I believe is that Jesus is THE way, THE truth and THE life and that no one comes to the father but by him. However, most Christians basically change that text to read that “no one comes to the father but by believing in” Christ. Now, I do believe that there are benefits and rewards for those who affirm Christ knowingly and by name. Scriptures promise us that. I also believe that it is desirous that every man would know and serve Jesus in that way. However, it is also true that God, like the land owner in the parable of the talents “reaps where he did not sow and gathers where he did not scatter seed.” Anyone who seeks after and submits themselves to love is seeking after and submitting to God. God is love. There is no expression or experience of love apart from God whether he is known or named or not.
I see other religions very much along the lines of what Paul told the Athenians when he said that the unknown God they worshiped was God himself and then quoted pagan poetry in order to illustrate the fact that although they did not know this God by name, tradition or doctrine, they had still attained some measure of understanding about him.
It is my understanding that any time someone is are able to find some measure of love and truth, this is due to the work of Jesus – both his salvic work and his creative work – “through him all things were made”. But this reality is not dependent on human knowledge, understanding or even acceptance of Jesus. I think of it as being a lot like oxygen. Oxygen existed and was sustaining our very lives for a long time before anyone knew it was there or what it did or even that they depended on it for life. The life sustaining work of oxygen doesn’t depend on human knowledge, acknowledgment or understanding. I think that the truth that no man can come to the father – or can even know love – outside of Jesus is much the same. It is a truth which exists all on its own regardless of whether we know or accept it as true.
I do believe that the day will come when it is revealed to all mankind that every good thing in their life – all the love, the joy, the beauty, etc – exists because of Jesus and no other teacher or prophet can lay claim to those things. And I believe that will be the day when every knee bows to Jesus. Those of us who know Jesus personally don’t have to wait for that day and I believe that is a great blessing on our lives and for our standing in the Kingdom. Other prophets and teachers may have been able to testify to whatever truth they knew, but Jesus is the truth through which every good thing comes into existence.
All of my life I have been close friends with people who are Muslim, Buddhist or even atheist. In fact some of the smartest, best, most honest people I have known have been atheists. They have all known that I think they ought to be Christians. But they also know that if they aren’t going to be Christians, my hope for them is that they would be the most devout, loving Muslim, Buddhist or whatever that they can be. God and Jesus will take and receive the credit in due time. (FWIW, I’m also fully aware that my non-Christian friends believe that time will prove that I am wrong. Which is fine. We can disagree and leave it at that. Time will tell that I’m right. ;P )
It’s not that I hold to the idea that there are many paths up the mountain. Rather, I believe that there is only one path up the mountain and you can call it different things and you can bring different baggage with you as you climb it, but the reality is that there is no other way up the mountain except for the way that Jesus offers – love, sacrifice, humility, patience, peace, forgiveness, endurance, etc. God’s truth is written into reality and we all carry his image within us. Anytime someone looks for divine love, they will find whatever measure of that love and truth which they are able to hold. So there are many faith traditions which hold some measure of truth – nothing which you can’t also find in Christianity as well, to be sure. But I think this we do see so many commonalities between religions despite wildly different ideas about the reality of life and our spiritual existence.
Ultimately, I believe that the Christian faith is the truest, clearest, least encumbered revelation man has for how to walk that path, know it and understand it. It is without any doubt in my mind, the surest way to make the climb to God, to our salvation and to the redeemed world we’ve all been seeking.
For those of you wondering, “but what about hell?”, please check out the series I did last year on just that topic.
BTW, have you “Liked” The Upside Down World on Facebook yet? You should.
*This post was written in response to a question from Dan Rial of This is My Story sent me an email wondering about my ideas regarding the particularity of Jesus. You know – the claim by Jesus that “I am the way, the truth and the light. No one comes to the father but by me.” In many Christian circles this is used as a proof text to show that all other religions are false (and probably demonic) and that only Jesus believing Christian folks can get to heaven. I asked him if it would be OK if I shared my response with the rest of y’all and he said yes and I said that I’d tell you all to go check out his blog. He’s a very good writer and I really enjoy his perspective, so you really should. After you read this, of course: