Dear Healed by Wounds,
I was on a flight recently where I had a conversation with a woman who told me that all religions are basically the same and that all of them lead to God. I told her that I believe Christianity is the one true religion. Which one of us has it right? Can we both be right?!
Dear Basically Blessed,
Sorry for yelling, but I couldn’t help myself. Your in-flight conversation reminds me of an old song—and music video—in which a psychiatrist routinely yells “Science!” If you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t worry about it. If you do know what I’m talking about, I certainly hope I haven’t caused that song to be stuck in your head!
The woman you spoke with might adhere to the worldview often referred to as “religious pluralism”. This is the belief that there are many paths to God. Religious pluralism is an old idea that gets rehashed in almost every generation. There’s so much that can be said about it and in fact, has been said about it. I’ll comment briefly on one aspect of religious pluralism—how it relates to Jesus.
You told the woman on your flight that you believe Christianity is the one true religion. The implication is that Jesus is the only way to God, and in fact is God himself. Or at least I imagine you communicated that to her in some way. If not, we can talk about that later. Assuming that you did, she might have wondered which Jesus you were talking about.
When the question “Is Jesus the only way to God?” gets asked, there should be a consensus that the same “Jesus” is being discussed, particularly in a conversation between people of different worldviews. Every worldview has a description of Jesus that doesn’t necessarily match the orthodox Christian description. Here is a brief non-exhaustive list to show you what I mean:
The Jesus of…
- Christianity is Jesus Christ, the central object of the Christian faith, God in the flesh.
- Islam is a prophet of God often called “Isa” who didn’t die on the cross and isn’t God.
- Judaism was not their promised Messiah and certainly not God.
- Buddhism was wise and compassionate, but no more a god than any other man.
- Hinduism was a wise and holy man, maybe even “a god” among millions of gods.
- Baha’i is one of the nine great world prophetic manifestations of deity.
- Spiritists is an advanced medium in the sixth sphere.
- Mormonism is one god in a pantheon of gods.
- the Jehovah’s Witnesses is the archangel, Michael.
- the “Jesus Myth” group didn’t exist as a real person, but maybe as a metaphor.
- Progressive Christianity is whatever makes a person feel comfortable with him.
This is quite confusing to me. It reminds me of an old game show called “To Tell the Truth”. In it, a few people would all pretend to be one specific person and it was up to the contestant to guess the right one, after asking a series of questions and getting answers from each of the impostors and the one who really was that person.
Let’s say the secret person’s name was “John Smith”. When the contestant made his choice, the game show host would announce “Will the real John Smith please stand up?!” The group of men would all shift around in their seats to add to the tension, and finally, the real John Smith would stand up.
After looking at the list I made earlier, I want to announce “Will the real Jesus please stand up?!” It seems that ever since Jesus came to earth, people have been remaking him in their own image as if to say, “No, that Jesus is not quite right. Let me tell you who Jesus really is.” Christianity teaches that man was made in God’s image—not the other way around.
The Bible is the only book—technically a collection of books—in which Jesus is the central figure. It contains considerably more information about Jesus than any other holy book. Do you think the Bible is the best authority on Jesus or should we put more trust in books that have little information on him and were written many centuries later than the actual historical events of Jesus’ life?
The Jesus of Christianity famously said to the apostle Thomas in the gospel according to John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” That bold statement right there makes it clear to me that Christianity is at least mutually exclusive from the other worldviews.
Although this doesn’t prove Christianity is true, it certainly puts some doubt on the validity of religious pluralism. So to answer your question, I don’t see how both of you can be right about finding the way to God. One thing you can ask people who hold to religious pluralism is this—”If Christianity is only one of many ways to God, why did God have to kill Jesus on the cross?”
By the way, my friend Alisa wrote about religious pluralism, universalism and the dangers of lessening Jesus’ work on the cross in an excellent article about progressive Christianity a few days ago. You should definitely check that out as she goes much deeper into these ideas and makes some very good points.
If you want my advice, I suggest the next time you find yourself in this same kind of conversation, at least make sure you are talking about the same Jesus. The person you talk with might not agree with you theologically about Jesus, but at least you can be sure you are talking about the same person!
Until next time, I am, and always will be, Healed by Wounds.