This is part of my commentary series on The 39 Articles of Religion. Article 18 states:
XVIII. Of obtaining eternal Salvation only by the Name of Christ
They also are to be had accursed that presume to say, That every man shall be saved by the Law or Sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that Law, and the light of Nature. For holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the Name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved.
On the surface this Article seems very simple, very obvious, perhaps even a little bewildering as to why it even needs to be said. The truth is, although this Article is indeed as simple as it sounds, it shakes to the core the false notions that many well-meaning Christians cling to.
Taking the oft-repeated New Testament doctrine, that Christ Jesus is the only way to the Father, and the only name by which we may be saved, Article 18 spells out the converse: every alternative to the way of Christ is a false hope. We are not saved by the “Law or Sect” that we profess – being a committed Anglican or Presbyterian or Lutheran is not what saves us, only in the name of Christ are we saved. This rules out the sin of idolizing our church, tradition, or denomination (though it does not give us carte blanche to ignore theological disagreements with others, either).
This applies to other faiths: people are not saved by adhering to other religions even if they are “diligent to frame [their] life according to that Law, and the light of Nature.” Being a committed Jew, a committed Muslim, a committed Buddhist, a committed Mormon, a committed Atheist, doesn’t count as “good enough” or “close enough.” Only in Christ is eternal life to be found, for Christ is the only true God.
This Article, perhaps a no-brainer in terms of understanding historical Christianity, has turned out to become one of the most obvious lines of defense against excessive liberalism in the churches. Many have begun to preach that Christ is a way to God; Article 18 binds us to hold that line: Christ is the way to God.