Beyond Belief – How Can You Believe Jesus Is the Only Way to God?

Continuing our series on Christian apologetics (being able to explain and defend our faith to those seeking to understand it or complaining about how outdated and ridiculous it is), let’s turn our attention today to another stumbling block some people have with the claims of Christianity: the assertion that Jesus is the one and only way to God the Father. In today’s relativistic society, which has hijacked pluralism to its benefit, such a claim is viewed as narrow-minded, ignorant, and arrogant.

What do I mean by that? According to Meriam-Webster.com, one of the definitions is:

A state of society in which members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious, or social groups maintain and develop their traditional culture or special interest within the confines of a common civilization

Meriam-Webster.com definition of Pluralism

What this means is that everyone should be able to coexist peacefully regardless of whether or not we agree with one another. Remember those good old days? Republicans and Democrats used to be able to have thoughtful conversations about politics without resorting to hateful vitriol. Christians used to be able to discuss differences between their denominations while still respecting those differences. Same thing across religious boundaries. Sadly, not any more.

But it gets worse, thanks to relativism. In today’s relativistic culture, people reject any claim of absolute truth (which I discussed in more depth in a previous post in this series, “Beyond Belief – Do You Believe in Truth and Morality? Absolutely!“). Of course, they miss the irony in the fact that rejecting a claim of absolute truth is itself a claim of absolute truth.

What’s the difference between relative truth and absolute truth? Here are some examples of each.

Relative Truths (also known as Subjective Truths)

  • Chocolate ice cream is better than vanilla ice cream
  • Dogs are better pets than cats, rodents, or reptiles
  • Ice hockey is the most exciting sport
  • The Colorado Avalanche are the best team in the NHL and will win the Stanley Cup
  • (those were some easy ones to warm up…)
  • Donald Trump was the best President in my lifetime
  • Donald Trump was the worst President in my lifetime
  • Joe Biden is the best President since Donald Trump
  • Joe Biden is the worst President since Donald Trump
  • Jesus was a great moral teacher
  • There are many different paths that lead to God
  • As long as I’m a good person, I should be able to get into heaven
  • All of the world religions’ core beliefs are pretty much the same

Absolute Truths

  • The sun appears to rise in the east and set in the west because of the direction of the earth’s rotation
  • The speed of sound in room-temperature air is about 1125 feet/second or 343 meters/second
  • The speed of light is about 186,000 miles/second
  • The earth is the third plant from the sun, which is about 93,000,000 miles away
  • An object dropped at sea level acclerates at 32 feet/second2 or 9.8 meters/second2
  • (those were some easy ones to warm up…)
  • There is a personal God, who created us to be in relationship with Him
  • Due to humanity’s fallen, sinful condition, which was brought about by Adam and Eve listening to Satan in the Garden of Eden, God devised a plan to reconcile us back to him
  • God’s plan to bridge the gap between us and himself that was caused by our sin was to send Jesus–the Son within the trinity–to take the punishment we deserve
  • Because of this, accepting Jesus as Lord, and thus accepting his gift of forgiveness, is the only way to be reconciled to God

Relative truths used to be known as opinions, but in this relativistic society, people say things like, What’s true for me is true for me, and (maybe) what’s true for you is true for you. You get “brownie points” if you believe your truths very earnestly and vocally.

But here’s the thing: if I get behind the wheel of a run-down car with all kinds of warning lights flashing, it doesn’t matter how earnestly I believe that car is safe. The brakes or engine or something else may fail, regardless of how strongly I believe that should not happen.

Absolute truths, on the other hand, are verifiable. They are true whether you believe them or not. They are true whether you understand them or not. More on this later.

How Relativism Has Poisoned Pluralism

Pluralism was and is foundational to the fabric of this country. It’s on our currency: “e pluribus unum”–from the many, one. The idea is that everyone could live in community with other people regardless of whether or not everyone held the same religious or political beliefs and without regard to any other differences. Even though this hasn’t always gone as well as it should have, it nevertheless enabled this country to soar to prominence on the world’s stage in a comparatively short period of time.

But one key aspect of pluralism that is overlooked these days is that we don’t all have to agree on everything in order to do life together. Unfortunately, this sentiment is eroding quickly, set ablaze by protests and hateful political speech (from both sides of the aisle), with fuel added to the fire by cowardly social media posts.

Taken one step further, relativism has poisoned pluralism by making it seem as though all views are equally valid. Now, when it comes to flavors of ice cream and even political ideologies, a case could be made that at least most views are equally valid (although, I have to admit it would be challenging to convince me that views on either extreme end of the political spectrum are healthy for any society–but, I digress). However, when it comes to religious ideologies, all views are not equally valid.

And this brings me to the main point of today’s episode–talk about a long introduction!

Jesus Is the Way, the Truth, and the Life

How can you claim something like that, you narrow-minded, ignorant, arrogant Christian?? Jesus never really claimed to be the only path to God!

Well, I can claim it because it’s what Jesus said about himself, including that he is the only way to God:

Borrowed from YouVersion

“No one comes to the Father except through me.” Hmm, I wonder what he meant by that….

