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Is Jesus Christ the only Way to God?
1. Who is Jesus Christ?
Is He just a great religious teacher? Is He a charlatan? Is He mad? Or is He, who He claims He is? Jesus says, “The Father and I are one.”(John 10:30 TEV) “Whoever sees Me sees also Him who sent Me.”(John 12:45 TEV) When Jesus was questioned, “Where is your father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor my Father. If you knew Me, you would know my Father also.”(John 8:19 TEV) St Paul says, “Christ is the visible likeness of the invisible God.” (Colossians 1:15 TEV) and “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself. . . .” (2 Corinthians 5:19 NJB) St John tells us: “For those who reject the Son reject the Father; those who accept the Son have the Father also” (1 John 2:23 TEV) and "God showed His love for us by sending His only Son into the world, so that we might have life through Him"(1 John 4:9 TEV). This was clearly emphasized by Jesus, who said, "I have come in order that you might have life---life in all its fullness." (John 10:10 TEV)
St Paul says: “All Scripture
is inspired by God and is useful for teaching the truth, rebuking error,
correcting faults, and giving instruction for right living, so that the person
who serves God may be fully qualified and equipped to do every kind of good
deed.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 TEV) And that "Everything written in the Scriptures
was written to teach us, in order that we might have hope through the patience
and encouragement which the Scriptures give us." (Romans 15:4 TEV) and “I have
complete confidence in the Gospel; it is God’s power to save all who believe,
first the Jews and also the Gentiles. For the Gospel reveals how God puts
people right with Himself: it is through faith from beginning to end.
As the Scripture says, ‘The person who is put right with God through faith shall
live.’”(Romans 1:16-17 TEV)
Having examined the claims by Jesus and the Bible, C S Lewis comes to the conclusion that, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said wouldn’t be a great moral teacher, he’d either be a lunatic---on a level with a man who says he’s a poached egg---or else he’d be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was and is the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. . . . But don’t let us come up with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He hasn’t left that open to us. He didn’t intend to. . . .We are faced then with a frightening alternative. The man we are talking about was (and is,) just what he said or else a lunatic or something worse. Now it seems to me obvious that he was neither a lunatic nor a fiend; and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that he was and is God. God has landed on this enemy occupied world in human form.” (Mere Christianity, 52-53)
2. Some preach that Jesus is the only way to God.
Some Christians proclaim very strongly that Christ is the only way to God because of what Jesus says: "I am the Way; I am Truth and Life. No one can come to the Father except through Me." (John 14:6 NJB) "In all truth I tell you, I am the gate of the sheepfold. All who have come before Me are thieves and bandits, but the sheep took no notice of them. I am the gate, anyone who enters through Me will be safe; such a one will go in and out and will find pasture." (John 10:7-9 NJB) “Yes, if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24 NJB) St Luke says, “Only in Him is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.” (Acts 4:12 NJB) St Paul says “For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and humanity, himself a human being, Christ Jesus, who offered himself as a ransom for all.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6 NJB)
Nicky Gumbel, the founder of the world-wide “Alpha” course, answers the question:
“Is JESUS THE ONLY WAY TO GOD?
The answer of the New Testament is an emphatic ‘Yes’.
Jesus himself said, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). He claimed to be the way to God and, indeed, the only way. . . . .
When Peter and John healed the crippled man outside the temple, a large crowd gathered. Peter proclaimed Jesus as the ‘author of life’ who had been crucified but was now resurrected and glorified. They were arrested and put on trial and asked ‘by what power’ the crippled man had been healed. Peter, ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’, replied that it was ‘by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth’ and that ‘salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12).
Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is unequivocal. Jesus is the only name that can save. His answer is consistent with the rest of the New Testament. St Paul is equally emphatic: ‘For there is one God and one mediator between God and human beings, Christ Jesus, himself human’ (1 Timothy 2:5). So the writer of Hebrews warns us that there is no other means of escape except through Jesus Christ: ‘How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?’ (Hebrews 2:3).
What makes Jesus unique? First, he is unique in his qualification. Peter proclaimed him as the ‘Holy and Righteous One’ (Acts 3:14), the ‘author of life’ (v 15). He is the one the prophets foretold (v 18). He is the ‘Christ’ (v 20). He is the one whom the early church worshipped as God.
This sets him apart from the leaders of the other great world religions. Muslims do not like being described as Muhammadans because they do not worship Muhammad. ‘No one in the Islamic world has ever dreamed of according to him divine honours---he would have been the first to reject any such suggestion as blasphemy.’ It is not clear whether Buddha believed in the existence of God as such. ‘Early or classical Buddhism had no god.’
