Believing in Jesus as the only way to salvation is a much disputed claim in our day. Those who suggest that Jesus is the only way to the Father run the risk of being labeled as narrow-minded and intolerant.
Within our postmodern culture a myriad of more palatable theories have emerged, presented as more inclusive alternatives to the historic view that Christianity is the only way. These theories are likely familiar to you. You’ve heard these views articulated by a co-worker, a classmate, a neighbour, or maybe a member of your own family.
Popular view #1: All the world religions are basically the same and so you can’t really go wrong with any of them.
Popular view #2: There are differences between the major religions, but this can be likened to different paths leading to the same mountain top. The journey looks different, but the destination is the same.
Popular view #3: It really doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.
A cursory survey of the world religions will reveal that, indeed, there are some similarities. For example, in each of the ‘Big 5’ (Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Christianity) prayer and meditation are primary disciplines. Examine the ethics of each, compare the exhortations for how we should behave and treat one another, and you will also see a lot of common ground.
There are, however, some massive discrepancies in the 5 when you examine closely the core beliefs, such as their view of God, salvation, and how salvation is procured. For example, Buddhism, strictly speaking, does not worship a god. Hinduism, by contrast, recognizes many gods. And while Islam, Judaism, and Christianity acknowledge one god, the former two utterly reject the notion that God exists as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And because these positions are polar, it is not possible to say that “they are all correct.” Logically, they all might be wrong, but they can’t all be right. It cannot be the case that there is a God and no god at the same time. It cannot be true that there are many gods and one god at the same time.
As someone who devotes his time to studying the Bible, I can’t get around the fact that the Scripture makes exclusive claims. The apostle Peter declared: “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, Himself, made exclusive claims: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
The claims made by Jesus are unique. He claimed to be “one with the Father” (John 10:30), and the only way to the Father. These claims distinguish Jesus from the leaders of the other world religions. They are not all the same.
Tolerance does not require that we believe that everyone is essentially saying the same thing. Tolerance does not require that we regard every religion as equal. Tolerance requires us to honour and respect those with whom we may have profound differences. This is something I’m eager to do because I recognize that my belief in the Jesus revealed in Scripture puts me at odds with many people—a group that includes family members and friends.
If you’re interested in hearing further what distinguishes Christianity from the other world religions, I encourage you to listen to the message below, delivered on Sunday September 27 at St. Giles Kingsway and The Well. As always, I welcome your feedback and insight.