One of the biggest givers to charity last year was Bill Gates.
The Gates foundation says that they upholds two values that we agree are important – All lives have equal value, and, secondly, to whom much is given, much is expected.
We could even say that Gates giving provides a wonderful example of Christ like love.
At the same time, Gates was interviewed November 1995 on PBS by David Frost and he is reported to have said “I take a fairly scientific approach to why things happen and how they happen. I don’t know if there’s a God or not, but I think religious principles are quite valid.” He made a similar statement in a January 13, 1996 TIME magazine article. His questioning of his belief in God raises an often asked question of whether Bill Gates is saved and whether he will go to heaven.
There are a number of stances that can be taken in answer to this question.
Conservative Christians who seek to conserve Christian truth and preserve the truth that a person cannot be saved out side of faith in Christ would stress that Gates can only be saved by faith in Christ. After all, Acts 4:8-12 tells us that there is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.
The Catholic church held a similar view when it declared that “outside the church, there is no salvation”. The Second Vatican Council said this needed to be broadened to recognized that people outside the church and outside Christianity may have a partial knowledge of God. It declared that full knowledge of God and his salvation is only available through faith in Christ.
More liberal Christians, on the other hand, seek to be liberated from the restrictive views of the churches and to be open to the different views that are held by different religions. However, the many different religions and their different views cannot all be right at the same time. The liberals seem divided by their support of different viewpoints that cannot all be true. The liberal view point also overlooks the truth that Christ alone brought a unique revelation about how to have a relationship with God that goes beyond religion. A relationship with God through Christ cannot be compared to religious teachings of other religious views.
More cautious Christians would say, “Only God knows who will be saved, for only God knows the full extent of a person’s beliefs and life, and the effect that Christ has had on them.’ We all see a person’s life from a different perspective. Believers see through the eyes of faith. Others outside of faith have a different perspective. God’s perspective is different again. His view point encompasses all creation, and He knows all things over all time periods. Thus only God can truly know who will be saved.
Don Richardons, in Eternity in their Hearts writes that God has revealed himself to more people than we might think. He cites cases of belief in the one true God among the Incas, the Chinese and the Burmese as examples of this.
Karl Barth warns that Christians are in danger if they think that their position in Christ can lead them to live a carelessly that does not consider God’s requirements for their life. The parable of the Good Samaritan is a good example of how we should not judge too quickly. Amos 9;7-9 warns the Israelites against thinking that because they are God’s people, they alone have all the truth.
This also raises the question, Why do we evangelize? We evangelize for many reasons. We evangelize so that people may have a full and complete life while here on earth. We evangelize so that they may have confidence that they have eternal life through Christ. We evangelize because we want the best that God has provided for all people. We evangelize because we have experienced a foretaste of God’s love and life and we want to share this. We have experienced the source of life that is found in Christ and that has been made available for all people to experience. We want to share the gospel, the good news, of God’s creative, restoring power. We evangelize because as lives are being transformed, this transformation brings glory to God, who is the creator. Changed lives bring glory to Christ who is their redeemer. To see God at work requires faith. We evangelize because we seek to share that faith with others, and to encourage life changing faith in others.
Christianity is not an exclusive religion in that it does not exclude the possibility of belief in those who do not yet know Christ. But it is not inclusive in that it accepts all religions as equal means to salvation. It is unique in that Christ has revealed a complete, full and only means of salvation through his person.
In answer to the question, ‘Will Bill Gates going to heaven?’
It is possible that Gate’s giving reflects his earlier upbringing, the wider society into which he was born, and the Congregational church beliefs of his parents and grand parents. Gates biography tells us that he gained top marks in his Sunday School class through his ability to memorize Bible passages from the New Testament. He lives in a nation and a culture that has been strongly influenced by the many Christians who have shaped its development, even when people in the society do not fully acknowledge it. Who knows what the prayers and influence of relatives, friends and Christians will accomplish in Gate’s life. Gates will have to acknowledge the salvation and Lordship of Christ if he is to know the fullness of life and salvation in this life and in eternity.
One thing we know is that for all people salvation comes through the work of Christ and through faith in Christ.
Will Bill Gates go to heaven? We do not yet see the full picture of his life. We can see signs that God’s influence on his life has already been considerable. Perhaps this is the wrong question. The more important question for each of us is, ‘What will we do with the opportunities that God has given us?’ How will we respond to the work that God has called us to do? When running a race we should not stop and ask the other runners, ‘how well are you running your race?’ It is more important to ask, how well are we running the race of our lives. It is only if we get to heaven that will we be able to see if Gates is there also.
Sam Haye (Facebook) June 11 2008