Is Jesus the only way?
I never thought I would have to write an article like this. I travel from campus to campus challenging students to understand their responsibility to reach all nations. You know…Christian students, those who embrace the basic historical teachings of the church and Christ. However, after speaking on hundreds of college campuses, I have made a startling observation: we live in a very pluralistic culture. Pluralism is the idea that everybody is right, nobody is wrong; nothing is rejected except exclusivity; to each his own. This philosophy, if you will, has been the ever-existent rebellious undercurrent throughout history.
Today, however, it’s doing more than sticking its head up every now and then. It is the pervading mind-set. It is the norm, it is modern and progressive, and anyone who does not agree is narrow-minded.
I happen to believe that the pluralistic paradigm exists because there are very compassionate people out there to whom the idea of excluding someone is abhorrent. It is hard to imagine that some unfortunate, “innocent” people of foreign land might be any less right than we are. And to go so far as to condemn them to eternal punishment? Unthinkable.
So from the same vein of compassion for the salvation of souls comes two totally opposite worldviews. Indeed, the Christian and the pluralist stand at the extreme ends of the spectrum. The former claims the total exclusivity of Christ; he is the only way. The latter claims there is not only one way. These views cannot coexist.
Here are a few thoughts I’ve collected over the last semester as Christians voiced their struggle in wrestling between being too narrow and not narrow enough.
“I think if you believe in one God, no matter if it is Judaism, Islam, or Baha’i, you are okay.”
“I am researching Mormonism, and it looks great to me so I might switch; after all, they are the same, aren’t they?”
“All religions have truth in them so all religions are fine.”
“If you go to the mission field, you will just mess everything up for those people over there.”
“If other religions are bad, then doesn’t that mean God is bad since he created them?”
“So you mean to tell me that the Indians in Arizona who had a woman appear in a vision with the scroll of how to live were wrong?”
So what do you do? How do you respond to someone who is in the wrestling process? I think what happens among college students is they begin to see the vast amount of lost people and the narrowness of the claims of Christ coupled with the understanding of hell and slowly find themselves moving toward pluralism.
One idea to help someone work through this is to walk him or her through the two options that we are left with.
Embrace the Bible as a good book with a lot of good things to offer, but pick and choose the parts you believe are relevant and irrelevant. This perspective is as old as Thomas Jefferson, who chose to throw out all the miracles in Scripture and create his own Bible, The Jefferson Bible. The only problem with doing this is there is no stopping point. Who is stopping someone from throwing out core issues such as Jesus, sin, forgiveness, or heaven? All you can do with this view is nod your head when someone has something else to throw out. Forget absolute truth, trust, faith, and assurance. Though this is an option for some…you can see the holes.
One must seriously question their understanding of core beliefs within Christianity. Do they really have a proper understanding of the need for Jesus and the sinful state of the soul as well as the necessity for someone to pay for personal sin? Inevitably this leads into some very non-evangelical viewpoints and even moves someone closer to being more Buddhist or Baha’i than they might want to acknowledge.
Embrace that the Bible is absolutely true and that salvation from sin is found in Jesus Christ alone. This option will not be the choice of the majority, especially for those who reject Scripture as authoritative. From the outside world and sometimes from within the church you will be viewed as very narrow-minded and insensitive. However, as people who come to Jesus and ask Him to come into their lives, he enters with the title of Lord. So we must put all views under the teaching of Scripture and ultimately rest where it does.
Here are a few passages of the Bible that speak against pluralism.
- There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Romans 3:10–10)
- Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
- Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
- For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5)
- Do I mean then that a sacrifice offered to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons. (1 Corinthians 10:19–21)
- God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power. (2 Thessalonians 1:6–9)
- Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment. (Hebrews 9:27)
You cannot read these passages without thinking through the ramifications of the more than seven billion people who are alive on earth…most whom will never embrace Jesus.
Another startling observation is when these words were written roughly around AD 50–80, guess what religions existed: Hinduism (1500 BC), Judaism (1440 BC), Shintoism and Taoism (600 BC), Buddhism (563 BC), and Confucianism (550 BC). You would think that there would be huge exceptions made in the passages above in light of these other religions. Doesn’t this sound more open-minded?
Did Jesus answer, “I am a way and a truth and a form of life. No one comes to the Father except through me and Hinduism, Judaism, Shintoism, Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism?” (John 14:6)
Jesus did not say this. Jesus chose his words very carefully and meant exactly what he said. He is not a better option; he is the only option. He reminds us that true compassion is not a cloak of flattery that leads the blind to death; it is the raw confrontation of Him as the only way. The best thing we can do for mankind is embrace His claims and be His ambassadors, drawing others from darkness to light. Will you?