Most non-Christians consider it the height of arrogance when Christians claim that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Granted, on the surface I suppose it does seem awfully exclusive and even uncharitable to say that Jesus is the way and the only way to God. However, when people who consider themselves Christians affirm and accept other religions, I have a heart to show them that they are actually doing great damage and nullifying their own faith. Here’s why:
All other religions outside of Christianity have one thing in common – they are based partially or completely on works-righteousness, that is doing certain things or keeping some form of a law to attain whatever is their view of salvation. Only Christianity presents salvation totally by the grace of God: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)
* Buddhists have the eight-fold path, and three paths among the eight are (according to Wikipedia) acting in a non-harmful way, speaking in a truthful and non-hurtful way, and making an effort to improve.
* Hindus are quite diverse, but according to at least one site I found, their way includes acts of devotion or worship, discrimination between truth and untruth, and the one most of us are familiar with – karma, that is doing things that cause the well-being of others, recognizing that our actions will come back to us.
* Muslims teach both the grace of Allah and works, for instance, in Surah 5:9… “Allah has promised those who believe and do righteous deeds [that] for them there is forgiveness and great reward.” Muslims, therefore, like all other adherents to non-Christian religions, do not know whether they will attain paradise. There is always an element of doubt based on whether they have kept their form of the law.
So…here’s the problem: if other religions are saying that salvation is attainable only if some law is kept, and a “Christian” says that these are equal and valid methods of attaining salvation (provided one is “sincere”), that person is actually saying that Christ’s sacrifice was purposeless. At least that’s what Paul said in Galatians 2:21:
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (ESV)
This makes sense – if I can achieve salvation through the 8 fold path or praying 5 times a day or paying attention to karma – then, perish the thought, Christ’s work was foolish and useless, a sacrifice…for nothing. Why did He die if I could be reconciled to God some other way? Therefore, we can understand when non-believers denigrate Jesus’s claim to be the only way to God, but when someone who claims to be a Christian does so, I am forced to question whether they even understand the true meaning of the faith they claim to espouse.
For, in one sense, the thinking that all religions are equal and valid makes perfect sense if they are all really some form of the Golden Rule. But they are not. Christianity alone says that we are saved by God’s grace which comes to us through trusting in Christ’s death in our place at Calvary.
And therefore, every person who says that all religions are equal and valid is nullifying the grace of God…and blaspheming what Christ did as a purposeless waste.
For Wednesday, June 17th: Galatians 3