The Other Sheep of Jeremiah Wright

Now we can discuss something really important about Jeremiah Wright:

On Monday, Pastor Jeremiah Wright had the following exchange with the moderator at the National Press Club (transcript):

MODERATOR: “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the father but through me.’ Do you believe this? And do you think Islam is a way to salvation?”

WRIGHT: “Jesus also said, ‘Other sheep have I who are not of this fold.’”

To which Baptist commentator Denny Burk replies as follows:

Wright’s response clearly implies that Muslims are among the “other sheep” to which Jesus refers in John 10:16. Thus Wright affirms that people who do not have conscious faith in Christ can nevertheless have the hope of salvation — an inclusivist position that argues there are many paths to God…

Here’s the real import of what Wright said. Many people who hear Jeremiah Wright are likely to get the impression that Jesus is one of many paths that people might take to get to God. Jesus never taught any such thing. In fact, he always challenged His hearers with a stark choice. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and despise the other” (Matthew 6:24). Jesus would brook no rivals, and He only made salvation available to those who would “honor the son” (John 5:23).

The Jeremiah Wrights of the world mislead people into thinking that Jesus Christ is one path among many that people might take to get to God. Jesus taught just the opposite. There is only one path that leads people to salvation, and it’s Jesus. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6). To miss that path means forfeiting eternal life. The stakes couldn’t get any higher than that.

That’s unsurprising considering the denomination that Wright is in (United Church of Christ.)  But, as always, eternity is still what matters.

8 Replies to “The Other Sheep of Jeremiah Wright”

  1. Thank you for these comments. I truly believe that Mr. Wright missed the end of that verse that states “I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” This clearly states that those of the other fold (Gentiles) must be brought to the Way the Truth and the Light so that Jesus becomes their “Shepard”.

  2. Hey, just a comment here from another UCC’er.

    I found this page after googling “other sheep have I” when I saw the quote in Wright’s response to Obama the other day. It seems to me that you really can read these passages in two different ways, and you have to make a conscious choice to go in either direction. When Jesus says things like “There shall be one flock and one shepherd,” or “No one comes to the Father but through me,” you can choose between two interpretations that both make the same amount of sense. One, the conservative reading that Jesus and Christianity are the only path to salvation. Two, the liberal reading that there are other ways of expressing belief and faith in our God which are different from Christianity as we know it. Get the difference? It’s either saying that of all the ways, Jesus is the only right way, or alternatively, that all the ways really ARE Jesus.

    I realize that the second liberal way is much more dangerous. How are you ever supposed to know which other ways besides the safe Christianity that we know and love are good and holy, and which ones are evil and wrong? Some people (serial killers, sexual predators, terrorists) have clearly gotten it wrong. But I have to say I know way too many non-Christian people who will never become Christian, but who I could never picture being sent to hell by the Christ that I have come to know in my life.

    My solution has been to stay within the Christian path myself, because that is how God’s love and truth has revealed itself to me. But I am forced to take the liberal reading on the issue of the faith of others, and I don’t feel compelled to change the beliefs of others unless they involve hurting people or preventing them from seeking peace for themselves and their families. For me it is a choice of readings, influenced by my understanding of the greater message of the gospel. I fully believe that the liberal reading is consistent with the literal text.

    Can you really bring yourself to imagine all non-Christians in hell? I can’t, no more than I can imagine myself as a non-Christian. But how can I say I know what God’s plan is for everybody? I only know what Jesus tells me is right for myself.

  3. I’ve touched on this topic fairly consistently. There are a couple of things that need mentioning.

    As far as your statement, “…I know way too many non-Christian people who will never become Christian, but who I could never picture being sent to hell by the Christ that I have come to know in my life” is concerned, how that resonates depends on your view of humanity. Mine has been conditioned by where I grew up, as described in the sixth paragraph of this piece (the one just above the nautical chart).

    Your statement that “Some people (serial killers, sexual predators, terrorists) have clearly gotten it wrong” depends on an a priori definition of what’s right and what’s wrong. Where does this come from? Who says one way or another? The terrorists are the classic example of this. They think they have a straight shot at paradise in being martyrs for Allah. On the other hand, even their milder acts (such as the hajj to Mecca) can be interpreted as crimes against humanity, as I point out in the next to the last paragraph of this piece.

