Is Jesus Really the Only Way to God/Part 5

By: Dr. John Ankerberg with various Scholars; ©{{{copyright}}}
What about other religions?

Ed. note: This article is based upon the transcript from programs produced by the John Ankerberg Show. Additional material has been added for this print version.

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What about other religions?

When we consider all the great religious teachers, leaders, and prophets who have ever lived, who is the equal of Jesus? Not Moses, Confucius, Buddha, or Lao Tze (Taoism), who never claimed to be anything other than sinful men. Not Muhammad, Joseph Smith, Zoroaster, or Guru Nanak (Sikhism), who never gave any proof they were true prophets of God. Not Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, or Krishna, who were only mythical deities. Not Mahavira (Jainism) or the founder/leader of any other religion the world has known has ever been like Jesus. Neither animism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Mormonism, Shinto, Sikhism, Sufism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism nor any other religious belief outside Christianity has anything that can even be slightly compared to Jesus.

Thus, if we examine the specific claims of the founders of the great religions, we find that none of them claims what Jesus does. In The Koran the Muslim prophet Muhammad states, “Muhammad is naught but a messenger” and “Surely I am no more than a human apostle.”[1] In fact, several times in The Koran, Muhammad is acknowledged as sinful, asks forgiveness from God, or is even rebuked by God.[2] Muhammad confessed he was sinful, but Jesus claimed He was sinless. Muhammad only claimed to be a prophet of God; Jesus claimed to be God. Muhammad was rebuked by God; Jesus never was—in fact. He said, “I always do what pleases Him” (John 8:29).

Consider Buddha for a more in-depth illustration. The Buddha simply claimed to be an enlightened man, one who could show others how to escape the futility of this world and find eternal release from suffering in a state of individual nonexistence called “nirvana.” After his alleged enlightenment, the Buddha said he realized the importance of maintaining an attitude of equanimity towards all things because this attitude helps one to end the cycle of rebirth, attain permanent release from the human condition and enter nirvana:

Monks, I’m a Brahmana [enlightened being], one to ask a favor of, ever clean-handed, wearing my last body. I am inexorable, bear no love nor hatred toward anyone. I have the same feelings for respectable people as for the low; or moral persons as for the immoral; for the depraved as for those who observe the rules of good conduct. You disciples, do not affirm that the Lord Buddha reflects thus within himself, “I bring salvation to every living being.” Subhuti entertain no such delusive thought! Because in reality there are no living beings to whom the Lord Buddha can bring salvation.[3]

Houston Smith in The Religions of Man comments about the Buddha,

Notwithstanding his own objectivity toward himself, there was constant pressure during his lifetime to turn him into a god. He rebuffed all these categorically, insisting that he was human in every respect. He made no attempt to conceal his temptations and weaknesses, how difficult it had been to attain enlightenment, how narrow the margin by which he had won through, how fallible he still remained.[4]

Clive Erricker, a lecturer and prolific writer in the field of religious studies with a special interest in Buddhism, writes accurately of the Buddha when he discussed what Buddha did not claim:

Indeed, he did not even claim that his teachings were a unique and original source of wisdom…. [Citing John Bowker in Worlds of Faith, 1983] Buddha always said, “Don’t take what I’m saying [i.e., on my own authority], just try to analyze as far as possible and see whether what I’m saying makes sense or not. If it doesn’t make sense, discard it. If it does make sense, then pick it up.”[5]

Buddha claimed merely a personal enlightenment designed to escape human nature; Jesus claimed (in His own nature) to be the light of the world. Buddha claimed it was wrong to consider him one who brings salvation to men because men, having no permanent reality, do not finally exist; Jesus taught that He came to bring salvation to all men and to dignify their existence eternally. Buddha promised to give others enlightenment so that they might find nirvana, a state of personal dissolution in the afterlife; Jesus promised to give men abundant life and eternal personal immortality in heaven. Buddha had the same feelings for good and evil; Jesus exalted righteousness and hated evil.

Confucius said, “As to being a Divine Sage or even a Good Man, far be it for me to make any such claim.”[6] If Confucius denied that he was divine or even a good man, Jesus claimed He was divine and morally perfect.

