Is Jesus Really the Only Way to God/Part 1
A poll conducted by the Barna Research Group revealed that 43 percent of born-again Christians agreed with the following statement: “It does not matter what religious faith you follow because all faiths teach similar lessons about life.”
If these poll results are valid, they indicate that millions of those claiming to be “born again” agree with most of the rest of the world that Christianity is not unique in the lessons it teaches about life, and that apparently no religion has an absolute claim to religious truth. But no viewpoint could be more wrong.
What these and other poll results really indicate is that a lot of people, both Christians and non-Christians, are uninformed on the subject of comparative religion. Yet critical thinking in this area is vital. (Critical thinking is the reasoning we do in order to determine whether or not a claim is true.) These poll results also betray an unfortunate lack of emphasis on teaching theology, apologetics, and logical thinking at the local church level. The distinguished Christian philosopher Mortimer J. Adler was, unfortunately, correct when he said,
- I suspect that most of the individuals who have religious faith are content with blind faith. They feel no obligation to understand what they believe. They may even wish not to have their beliefs disturbed by thought. But if the God in whom they believe created them with intellectual and rational powers, that imposes upon them the duty to try to understand the creed of their religion. Not to do so is to verge on superstition.
Of course, religious people are hardly alone in this. Secularists are frequently content with blind faith and just as frequently superstitious. As G. K. Chesterton once observed,
- Superstition recurs in all ages, and especially in rationalistic ages. I remember defending the religious tradition against a whole luncheon-table of distinguished agnostics; and before the end of our conversation every one of them had procured from his pocket, or exhibited on his watch-chain, some charm or talisman from which he admitted that he was never separated.
- There is a great deal of research that shows that all people, but especially highly intelligent people, are easily taken in by all kinds of illusions, hallucinations, self-deceptions, and outright bamboozles—all the more so when they have a high investment in the illusion being true.
But if the Bible is clear on anything, it is that we as Christians are responsible to love God with all our minds, and certainly this involves thinking critically. Indeed, to love God with all our minds is “the greatest commandment” God has given: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37, 38). This Christian duty includes, at a minimum, a basic knowledge of theology and Christian evidences. Why? Because the Bible teaches that we are to actively defend the faith. How can we do this unless we know the content of the faith (doctrine), how to defend it (apologetics), and how to think clearly and rationally (logical reasoning)? Consider the following Scriptures which speak to each of these concerns:
- Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith [doctrine] that was once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3; cf., Titus 2:1; 2 Peter 3:18).
- But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have [apologetics]. But do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15; cf. Philippians 1:7, 16).
- As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving [logical reasoning] that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead (Acts 17:2).
The fact is that the first-century world was a lot like our own. Apart from some pockets of rationalism, mostly in the larger cities, the first-century world was less influenced by western-style modern rationalism than by relativism, subjectivism, and experientialism. In spite of this, Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:11, “We… persuade men.” Certainly this underscores the importance the Bible places upon the realm of reason and defending the faith.
If God Himself is concerned about logical reasoning and proof, must not His children also be? “‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord…” (Isaiah 1:18); “He [God] has given proof of this [coming judgment] to all men by raising him [Jesus] from the dead” (Acts 17:31). In light of these and many other Scriptures, every Christian should consider it his or her duty to become informed in Bible doctrine, Christian evidences, and clear thinking.
In light of Adler’s comment above, consider the statements of Dr. William Lane Craig, who has earned two Ph.D.’s and is the author of many fine books on Christian evidences. He supplies the following important comments about the implications of Adler’s remark, first quoting theologian J. Gresham Machen:
- False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel. Our churches are filled with Christians who are idling in intellectual neutral. As Christians, their minds are going to waste. One result of this is an immature, superficial faith…. Intellectual impoverishment with respect to one’s faith can thus lead to spiritual impoverishment as well. But the results of being in intellectual neutral extend far beyond one’s self. If Christian laymen don’t become intellectually engaged, then we are in serious danger of losing our children. In high school and college Christian teenagers are intellectually assaulted on every hand by a barrage of anti-Christian philosophies and attitudes. As I speak in churches around the country, I continually meet parents whose children have left the faith because there was no one in the church to answer their questions. For the sake of our youth, we desperately need informed parents who are equipped to wrestle with the issues at an intellectual level.