And just in case you don’t want to take Jesus’s word for it, you can see what the Apostle Peter said about Jesus when speaking to the group of Jewish religious leaders known as the Sanhedrin:

Borrowed from YouVersion

Or if you prefer the Apostle Paul’s writings, see what he said to his son in the faith, Timothy:

Borrowed from YouVersion

Now let’s go back to my last several examples of absolute truth:

  • There is a personal God, who created us to be in relationship with Him
  • Due to humanity’s fallen, sinful condition, which was brought about by Adam and Eve listening to Satan in the Garden of Eden, God devised a plan to reconcile us back to him
  • God’s plan to bridge the gap between us and himself that was caused by our sin was to send Jesus–the Son within the trinity–to take the punishment we deserve
  • Because of this, accepting Jesus as Lord, and thus accepting his gift of forgiveness, is the only way to be reconciled to God

I got even bolder by then asserting that these things are all verifiable. How? you may be wondering. The first part of the list was a bunch of scientific facts that most likely none of us would dispute even though probably none of us could personally verify any of them. Well then, how can we believe they are true? The answer is simple: with some careful, intellectually honest investigation, we would be able to locate enough research findings from credible sources to substantiate that those facts are very likely true.

Well, the answer is the same regarding the second part of the list. Each of the facts in that list come straight from the Bible (if you’d like to check them out and need help finding them, leave a comment and I will be happy to show you where to find them). How do you know the Bible is true? Good question. Please see my post in this series on that topic, Beyond Belief – How Can You Possibly Believe the Bible Is True? The Bible has more historical and archeological validation than the foundational document for any other world religion as well as many other commonly accepted historical documents.

Can’t I Believe Christianity *and* Other Faiths, Too?

Let’s go back to an idea I listed as a relative truth: All of the world religions’ core beliefs are pretty much the same. Even though some people claim it as an absolute truth, it is as ridiculous as it is unverifiable. There are fundamental beliefs in each of the world’s five major religions (Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam) that stand in direct contradiction to beliefs in one or more of the other religions. For example, Christians believe in eternal life, but Buddhists believe there is no life after death. So there is no reasonable, intelligent way to try to smash all of the world religions together into a single box. Any devout practitioner of any of those religions would tell you the same thing–you can’t possibly combine their faith with any other religion.

So the short answer is, No, you can’t believe what Jesus said and any of the other world religions at the same time.

But What About People Who Have Never Heard of Jesus? Does This Mean They Can’t Go To Heaven?

These are very good questions. You can add to them, What about children who die young or while in their mother’s womb? Unfortunately, there are no good answers to these questions. In fact, these topics are debated–sometimes hotly–within the Christian church. But just because no human being has good answers does not mean there aren’t any. Without a doubt, God has good answers. He never promised to make everything abundantly clear to us, at least not on this side of heaven. In fact, he pretty much guaranteed that we would not understand everything about him when he said:

As the heavens are higher than the earth,so are my ways higher than your waysand my thoughts than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:9 (NIV)

Having said that, though, I can tell you that God would rather not exclude anyone from heaven, and certainly not because of where or when they were born or how young they were when they died. We can see this by the way Jesus interacted with people–and if there’s something we don’t understand about God, it’s always a safe bet to look at Jesus as a way to try to understand God. Jesus touched untouchable people. He hung out with tax collectors and sinners. He knelt down in the dirt to be face-to-face with a woman caught in adultery as he saved her in a most unlikely way. He pointed to a hated Roman soldier as an example of faith above the religious leaders around him. He prayed for the people who were torturing him to death.

Does this sound like a God who wouldn’t have a plan for saving people who never heard the Good News of Jesus Christ?

I believe–and this is just my belief, so please don’t ask me for details regarding this transaction, or where to find it in the Bible–that somehow, before God determines the ultimate destination for each person who never had the opportunity to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ, he gives them the chance to hear the message of the Gospel in a way that they would understand. Since God knows our hearts, he will be able to discern if they truly accept the gift of grace being offered. And if they accept it, they are granted access into heaven. Those who reject it, like the people who hear the Gospel during their earthly life but reject it, will spend eternity separated from God–that is, in hell.

The one little hint about this to me is the Parable of the Vineyard Workers, which Jesus tells in Matthew 20:1-16. This is the story where workers who were hired one hour before quitting time get paid the same wage as people who worked the entire day in the hot sun. Among other things, Jesus tells us that story as way to say, The decision about who goes to heaven may not seem fair by your standards–deal with it. In other words, those of us who have spent many years following Christ may have a tendency to think it’s not fair that someone who truly accepts Jesus as their Lord and Savior moments before their death, or even in the instant they pass from life to death (for those who did not have the opportunity to hear the Gospel during their earthly life), gets the same heavenly reward as we get.

But through the vineyard owner in the story, Jesus poignantly ends the parable with this question: are you envious because I am generous? (Matthew 20:15, NIV).

So even though we are accused of being narrow-minded, ignorant, and arrogant when we make what seems to be an exclusive assertion that Jesus is the only way to God, we are only restating the generous offer that God makes to everyone. Jesus is the way to the life–now and into eternity–that God makes available to anyone who will accept this beautiful, priceless gift.

About Writing & Photography by David K. Carpenter

Photographer of Light and Life, Writer of Life as it finds me
This entry was posted in Christian, Faith and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Beyond Belief – How Can You Believe Jesus Is the Only Way to God?

  1. Pingback: Beyond Belief – How Can You Believe in Christianity When Religion Poisons Everything? | Master's Canvas – Writing & Photography by David K. Carpenter

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