Secondly, Jesus is unique in his achievement. As Peter asserts, ‘salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). We all need a saviour because we have all sinned and we cannot save ourselves from the results of sin. None of the other great religions even claims to have a saviour. ‘The English Buddhist, Maurice Walsh, pointed out that the Buddhist view of Buddha is very different from the Christian view of Christ. He stressed that the Buddha is thought of as a Teacher---not as a Saviour.’ Likewise, Muhammad is regarded as a prophet---not as a saviour. In Islam, sinners will face judgement without forgiveness.
By contrast, Jesus is the one who brings salvation. He saves us from our guilt, he saves us from the addictive power of sin and he saves us from the judgement we all deserve.
Thirdly, Jesus is unique in his resurrection. Peter described him as the one ‘whom God raised from the dead’ (Acts 4:10). The resurrection is a unique event in the history of the world.
The Pali Canon of Buddhism records the great entrance of. . . the Buddha into Nirvana. . .but there is no suggestion that the Buddha will continue to be present with his followers after his death; the dhamma, the teaching, will take his place and will be their guide . . . the exact date of the death of the prophet Muhammad is known. No one has ever supposed that he survived the accident of physical death.
By contrast, the resurrection of Jesus lies at the heart of the Christian faith. Jesus Christ is alive today. We can know him. We cannot know Buddha or Muhammad. Jesus, the unique Son of God, the unique Saviour, the one uniquely raised from the dead, is the only way to God. If Jesus is the only way to God, this immediately raises two further questions: first, ‘What do we say about other religions?’ Secondly, ‘What about those who have never heard about Jesus?’” (What about other Religions?, 8-11)
3. Some preach that the Holy Spirit can guide anyone to God.
Some say the Holy Spirit that Jesus sends can reveal and guide anyone to God’s Kingdom. Jesus also says: “However, when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth, since he will not be speaking of his own accord, but will say only what he has been told; and he will reveal to you the things to come.” (John 16:13 NJB) and “The wind blows where it wishes; you can hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8 TEV) St Paul says, “No one can confess ‘Jesus is Lord!’ without being guided by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3 TEV) So it is vitally important that we “do not restrain the Holy Spirit; do not despise inspired messages” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 TEV) and we accept that the Holy Spirit blows where it wants.
Father Henri Nouwen explains:
“Jesus is the door to a life in and with God. ‘I am the gate,’ He says. (John 10:9). ‘I am the Way, I am Truth and Life. No one can come to the Father except through Me’ (John 14:6). Still, many people never have heard or will hear of Jesus. They are born, live their lives, and die without having been exposed to Jesus and His Words. Are they lost? Is there no place in the Father’s house for them?
Jesus opened the door to God’s house for all people, also for those who never knew or will know that it was Jesus who opened it. The Spirit that Jesus sent “blows where it pleases” (John 3:8), and it can lead anyone through the door to God’s house.” (Bread for the Journey, Aug 3)
“My first twenty-four years of life were basically years to prepare myself for the Catholic priesthood. I was born and raised in a Roman Catholic family, went to Roman Catholic schools, and lived a life in which I related exclusively to Roman Catholics. It was a time in which all the boundaries were very clear. I was a Roman Catholic and not a Protestant; I was a Christian and not a Moslem, Buddhist, or Hindu. I was a believer and not a pagan; I was Dutch and not German, French, or English; I was white and not black, etc. These very clear boundaries gave me a sense of being in the right place, being wholly protected, and being very safe. I never met anybody who was divorced, who had left the priesthood, or who was gay. It was very clear what I was going to do as a priest. I knew the right teaching and the right way to live the moral life. Six years in the seminary had given me very clear-cut guidelines and surrounded me with people who had received the same guidelines. Proclaiming the Gospel and administering the sacraments were challenging, but not complicated, and something I really felt called to do. I was a very happy person, felt very close to God, had a very disciplined prayer life and a very clear-cut vocation. I was ordained in July 1957.
