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Larry King is not known as a tough interviewer. Yet with smooth-talking pastor and author Joel Osteen, he went for the jugular, asking whether Jews and Muslims must believe in Christ to go to heaven. And Osteen blinked: "I'm very careful about saying who would and wouldn't go to heaven. I don't know."

While Osteen later apologized for seemingly downplaying the necessity of faith in Christ for salvation, the pluralistic pressure to waffle on this issue is intense. Several mainline denominations support a two-covenant theology, which holds that Judaism and Christianity are parallel, divinely guided paths to God. In addition, in 2002 the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a document, "Reflections on Covenant and Mission," affirming that "Jews already dwell in a saving covenant with God."

Noting that many church leaders and theologians have "retreated from embracing the task of evangelizing Jews," in 1989 a global group of evangelical theologians (including Vernon Grounds, Kenneth Kantzer, J. I. Packer, and Tokunboh Adeyemo) drafted the Willowbank Declaration on the Christian Gospel and the Jewish People. They denied that "any non-Christian faith, as such, will mediate eternal life with God."

Such a statement, attacked when it was released, remains politically incorrect. Voices both inside and outside the church say that evangelizing Jewish people—calling them to repent of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ as their Lord, Savior, and Messiah—is inappropriate. Rabbi David Rosen recently told CT that if someone relates to him "as someone who's going to burn in hell, then I can't really see that as genuine love toward my people and my faith."

I love and respect the Jewish people and their faith. After all, Jesus ...

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Foolish Things
Stan Guthrie is an editor at large for Christianity Today and author of Missions in the Third Millennium and All That Jesus Asks. His column, "Foolish Things," ran from 2006 to 2007.
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March 2008

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