THE CHALLENGE OF FAITH Its Offensive to Claim Jesus is the Only Way to God
JOHN 14:6–“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
- “I am absolutely against any religion that says that one faith is superior to another. I don’t see how that is anything different than spiritual racism. It’s a way of saying that we are closer to God than you, and that’s what leads to hatred.” Rabbi Schmuley Boteach.
- Fully two-thirds of Americans now deny there is any such thing as truth.
- Charles Templeton called it “insufferable presumption” for the Bible to claim that besides Jesus there is “no other name under heaven . . . by which we must be saved.”
Today we will study . . .
OBJECTION: Its Offensive to Claim Jesus is the Only Way to God
These are notes from Lee Strobel’s interview with Ravi Zacharias
- Strobel—“Isn’t it grossly arrogant for Christians to claim Jesus is the one and only way to God?”
- Zacharias—“First, it’s important to understand that Christianity is not the only religion that claims exclusivity. For instance, Muslims radically claim exclusivity—not just theologically, but also linguistically. Muslims believe that the sole, sufficient, and consummate miracle of Islam is the Koran. They say, however, it’s only recognizable in Arabic, and that any translation desacralizes it.
- Zacharias—“As for Buddhism, it was born when Gautama Buddha rejected two fundamental assertions of Hinduism—the ultimate authority of the Vedas, which are their scriptures, and the caste system. Hinduism itself is absolutely uncompromising on two or three issues: the law of karma, which is the law of moral cause and effect, so that every birth is a rebirth that makes recompense for the previous life; the authority of Vedas; and reincarnation.”
- Strobel—“But I’ve heard Hindus say quite nobly that Hinduism is a very tolerant faith.”
- Zacharias—“Whenever you hear that statement, don’t take it at face value. What it really means is that Hinduism allows you to practice your religion so long as it buys into their notion of truth, which is syncretistic, which is the attempt to blend together different or even opposing beliefs.”
- Zacharias—Then there are the atheists—they reject the viewpoints of those who believe in God. . . .Therefore the statement that Christians are arrogant by claiming exclusivity ignores the reality that every other major religion does as well.
- Zacharias—“If truth does not exclude, then no assertion of a truth claim is being made; it’s just an opinion being stated. Any time you make a truth claim, you mean something contrary to it is false. Truth excludes its opposite.”
- Zacharias—“To deny the exclusive nature of truth is to make a truth claim, and it that person then not arrogant too? That’s the boomerang effect that the condemner often doesn’t pause to consider. The clear implications of Jesus saying He’s the way, the truth, and the life are that, first, truth is absolute, and second, truth is knowable. His claim of exclusivity means categorically that anything that contradicts what He says is by definition false.”
- Strobel—“It is one thing for Christians to believe that, it is another thing to communicate it without sounding smug or superior. But Christians often come off that way.”
- Zacharias—“One cannot communicate the love of Christ in non-loving terms. . . Mahatma Gandhi said, ‘I like their Christ, I don’t like their Christians.’ Friedrich Nietzshe said, ‘I will believe in the Redeemer when the Christian looks a little more redeemed.’ Their points need to be taken.
- Zacharias—“It IS possible to lovingly claim exclusive truth, just as a scientist can very gently say, ‘This is the second law of thermodynamics’ without adding, ‘Now, can we vote on how many of us can cooperate with it or not.’”
- Zacharias—Yes the criticism of Christians is often valid. . . On the other hand, “I know of no Christianized country where your life is in danger because you are from another faith. But today there are many countries in the world—such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran—where to become a follower of Christ is to put your life and your family at risk.”
- Zacharias—“Sometimes it’s not the manner in which Christians try to spread their faith that’s offensive. Sometimes people are simply reacting to the message itself.
ORIGIN, MEANING, MORALITY, DESTINY
- Anyone can claim to be the only path to God. The real issue is why anybody should believe Jesus was telling the truth when He said it.
- Zacharias—One the one hand you can say that the resurrection of Jesus established Him as being the son of God. If that’s true, then all other faith systems cannot be true, because they each assert something contrary to His divinity. And of course, the historical record concerning the Resurrection is extremely compelling.
- On the other hand, you can approach this issue by looking at the four fundamental questions that every religion seeks to answer: Origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. I believe that only the answers of Jesus Christ correspond to reality. There is a coherence among His answers unlike those of any other religion.
- Consider Buddhism—Buddha’s answer on the question of morality does not cohere with His answer concerning origins. Buddhism is technically nontheistic, if not atheistic. But if there was no Creator, from where does one arrive at a moral law? Or consider the Hindu version of reincarnation. If every birth is a rebirth, and if every life pays for the previous life, then what were you paying for in your first birth? Incoherence dominates—great scholars will tell you there is incoherence.
- By contrast, Jesus provides answers to these four fundamental questions of life in a way that corresponds with reality and has internal consistency, unlike any other faith system.
