Dogma is a word, like many in the theological sphere, that’s meaning has been all but lost. It has taken on a negative connotation when in reality it is simply the most core beliefs of a given religion. Thefreedictionary.com defines dogma as “an authoritative principle, belief, or statement of ideas or opinion, especially one considered to be absolutely true.” For Christianity these are things like the virgin birth, the substitutionary death of Jesus, the trinity and faith in Jesus being the only things held true universally by all believers that are not in question. Unfortunately according to a new Pew research pole this concept has been lost even among those who identify themselves as Evangelical.
According to the pole 57% of evangelicals responding feel that “Many religions can lead to eternal life.” I think they may be linked to the discoveries in Christian Smith’s book Soul Searching. He discovered that most young people’s religious beliefs today can be expressed as therapeutic moralistic deism, even those in evangelical churches. If the gospel of Christ can, and is reduced simply to a list of do’s and don’ts then it would make sense that anyone else following a similar list would indeed be just as ‘saved’ as a Christian. Brian McLaren has expressed in his “New Kind of Christian” series that any good that is done is done as unto Jesus no matter who you believe you are worshiping, and this type of belief is far to typical in my experience.
The big popular ministers in Christianity seem content with messages that seem better suited for Matt Foley than for a minister, I have seen sermons on drinking the correct amount of water, on how to live a better life, getting a long better with co-workers, with just a little shout out to Jesus thrown in at the end almost as if to appease a part of their audience, that need to hear about Jesus.
This relativism has seeped into the Church and into our own beliefs to the extent that we no longer believe Jesus is the only way to salvation. Apart from his own claim, “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” in the garden be asked “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” If there was another way Jesus wouldn’t have had to die, but he did. I fear that we have abandoned that which Paul called the first importance, if not deliberately then at least unintentionally by removing it from preeminence and making it a side bar in our preaching and teaching.
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. (1 Cor. 15)