Frankly, it's a lot of work. Few are going to directly say, "We don't think Jesus is the only way ...", for the simple reason that people rarely say what they don't believe, they say what they do believe. What you're more likely to find is that people who believe in Jesus as the only way say so, and those who don't have vague statements.

But for example:

The most obvious example is Unitarians. http://www-distance.syr.edu/sammaybelieve.html

Presbyterians. See "What about people of other faiths" in http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/today/jesus/

Anglicans. See http://www.stjohnsroslyn.org.nz/guide_to_the_anglican_church.html Note that it tosses in Islam and unspecified others as on a par with Christianity. Or more directly, http://geoconger.wordpress.com/2009/04/17/presiding-bishop-jesus-is-not-the-only-way-to-god-cen-41709-p-7/.

I would have said Mormons, though this page, http://mormon.org/jesus-christ, from the Mormon's web site in fact says that salvation is only through Christ. While they don't believe in the Trinity, they do say Jesus is the only path to salvation.

I once attended a meeting of The Way in which the speaker said that Jesus was just a man, a good man, but a man. I read similar statements in a book given me by a United Methodist minister. But I'm reluctant to make statements about a denomination as a whole based on what one representative said.

  • No offense, just a fact check: your reference to Presbyterians here is wrong. 1) The article you link to clearly states that even if people of other faiths are to be saved, it would be only through the person and work of Christ. 2) Even that edge interpretation is subset of PCUSA church doctrine and only partially representative of that body and in no way of Presbyterians in general. In spite of using the term broadly in that article, it PCUSA doctrine cannot be taken to define Presbyterianism and most Presbyterians would soundly reject even the hint that there might be another way.
    – Caleb
    Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 5:33
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    To say that an ambiguous statement from Scholari or an individual defines Anglican belief is more than a little problematic. Many (most?) Anglicans would hold a more historically conventional belief. Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 10:14
  • 1
    As an episcopalian, Katherine does not speak for me, my church, or For anything sensical at all. Commented Oct 24, 2012 at 16:40
  • I readily concede that none of my quotes are from official church documents. But then, what the people of a denomination believe is not necessarily the same as what official documents say, especially if those documents are decades or centuries old. And what the leadership says is not necessarily the same as what the rank-and-file say, witness the present debates in the Anglican/Episcopalian church over homosexuality. I suppose it would have been more accurate to say that "here are some people who call themselves Christians who say ..." rather than "here are some churches ..." etc.
    – Jay
    Commented Oct 26, 2012 at 17:26

Technically, in some traditions there is a doctrine known as Lucan Inclusivism, which stems from a passage in Luke in which a parable by Jesus includes a beggar, never seen to enter the temple. For those interested, the passage is Luke 16, 19-31. The beggar would not, according to contemporary scholarship, have been allowed to enter the temple; ergo never following the traditions of Judaism for worship, but he is still "carried away by the angels to Abraham's bosom".

This argument is occasionally used in some soteriological thought to claim that salvation can come without faith even to those who are not Christian, but only if the chance to accept it was never given.

I personally don't find the evidence (in the passage it never explicitly states that the beggar failed in his faith-indeed, the practice of making assumptions on Christian soteriology off of that of Judaism is somewhat questionable) to support the claim, but I had several long discussions with my brother about it; according to him it's accepted by the Nazarenes (he's a theology student at a Nazarene school, but it is occasionally known for drifting from doctrinal imperatives in its teaching).