- 1) Concerning origins—The Bible says we are not identical with God—contrary to Hindu claim—but we are distinct from Him. We did not bring ourselves into being, but we are a creation of God. Since we were created in His image, this accounts for human beings having a moral point of reference. No system is able to explain this concept except the monotheistic ones.
- 2) The issue of meaning—the Christian faith stands without parallel. God does not call us to meaning by asking us to be good people. He does not call us to meaning just by telling us to love one another. It is only in the experience of worship that meaning comes to be. Only something greater than pleasure can provide meaning, and that is the perpetual novelty of God Himself in worship. The Bible tells us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and only when we’ve done that can we begin to love our neighbors as ourselves.
- 3) The issue of morality—Christianity says morality is not culturally based, but it grows out of the very character of God. Otherwise, you end up with the dilemma from philosophy of old: is the moral law over and above you, or it a moral law subject to you? If it is over and above you, where do you find its root, then? The only way to explain morality is to find it in an eternal, moral, omnipotent, infinite God who is inseparable from His character. Thus, Christianity explains morality in a coherent manner.
- 4) The issue of destiny—Destiny is based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the historical event that proved His divinity and that opened the door to heaven for everyone who will follow Him. Where else do you have anything that comes close to claiming this.
- Outside the resurrection of Jesus, there is no other hope for this world. Because the Resurrection is an actual historical event, we can be forgiven, we can be reconciled with God, we can spend eternity with Him, and we can trust Jesus’ teachings as being from God.
- A Muslim convert who was later martyred said, “The more I understand of what others have claimed and taught, the more beautiful Jesus Christ looks to me.”
- No man spoke like Jesus. No one ever answered the questions the way He answered them, not only propositionally but also in His person. Existentially, we can test it out. Empirically, we can test it out. The Bible is not just a book of mysticism or spirituality; it is a book that also gives geographical truths and historical truths. If you’re an honest skeptic, it’s not just calling to a feeling; it’s calling you to a real Person.
OF ELEPHANTS AND FAITH
- Even if Zacharias was right about Christianity, however does that necessarily mean that all other religions are false?
- Perhaps they’re all teaching the same fundamental truths at their core, using different language, diverse images, and various traditions to communicate basically identical beliefs.
- Some people say that when you strip away everything, all the world religions are essentially teaching the universal fatherhood of God and the universal brotherhood of humankind.
- Zacharias—In sum, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity are not saying the same thing. They are distinct and mutually exclusive religious doctrines. They cannot all be true at the same time.
- Strobel—Maybe the various religions each have a slice of the truth. Theologian John Hicks said the world religions are different culturally conditioned responses to the ultimately ‘Real,’ or God. Isn’t this like the old story of the three blind men feeling the elephant—each religion is a sincere but inadequate attempt to explain the mystery of God, and so each one is valid in its own way.
- Zacharias—Does the atheist have a piece of the truth, or is the atheist marginalized here? If the atheist does have a piece of the truth, which piece is it, since the fundamental tenet of atheism is the denial of God’s very existence.
- The point is the parable has already given away the fact that this, indeed, is an elephant! The blind man may tell you it’s a tree, but he’s wrong. It is not a tree or a rope or a fan. The seeing man knows this is an elephant. He knows the truth; his sight has revealed it to him. And Jesus Christ has made it clear that the eternal truths of God may be known. Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of the gospel—in Him, all of truth came together. Some while there may be aspects of truth elsewhere, the sum total of truth is in Christ.
- John Hick’s explanation ignores the possibility that God would reveal Himself, and that therefore we can have knowledge of who He is. Instead, Hick has made culture and intuition supreme. But the Bible says God DID reveal Himself: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
REDEMPTION, RIGHTEOUSNESS, WORSHIP
- Strobel—Isn’t how a person lives and treats his neighbor more important than what he believes theologically?
- Zacharias—How a person lives and how he treats his neighbor IS very important but it is not more important than what he believes, because that way he live sis reflective of what he believes. . . Jesus Christ did not come into this world to make bad people good. He came so that those who are dead to God can come alive to God. The word “sin” means missing the mark. And if that is a correct definition, then the grace of God becomes the most important truth. Apart from Christ, we cannot even believe what is right, let alone live the right way.
- First and foremost, it is important to know that no human being sends anybody to heaven or hell. In fact, God Himself does not send anybody to heaven or to hell; the person chooses to respond to the grace of God or to reject the grace of God, although even that decision is enabled by His grace. . . The pattern in Exodus is threefold: God brought the people out of Egypt, He gave them the moral law, and then He gave them the tabernacle. In other words, redemption, righteousness, worship. You can never violate that sequence. Unless you are redeemed, you cannot be righteous. Unless you are redeemed and righteous, you cannot worship, “for who shall ascend unto the hill of the Lord but he who has clean hands and a pure heart”—says the Bible.
- So redemption is the most important step toward righteousness. If I try to work myself toward goodness, I am essentially saying I don’t need to be redeemed by God. I am my own redeemer. . . The worst thing is to say to God that you don’t need Him. . .But to a person who says he or she does not need God, what is the recourse? There is none.