Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Is God so narrow-minded that He provides only one way of redemption? The Christian claim that Jesus Christ is the only way to God causes passionate debates among religious folk around the globe. There are hundreds of religions world-wide, so it is easy to see why people view the Christian doctrine of salvation as arrogant or narrow-minded. In an era of religious tolerance, who dares to have an exclusive claim on religious truth? As long as you’re preaching love, peace, and harmony, “You believe what you believe and I will believe what I believe, and we will get along just fine.” The sad reality is Christians who are labeled as “arrogant” or “narrow-minded” are only preaching the gospel message of Jesus Christ out of love and concern for others. The issue is serious and should not be taken lightly. We are talking about the eternal destination of souls – heaven or hell – eternal life after death.
1 Corinthians 1:18
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
Aren’t All Religions the Same?
Religious beliefs and practices notably differ from culture to culture, but does the “how” matter if they all are working towards the same goal? The philosophy that all religions are the same is widely held by many people. People base this idea on the thinking that there are different religious roads, varying in route, but all leading to the same place -- God. The outward view of different religions may differ - prayer, worship, church ordinances, etc. – but don’t they all preach love, peace, and compassion towards fellow human beings – ultimately ending up in the same place (heaven)? The idea that most religions encourage love and kindness may be true, but with clear thinking can we say they are all the same because they are working towards the same goal? If all religions are the same, then not one of them can claim exclusivity of truth.
Can we rational say that all religions are equally valid? Some people believe that all religions are the same based on assumptions and generalizations without any knowledge of what different religions believe or deny. How can Buddhism be true when it denies the existence of a personal God and at the same time Christianity be true when it affirms the existence of a personal God? Can there be a personal God and not be a personal God at the same time? Orthodox Judaism denies life after death and Christianity affirms life after death. The person who believes that all religions are the same does so by ignoring clear contradictions between them. This line of thinking is irrational.
What motivates people to think irrationally about the equality of different religions? Differences in religious beliefs have fueled arguments between family and friends and on many occasions have led to war. In an effort to maintain peace, should we throw out the truth?
In discussing religious toleration, I want to make it clear that I am not saying religious “freedom” should be unlawful. People have the right to choose how they worship without being persecuted for their beliefs. Our search here is for truth, whether there is only one way to God or many.
Is God Narrow-Minded?
After thinking rationally, we discover that all religions are not the same because there are clear contradictions between them. But what about the issue that Jesus is the only way to God? Does God only provide one way of redemption for mankind? Not only did Jesus say that He was the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6), but He also says in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” I mentioned before that people believe that there are many roads that lead to God, but Jesus tells us there is only one, and that is through Him (Acts 4:10-12).
Why is God so narrow-minded? The accusation is a serious one against a holy and righteous God - that He has not done enough to provide redemption for mankind. After creating the heavens and earth, God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:27). God blessed Adam and Eve and provided for their every need by placing them in the Garden of Eden. The Lord made trees grow and “commanded the man, You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17). Adam and Eve disobeyed their Creator’s command and ate from the tree that He told them not to eat from. He created them and He had every right to enforce the death penalty because they disobeyed the one restriction He gave them. Because He is a merciful God, He did not kill them, but spared their lives. It was at this point that the Bible tells us that “sin entered the world” (Romans 5:12).
The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.
The Old Testament tells us of God’s redemption of His chosen people, the nation of Israel. He brought them out of slavery, gave them His law, and delivered them into the Promised Land by giving them victory over their enemies. They thanked Him by violating His law and worshipping false gods and idols. “Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals. They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt. They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them…Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders…for the Lord had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them. But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshipping them. They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways” (Judges 2:11-12, 16, 18b-19). We see this cycle repeated over and over again in the Old Testament. Because God was still intent upon redemption, He sent judges, messengers, and prophets to plead with the people of Israel to return to Him.
Today, most of us don’t worship idols made of stone, but we are all sinners in the eyes of a holy and righteous God (Romans 3:23). Sin is individual acts of doing what God has told us not to do or not doing what God has commanded us to do. Sin is not limited to our actions but it includes what we think or say (Matthew 5:21-48). God’s holiness demands a penalty for man’s sin, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). Death resulting from sin separates man from God, here on earth, and eternally (in heaven).
In God’s ultimate act of redemption, He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to redeem the world. Jesus paid the penalty of our sin by dying on the cross in our place. “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” (John 3:16). God demands one thing from us: in order to receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we must repent of our sins and put our trust in Jesus Christ alone as the only hope of eternal life. After considering what God has done for us, in light of our sin or as R.C Sproul puts it - we have “committed cosmic treason against God”, can we honestly say that God has not done enough or He is narrow-minded? The issue is not why is there only one way, but why is there any way at all?
Jesus Is Unique
Jesus was God incarnate. God has revealed himself as a trinity of three persons – the Father, the Son (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit, each of whom is equally God. When Jesus became God incarnate, He was truly God and truly man (Philippians 2:7-8). When Jesus came to earth from heaven he possessed two natures – a divine nature and a human nature. He never ceased being God but He set aside the glory He had with His Father in heaven (John 17:5) and humbled Himself to become a man (2 Corinthians 8:9). Jesus was different than other religious leaders; we cannot ascribe equal honor to Him and other leaders. Siddhârtha Gautama (Buddha), Muhammad (claimed to be a “prophet” of God), and Confucius did not claim to be a deity, they were all mortal men.
Jesus was without sin. Jesus was in a class by Himself, when He came to earth, He lived without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). No other religious leader can claim that, nor can any mortal for that matter (Romans 3:23).
Jesus’ work of atonement. The greatest of religious leaders could mediate on the law, instruct on the law, counsel others, think deeply, and come up with wise sayings, but none was qualified to offer an atonement for the sins of the world. Jesus’ death was made as a payment for the sins of mankind; His sacrifice was perfect. He voluntarily suffered an exhausting, agonizing and painful death because He loved us (John 10:17-18; Romans 5:6-8).
Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Jesus was raised from the dead by God, giving Him credentials that no other religious leader possesses. Buddha, Mohammed, and Confucius are dead. Christ is alive!
God Is Not Pleased By Religion It is a mistake to assume that God is pleased by any “religion” or that all religious roads lead to God, even if a faith comes from a sincere heart.
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.
There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.
It does matter what we believe – the decision we make is an eternal one. Jesus Christ is the only way to God (heaven); He alone is able to redeem. He alone is worthy of our devotion and worship. Jesus is the truth!
1 Timothy 2:5
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.