In my previous post I dealt with the prospect that despite Mother Teresa’s reputation as being one of the world’s most selfless people she might not have made heaven. Our purpose in the previous and present posts certainly is not to pass judgment on Mother Teresa. Only God can do that. Rather, an earlier comment I received used her as an example for the purpose of exploring biblical issues related to salvation. I sensed that this was a helpful approach, and therefore am using it for that purpose.
In my previous post I noted that it is possible to appear selfless while actually being self-serving but also asserted that I don’t believe this was the case of Mother Teresa. I did, however, make the point that if Mother Teresa was genuinely selfless she would have acknowledged her sinfulness before God, recognized and received the sacrifice of Christ on her behalf, and embraced His forgiveness. We observed based on examples from Scripture that those seeking to enter heaven through their good works tend not to be selfless, but instead self-righteous and immoral.
I concluded, though, by indicating that another issue has raised speculation among some that Mother Teresa may not have been a true believer. That has to do with her seeming to acknowledge other religions such as Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism as providing alternative paths to heaven. For example, one source points out:
Those brought to the home received medical attention and were afforded the opportunity to die with dignity, according to the rituals of their faith; Muslims were read the Quran, Hindus received water from the Ganges, and Catholics received the Last Rites.
Yet another source includes this as one of her better-known quotes:
“I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.”
Though some may perceive other alternatives for understanding such this inclusion of other religions, only two come to my mind.
One is that she might have been theologically naïve, not thinking through or being aware of the implications of this position. It would seem that she had a very big heart, and perhaps her desire to comfort these suffering people by means of their own religious orientation overcame her theological judgment. This option seems hard, at least for me, to maintain. Could someone with religious training, who served within the context of a Christian organization, and who manifested such vast abilities fail to grasp the implications of the positions she was taking? And within that context could it be that no one brought these issues to her attention? It seems that naïveté poses an unlikely explanation.
The only other alternative I can think of entails her rejection of the essence of the Christian faith. To accommodate the false religions of dying people, and even encourage them in their error, from a biblical perspective would consign them to an eternal hell rather than seeking to give them a parting opportunity for eternal life. Doing so would represent the utmost cruelty. It seems more likely that in her own heart she had concluded that Christ was not the only way to heaven.
Think of the implications of this position. If this comprised her perspective, either she had concluded that Christ had not died for the sins of the world, and that the biblical gospel was just some sort of a redemption analogy, or she had opted for a position that made the suffering of Christ needless if you get to heaven otherwise.
This returns me to where I started this article. Only God can judge the heart, but if we would take Mother Teresa out of the equation and asked the question in the abstract, “Is a person who believes that Hinduism and Islam also provide salvation genuinely a Christian?” most Bible believing Christians would answer in the negative, especially as we consider the implications described above regarding the death of Christ. This represents no theological technicality but rather a denial of the essence of the Christian faith.
The underlying point of this and the previous post is this. People don’t miss heaven based on technicalities. E.g. “He was a really good person but missed heaven because He refused to receive Christ.” If he was a really good person he would have accepted Christ. ”He was a really devout Christian but also believed in other ways to heaven.” Belief in other ways to heaven can only be maintained by totally rejecting the reason for the death of Christ. People don’t miss heaven because of incidentals.