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DO ALL PATHS LEAD TO GOD?

Who He Really Is

John 14:1-14
15th August 2004

In this month’s edition of the Uniting Church’s Magazine “Insights” there is a letter from Tom Ware of Dundas entitled, “IS JESUS REALLY THE ONLY WAY?” Tom writes: “When a Christian says, adamantly, “Jesus is the only son of God” he or she alienates half the population of the world. This approach has not worked for a long time. What makes today’s zealots think this strategy will eventually work? If the Uniting Church would recognise the validity of all the many, varied non-Christian faiths, big-league and small, instead of saying, “Jesus Christ is the only way”, the church’s advocates should say: Christianity is a way to God — one of the ways, our favoured way, but not the only way.”

That viewpoint is expressed in pulpit and pew within the Uniting Church. It is the outcome of an attitude towards the Bible that has been taught over recent years. The way we live is determined by belief systems we follow without even knowing when we adopted its way of thinking. For example, secular humanism has become the philosophy of belief among many academics, teachers and politicians in Australia. It is a belief system that has no room for God, and acknowledges only human achievement. Moral relativism is the guideline for behaviour for many, both sexual and interpersonal that says there are no rules except respect and no absolute right and wrong in sexual relationships except what you want or can do without hurt to others. In the same way, religious pluralism is the idea this is no longer a Christian country where the Christian religion is basic to our behaviour and community standards. It is a belief that all religions are equal and that all religions lead to God if you are sincere.

Religious pluralism does not accept the fact that many people may be sincerely wrong. I call this current view McDonald’s religion. It’s fast food religion: you find religion, choose what you want and hope it will satisfy. Yet there is a difference between choosing which McDonald hamburger you want and choosing which medicine you need. You choose which McDonald’s you like but you choose which medicine is good for you. Religion you like may not be good for you. The God you like may not be the God you need. So they choose religious views according to their tastes, not according to what is true. The question of truth hardly ever arises. In fact, many people would ask: “Can you test religious truth? Religious truth is what you believe, the leap of faith you take. How can you test that?”

Some people say “by trying it”. But if you encourage people to try particular religions, try transcendental meditation, yoga, Hindu philosophy, Zen philosophy, scientology, you may end in disaster. The real issue is whether your religious beliefs are true or not, not whether you like them or not. There is no PIZZA RELIGION with bits and pieces of different religions put on a plate of piety! If you pick a bit of this and a bit of that to suit your taste, you choose only the things you like, not necessarily things that are good for you. Ask a mother whose child has done the supermarket shopping! All you have done is invent a religion that will not do you much good let alone fully satisfy your appetite. Spiritual junk food, empty of religious calories, does not meet your spiritual hunger. You must seek what is true. Religions are not all equal. Many religious views are competitive not complimentary. Religions have contradictory claims.

For example, God in the Christian tradition is personal and in the eastern tradition is impersonal. God cannot be both personal and impersonal at the same time. Christianity teaches when you die, you either perish or live forever. Eastern religions say you will be reincarnated. Both cannot be right. Christianity claims to be the one and only true way. Someone might say “It is narrow minded to say that Jesus is the only way to God. Jesus, Muhammad, Krishna are all symbols of God. God isn’t limited to Jesus Christ. All the major world religions point to the same God.” That statement is not correct. If all religions point to the same God, they would say basically the same things about God. But different religions are fundamentally opposed. The holy books of Eastern religions teach God is in every material thing. Christianity says God transcends every thing and is Spirit not matter. Some religions teach God is impersonal, but Judaism, Christianity and Islam teach God is personal. All religions cannot be equal if they are contradictory. When religious pluralists make these statements they may be tolerant but they illogical.

1. MANY REJECT RELIGIOUS EXCLUSIVISM TODAY.

This is why all the New Age religious activities have grown up, with people burning incense, wearing crystals, meditating under pyramids, reading tarot cards and so on. They do not want to be seen as exclusive and committed, but prefer a pizza religion. Intellectually they swallow anything! Morally they do just what they like. Some trendy theologians who are open to non-Christian beliefs, stand for nothing and fall for anything! They exhibit religious pluralism, reject the uniqueness of Jesus, and declare that these statements were not said by Jesus.

But Peter affirmed Jesus Christ: Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Without the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, there is no Gospel, no mission, no true Christianity. This is the battle within The Uniting Church in Australia today! The debate within the church that has led to a massive exodus of members, is surprisingly, not just about homosexuality, same sex marriages, or ordaining practising gay and lesbian ministers, but whether Jesus Christ is unique and the scriptures are a true witness to Him. Those who support moral permissiveness deny the uniqueness of Jesus and the authority of His Word.

The debate centres on whether the Bible has any relevance and authority today. Is Jesus the only way to God? If He is not, then it is not necessary to behave according to His moral standards. They reject the uniqueness of Jesus, His resurrection, and the moral commands of the Bible. Immorality is accepted if you reject the authority of the scriptures and the uniqueness of Christ. If you do not hold onto Him, you end up letting everything go. Religious pluralists and moral relativists hate those words “only way”. They believe there is no one right way in faith or in morals and believe everything is culturally determined. They believe there is no true way, no authoritative Word, no unique Jesus. But if God exists, then it is logical to believe we can know Him. If we can know Him, it is logical He gave us a way to Himself. If He gave us a way, it is logical we should follow it. Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.”

We know the spiritual liberation that comes with accepting Christ as Lord. The critics do not know what they are missing! Tolerance of falsity is no virtue. All other ways are dead-ends. All other religions are imperfect. Paul declared all other gods imposters: 1 Cor 8:4-7 “We know there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” There was no other way but the way of Jesus Christ!

2. CHRISTIANITY DOES NOT GIVE US THE OPTION.

Christianity is different from every other religion. All the other major world religions teach that you must get yourself together, pray five times a day, give alms, fast, take a pilgrimage, use a prayer wheel, not eat certain foods, observe the Sabbath, or live a decent life or one of innumerable other possibilities. If you do these things, then maybe you will work your way to Nirvana or heaven or God. But Christianity says you will never earn heaven or deserve a right relationship with God. You simply cannot live up to God’s standards. Instead, God has taken the initiative to save you from death. Because of His great love for us, He came to earth as a man to rescue us from the penalty of death that our wrongdoing deserves. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on the cross to take the punishment you and I have earned. We could not do this for ourselves. He lived a perfect life. He did not deserve to die. He died as a sacrifice for us. He rose from the dead, is alive today and is offering us a gift: forgiveness and eternal life.

No other religion can point to a moment in history and say, this is what God has done for you! Religion is our attempt to find God. Christianity is God’s attempt to find us. A religious pluralist says other religions lead to God and that the work of the cross is not necessary for salvation. But Christians believe Jesus is the Saviour. He can therefore save you. The Bible teaches Jesus is the Saviour, not a saviour. Christianity is built on this teaching: He is the Saviour of the whole world. If you believe other people can be saved through other religions, then you certainly do not believe Jesus is the Saviour. If you reject Jesus as the Saviour, He’s not your Saviour. And if Jesus has not saved you, you reject the foundation of Christianity and are not a Christian.

How is it possible that such an unbeliever can be a minister of the Uniting Church in Australia? As Peter said: Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” The Uniting Church has a strong Biblical basis. Those who deny it must be counselled to change or leave. The theology of this uniqueness is summed up in one word that is translated by two English words: “only begotten” son of the Father. In the Nicene Creed we say: “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father”. This key word “only begotten” is of great significance in the history of the Church. The NIV translates the word “God’s one and only son.” John writes: 1 Jn 4:9-10 “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice.”

Only the Son reveals God and redeems humanity.4:10 The two ideas are elaborated in John’s Gospel. John 1:14-18 “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.” John calls the Son “God, the One and Only.” “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

Jesus is the one and only expression of God, true God and true man. This double qualification is the testimony of the whole New Testament. We are saved only by God in Christ, from above and below. Jesus is unique! He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the only means of reaching God. If Jesus is the only way, our task is to proclaim Jesus Christ as Saviour of the world. None comes to the Father but by Him. Narrow? Yes! Narrow but truthful! There is no other name, no other way, no other gate, no other life, no other Saviour, but Jesus! As Paul wrote: 1 Tim 2:4-6 “God wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men.” We desire you to admit you are a sinner; to believe that Jesus Christ, God’s Son came and died to save you from your sin; and to commit your life to Him as your Saviour and Lord. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. There is no other way to God but through your faith in Him.

REFERENCES

  • The Truth About Jesus, P Barnett, Aquilla 1994
  • Jesus Under Fire, M J Wilkins, Zondervan 1995
  • International Bulletin Of Missionary Research Vol 13, no 2,1989
  • The Myth Of Christian Uniqueness, J Hick, O Knitter, Orbis 1987
  • Insights Magazine July 2004 Vol 14.6

 

Wesley Mission, Sydney.