The Head of the Cosmos 

The spir­i­tu­al renais­sance com­ing to birth will focus not on the­o­ries of the atone­ment or of social progress but on the divine/​human fig­ure of Jesus. Jesus is Sav­ior, Teacher, Lord, Friend. Even more, he is the Lord of the uni­verse, the Head of the cos­mos. Paul says as much in Colos­sians, In Christ all things in heav­en and on earth were cre­at­ed, things vis­i­ble and invis­i­ble, whether thrones or domin­ions or rulers or pow­ers all things have been cre­at­ed through him and for him. He him­self is before all things and in him all things hold togeth­er” (1:16 – 17).

Jesus is the Christ, the promised Mes­si­ah. Even more, he is the divine Son, the sec­ond per­son of the Trin­i­ty. Indeed, in his very per­son, he is the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). John Paul II writes in Cross­ing the Thresh­old of Hope, If Jesus were only a wise man like Socrates, if he were a prophet’ like Muham­mad, if he were enlight­ened’ like Bud­dha, with­out any doubt he would not be what he is. He is the one medi­a­tor between God and humanity.”

The True Exclu­siv­i­ty of the Gospel

This unique­ness of Christ, this exclu­siv­i­ty which says that Jesus is the only way of sal­va­tion, does not set well with mod­ern sen­si­bil­i­ties. Peo­ple today wish every way to be valid, every belief to be true, every sin­cere per­son to be right. But, the truth be told, we are not in a posi­tion to set the rules in these mat­ters. And the law of non-con­tra­dic­tion (the real­i­ty that a thing can­not both be and not be at the same time) flies in our face every time we try to have things some way oth­er than the way they are. If Jesus is the Way, then those not in his way are not in The Way. Jesus lived, died, rose, and now extends to us, his dis­ci­ples, the same life and pow­er that he knew when he was among us in the flesh. That is his Way.

The dis­ci­ple of Jesus actu­al­ly has a trans­form­ing rela­tion­ship with God which those who are not his dis­ci­ples sim­ply do not have. This is the true exclu­siv­i­ty of the gospel of Jesus Christ — the real­i­ty of peo­ple who have turned from dark­ness to light; turned from for­ni­ca­tion and impu­ri­ty and licen­tious­ness and idol­a­try and sor­cery and enmi­ties and strife and jeal­ousy and anger and quar­rels and dis­sen­sions and fac­tions and envy and drunk­en­ness and carous­ing, and turned instead to love and joy and peace and patience and kind­ness and gen­eros­i­ty and faith­ful­ness and gen­tle­ness and self-con­trol (Gal. 5:19 – 23). It is an exclu­siv­i­ty of those who are tru­ly liv­ing and walk­ing in the holi­ness and pow­er of Jesus Christ.

The Sav­ing Light of Jesus Christ 

If Jesus is the only Way, as we insist he is, then what of those who have nev­er had an oppor­tu­ni­ty to know of him or his Way? Ah, here we must under­stand that Jesus is far big­ger than our lit­tle con­cep­tions, and that as the divine Logos he is present every­where and is not blot­ted out or over­whelmed by the pow­ers of dark­ness (John 1:1 – 5). He is in truth the true light which enlight­ens every per­son com­ing into the world” (John 1:9). This is the sav­ing light of Jesus Christ which is reach­ing out to all peo­ples, even those who have nev­er heard his name nor know of his Way. Robert Bar­clay, a sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry Chris­t­ian the­olo­gian, put it well in his Apol­o­gy for the True Chris­t­ian Divin­i­ty: God, who out of his infi­nite love sent his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, into the world, who tast­ed death for every man, has giv­en to every man, whether Jew or Gen­tile, Turk or Scythi­an, Indi­an or Bar­bar­ian, of what­so­ev­er nation, coun­try, or place, a cer­tain day or time of vis­i­ta­tion; dur­ing which day or time it is pos­si­ble for them to be saved, and to par­take of the fruit of Christ’s death.”

This is not uni­ver­sal­ism, which claims that all peo­ple will even­tu­al­ly be saved. No, this is the con­vic­tion that Jesus has been and is still reach­ing out to all peo­ples in ways we do not ful­ly under­stand, extend­ing to them the oppor­tu­ni­ty and the choice to turn toward the Light of Christ. Christ, the true Light, was reach­ing out to Socrates and mil­lions more in the ancient world, and he is reach­ing out today even to those who have nev­er heard his name. This is why C. S. Lewis in The Last Bat­tle had one of the Calor­men enter into the true heav­en­ly Nar­nia. It is also why John Paul II in his 1990 encycli­cal Redemp­toris Mis­sio clear­ly states that who­ev­er is saved is saved only through Jesus Christ, whether they have heard of him or not.

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Orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished in Per­spec­tive, April 152000.

Originally published April 2000