The notion that Jesus is the only way (to God, to heaven) may be the most challenged doctrine of the Christian faith today. People oppose this notion from a number of different perspectives and it is not just from those outside the church. A few years ago the Pew Foundation did a survey of 35,000 Americans. In that survey they found that the majority of religious Americans, including Christians, agree that, “many religions can lead to eternal life.”
If one disagrees with this position one is often called narrow minded, exclusivist, arrogant and a number of other labels. In the limited space of the next few posts of mine, I would like to build a basic case for the uniqueness of Christ. But first we need to try to calm the emotions over the charge of arrogance. Are Christians arrogant for making this claim? Some time ago I wrote a little parable to help with our response…
“We can picture the leaders of a great kingdom gathered to decide a most important issue for the future of their kingdom; an issue that involves complex and serious interaction with other kingdoms and could become a matter of life and death. We then see a young boy enter the room proclaiming that he knows exactly how to solve their dilemma. It would be understandable if these leaders would take him lightly. They might sneer and poke fun and ask what this young pup thinks he is doing speaking of a matter of such great importance. Why, what arrogance! But what if, instead of speaking his own words, the young boy took out a scroll with the royal seal on it? And what if he then proceeded to open the scroll and say to these esteemed leaders, ‘Here is a letter from the king and here is what he commands you to do.” Would not the reaction of the leaders be completely different even if the answer offered in both cases is exactly the same?
No longer is the boy arrogant, for he is reporting the words of his king: they are not his words. No longer are the words of the boy dismissed even though they come through the same mouth as before. Now they carry the weight of the king behind them. Can we not see that, even though the boy may be uttering the exact same words in both circumstances, there is no arrogance in him if he carries the message of his king. In fact he brings only the humility of serving and submitting to the authority of his king.”
In this parable we see that when Christians claim Jesus is the only way we cannot back down just because someone labels us closed-minded or arrogant. The question we must ask is, are we bringing the message of our King? Are the critics the ones who misunderstand the origin of the message? It is that origin that I want to talk about in the next few posts.
If we can show that Jesus is God, and that Jesus himself claimed to be the only means by which we know God, then Christian are not arrogant when they make the same claim. We are in fact acting out of humble obedience to our King. The claim carries his authority.
I submit that a part of our weakness in defending this position, and the reason many Christians fail to see its importance, lies in an even deeper level of Christian truth. People, claiming to be Christians, have forgotten that Christians claim that Jesus is in fact God. I am not sure what they think they are celebrating each Christmas, but I have met lay and clergy alike who deny that Jesus is God. They may hold to some vague new age idea that Jesus is God just like we all are god if we reach our full potential, but he is certainly not the incarnation of the one true God and not the fullness of God dwelling in bodily form. I remember a conversation in front of a church with a seminary trained pastor who said that Jesus never claimed to be God. It is this issue that we look at more closely in our next time together in a few weeks.
The issue of the deity of Jesus is central because it establishes a logical and bonding link that many seem to miss. If Jesus is God, as Christians have always claimed, then he is not only the way, he is the destination. He is the One we are trying to get to. There may be many ways to the top of a mountain but you cannot get to the top without going to the top. Jesus is the only way because he is the goal of our journey; the beginning and the end of our quest. Christians may hold and proclaim such a view with an arrogant attitude, and for that we must repent. But the position itself is not arrogant if it is true and, as we shall see, if it is in fact Jesus’ own position and claim about himself.