In his book, “Skeptics Answered,” James Kennedy tells the story of the great theologian R C Sproule. He was a lowly freshman in a college English class that was taught by a former war correspondent who was a militantly anti-Christian. In the middle of a lecture in the professor departed from her subject and turned to the young student. Mr. Sproule, do you believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God.” (Kenedy, Skeptics Answered, 101).
That kind of attack is fairly common in universities and high schools throughout America today. Above all other philosophical ideas, Christians are singled out for exposure, isolation and ridicule. Kennedy also notes: “Our culture celebrates the practice of every imaginable vice. It seems that there is no moral behavior is forbidden or criticized. To an immoral, ungodly and sinful generation, the only virtue that remains is tolerance of everybody else’s sin. Therefore the only vice that remains is intolerance.” (Kennedy, 102)
I just read an article on CNN’s website this morning. As Easter approaches, our Christian faith is under attack. Today’s Headline: “Belief Can Be a Dangerous Thing: What Readers Told Us About Faith.” Not surprising, the CNN interviews emphasized people who left Christianity, or people who have found “enlightenment” in their non-Christian faith or simply in nature.
The article provided interviews with seventeen individuals concerning their faith. Here is a brief summary of the way in which those interviews were reported.
The first interview in the article was of Michael Lowry, a self-described atheist, who says it’s what he DIDN’T believe in that dawned on him at a very young age. Lowry said he grew up in a Christian community but Sunday school ended up pushing him away from organized religion.
1. Michael, a Christian who became an atheist
2. Rachel. God helped her survive a difficult childhood which solidified her faith
3. Ben. At 14 a debate helped him understand a higher power.
4. Brian. A Buddhist who achieved enlightenment
5. Ron. “Nature” helped him quit smoking.
6. Jane. A Protestant for 70 years but her new Muslim neighbors helped illuminate the similarities that unite all who worship God.
7. Majel. A Buddhist who believes in personal responsibility.
8. Jean. Nearly losing her son caused her to realize that regardless of religion, we all follow the same tenets.
9. Gilgamesh. A Catholic turned Humanist.
10. David. The abduction of his 11 month old daughter made him believe in the power of love.
11. Angela. A Christian who now denies everything he was taught to believe and worships Nature.
12. Clark. After Hurricane Ike, his Bible was the only thing that survived in his house deepened his faith in Jesus.
13. Stephen. Tried all the religions and settled on Yoruba, his African tribal religion.
14. Francis. A Catholic who now worships the Morse gods.
15. Abhinand. A Hindu who has discovered to figure out life by himself.
16. K. Explored all the religions. Her conslusion is that regardless of what you believe, striving to be a better person is all that matters.
17. Howard. His interview was most interesting. “My brother and I saw two spirits with our own eyes — I know factually that there’s more to this life than the material world. I was 10 years old and he was 12. We were living in base housing while stationed at Newport, Rhode Island. We had just snuck downstairs to make some chocolate milk. Our mother had just stepped out next door to the townhouse attached to ours to play cards and thought she had put us to bed. As we were returning upstairs to our bedroom, my brother in front of me almost to the top, we heard a wood-clap noise behind us and I turned to look and saw a green, transparent, floating figure with arms and legs but no apparent digits, that was about the same height as me. It wiggled, as if startled that I saw it, ran through the stairwell wall and it was gone. I froze. My older brother said, ‘Did you see that?!’ We cried, and he said let’s go call my mom on the downstairs phone. I thought it’d be safer to use the upstairs phone, because that ‘thing’ was behind us, but I followed him, crying along the way. Our mom said we were both having a bad dream and to go back to bed. Years later, my brother and I were attending a Bible study about ‘Demons and Angels,’ and I was telling this account to the group, and my brother chimed in to correct me that the wood-clap noise seemed to come from the top of the stairs, where he saw the spirit described the same way. There were two of them! One behind us on the landing and one in front at the top of the stairs that my brother saw. Since that experience, I’ve had to explore religion and various faiths. I’m compelled to search. I’ve settled mostly on the Christian faith (mainly because the son of God, love-story appeals to my wiring), but I also adhere to other truths in several other faiths.”
Did you notice anything about the tone of the interviews and the statistics of how many of them were Christian? Only two of the seventeen interviews were of people who are practicing Christians. And the largest majority of the stories reflect people who worship an Eastern religion. This is not a scientific survey. These interviews were selected by an editor to push a particular viewpoint. It is quite misleading to write an article on faith in America and include only two practicing Christians. That’s not what America looks like. The most recent Barna survey indicates that 70% of Americans claim to be Christians and that 50% of Americans practice Christianity at some level. Once again, the news media is pushing the agenda that all religions are the same.
The impact of this cultural attack against Christianity is being felt in America. According to one Barna Survey, 1/4 of Christians believe that all religions teach the same thing (Barna 2000)
The Gospel teaches that a relationship with God is accomplished through Faith in Jesus Alone.. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, NIV84)
Is this Truth claim in the Gospel reasonable?
Is it acceptable?
Is it loving?
When CHRISTIANS share our faith with those who do not believe in Jesus, we are guilty of the worst offence in our culture. We arrogantly believe that the Gospel is true. This is the highest form of intolerance, and the world hates us for it.