    That’s why it’s important to hold to salvation by grace and not works. Once you do that Jesus’ uniqueness as man’s road to God takes on a whole new dimension.

  4. Well… this is where my theology gets even weirder, and you’ll really see me as a nutty UCC member after this one: I think that lack of a priori knowledge about good and evil is exactly why I can’t discriminate against others or even try to convert them to my own belief system. Furthermore, I believe the grace of God extends to everybody, whether or not they even asked for it.
    Finally, even though good works are irrelevant to salvation (because, as I understand it, there is nothing I could ever do to clean up my inherently flawed nature on my own) I still feel like the more good works are out there, the better. So I will still consider anybody doing Christ’s work, no matter who they say they are doing it for, to be my brother or sister in faith. This for me includes Jews, even if they don’t accept Jesus, and Muslims, as long as they’re not killing anybody. Even some atheists, as I believe that many of them secretly believe in more than they let on, often act according to Christ’s will while for some reason stubbornly refusing to admit their faith.

    Again… I just can’t see God and Jesus actually casting all these people off. I have to believe He will make his promise good to everybody, and it is only more amazing when I realize the magnitude of some of the sin He is prepared to forgive.

  5. How “weird” your theology is depends on what you’re arguing for, and I’m not really clear on what that is.

    If you’re arguing for universalism, then it really doesn’t matter what people do in this life, they’re going to have eternity with God no matter what. Thus, Mohammed Atta et. al. hijacked planes, ran them into WTC and Pentagon, took ~3000 people with them to eternity. They did this in part because they believed that they would gain straight admission into Paradise. (Islam actually teaches that just about everyone has to pass through Hell to get to Paradise, if they’ve done enough to deserve the latter.)

    Under the universalist’s scheme, Atta and his friends would also attain Paradise, irrespective of what they did.

    You stated that “good works are irrelevant to salvation” so I won’t go into the implications of works salvation.

    As I said before, “God, in his sovereignty, may have a plan to include some of those who don’t know Jesus Christ explicitly. But I think that the terms and conditions of this are unknowable in this life. That’s why I avoid speculation on it. That’s why it’s important to put Jesus Christ first.”

  6. Jesus Christ died for sinners.


    simple: if you believe in the one who died for your sins, you WILL be saved. if you dont believe, then how can you go to heaven when you are still in your sins because you rejected the ONLY way of redemption?

    if people don’t need to believe in Christ to go to heaven, then why did He bother to come to this messed up world from a throne in heaven, go through hell on earth that we will never know, and die such a horrible death?

    his death would have been in vain if he didn’t have a mission. his mission was to die for sinners, who couldn’t help themselves.
    those thinking they can go to heaven without trusting him as thier payment for sins are in for a rude awakening the moment after they die.

    HE is our way in; our “ticket” to get us through the gate.

    we either accept it, or reject it– but it’s still our choice.

    The truth is the truth regardless of whether we believe it or not.

    I’d rather believe in a God who loved me so much that he proved it by dying for me, than a god who wants people to cut off the heads of innocent people.

  7. You guys are assuming that the Bible is infallible, evidently (for instance, the men who wrote that Jesus said he was the ONLY way could have mistranslated from aramaic to greek). This is demonstrably false (see history, archaeology, astronomy, etc.). Hence, all your determinations about who will “attain paradise” don’t mean much of anything. They are, however, representative of the arrogance of “the other sheep.” Peace.

    1. Well, Mickey, there are a few things you may not have considered.

      First, there’s no evidence that John 14:6 (the verse in question) was mistranslated from the Aramaic to the Greek. John’s gospel is full of “I am” statements by Jesus, which is why the first exposition of the titles of Christ was in Origen’s Commentary on John. An illuminating example of this is in John 8:58, where Jesus’ proclamation of “Before Abraham was, I am” resulted in the anger of the Jews, who believed that, by that statement, Jesus was claiming to be God (which he was, cf. Exodus 3:14.) Why the “I am” proclamation in John 14:6 should be singled out as mistranslated doesn’t make sense.

      Perhaps the reason it is singled out is the pseudoegalitarianism in our society, which has an allergy to exclusive claims of any kind. I deal with this in the “About” page of this website. The pseudoegalitarianism is just that: pseudo.

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