Summary: Is Jesus really the only way to heaven?
This question is one posed by the "pluralist," the person who believes that no one has the right to exclusive belief. More and more people are adopting the logic of pluralism, and the impact of pluralism is being felt increasingly in our society. The logic of the pluralist says:
There is no such thing as "one way" to God, therefore . . .
There is no such thing as absolute truth, therefore . . .
There is no such thing as a right way to live.
The claims of Jesus Christ run counter to the logic of pluralism, as illustrated by the words of our Lord in John 14:6, where He tells us, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me."
Let’s consider the answers that the claim of Jesus gives to the logic of the pluralist who says, "All roads lead to heaven."
First, let’s look at where the pluralist begins. He begins with the assumption that there is no such thing as "one way" to God.
The claim of Christ runs counter to this assertion. His claim is very exclusive. Jesus said that He alone is THE WAY. Additionally, Jesus emphasized the fact that "no one comes to the Father except through me."
Some say Jesus would never make a claim to be the only way to God, because He was more loving than that.
They maintain that the man who taught the Golden Rule was incredibly tolerant, and would, therefore, never force Himself on people that way.
In that sense, they’re right. Jesus doesn’t force Himself on anybody. He lays out the truth, and waits for you to act on it. But the notion that Jesus never made any exclusive claims to being the only way for one to connect with God simply reveals one’s ignorance concerning the claims of Christ.
For example, in John 3:36, Jesus said, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him."
In John 3:17, speaking of Himself, Jesus declared, "Whoever believes in him, is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son."
Those who lived with Jesus during His earthly ministry certainly understood that His was an exclusive claim. In Acts 4:12, we find Peter and John declaring, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
There is no misunderstanding the claim of Christ. When He said, "I am the way," He said what He meant and He meant what He said. He did not stutter, but made it plain!
Exclusive claims such as those made by Jesus are frowned upon in a pluralistic society such as ours. But other religions make exclusive claims, too.
Muslims claim exclusivity. They maintain that the Koran is the only word of God. Hinduism is exclusive in that it refuses to compromise regarding the law of karma, the authority of the Hindu scriptures called the Vedas, and reincarnation. And we could go on. The bottom line here is that every other major religion claims to be the exclusive truth.
The fact is that exclusive claims are made all the time. The question is which claim has the right to be exclusive?
The pluralist says that no one has the right to make an exclusive claim, because there is no such thing as absolute truth.
This is a popular notion today. Pollster George Barna indicates that nearly 75% of Americans do NOT believe in absolute truth.
But again, the claim of Jesus Christ runs counter to this assertion. Jesus declared, "I am . . . the truth." Again, not "a truth," but "THE TRUTH."
Later on in this chapter, Jesus points to evidence that He is, indeed, the only true way for one to connect with God (see John 14:8-11).
You see, Jesus claimed to be God in human flesh, come to provide us with an understanding of God and through His sacrifice on our behalf, the cleansing we need to have a personal relationship with God. The evidence of this, Jesus said, is found in not just what He said and taught, but in what He did.
- Islam is based on the teachings of Mohammed, Buddhism on the teachings Buddha, Confucianism on the teachings of Confucius. But Christianity is based, not on what Jesus taught (and this distinction is vital to grasp) but on who Jesus is and on what He accomplished.
Of course, as Christians, we stand firmly on His teachings. No one ever spoke and taught like Jesus, but ultimately, the value of what He said was dependent upon who He was and what He did and the abundant historical evidence that authenticated His life and words.