Just before the end of 2008 the Pew Forum released its latest findings on the question of how American Christians view the possibility of members of other faith traditions attaining eternal life. The numbers are striking and suggest a growing trend toward Christian exclusivity. In the 2008 study 29% of respondents contend that “mine is [the] one, true faith,” up 9 points from 2002, while 65% hold that “many religions” might lead to eternal life, down 11 points over the same period.
In general, the study suggests that American Christians are less open to the possibility of finding salvation outside of Christianity than they were 6 years ago. However, some of the results of the study suggest that there is growing sympathy toward, or at least awareness of, non-Christian religions. While the number of Christians claiming that salvation is found only in Christianity has gone up, among those who continue to believe that salvation is not an exclusively Christian prerogative, the number of Christians identifying specific non-Christian religions as possible sources of salvation has gone up considerably. “Even among white evangelical Protestants,” the report argues, “nearly three-quarters (72%) of those who say many religions can lead to eternal life name at least one non-Christian religion that can lead to salvation.”
Evangelical groups are beginning to ask what these findings say about the Evangelical movement during this time of transition.