Is There Really Just One Way?
I’m asked the question all the time: How can Jesus be the only way?
It’s a universal question that comes from Christians and non-Christians alike.
And it’s a question for which we have to have a clear answer—shared with the right motive—because the answer is the foundation of our faith.
New Twists on an Old Question
Pluralism and competing religious ideas have been a problem for the Christian church since its inception. People wouldn’t have had a problem with Christianity if early Christians had just said, “We follow Jesus, one god among many.” But Christians were persecuted and killed because they took seriously the Scriptures and the words of Jesus that He is the only truth, the only way to get to heaven.
Although it’s not a new question, the state of our culture and technology today inject new nuances into it. With travel increasing in the 20th century and the growth of the Internet in the last decade, every person has access to every religion and worldview imaginable. And immigration brings radically different people groups and religions around us.
In our multicultural society that emphasizes political correctness, the prevailing opinion is that telling other people what they should believe is wrong. It strikes non-Christians and some Christians as arrogant for Christians to claim there is only one way to God. Just because people don’t believe like us, we’re condemning them to hell? The idea of seemingly nice, kind, good people with different belief systems being separated from God strikes people as profoundly unfair.
Nevertheless, the belief in the uniqueness of Jesus is important. As James Emery White says in Christ Among the Dragons, this is the core of Christianity. Jesus claimed to be the universal truth and the only way to get to God. We cannot have a Christian faith without sticking to the core of Jesus’ identity. If we don’t know what it means that Jesus claimed to be the only way, the only truth and the only life, we could be giving up what Christianity itself really stands for.
If I view Jesus as just one way to get to God, why am I going to stand up when I’m persecuted? Why am I going to try to share my faith with other people? Why am I going to try to live boldly for my faith, if Jesus is just my way that works for me, as opposed to being the objectively true way that applies to everybody whether they accept it or not? This is not merely a theoretical or philosophical exercise. The Sept. 27, 2010, issue of Newsweek cited the statistic that 80 percent of Americans believe people of other religions can get to heaven. But at least 100 verses in the New Testament either directly or indirectly state that Jesus is the only way.
How do we respond?