After my ordination I studied psychology at the University in Holland, visited the Vatican Council, worked as chaplain of the Holland/American line, and was trained as a reserve army chaplain. I then studied for a few years at the Menninger Clinic to explore the relationship between religion and psychiatry, taught for two years at Notre Dame, 10 years at Yale, and three years at Harvard, and made visits to Latin American. During all these years, I learned that Protestants belong as much to the church as Catholics, and that Hindus, Buddhists, and Moslems believe in God as much as Christians do; that pagans can love one another as much as believers can; that human psyche is multidimensional; that theology, psychology, and sociology are intersecting in many places; that women have a real call to ministry; that homosexual people have a unique vocation in the Christian community; that the poor belong to the heart of the church; and that the spirit of God blows where it wants. All of these discoveries gradually broke down many fences that had given me a safe garden and made me deeply aware that God’s covenant with God’s people includes everyone. For me personally, it was a time of searching, questioning, and agonising, a time that was extremely lonely and not without moments of great inner uncertainty and ambiguity. The Jesus that I had come to know in my youth had died. I was travelling in a downcast way to Emmaus, and started hearing the Voice of someone who had joined me on the journey.
When I joined the L’Arche Daybreak Community in Toronto, I was searching for a new home. I knew it could not be the old home that I had left, but I did not know what the new home would look like. During the last eight years living with people with mental handicaps and their assistants in a very close knit community consisting of people from many different religions, backgrounds, communities, and lifestyles, my heart started to burn, and I started to recognise the presence of Jesus in a radically new way. During this time I have experienced much loneliness, much confusion, and much insecurity, but I have experienced all of this sorrow living with poor people who in their simplicity and openness offer me a space that gradually could become a new home. Since living in community, my spiritual journey has been radically deepened, the full dimension of which I am not yet fully able to articulate. But I know that living with the people of my community is calling me to be a witness in a way that I never could have been before.” (The Road to Peace, iiiv- xv)
“As I started to write again today, I realised that The Gathering [an evangelical support network in America for philanthropists, who come together once a year to support and encourage one another in their philanthropic work and to discuss how to give in the spirit of the Gospel. In order to be “eligible” for The Gathering, each member must be a major donor to a charitable organization] had raised new questions in my mind about mission, evangelisation, conversion, witness, and so on. Many of the people I met in Cancun believe that without an explicit personal profession of faith in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, we cannot make it to heaven. They are convinced that God has called us to convert every human being to Jesus.
This vision inspires much generosity, commitment, and a great worldwide project. Not a few of the men and women we met had travelled far and wide, put their lives and health in danger, given large parts of their personal income, and taken many financial risks. Their love for Jesus is deep, intense, and radical. They spoke about Jesus fearlessly and were prepared for rejection and ridicule. They are very committed disciples, not hesitant to pay the cost of their discipleship.
Still . . .I felt somewhat uncomfortable, even though this belief was present in my own upbringing. My conviction as a young man was that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church and that it was my task to bring all “non-believers” into the one true Church.
But much has happened to me over the years. My own psychological training, my exposure to people from the most different religious background, the Second Vatican Council, the new theology of mission, and my life in L’Arche have all deepened and broadened my views on Jesus’ saving work. Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through the door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God. I feel deeply called to witness for Jesus as the One who is the source of my own spiritual journey and thus create the possibility for other people to know Jesus and commit themselves to Him. I am so truly convinced that the Spirit of God is present in our midst and that each person can be touched by God’s Spirit in ways far beyond my own comprehension and intention.
I am very grateful for my time at The Gathering. It forces me to think through my own religious convictions.” (Sabbatical Journey---The Diary of his Final Year, 53)
Mother Teresa says:
“God has His own ways and means to work in the hearts of men, and we do not know how close they are to Him, but by their actions we will always know whether they are at His disposal or not. . . . We must not condemn or judge or pass words that will hurt people. Maybe a person has never heard of Christianity. We do not know what way God is appearing to that soul and what way God is drawing that soul, and therefore, who are we to condemn anybody?” (Life in the Spirit, 81—82)
“If anyone thinks and believes that the way he or she is taking is the only way toward God, that is the way God will take. If one knows no other way, if one has no doubts and does not feel the need to keep searching for another way, that is the way to salvation. That is the way God will take to reach that person.” (Stories of Mother Teresa, 17)
Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche, a world wide community that looks after the mentally handicapped, says: “Vatican II announced so clearly that the Holy Spirit is working in all the Churches, not just in the Roman Catholic Church. It seems to me that this teaching is not always put into practice. It remains a theory, a doctrine, a vision. Shouldn’t we all look at the consequences of it? Roman Catholics (including many Christians) are often enclosed within their own groups, their own club, their own community. They are not sufficiently alert to see the signs of the Spirit present in other Churches, other communities, or in people of other religions. Yet the Spirit of God is at work there. God is speaking to them; he is revealing himself there. We must be attentive to others, to notice in them the presence of the Holy Spirit. If we confine ourselves only to the workings of the Spirit in ‘our’ group or in ‘our’ Church, we will miss something; we will be lacking in a gift of the Spirit. Communities have so much to offer to each other. They can offer each other their food, their nourishment.