- Machen, like Malik, believed that, “The chief obstacle to the Christian religion today lies in the sphere of the intellect,” and that it is in that sphere that the issues must be addressed. “The Church is perishing today through the lack of thinking, not through an excess of it.”
Are there Christian parents anywhere today who do not care deeply about the spiritual welfare of their own children? Then why does the current situation exist? In part, it is because our culture, with its pluralism, subjectivism, and relativism, finds it easy to replace truth with certainty. And this attitude has influenced the church. But truth is not the same thing as certainty. The people in the above poll may have been certain of their beliefs, but this does not make those beliefs true.
Truth is something that is in accordance with fact; certainty refers to a person having no doubt or being fully convinced about something. If we examine the overall religious and philosophical landscape, we find that most people are certain about things that are not true and can rationally be proven false. Philosophers may be certain of their existentialism, relativism, secular humanism, or atheism. Members of religious cults, such as Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists, and followers of Eastern gurus are certain they are on the right spiritual path. Practitioners of New Age medicine are certain that iridology, homeopathy, and reflexology really work. Astrologers are certain that astrology can reveal personality traits and accurately predict the future. Most scientists are certain of the logically impossible theory of evolution, and mainstream theologians are certain of the so-called “findings” of higher criticism and that the Bible is not inerrant. And on it goes.
Certainty does not prove that the above beliefs are true—only evidence does, and in each case such evidence is sorely lacking. It’s the same for traditional world religions such as Roman Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Confucianism, Sufism, and more recent religions like the Baha’i faith. The committed followers of these religions are all certain about their beliefs. But, obviously, this certainty does not prove their basic beliefs true, because all these religions conflict with one another and no real evidence supports any of these religions. We logically demonstrate this in our Encyclopedia of Cults and New Religions (Harvest House, 1999).
So, even if 100 percent of all “born-again” Christians were certain that “it does not matter what religious faith you follow” that wouldn’t make it true. The issue is whether or not real evidence supports the claims of any particular religion and whether it is possible to find absolute truth exclusively in one religion. Is one religion fully true? Are all religions false? Or does it really matter? One could assume that if there is only one true God, there would be only one true religion. The purpose of this study is to see if that is so. Since the dawn of time, human beings have been incurably religious, asking such questions as “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “Where did I come from?” “What happens when I die?” “How can I know the truth?” These are unavoidably religious questions and underscore the fact that human history is the history of religion—mankind’s attempt to find satisfying answers to these questions.
Although the vast majority of people throughout history have believed in some concept of God, the advent of materialistic theories such as Darwin’s theory of evolution and Marx’s theory of communism has caused skeptics to add another basic question—Is there a God? If so, how do we know? And who or what is he? The classical and recent proofs of God’s existence are beyond the scope of this book; however, in light of them we can know with certainty that the psalmist was correct when he said, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). As Sir Isaac Newton, one of the greatest scientists, observed, “He must be blind who from the most wise and excellent contrivances of things cannot see the Infinite Wisdom and Goodness of their Almighty Creator, and he must be mad and senseless who refuses to acknowledge them.”
- In Religious and Theological Studies Fellowship Bulletin, Nov./Dec., 1994, p. 22.
- Douglas Groothuis, “When the Salt Loses Its Savor,” CRI Journal, Winter, 1995, p. 50.
- Mortimer J. Adler, “A Philosopher’s Religious Faith,” in Kelly James-Clark (ed.), Philosophers Who Believe: The Spiritual Journeys of Eleven Leading Thinkers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993), p. 207.
- G. K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (Garden City, NY: Image, 1985), p. 19.
- Maureen O’Hara, “Science, Pseudo-Science and Myth Mongering,” in Robert Basil (ed.), Not Necessarily the New Age: Critical Essays (NY: Prometheus, 1988), p. 148.
- William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), pp. xiii-xv.
- See our book, The Facts on Creation vs. Evolution (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1994)
- This statement does not hold true where Roman Catholic beliefs are biblical. Nevertheless, the evidence upon which official, traditional Roman Catholic dogma and related practice rests is unconvincing.
- For a critique of naturalism see Phillip E. Johnson, Reason in the Balance: The Case Against NATURALISM in Science, Law & Education (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1995).
- Isaac Newton, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, trans, Andrew Motte (1715; rev. and ed., Florian Cajori, Berkeley, CA: University of California, 1934), p. 32.