Summary: Is it impolite to tell people of other faiths that they are wrong?
OPEN: In one of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comic strips, Linus and Charlie Brown are engaged in serious conversation.
“I have a theological question,” says Linus, “When you die, and go to Heaven, are you graded on a percentage or on a curve?”
“On a curve, naturally,” Charlie responds.
Linus asks puzzledly, “How can you be so sure?”
Charlie brightly answers, “I’m always sure about things that are a matter of opinion.”
APPLY: This morning we’re going to be talking about one of the most prominent theological “matters of opinion” in the nation. That theological matter of opinion: "Does it matter what believe? Do all roads lead to heaven?"
ILLUS: An ancient Hindu story tells about six blind men who were brought to see an elephant:
"It’s very like a wall," said the first man as he touched the side of the elephant.
It’s very like a spear," said the second man as he stroked the elephant’s tusk.
And the third man taking the elephant’s squirming trunk in hand said) "It’s very like a snake."
"Nonsense!" the fourth man shouted. Stretching his arms about one of the legs, he concluded "this wondrous beast is very like a tree."
The fifth man, touching the elephant’s ear, cried, "even the blindest man can see that this animal is very like a fan."
And the sixth, grabbing the tail, assured his friends that "the elephant is really very like a rope."
There are those who hear different people from different religions saying that they have touched God. But the gods they describe are as different as the blind men and the elephant. This has led many to conclude that - just like the blind men of the parable - everybody’s right, they just have hold of different parts of the same God. And, since everybody is "right" then their different faiths must all lead to the same place - Heaven. Thus the phrase: All Roads Lead To Heaven.
I. Centuries ago, in a city called Athens, that was the predominant belief
The city of Athens was a very religious city. Within the city there were over 30,000 idols. One scholar noted it was easier to find an idol in Athens than to find a man.
And yet (while highly religious) these people were confused about which god to worship… and so they worshipped them all. AND in fact, just in case they missed a god – they erected an altar to an “Unknown God.”
Now, before you dismiss these people as uneducated hayseeds you need to know that Athens was a center of learning in its day. It was here that the idea of Democracy took root. Many of the world’s great early philosophers and thinkers lived here: Sophocles, Euripides, Plato and Socrates.
Here in Athens they had one of the greatest universities of the ancient world. It was a center of philosophy, literature, science and art. (Eerdmans’ Handbook to the Bible)
This was a city dedicated to truth… dedicated to wisdom. And yet in the midst of all this pursuit of “truth” and “wisdom” - there was confusion. Because (when it came to God) they did not know WHAT TRUTH to embrace
They didn’t know which god to hang onto and so they believed all were somehow equal.
II. “Intellectual types” have been like that ever since
They seem to be unable (or unwilling) to discover the truth about God and so… religion gets relegated to a matter of personal taste rather than objective reality. Kind of like our tastes in clothes or the color of our houses. There’s no right and no wrong to it. It’s just a matter of your personal tastes. If you like Hinduism as opposed to Buddhism it’s no big deal! It’s like preferring Big Macs to Chicken McNuggets.
And if there is a God… well He’ll understand. Everybody was just trying to reach Him in different ways. It shouldn’t make any difference – as long you’re sincere.
III. The one thing that has gotten Christianity into trouble with people down thru the ages has been that we have to say: “Well, yes it does make a difference what you believe.”
Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6
Peter declared: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
And here in Acts 17 Paul is telling the Athenians the very same thing: (reread vs. 22-31)
Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: "Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.