The clearer our picture of how to serve the neighbor, the closer to God we can become.
Is there one “right” religion?
Yes, but it doesn’t exist simply with one group or one church. The right religion is simply this: to love our Creator and all the people He created. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Matthew 22:37-40). In other words the whole point of religion is to learn to love and serve God and the neighbor. At their core, all religions come back to the same thing: love and serve God and the neighbor. That doesn’t mean all religions are equally true or good. Some religions seem to have a clearer understanding of how to love and serve God and the neighbor while some lead away from this principle. The clearer our picture of how to serve the Lord and neighbor are closer to God we can become.
Can people from different religions go to heaven?
Getting to heaven isn’t simply a matter of having the right beliefs, or doing the right rituals, or calling the Divine by a specific name. You can’t get to heaven without doing what God wills. A person who professes belief in Jesus as Lord but breaks His commandments really isn’t a follower of Christ at all. Is a Muslim who refrains from murder and theft because they are sins against God any different from a Christian who refrains from murder and theft because they sins against God? One says “Allah” instead of “Lord,” but aren’t they both following the will of God, the Heavenly Father of all of us? Anyone who refrains from evil because it is against God and does good because it is from God is following the will of God and has the Kingdom of God within him.
Why do many religions exist? Is it on purpose or an accident?
The different religions are based on the different responses people have to God over time. Even in these different responses, certain universal truths are common among them. Truth, by definition, comes from God. Jesus said, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16). New Church theology teaches: “When a religion has been implanted in a nation, the Lord leads that nation according to the precepts and dogmas of its own religion. He has provided that there shall be in every religion precepts like those in the Ten Commandments…. The nation that regards these precepts as Divine and lives according to them from a religious motive is saved” (Divine Providence 254). Mixed in with those true teachings may be many false teachings. The point is that the Lord is present and leads all people through the true teachings of their religions.
Rev. Barry Halterman is the Religion Department Chair at the Academy of the New Church High School in Bryn Athyn, PA (www.ancss.org). He is also Assistant Pastor at New Church LIVE (www.newchurchlive.tv).