This is an excerpt from my book Reflections on the Resurrection. I hope you enjoy it!
This thought seems to be a common one about religion and runs throughout much of society. Maybe you have heard one of the following statements:
“All paths eventually lead to the same God.”
“All religions teach the same basic principles so it really does not matter which religion you follow.”
“It does not matter what you believe as longs as you are sincere.”
“We are all God’s children and it is not important what we believe.”
“There is no one ultimate truth. Everyone is entitled to believe whatever they want.”
Some of the world’s religions lean more towards this way of thinking than others. Hinduism, for example, has close to one billion followers. This religion worships many different gods. The gods and goddesses of Hinduism amount to thousands or even millions of different deities.
While there are common themes running throughout Hinduism, it is a very tolerant religion. It is not uncommon for a Hindu to consider themselves a “Christian Hindu” because they have added Jesus as one of their many deities. For most Hindus, the ideas of being a “good person” and doing good works are more important that what someone’s religious beliefs are. In fact, most of the world’s religions could be referred to as works-based religions.
Christianity is another of the world’s great religions and has over two billion followers. While Christians would agree that there are probably elements of truth in every religion, traditional Christianity would take exception to the idea that all paths will eventually lead to God. I realize this is not popular and leaves Christians looking intolerant. At the same time, however, this has been what Christians have believed for around 2000 years.
Why is it that traditional Christianity sees itself as the only true way to God? Islam says that the prophet Mohammad had the correct path to God. Judaism also believes that they have the eternal truth and the promises of God. Is there anything about Christianity that might elevate their claim to providing the only way to God?
First of all, Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father (GOD) except through me.” (John 14:6) This is a pretty bold claim and the religious leaders of Jesus’ day took offense at statements like this. Just because Jesus made this claim does not automatically make it so. Anyone can say that they are the only way to God. Is there any way to substantiate this claim?
The New Testament teaches that Jesus was eventually put to death by the Romans at the instigation of the Jewish religious leaders. A dead messiah equals no messiah. Jesus was not the first Jewish rabbi to attract a following and be thought of as the messiah. He was not the first messiah that the Romans had executed.
What sets Jesus apart, however, is the idea of resurrection. The New Testament teaches that Jesus physically rose from the dead. This is what the Easter Holiday is all about. The Apostle Paul wrote, “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me – that Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the twelve apostles. After that, he was seen by more than five hundred of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died by now. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles.” (1 Corinthians 15: 3-7)
If Jesus rose from the dead, never to die again, this seems to be a pretty clear substantiation of His claim to be the only way to God. Obviously, everyone will not agree on this and many adherents to other faiths would argue that Jesus was not raised from the dead. This question of the resurrection has been argued and debated since the days of the early Church. This debate will likely not be resolved anytime soon.
Another reason that Christians do not believe that all paths lead to God has to do with Jesus’ crucifixion. If Jesus was merely crucified as a failed revolutionary, there is little significance in His death. Christians believer, however, there was some type of atoning work that took place through His death.
In the passage above, Paul says that, “Christ died for our sins…” If all religions are true but just different paths to God, why did Jesus have to die? If God’s plan all along was that every religion would lead people to Him, did Jesus die in vain?
A last question that is worth considering is this, “Why would God only make one way to get to Him?” This is a legitimate question. If God is love and wants to save the world, why would He make it so hard for people to find Him? One answer to this is that if Jesus was who He said He was, at least there is a way to God. God is not one of us. He decides how people can approach Him.
God has created us with a free will. We can go down whatever path we choose. We can believe whatever we want to believe. If every path really does lead to God, though, is our will really free? It sounds like we are being forced to go somewhere we might not want to go.
What do you think?
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