Summary: This sermon is intended to defend the faith that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that for those of us who call ourselves Christian, Jesus is "The" only Way!
I. Illustration: (source unknown) There is an old story about a revival preacher, maybe it was about Billy Graham holding a revival in a rather
large town. During the day he decided to walk to the Post Office and mail a few letters. As he made his way he realized he was not sure about weather or not he was headed in the right direction and so he stopped to ask some boys who were playing on the sidewalk for directions. He received the directions and before departing decided to invite the boys to the revival. He told them "that if they would come, he would tell them the way to get to heaven". "Gee mister" said one of the boys, "How ya gonna tell us how to get to heaven,you can’t even find the Post Office?"
Now the reason I re-tell that story is because increasingly in the last couple of years in the Annual Conference to which I belong, a handful of mainly retired United Methodist clergy have been openly teaching and stating that "there are many ways to heaven", and that not only through Jesus, but that there were perhaps many ways to be saved. One, the most vocal perhaps has been assaulting our bi-monthly
newspaper with such teachings and even recently claimed "he didn’t think Jesus would want us to make disciples", or least of everybody.
The response has of course been overwhelming, In fact every letter to the editor in the latest issue, but one is critical of him, and the other one is another
letter from him trying to defend his views. In this letter he claims that the Bible "rather than being words coming "directly down from God" .. is
more of a record of the human experience of God. And that "experience" he claims can change.
And so he, I’ll just call him "Dan", states on the whole is that "Jesus isn’t the only way" and that there are others ways to God, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, etc... and it brings to us the question "Is Jesus the only way?". If we could go back to that city sidewalk, we might just ask "What is
the way to heaven Dr. Graham?"
II. Martin Luther said in his defiant statement to the Catholic Church on this issue: "Unless I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture or by clear
reason, for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves. My
conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not retreat anything... I cannot do otherwise, here I stand, may God help me. Amen." (1)
Luther’s response was to many things, in fact he was posting statements on some 95 issues, but of chief concern to him was the issue of salvation. It
didn’t come by paying indulgences, a practice of that time. It didn’t come by works, nor did it come by daily reciting every sin he had committed in
confession. First, I cannot even remember every sin that I have ever committed, can you? If salvation came by such a means we would be as tormented as Luther was in daily prayer trying to remember every sin you ever committed. But for Luther, the way to salvation became clear by understanding Scripture, it began with "justification by faith" and turned to the authority of the Scriptures...."Faith alone and Scripture alone".
Some at the Council of Trent who gathered to examine Luther’s attack on the papacy did agree with Luther. One Bishop (Noichiant of Chioggia) even declared "To put Scripture and Tradition on the same level is ungodly". Luther’s cry was "Sola Scriptura - Scripture alone!", while at Trent they declared both "Scripture and Tradition".
John Wesley, was also a man who believed in "one book" in the "Word of God" but determined that "we properly read Scripture within the believing community, informed by the tradition of that community." Anglican Richard P.C. Hanson reasoned that Scripture, Tradition and Reason form a "threefold cord". Another Anglican, Richard Hooker said that "there was inter-relation of the strands of the threefold cord" but that "primary authority, that is to say, belongs to the Scripture as God’s Word written..."
In Weslyian theology a four fold way of discerning God, and God’s will for our life emerged, in what has often been referred to as the "Qudrilateral" - Scripture; Tradition; Reason; and Experience. Today I want to talk about Scripture. In a Weslyian understanding Scripture was not on equal ground with the other three but is a primary means by how we discern God in our lives. In fact the "Book of Discipline" (2000) clearly states "Scripture is the
primary source and criterion for Christian doctrine". (p. 78).