Are There Many Paths to God?
Can Everybody be Right?
A story was told in the Los Angeles Times a few years ago about a group of farmers who were sitting around a pot-bellied stove discussing religion. They soon got into an argument over which religion was the best. The eldest of the farmers was sitting around listening but soon one of the others asked him: "Old Jim, which of these religions is the right one?"
The old farmer replied:
"You know, there are many ways to get from here to the cotton gin. You could go over the big hill but it is a powerful climb. You can go around the east side of the hill. That's not too far but the road is rougher 'n tarnation! Or you can go around the west side of the hill which is the longest way but the easiest."
Then he concluded with this observation:
"But when you get there, the gin man don't ask you how you came. He just asks how good is your cotton!"
Unfortunately, there are those who think like the old farmer. They would say that all religions are alike and that there are many paths to God. Some of these people make the bold assertion that all religions teach the brotherhood of man and the Fatherhood of God, which is untrue but sounds good!
Many say that it is up to the individual to choose and that we should never judge another person's path as being wrong. One might decide to follow Allah, and Muhammad, his prophet. Another might be a Mormon and follow the book which the Angel Moroni gave to Joseph Smith. Still, another might follow Animism with its belief that there is no separation between the material and the physical world, and that souls or spirits exist not only in humans but also in all other animals, plants, rocks or even in geographic features such as mountains and rivers.
The major problem with the "all paths lead to God" belief is that what we are discussing are claims of ultimate truth. All these religions have competing worldviews and have contradictory claims to truth. You could possibly say that none of them is the right path. However, to say that all of them are right at the same time is self-contradictory and illogical.
I. Christianity's One Path to God
One belief system which simply cannot fit into the "all paths" philosophy is Christianity. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself said this: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me" (John 14:6). Speaking of Jesus in Acts 4:12, it says: "Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved."
I have heard it said that Christians are narrow-minded to think that they, of all the many religions in the world, have the only way to God. The fact is, that by nature, all truth is narrow. Something is either true or false, and if it is true, then any other competing beliefs are thus false.
Let's say, for instance, that I decide that gravity doesn't exist. I believe that if I wish it hard enough, then I can walk off of cliffs and be suspended in mid-air. After all, it is extremely narrow-minded to believe that everyone is subject to the law of gravity. So, I go and look for a group of people who think just like me. We call ourselves, the Anti-gravity Group. However, no matter what we may believe about gravity, the truth is, it still exists, and if any of the Anti-Gravity Group would jump off of a cliff, we'd still fall to our deaths.
In the same way, if Jesus is who He claims to be- the very Son of God who died on the cross for our sins- then no matter what other religions teach, they are all wrong. It is no more bigoted and narrow-minded to teach this than it is to teach that we all must accept the law of gravity. It is simply a fact that you deny at your own peril.
II. Christianity's Role Reversal
It is interesting that the major thing that all religions other than Christianity do have in common is their insistence that mankind has to do something to reach God, or the Divine, whatever their conception of what the Divine may be. But in the Christian worldview, there is a role reversal. It is only in Christianity that God saw man in His helpless condition and reached down to provide salvation for mankind, thus allowing men, women and children to have a personal relationship with the Lord of the universe. We see this fact in verses like John 3:16, which states:
"For God so loved the world that He gave us His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
We can also see it in plainly in other verses such as these:
"But God demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8).
"For by grace are you saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8,9).
"Not by works of righteousness that we have done but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost." (Titus 3:5).
The Christian message of salvation teaches that there was nothing we did, or ever could do to win favor with Almighty God. We were dead in trespasses and sins, and dead men can't do anything for themselves (Ephesians 2:1). Rather, it is by God's grace alone that we are saved through faith. Grace simply means unmerited favor. God saw nothing in us worthy of salvation, but loved us anyway.
Evangelist Billy Graham gave a personal illustration of grace a few years ago. He recounted that he was driving through a small Southern town and was stopped by a policeman and given a ticket for speeding.
Graham stood before the judge a few days later and the judge simply asked: "Guilty or not guilty!" Graham replied: "Guilty!" The judge then fined him ten dollars, a dollar for every mile he went over the speed limit.
After that the judge suddenly recognized the famous evangelist and said: "You have violated the law. The fine must be paid! But I am going to pay it myself!" So he reached in his wallet and paid the fine for him. Then he took Graham out for a steak dinner!. "That", said Billy Graham, "is how God treats repentant sinners!"
We stand guilty before a Holy God. The penalty must be paid. And God, through his perfectly righteous Son Jesus Christ, paid that penalty of death for you and for me. Now, if we trust in Christ alone for our salvation, when God looks at us, he no longer sees our sins. They were placed upon Jesus. Rather, God the Father sees Christ's righteousness which was given to us upon belief in his finished work on the Cross of Calvary (II Corinthians 5:19-21). In God's eyes we are as righteous as Jesus.
No other belief system has this! Only the God of the Bible has the grace and mercy it takes to do such a thing!
The bottom line is, that no true Christian could ever make the claim that there are many paths to God. And they can never rightly believe that all religions teach the same things. We may love, or even respect a person who has differing views from our own when it comes to God and how one comes to Him. But we can never say that his or her belief system is equal to our own.
Not everybody can be right. Jesus and Jesus alone is the only Way, the only Truth and the only Life. Our Lord made this claim and backed it up by rising from the dead and demonstrating once and for all that He was who and what He claimed to be. May we never be ashamed of Him, or the good news that He brings. He is the only real hope for a sinful humanity.
© 2012 Jeff Shirley