Is Jesus The Only Way to Access God?



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  • Is Jesus The Only Way to Access God?

    Published in the Christian Chronicle - By S. E. Ray - 09/18/06

    “Jesus is the Only Way” is a difficult phrase for many people to digest in today’s ecumenical climate, the tolerance of all religions and spiritual paths. For a Christian to dogmatically imply that Jesus the Christ is the only means by which a person can enter into an eternal union with the Creator is deemed bigotry. It has been labeled as arrogant and blind to the many other possibilities. Paul wrote saying the message of Christ would become a “stumbling block” and “foolishness” to those blinded by their own wisdom (1 Cor. 1:23).

    In 1893, Swami Vivekananda, a disciple of the self-proclaimed “god-man” Sri Ramakrishna, persuasively proclaimed the fundamental unity of all the world’s religions. Almost imperceptibly, the swami’s message has evolved into a sinister creed: The fundamental unity of all religions except one — historic Christianity. With alarming fanaticism orthodox Christianity was denounced as the obstacle to harmonizing the world’s religions. Today, the Christian faith is incurring increased persecution, movements like the New Age is an active front runner of Satan's end time work.

    The scriptural basis for this claim that Jesus is the only way is quoted by Christians from the biography section about Christ called the New Testament. Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) and “I am the door; if anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). One of Jesus' closest associates, Peter, is quoted as saying “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Paul, the most influential of early teachers, wrote, “If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Acts 17:11).

    [See painting depicting "Sermon on the Mount" below.]

    Sometimes Christians make exclusive claims for their faith in an arrogant spirit or in the attitude of ‘I'm right and you are wrong’ which of course is not the humility inspired by God's genuine indwelling. On the other hand, the claim to have found `the truth' is not an arrogant statement. Indeed, it is a personal discovery and one should not expect others unenlightened to applaud the proclamation. While Jesus was on earth there was much confusion about who He was. Some thought He was a wise man or a great prophet. Others thought He was a madman. Still others couldn't decide or didn't care. But Jesus said, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30).

    Different religions make very various claims, and certainly, they cannot all be true. For example, can God have `a son' in the concept of a triune Godhead? Christians say yes, Muslims and Jews vehemently say no. It is confusing to learn how many beliefs are viewed as both true and not true yet each religion come to different conclusions. Is the physical world, including evil, real as Western religions claim or an illusion as Buddhism claims? What makes us acceptable to God? Our beliefs, moral actions or maybe our religious actions? Again, religions differ. As eminent Swiss theologian Hans Küng said in a project called Weltethos (Global Ethic), “there is a world of difference between the smiling Buddha and the crucified Christ.”

    One way of understanding the contradictions is the parable of the elephant, attributed to Buddha. Blind men are trying to discover the nature of an elephant. Yet each offers a different description, according to the part of the elephant he touches. The one who feels the head concludes that an elephant is like a pot; the one with the ear says, `An elephant is like a winnowing basket;' the one feeling the tusk argues that an elephant is like a plough share; and so on. The conclusion is obvious: religious views are different because each grasps only a portion of the truth in their blindness. The differences are more apparent than real. The truth is only to be found in taking all the parts together.

    Some would argue that we can know so little of God that all our religions are merely best guesses, and we should not be dogmatic. But those religions which claim special revelation (for instance, through a inspired holy book), while agreeing that our understanding of God is limited, would claim that God has revealed more than we could ever have known by ourselves. By this standard, to be dogmatic is not to be unfaithful to a big view of God. Precisely the opposite: because I can know so little, I must be faithful to what I believe God has revealed. The spiritual realm is beyond any single religion, for it is infinite and its dimensions are not comprehensible by mere mortal man.

    There are conservative Christians who would argue that ignorance of the law (or in this case the Gospel) is no excuse. If God chooses to `save' only those who responded when they had a chance to hear of Jesus, that is God's prerogative, since nobody deserves to be saved anyway. Many theological stances say that unless you have heard about Jesus and made an explicit commitment to being his follower, you cannot be `saved'. Leaving aside the question of those who have heard about Jesus and not responded, what of those who never hear about Jesus in the first place?

    Paul the Apostle taught that everyone will be judged according to the light they have been given: the light of creation (Rom. 1), the light of conscience (Rom. 2), and the light of Christ (Rom. 3). God is not capricious! Thus, we can rest assured that those who respond to light will receive more light. As the prophet Jeremiah put it, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jer. 29:13). People are not condemned to eternal separation only on the occasion of not believing in Jesus; they are already condemned because of their sin. The real question, then, is not how can God send someone to hell but rather how can God condescend to our state to save any one of us?

    Someone who wants to know God will recognize the importance of Jesus when they do hear about him. Jesus seems to have anticipated this when he said: “Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching [I am giving] is from God or whether I am speaking on my own” (John 7:17). Don Richardson wrote in his book “ Eternity in their Hearts” that it is not unusual for missionaries to hear: `This is what we have been waiting for. Why didn't you come sooner?' One tribe is supposed to have responded, `We knew all this but we did not know what his name was.' Those who have been pursuing the truth about God with an attitude of humility and faith recognize in the Christian message the fulfillment of that toward which they have been reaching.

    Many claim the Christian message of Christ being the only way and hell is fear-based manipulation and oppression pointing to the exploitation used in the European conquest of the Americas. Even though zealous missionaries may have wrongly welded the “turn or burn” message as a club over the Indians, the essence of truth that Christ taught will lead to spiritual liberation. Jesus himself proclaimed liberation of the captive. Far from believing that truth was oppressive, he promised that `the truth shall set you free' (John 8:32) and made good his promise in the lives of the marginalized and disempowered of his day. Christ’s truth was He was the answer, the man-deity that bridged the gap between the created and the Creator.

    Strong convictions can, in fact, lead to a greater measure of patience and compassion, rather than less. For instance, I have heard debates between Christians and Jews, and between Christians and Muslims, which were models of clarity, charity and respect, in spite of the acknowledged irreconcilable differences. This is pluralism at its best: not seeking an artificial synthesis, not betraying our deepest convictions, but committed to searching together for truth in the spirit of love.

    The claims of Christianity mirroring the words of Christ are not to be taken lightly. It is closed minded to dismiss Christianity's exclusive claims without researching the historical person and life of Jesus, and understanding why Christians make those claims. For those who come to know Jesus, His assertion, “I am the way and the truth and the life,” is not singular absolution but rather liberating truth. Christ was quoted as saying "He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day” (John 12:48).

    "The Church of God needs to remember that fellowship with the Father necessitates separation from those who fail to fulfill the responsibility of fellowship in light. We are not only to yield to love; we are to guard holiness. It is possible to be led astray from the activity of true love by yielding to a false charity. At the very center of love is light. That is not true love which sacrifices doctrine and principle. God has never acted in love at the expense of light." -- William Graham Scroggie.
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