Why are there so many religions? Do all those “paths” lead to God?
In this final week of the Big Think series we focus on the very popular belief that any and all paths lead to God, to salvation, to eternity. To be clear right up front, we believe there is only ONE way. There is no clearer statement of our belief than the words of Jesus himself…
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
But in today’s world, to believe as we do means you are absolutely in the minority. Here is a powerful statement that I found as I was preparing for this week …
70% believe that any way works
This statistic, published by the Barna Group, is not just true of the unbelieving world, but is also very near the percentage among Christians as well. If you step back from the statistic, far enough for our modern world to come into focus, does it become a little more understandable? Culture is powerful, and there have been, and are, powerful voices in culture that have expressed resonant beliefs and questions. In the video, we highlight two … John Lennon and George Lucas. Among other things, John said…
I believe that what Jesus and Mohammed and Buddha and all the rest said were right. It’s just that the translations have gone wrong.
I remember when I was 10 years old, I asked my mother, “If there’s only one God, then why are there so many religions?” I’ve been pondering that question ever since, and the conclusion I’ve come to is that all religions are true.
These are powerful voices that people ascribe value to, and they absolutely echo the 70%. But we all know that just because we (or someone powerful or famous) says something, that doesn’t make it true.
There are a few basic things that all religions attempt to explain or solve … the nature of God, who was Jesus Christ, sin and salvation. I would encourage you to watch the video to see the things that the three religions I chose as representative of the largest percentage of people in the world (Islam, Buddhism and Mormonism) have to say about those four fundamental areas. What I believe is clear by comparison, is that each of the three differ greatly from Christianity and measurably from each other. Even if religion was an intellectual exercise (which it is not), it does not make logical sense that beliefs that conflict could all be true.
Through the Apostle Paul, God makes a very definitive statement about the “other ways” to Him.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
God is very direct. These other ways and those who believe them, “suppress the truth by their wickedness…” God offers no wiggle room. There are no grey areas where maybe the translation just went a little eschew. These other ways are suppressing the truth of God that He has made plain, “so that people are without excuse.” There is no allowance for a claim of ignorance here.
If you are someone who counts yourself among the 70%, I would guess you are a little uncomfortable at this point (maybe a lot uncomfortable). If you are a non-believer, I hope this generates a conversation. A conversation that you’d engage with us. If you are a believer, there’s likely a burden on your heart that accompanies this discomfort. And that burden comes with a responsibility that Jesus himself speaks of in words that have come to be known as The Great Commission…
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Christ has commanded us to be His messenger. A messenger of the absolute and singular truth that He is “the way and the truth and the life.” In his own words, He boldly declares that there is no other way to God than through him. No.Other.Way!
In this responsibility to be His messenger, there is a story that illustrates perfectly the way in which we should communicate His message. Consider this…
The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.” Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip.
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.” Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.”
It’s very likely that you’ll experience times like Philip did here. In his response to “Follow Me,” Philip immediately finds a friend and begins sharing the truth with him. And the very first thing that happens, the knee-jerk response from his friend, is an intellectual challenge. Can anything good come from Nazareth? Nathanael responds. And here is the really important point … Philip did not engage his friend in an intellectual discussion or debate. He did not try to “prove” Jesus. His simple and beautiful response was, “Come and see.“‘
May the words that your life speaks be “Come and see” as you live out the responsibility of being God’s messenger. May we as a church, in all that we do, be a place where God is not “proven” and arguments are not won, but where people are simply invited “Come and see.”