Zoroaster claimed to be only a prophet. “I was ordained by Thee at the first. All others I look upon with hatred of spirit.”[7] Lao-Tze and Guru Nanak sum up the attitude of all the great religious founders when they confessed their humanity and even their ignorance. For example, Lao-Tze, the founder of Taoism, said, “I alone appear empty. Ignorant am I, O so ignorant! I am dull! I alone am confused, so confused!”[8] Even in the latter part of his life, Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, still struggled to achieve enlightenment and lamented over his own spiritual darkness: “I have become perplexed in my search. In the darkness I find no way. Devoted to pride, I weep in sorrow. How shall deliverance be obtained?”[9]

In The World’s Living Religions, Robert Hume, Professor of the History of Religions, comments that there are three features of Christian faith that “cannot be paralleled anywhere among the religions of the world.”[10] These include the character of God as a loving heavenly Father, the character of the founder of Christianity as the Son of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit. Further,

All of the nine founders of religion, with the exception of Jesus Christ, are reported in their respective sacred scriptures as having passed through a preliminary period of uncertainty, or of searching for religious light. All the founders of the non-Christian religions evinced inconsistencies in their personal character; some of them altered their practical policies under change of circumstances. Jesus Christ alone is reported as having had a consistent God-consciousness, a consistent character himself, and a consistent program for his religion.[11]

Again, Jesus is unique in the claims He makes for Himself. He says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). How many other men have ever said that? Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). How many other men have ever said that? Jesus even claimed that 1500 years before His birth, Moses wrote about Him and further, that the entire Old Testament bore witness to Him (John 6:46, 47; Luke 24:27, 44).

Jesus commanded men to love Him in the exact same way that they love God—with all their heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37, 38). Jesus said that God the Holy Spirit would bear witness of Him and glorify Him (John 16:14). Who ever made such a claim? Jesus said that to know Him was to know God (John 14:7); to receive Him was to receive God (Matthew 10:40); to honor Him was to honor God (John 5:23); to believe in Him was to believe in God (John 12:44,45; 14:1); to see Him was to see God (John 8:19; 14:7); to deny Him was to deny God (John 8:19, cf. 1 John 2:23); to hate Him was to hate God (John 15:23). Did any other religious founders in history ever make such statements?

In Mark 2, Jesus claimed He could forgive sins—something all religions concede is reserved for God alone. In John 10:28 and 11:25, He said He could give all who believed on Him eternal life. How can a mere man—indeed, anyone less than God—give eternal life to creatures who die? Yet Jesus raised the dead even in front of His enemies—not in some dark alley, but before scores of eyewitnesses (Luke 7:11-15; 8:41-42, 49-56; John 11:43, 44). Who ever did that? He did other miracles that amazed those who saw them:

We have never seen anything like this! (Mark 2:12).
Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind (John 9:32).

In Matthew 25, He said that He would return at the end of the world and that He would judge every person who ever lived; He would personally raise all the dead of history and all the nations would be gathered before Him! Who else ever said that? He would sit on His throne of glory and judge and separate men from one another as a shepherd does the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46, cf. John 5:25-34). Just as clearly, Jesus taught that every person’s eternal destiny depended upon how they treated Him (John 8:24; Matthew 10:32). All these statements, and many more like them, leave us little choice. Either Jesus was who He said He was—God incarnate—or else He was absolutely crazy. But who can believe that?

Read Part 6

Notes

  1. Sura 3:138, “The House of Inram,” A. J. Arberry, Trans., The Koran Interpreted (NY: Macmillan, 1976), p. 91; Sura, “The Night Journey,” in N. J. Dawood, trans., The Koran, (Baltimore, MD: Penguin, 1972), p. 235.
  2. The Koran, J. M. Rodwell, Trans. (NY: Dutton), pp. 244, 384, 423, 460, 468, etc. (Sura 4:106; 40:57; 47:21; 48:2; 110:3).
  3. Robert O. Ballou, The Portable World Bible: A Comprehensive Selection from the Eight Great Sacred Scriptures of the World (NY: The Viking Press, 1968), pp. 134, 147, 151.
  4. Houston Smith, The Religions of Man (NY: Harper & Row, 1965), p. 99.
  5. Clive Erricker, Buddhism (Chicago: NTC Publishing, 1995), pp. 2, 3.
  6. Arthur Waley, trans. The Analects of Confucius (NY: Vintage, 1938), p. 130.
  7. Yasna, 44:11; Moulton, Ez. 368; from Robert E. Hume, The World’s Living Religions (NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1959), rev., p. 203.
  8. Tao-The-King, 20:3, 20:5-7 cited in Hume, p. 136.
  9. Hume, p. 95.
  10. Ibid, p. 283.
  11. Ibid., pp. 285-286.

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