note: there are three previous posts in this series. You should check them out before reading this one.
I wrapped up my last post on exclusivism in world religions and a question: Is Jesus the only way to God?
A little background. The first gospel I ever read (seriously) was The Gospel of John. I loved it…until I hit chapter fourteen. I was faced with Jesus’ statement at the Last Supper and I had to hit the pause button when I read verse six:
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6, ESV)
My reaction to this: how arrogant this statement is! I was at an impasse in my newly found faith. I felt that I couldn’t believe this. I felt that it couldn’t be true. I felt it was a misnomer. Maybe Jesus misspoke? Maybe John fumbled while writing and mixed up some words?
So I prayed. I asked God if He was wrong, please, let me know! I also had the audacity to ask God that if I was wrong, He’d help me understand. So I sought knowledge. Lots of it.
I took philosophy classes in college and read anything philosophical I could get my hands on. I wanted to understand thought and logic because Jesus’ statement didn’t seem all that logical to me. So I begin my research, and I looked again at the statement of Jesus: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes tot he Father except through me.”
My thoughts about a verbal slip or a writing flub up were quickly dismissed when the Apostles echoed these very words in various ways and times throughout the rest of the New Testament. Peter says,
11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12, ESV)
This forms what we now know as the doctrine of “Christian Particularism.” Some common objectives to this idea of an exclusivism in Christianity is that it is “arrogant,” “narrow-minded,” “unfair,” or “hateful.” I must cede that while many make some convincing pleas to counter Jesus’ claim, all of them are inadequate and fail to address the theological components present in the doctrine of “Christian Particularism” and the testimony of Scripture.
As Kevin Allen Lewis writes:
“To have another way of salvation, a person must change the goal of salvation itself. For example, if the purpose of “salvation” is to become a god, realize your godhood, or merely escape incarceration in a cosmic jailhouse, the means of accomplishing salvation will reflect those mistaken salvific ends.”
I don’t mean to oversimplify what follows because biblical salvation includes facets like justification, sanctification, adoption, and re-creation, the concept and objective of salvation in the Bible is really simple. What is it: To enjoy a loving, living, transformational relationship with our Creator.
That’s all sunshine an puppies, but when we look at the context of Scripture we face a bitter reality: that relationship, while instituted through Adam and Eve at Creation, is now broken. So how do you restore and fix something that’s broken?
Let’s look at how this plays out in your everyday relationships. Say you and a friend had a falling out and it was your fault. How do you restore the relationship? Well you, as the offender go to the person who is irked at you to ask forgiveness and try to bring about reconciliation.
The offended must be willing to extend forgiveness and choose to not hold the wrong against you anymore. They also must be willing to bear the hurt inflicted on them an acknowledge that they were hurt by the offender. To do that, certain conditions must be met. The offender must desire to restore the relationship. The offender must take responsibility for the hurt dealt to the offended. The offender must apologize and make good on that apology by never letting the wrong come between them again.
What does this have to do with Jesus being the only way of salvation? Easy. To restore the broken relationship with the one true God, the offended party, God, must be willing to bear the consequences of our sin. God accomplishes this by means of the Second Person of the Trinity assuming a full human nature, living a sinless life, and satisfying our penalty for sin on the cross.
Sinners, the offenders, need to repent, confess, be baptized, and trust God’s offer of forgiveness. When we do, we are reconciled to God for the purpose of fellowship with him as his beloved children. This is salvation in the Bible.
Now consider some of the common errors offered as “ways” of salvation. They are irrational in light of the biblical objectives of salvation. The “I’m a good person” view, or “I’m a sincere person” argument. These are based on the idea that just because I’m a tiny bit better behaved than my neighbor, I deserve to be saved by God. Or that I’m a sincere person who just wants the best for everyone. Me too! But it falls short of any logic and truth-claims to say to God, “I can save myself based on myself.”
If those two requirements were all that was needed, then most of us would be high on the hog, right? We’d make the cut. But where do we get that idea? These claims are put forward in Buddhism and other eastern religions (even Satanism, Wicca, essentially) that if one can rid themselves of certain undesirable traits, they will live a free, unhindered, loving life and then be absorbed back into the “star-dust” of the cosmos in an enlightened state. Islam has the “weighted scales of justice” idea that my good deeds must outweigh my bad in order to enter into Paradise on Judgment Day.
The basic principle behind these models rests on an individual’s behaviors, actions, and deeds. That if a person is sincere and a good moral citizen (the idea of morality – and even that is often viewed as a nebulous concept) and treat others decently, then I have fulfilled my goal and obligation to the Universe and will be happy, or whatever deity I’m seeking to satisfy will love me more.
Here’s the thing. In the Bible we learn this:
Jesus didn’t die to make us all in to good, moral, decent human beings and global citizens. Not even close! Jesus died to bring the dead back to life.
Resurrection is the proper title. It means that something died, was dead and buried, and is now alive again.
So contrary to the many objections, since the goal of salvation is forgiveness and reconciliation to a personal God in order to have loving relationship with him, the only storyline that makes any sense is to have God in-the-flesh, Jesus Christ, bear our sin for us to restore the relationship, or as Paul writes:
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:20-12, ESV)
To enter that reconciliation between man and God requires repentance and faith in him on the part of me, the sinner (offender).
So is Jesus the only way to God? I say unequivocally, “Yes!” In light of all we’ve looked at in these posts, we see that truth is grounded in reality – the way things actually are. And there cannot be two differing statements on a subject claiming to be true at the same time (Law of Noncontradiction). Therefore, if Jesus claims He is the only way to God, and others claim the same thing, someone is lying. Truth is truth whether we like it or not. There aren’t differing versions of “truth” or different kinds of it. There is only Truth, and Truth will always be found out.
Jesus is the only religious leader who offers physical, historical proof to back up His claim to exclusivism. There has never been a more controversial religious figure who has faced the scrutinies of the world and comes out on top. From the textual evidence of the Bible, to historical extra-biblical accounts confirming the text itself, to intense scrutiny by archeologists, and to the evidence that the human heart is the problem, not human behavior, we see that the only logical outcome is that Jesus is one of two things. Either He is the way, truth, and life. Either He is the only way to the Father…or He’s sadly mistaken.
Logic dictates that Jesus cannot be just A way or A truth or A life…because truth does not allow such a claim to exist! If there is a God and if He seeks a relationship with us, and being the very nature of God is all purity and all truth and all-powerful, than there cannot be multiple paths to arrive at the same destination. Either it’s true and right, or it’s not. It is not subjective and it is not relative.
This is where I leave the ball in your court. Research. Read the Scriptures. Seek out the truth. You will find it, and His name is Jesus.
I love you. God loves you infinitely more,