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Friday, April 20, 2018

If Christ Is NOT the Only Way

One of the sharpest complaints against Christianity is the concept of exclusivity. We claim that Christ is the only way to salvation. We make that claim because He did. In the face of that, it wouldn't be feasible to call ourselves "Christians" and deny what Christ said. But what if? What if Christ is not the only way? Have you ever considered that?

Well, to start with, logic would dictate that, if Christ is not the only way, then Christianity is no way. That is, if the Author and Finisher of our faith is, frankly, wrong, then there is nothing in our faith that we can count on. Logically, if most faiths claim to be exclusive, most faiths are wrong. They can't all be exclusive and correct. We have it from Christ that He is the only way (John 14:6), so if He's wrong, we can eliminate Christianity from that list of possibly true faiths. The rest of them will have to fight it out to determine which is correctly exclusive, but we're out of the running.

Paul gave the gospel in brief in the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians, where he claimed that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised the 3rd day to many witnesses (1 Cor 15:3-8). He goes on to say that "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins." (1 Cor 15:17) This puts Christ and His resurrection as a cornerstone of Christianity in general and salvation in particular. If Christ is not the only way, then His death and resurrection are meaningless at best, your faith is worthless, and you're still in your sins.

Paul listed two men in history that were significant to the question. He speaks of the first Adam and the last Adam (Rom 5:12-21). The first brought sin and death and the last brought life (Rom 5:15). If Christ is not the only way, Paul breaks down here. No "first" and "last" man. No life through Christ.

Paul wrote:
Having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Rom 5:9-10)
The problem isn't "bad people" or "not good enough". The problem is enemies of God and dead. If Christ is not the only way, then Paul was seriously overstating his position. Not enemies of God, not dead in sin, not really that bad off. But Paul, the "saved by grace through faith apart from works", "no other gospel" Apostle, was obviously confused. When the Philippian jailer asked, "What must I do to be saved?" Paul should have answered, "Whatever you darn well please," not "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts 16:30-31) If Christ is not the only way, Paul didn't know it (1 Tim 2:5).

Neither did Peter (Acts 4:12), the author of Hebrews (e.g., Heb 2:3), Jude (Jude 1:3), John (e.g., John 3:13-18; 10:1-8; 14:6) ... well, any of the authors of the New Testament.

The Bible speaks of Jesus as unique. He is the "only begotten" (John 2:24; John 3:16; 1 John 4:9). In Him all things exist (Col 1:17). Everything is from Him, through Him, and to Him (Rom 11:36). It is Christ "in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins." (Col 1:14) If Christ is not the only way, then our only response to this unique, only begotten, source of existence and purpose of all things is "Meh, who cares? We can find that elsewhere."

If Jesus is not the only way to God, then the biblical record is not only unreliable, but evil. It claims that God sent His Son to die on our behalf. It claims that He lived a sinless life, qualifying Him and Him alone to pay for sin. It claims that He is God Incarnate, deity, the second person of the Trinity, qualifying Him and Him alone to be capable of covering all sin.

If Jesus is not the only way to God, Scripture is not to be believed. Jesus said it. The Apostles said it. Every other possibility is denied in Scripture and Jesus alone is offered as the way to salvation. If it is true that Jesus is NOT the only way, then the Scriptures are pointless and Jesus, in particular, is unreliable.

Exclusivity seems like a big problem. It's so narrow. It's so offensive. It's so ... necessary. You see, if we admit that 2 + 2 = 4, then we are denying that 2 + 2 can equal anything else. Exclusive. It's the nature of truth. That is, exclusivity itself shouldn't be such a problem. Other religions claim it and no one complains. We all believe in it in everyday living. We all practice it. So it appears to only be a problem when it comes to Christ. As it turns out it is unavoidable that the Bible teaches that Christ and Christ alone is the only way to God. They may not like it, but it is unavoidable.


David said...

What if it is still Christ working through other religions? He's still correct in saying He's the only way that way. I mean, we know our salvation isn't by our choice alone, and we know there are "good" people that aren't Christians. So, maybe He's still saving others. (Only as devil's advocate. I don't actually believe this.)

Stan said...

Yes, I know that's a "devil's advocate" position, and, actually, I've heard it before (from non-devil's advocates). But the thinking is muddled. In fact, it ends up in the same list of problems I listed. The Bible isn't reliable. The biblical authors were all confused. Christ died for nothing. "The Gospel" is meaningless. People arenot sinners but are basically good and we're all good with God. This, too, eliminates the Bible as useful, Paul in particular as meaningful, and Christianity as a valid faith. (Note: If Jesus said, "No man comes to the Father but by Me" and meant "In whatever ways I decide by whatever means I choose", then it still eliminates all of the New Testament writers who argued otherwise, the Bible as reliable, and Christianity as valid. That is, the claim of exclusivity isn't based exclusively on Jesus's claim of exclusivity.)

Craig said...

While it’s theoretically possible that Christ could work through other religions, it would stand to reason that those other religions would look pretty much like the teachings of Christ we see in scripture. It also raises the question “Why would that be more effective?”

I just saw someone use the “Whatever good you did in the name of Tash, you really did for me.” quote from Lewis in one of the Narnia books in an attempt to make a point very similar to this.

Also just started reading a book on scripture by John Piper, and one of the points he’s focused on is that everything that God does is to showcase God’s glory. I don’t doubt that, but I hadn’t thought about it the same way before.

Anonymous said...

The current pope (from the little I've read about him) seems to be pushing away from the "only one way to Heaven" tradition. He is also saying Hell was a metaphor, not an actual destination for a soul. It will be interesting to see if this is the start of a trend in Catholicism.

Craig said...

The Roman Church has a long history of wandering away from biblical Truth. This isn’t new.