The God Question Part Three: How can you say there is only one way to God? What about other religions?
Colton Conrad, September 23, 2018
“One of the biggest mistakes humans make is to believe there’s only one way. Actually, there are many diverse paths leading to God.” -Oprah Winfrey
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.”
– Jesus, John 14:6
I. Worldview Questions
Worldviews provide answers to our ultimate questions:
- Where are we (what is the nature of the world)?
- Who are we (what does it mean to be human)?
- What’s wrong (how do we account for evil and the brokenness of life)?
- What is the remedy (what is the path from brokenness and insecurity to a life that is whole and secure)?
– Paul Hiebert
II. Religious Pluralism
Climbing up the Mountain…
The claim: “All paths up the mountain, though different, lead to the same place”
- This claims “I have superior knowledge to anyone else. Exclusive knowledge in fact.”
- If this is true, then the religious pluralist is saying first, that all religions teach that God exists, and second, that the goal of all religions is to reach God. But is that true?
Islam: God exists. The problem is forgetfulness, and the remedy is to remember, by submission and obedience to God through following the five pillars. The end goal is to reach paradise, which, although close, is not where God is.
Buddhism: there is an ultimate reality, an undifferentiated force. The problem is the individual ego, and the goal is to end all desire so that each individual wave is stilled back into the sea of oneness, which the fulfillment brings nirvana, to blow out, and cease to exist as a person.
Hindusim: The supreme reality is Brahman, personified by different gods but all just an extension of one “reality,” not a distinct identity. The goal is liberation from the cycle of reincarnation and merging into the oneness of Brahman, where the illusion of the distinct and unique self disappears
Secularism: Do not know if there is a God or any supernatural realm beyond the natural world. Everything, in this view, has a scientific explanation.
III. The Elephant in the Room: 3 Blind Men
Three blind men approach an elephant and begin touching it to discern what it is. The first blind man feels the trunk and describes it as a palm tree. The second blind man feels the tail and describes it as a rope. The third blind man feels the ear and describes it as a fan. Only the storyteller, who is not blind, can see that they are each describing the same object, the elephant, each from his own unique perspective. So, its suggested that each religion does the same.
- If this is true, then every religion is wrong.
- If this is true, then it is the religious pluralist who can see the truth, not the other religions. Everyone is blind, except the religious pluralist.
- If this is true, it is the religious pluralist who has the exclusive truth.
- If this is true, it is the religious pluralist, who knows “God,” though they claim that God is “unknowable.”
- If it is true that religious pluralism is correct and can see, then they are asserting exclusive truth against every other view.
- And if that is true, the religious pluralist is saying that what is believed by those other religions does not really matter.
To say “we can’t know God for sure” is to assert that God has not revealed himself. But that is not what Christianity claims. “The Christian view of God is that God has revealed who He is so people can know him.” (Timothy Keller)
What is ultimately exclusive? Truth. Truth, by its very nature, excludes anything that is false. Even the person who says, “there is no truth,” is making an exclusive, truth statement that there is no truth. Every religion or belief system claims to be true.
IV. The Christian Truth Claim
“What we need is not to compare the chinks of light that different religions may have perceived, but to experience the sunrise, which eclipses the light of every candle. We do not need a religion, but a revelation.” – Michael Green
We are all blind, and need a story-teller who sees clearly who God is and what God made us for.
“And that is what Christianity claims to be. Unlike other holy books, the Bible records , not the story of human beings in search of God, but of God in search of human beings.”
Who is Jesus?
Unlike Moses, Muhammad, or Buddha, Jesus does claim to be divine.
Jesus claims He is the only way to God.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.” John 14:6
- This excludes all other religious ideas if it is true.
“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
Jesus claimed that He was God.
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” John 8:58
V. What about the fact that religion is divisive?
- “If my belief is different or critical of what you do or believe, we can’t tolerate one another.” False. This is not inherently true.
Cultural pluralism – acceptance and celebration of different cultures, peoples, races, and religions – is not the same as religious pluralism – accepting as true all ideas, convictions and worldviews of peoples and religions.
- However, The claim to have “exclusive truth” often leads to “intolerance” – the claim that people’s personhood is lesser because of what they believe.
VI. Jesus, the only way to be saved.
The problem: Sin – self-centeredness and idolatry (rebellion against God and worshipping other things as ultimate.)
David Foster Wallace “Everyone worships.” What we worship can either enslave us or set us free.
The Remedy: Jesus sets us free.
VII. Grace vs. Works : Jesus says that pursuing salvation by our own works is ineffective, but that because He came, God came, and lived a perfect life and gave up his life for us, if we trust in His work, and His life, then, we come to God, not on the basis of our own work, but on the basis of God’s work for us. And that is effective to bring us to salvation.
VIII. Final Point: It does matter what you believe.
The object of your faith matters more than the amount of faith or the sincerity of that faith. Choose the object of your faith wisely, it is a matter of life or death.
Personal Reflection or Group Discussion:
Open Up: How do you evaluate these statements. “Nobody can know whose religion is true, so Christianity can’t claim it is the true way.” “All major religions are equally valid, produce much wisdom and happiness, and basically teach the same thing.” “All religions lead to the same place and all are right.”
- How would you answer each of the worldview questions (in the notes above; point I)? Go around the room, or write in a journal, your own ways of answering these questions.
- Andy Steiger says, “The simple answer to the question, “Do all religions lead to God?” is “No,” as we’ve already seen. But, then again, Christianity’s answer is much more than that. Christianity teaches that no religion leads to God. The created cannot reach the Creator. What we need is God to reach us the blind and to explain the reality correctly to us.”
Do you think it’s possible to reach God outside of revelation? If so, how? (Steiger)
3. “Moreland and Muehloff propose a better illustration of the world’s religions to be that of a maze. When entering the maze, you immediately face a choice – which path you will take as you try to reach the goal of getting to the centre, which represents finding God. Some paths will walk in parallel for a while, signifying similarities between
religions, and some will lead to dead ends. The challenge is to find the one path that leads you to the final destination, the centre. We need someone to step into the story, who can see the entire maze. Jesus is uniquely qualified out of all the world’s religious leaders to show us the right path to the centre – God. This includes his unique claim to divinity, ability to forgive sins, performing of miracles and his resurrection from the dead.” (from Andy Steiger’s, The Thinking Series)
Consider this analogy. What are some possible dead ends that a person might encounter (i.e. contradictions, illogical teachings, etc.)? What might cause a person to choose one path over another?
- Pastor Colton mentioned David Foster Wallace who says, “Everybody worships.” As we go on further in that talk, Wallace says, “The compelling reason for maybe choosing some sort of god or spiritual-type thing is to worship…is that pretty much everything else you worship will eat you alive.” To take it a step further, the Bible teaches that if you worship anything other than the true God who loves you and gave his life for you, you will be eaten alive, destroyed…“
Have you ever “worshipped” something in your life and found yourself feeling “enslaved and unhappy?” Do you notice something like that happening among your friends?
Read 1 Corinthians 10:19-20, and Deuteronomy 32:16-17.
– How does the spiritual reality behind the worship of other gods move you into action?
Who will you pray for this coming week to come and see the love and good news of Jesus Christ?