  • Do you have a book or other source for Lucan Inclusivism? I couldn't find anything (admittedly, my only search was three minutes on Google). And the Nazarene Articles of Faith (articles six and seven) seem to deny this.
    – Ryan Frame
    Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 2:54
  • I'll ask my brother what he's seen about it; he had a very fleshed out (if insubstantial argument); I agree that it technically goes against the Articles of Faith, but again, the question of written doctrine and pulpit doctrine comes into play. As for myself, I haven't had any luck finding any-it seems to be a seminarian's debate rather than something that has elicited real controversy; even Google finds only a few (and usually useless) results. Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 3:49
  • nearemmaus.com/2007/11/02/… This isn't a particularly cogent source, but it defines inclusivism (it's the second "exclusivism", someone didn't get their typing straight). Mind you, Lucan inclusivism isn't that different than the other forms; it's just the source they use to justify their inclusivist beliefs. Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 3:52
  • Also, theoretically, the Articles of Faith are inclusivist; children and those incapable of coming to faith are believed to be saved, regardless of personal choice. Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 3:53
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    "...it doesn't even necessarily say that people are saved, just that there is the potential for them to be saved through such... Just skimmed, but might be useful in the negative of Lukan Inclusivism (agrees, but argues the other direction? I just skimmed, so don't take it too accurately as a reflection of the theory) rethinkingmission.org/pdfs/thomas08.pdf" Apparently someone got cleared of a heresy trial in recent history for espousing it; it's more of a "possibility" than a "definitely happens" thing. Commented Apr 17, 2013 at 5:43

Jehovah's Witnesses don't literally disagree but interpret it differently than most other denominations:

We believe in Jesus, who said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) We have faith that Jesus came to earth from heaven and gave his perfect human life as a ransom sacrifice. (Matthew 20:28) His death and resurrection make it possible for those exercising faith in him to gain everlasting life. (John 3:16) We also believe that Jesus is now ruling as King of God’s heavenly Kingdom, which will soon bring peace to the entire earth. (Revelation 11:15) However, we take Jesus at his word when he said: “The Father is greater than I am.” (John 14:28) So we do not worship Jesus, as we do not believe that he is Almighty God.

Also they do not believe in hell:

Some Bible translations use the word “hell” for the Hebrew word “Sheol” and the matching Greek word “Hades,” both of which refer to the common grave of mankind. (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27) Many people believe in a fiery hell, as shown in the religious artwork accompanying this article. However, the Bible teaches otherwise.

  1. Those in hell are unconscious and so cannot feel pain. “There is no work nor devising nor knowledge nor wisdom in Sheol.”—Ecclesiastes 9:10.
  2. Good people go to hell. The faithful men Jacob and Job expected to go there.—Genesis 37:35; Job 14:13.
  3. Death, not torment in a fiery hell, is the penalty for sin. “He who has died has been acquitted from his sin.”—Romans 6:7.
  4. Eternal torment would violate God’s justice. (Deuteronomy 32:4) When the first man, Adam, sinned, God told him that his punishment would simply be to pass out of existence: “Dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19) God would have been lying if he were actually sending Adam to a fiery hell.
  5. God does not even contemplate eternal torment. The idea that he would punish people in hellfire is contrary to the Bible’s teaching that “God is love.”—1 John 4:8; Jeremiah 7:31.

Modern Catholics believe in "Baptism of Desire" (BoD) which means, even though a person dies a Buddhist or Hindu, etc., and they did not desire baptism or even know of it, God provides that person with a BoD somewhere after death but before Judgement.

Eight Church Fathers believed in BoD for Catechumens only, however some rejected it altogether, like St Gregory of Nazienzen. Some later saints believed in Baptism of Desire for Catechumens only, like St Alphonsus de Ligori. Doctrinally, non-water baptism is condemned by multiple Councils, notably Trent.

Pope Paul III, The Council of Trent, canons on the Sacrament of Baptism, Session 7, canon 2: “If anyone shall say that real and natural water is not necessary for baptism, and on that account those words of Our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Spirit’ [John 3:5], are distorted into some sort of metaphor: let him be anathema.”

However, post Vatican II Popes have extended the concept of Baptism of Desire to basically include everyone in every religion whatsoever.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now considered to be the Pope), Truth and Tolerance, 2004, p. 207: “The fact that in every age there have been, and still are, ‘pagan saints’ is because everywhere and in every age – albeit often with difficulty and in fragmentary fashion – the speech of the ‘heart’ can be heard, because God’s Torah may be heard within ourselves...”

In conclusion, almost everyone who would call themselves a Catholic disagrees with your statement.

  • The doctrine of Invincible Ignorance predates VAII by 400 years (at least). Commented Aug 21, 2013 at 0:38
  • @IgnatiusTheophorus Prove it with an infallible document.
    – user
    Commented Oct 4, 2013 at 10:53

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