FIRST: It is FALSE to claim that ONLY CHRISTIANITY makes the claim of exclusivity
Every world religion asserts itself as TRUE
JUDAISM teaches access to God through the Law of Moses.
HINDU teaches that the sacred writings and meditation bring one to God.
ISLAM teaches adherence to MOHAMAD and the 5 pillars of Islam.
The truth is that all religions are not the same. All religions do not point to God. All religions do not say that all religions are the same. In fact, some religions do not even believe in God. At the heart of every religion is an uncompromising commitment to a particular way of defining who God is or is not. Buddhism for example was based on Buddha’s rejection of two of Hinduism’s fundamental doctrines. Islam rejects both Buddhism and Hinduism. So it does no good to put a halo on the notion of tolerance and act as if everything is equally true. In fact, even all-inclusive religions such as Bahaism end up being exclusivistic by excluding the exclusivists! (Ravi Zacharias, quoted in Is God a Human Invention,” 248
SECOND: We are right back where we started: the search for TRUTH
So to examine the feasability of the Gospel’s exclusive claims to Truth, we will look at the Exclusive claims of Jesus and the teaching of the Gospels concerning salvation.
I. Exclusive Claims of Jesus
The teachings of Christ are found in the GOSPELS – the MAIN DOCUMENT we have concerning the lif and teaching of Jesus.
A. Jesus claimed Self Existence. (John 5:26–27, NIV84) “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.”
B. Jesus claimed equality with God. (John 8:58, NIV84) “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!””
C. Jesus said that he is the Source of Eternal Life (John 11:25, NIV84) “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;”
D. Jesus told us that he is the Only way to God. (John 14:6, NIV84) “Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
II. Exclusive Truths-Claims of the Gospels – (all religions do not teach the same thing)
A. Christ’s Claims to be God.
1. Neither Buddha, nor Confucius, nor Mohamad, claimed to be God. Although many claim that Jesus does not differ much from other religious leaders such as Buddha, Jesus’ claim to be God in the flesh singles Him out of the crowd. The Buddha claimed no such thing, nor did Muhammad or Confucius. But Jesus’ claims were not spoken in a vacuum. They were backed by His credentials. Douglas Grouthuis, Why Believe that Jesus is the Only Way? http://apologetics.com/blog/dgroothuis/why-believe-that-jesus-is-the-only-way/ Douglas Groothuis is Professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary, where he is the head of the Christian Apologetics and Ethics program, and directs the Gordon Lewis Center for Christian Thought and Culture
2. (John 8:21–24, NIV84) “Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away, and you will look for me, and you will die in your sin. Where I go, you cannot come.” This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘Where I go, you cannot come’?” But he continued, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.””
3. “When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”” (Matthew 16:13–15, NIV84)
B. A Savior SACRIFICED for our sins
1. “Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” (Hebrews 7:27, NIV84)
2. The CROSS makes people uncomfortable!!!
3. “No founder or leader of any world religion claimed to die as a sacrifice for human sin in order to set us right with God” Douglas Grouthuis, Why Believe that Jesus is the Only Way? http://apologetics.com/blog/dgroothuis/why-believe-that-jesus-is-the-only-way/
4. “The center of Christian belief is not a list of rules to be followed but a person to be experienced. The core of Christianity is Christ – Conceived of a virgin; the son of God, crucified, suffering the punishment for sin and the wrath of God; resurrected by God into new life; the gift of eternal live for everyone who believes in Him. No moral code or ethical teaching is to be found in that list of essentials. This is vastly different from any other religion. Other religions are based on their founders teachings: Christianity is based on its founder’s life. (Kennedy “Skeptics Answered, 108)
C. Resurrection from the Dead.
1. (Acts 17:32, NIV84) “When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.””
2. Modern scholars who claim that other ancient religions feature deities that rise from the dead. This is reading the Gospels back into ancient texts. No ancient text has a leader physically raising from the dead.
D. Access to God by Grace
1. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, NIV84)
2. Every other religion requires people to DO something to gain God’s favor.
3. Jesus teaches us that we cannot do anything that would gain God’s favor. He had to become our sacrifice.
During a British conference on comparative religions, experts from around the world debated what, if any, belief was unique to the Christian faith. They began eliminating possibilities. Incarnation? Other religious had different versions of gods appearing in human form. Resurrection? Again, other religions had accounts of return from death. The debate went on for some time until C. S. Lewis wandered into the room. “What’s the rumpus about? He asked, and heard in reply that his colleagues were discussing Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions.
Lewis responded, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”
After some discussion, the conferees had to agree. The notion of God’s love coming to us free of charge, no strings attached, seems to go against every instinct of humanity. The Buddhist eight-fold path, the Hindu doctrine of karma, the Jewish covenant, and Muslim code of law—each of these offers a way to earn approval. Only Christianity dares to make God’s love unconditional.
Phillip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace, Zondervan, 1997, p. 45
So, really, we find ourselves right where we began, in a SEARCH for TRUTH
The gospel is not a set of beliefs to be tried on to see how you like it. It is a claim to be investigated and believed in.
Do you believe in Jesus as the only way to have a relationship with God?