But of course, in order to really appreciate the Spirit working in the hearts of other communities and Churches, we have to be well rooted in our own; we have to belong. Otherwise we risk living in some confusion, without roots.” (Community and Growth, 173)
Although we are put right with God through faith, Jesus tells us that we will not be put right with God if we are arrogant and pride ourselves as being good and upright and despise others. This is what Jesus shows very clearly in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Jesus says that it is the tax collector who says, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” who is put right with God and not the Pharisee. (Luke 18:9-14 NJB)
As the Ultimate Judge, Jesus sees into the heart and motives of every person and He leaves us with His saying, ”And there are other sheep I have that are not of this fold, and I must lead these too. They too will listen to my voice, and there will be only one flock, one shepherd” (John 10:16 NJB), emphasising that many other people will finally, through His inconceivable divine mercy and justice, be lead and be united as one flock under one Shepherd, Jesus Himself. Doesn’t this imply that Jesus wants every person to humbly repent, like the tax collector, and have faith not only in God but also have faith in His all-forgiving love and divine mercy and thus be put right with God? Jesus clearly shows the extent of His divine mercy to the bandit, who in effect repented his misdeeds at the very last moment while dying on the cross, when Jesus says, ”In truth I tell you, today you will be with Me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43 NJB)
4. On Judgement Day.
fact St Paul warns us not to judge anyone before the Judgement Day:
“Now, I am not at all
concerned about being judged by you or by any human standard; I don’t even pass
judgement on myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not prove that I
am really innocent. The Lord is the One who passes judgement on me. So
you should not pass judgement on anyone before the right time comes. Final
judgement must wait until the Lord comes; He will bring to light the dark
secrets and expose the hidden purpose of people’s minds. And then all will
receive from God the praise they deserve.” (1 Corinthians 4:3-5 TEV)
Jesus tells us that on Judgement Day, it is He who judges who will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus specifically warns us that on Judgement Day: “Not everyone who calls Me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do what My Father in heaven wants them to do. When the Judgement Day comes, many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord! In Your Name we spoke God’s message, by Your Name we drove out many demons and performed many miracles! Then I will say to them, ‘I never knew you. Get away from Me, you wicked people!’” (Matthew 7:21-23 TEV) Therefore, we must seriously ask ourselves, “why should Christians who proclaimed God’s message, who drove out demons and who performed miracles in Jesus’ name be cast away from Jesus?” Unless, these people like the Pharisee in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, must have prided themselves as being good and upright and despised others---the very exact behaviour that Jesus warns us against.
And what does God want all of us to do? Jesus reiterates what God wants every person to do by recounting to us what will take place on Judgement Day: “When the Son of man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory. All nations will be assembled before him and he will separate people one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats. He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right hand, ‘Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take as your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made me welcome, lacking clothes and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.’ Then the upright will say to him in reply, ‘Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome, lacking clothes and clothe you? When did we find you sick or in prison and go to see you?’ And the King will answer, ‘In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.’” (Matthew 25:31-40 NJB)
Mother Teresa defines the poor as:
“The poorest of the poor, irrespective of caste, creed or nationality are:
The hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the homeless, the ignorant, the captives, the crippled, the leprosy sufferers, the alcoholics, the sick and dying destitute, the unloved, the abandoned, the outcasts, all those who are a burden to human society, who have lost all hope and faith in life, and every Missionary of Charity by accepting to live the life of evangelical poverty and by the very fact of being sinners---and all hard-hearted, persistent sinners, those under the power of the evil one, those who are leading others to sin, error or confusion, the atheists, the erring, those in confusion and doubt, the tempted, the spiritually blind, weak, lax and ignorant, those not yet touched by the light of Christ, those hungry for the word and peace of God, the difficult, the repulsive, the rejected, the sorrowful and the souls in purgatory.” (Contemplative at the Heart of the World, 86)
“We give immediate and effective service to the poorest of the poor, as long as they have no one to help them, by:
—feeding the hungry: not only with food but also with the Word of God,
—giving drink to the thirsty: not only for water but for knowledge, peace, truth justice, and love,
—clothing the naked not only with clothes, but also with human dignity,
-giving shelter to the homeless: not only a shelter made of bricks, but a heart that understands, that covers, that loves,
—nursing the sick and the dying: not only the body, but also the mind and spirit.” (Contemplative at the Heart of the World, 86)
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