Some Presbyterians see salvation by other faiths


From The Associated Press. By Dylan Lovan

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Presbyterian Church USA's statement of faith says God through Jesus Christ delivers followers "from death to life eternal."

But one in three members of the nation's largest Presbyterian denomination seem to believe there's some wiggle room for non-Christians to get into heaven, according to a recent poll.

The Presbyterian Panel's "Religious and Demographic Profile of Presbyterians" found that 36 percent of members disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement: "Only followers of Jesus Christ can be saved." Another 39 percent, or about two-fifths, agreed or strongly agreed with the statement.

"There seems to be some universalist streak in Presbyterianism, where some Presbyterians are open to the idea of other paths that folks in other faiths might be taking," said Perry Chang, administrator of the Presbyterian Panel, which convenes every three years.

The Presbyterian Church USA, with about 2.1 million members, is the largest Presbyterian denomination in the country. A total of 3,450 Presbyterians responded to the study, which was mailed in October 2008. The panel issued the religious and demographic report last month.

Polls asking similar questions about views on salvation have provided a wide range of results.

A 2005 national survey funded by Baylor University found that 53 percent of the 1,721 adults who were polled agreed with the statement, "Many religions lead to salvation," and another 19 percent said "My religion is the one true faith that leads to salvation."

A 2007 poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 70 percent of Americans with a religious affiliation believe many religions can lead to eternal life.

Another study found that evangelical Christians may adhere to a much stricter interpretation of salvation. The 2008 report by Lifeway, the publishing and research arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, found that 75 percent of Protestants who hold "evangelical beliefs" strongly disagreed with the statement, "If a person is sincerely seeking God, he or she can obtain eternal life through religions other than Christianity."...

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