Don’t All Religions Lead to God?
In my experience there are usually two motivations in dismissing the idea that Christ is the only way to God and we need to be able to deal with them both. The first objection is that it is arrogant to say that Jesus is the only way. How could we possibly be so arrogant as to say that all the other religions are wrong and Jesus is the only path to God? Often at this point the parable of the elephant is used to illustrate how arrogant Christians are. It goes something like this: “There is an elephant and there are blind scribes touching different parts of the elephant. One is holding onto the tail and saying ‘this is a rope’ another is holding the front leg of the elephant and saying ‘no this is not a rope – you are wrong, it is a tree trunk’ another person is holding the trunk of the elephant and saying ‘you are both wrong this is neither a rope nor a tree trunk it is a snake!’” The moral of the story is that all of the religions are like those men. They each touch a different part of Ultimate Reality and therefore Christians are arrogant to say that they have the truth.
Let us take a step back and think about what is being said here. Think about the two main differences between the person telling us the story and the people inside the story. The first difference is that the people touching the elephant are blind and the narrator can see. The second difference is one of perspective – the people inside the story are close up to the elephant but the narrator is standing back and has the full picture. Do you see the breathtaking claim that is being made here? Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Moses and Muhammad are all blind, but I can see! They all had a small perspective, but I can see the full picture – I can see that all of those ways actually lead to God. The question now is “Who is arrogant?” It is just as arrogant to say that ‘Buddha, Muhammad and Jesus were wrong in their exclusive claims,’ as it is to say ‘Jesus is the only way’ – the issue then is not about who is arrogant or not but what is actually true and real?
The second motivation or moral force behind this question is about exclusion. How can you exclude all of these religions? Jesus said that he was the way to the Father but I can’t follow him because I do not want to be an intolerant person who excludes others! Again we need to think carefully about this, because the reality is that whatever position we hold we exclude some views. Even the person who believes that all ways lead to God, including Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Stalin and Osama bin Laden excludes the view that only some ways lead to God or only one way leads to God. In the same way the average person in Britain would probably want to exclude some of the extremists like Hitler or Milosovich and would believe that only some ways lead to God – perhaps the 5 main world religions. This excludes the view that all ways lead to God or that one way leads to God. And the Christian who wants to say I follow Jesus and he said that he was the only way to the Father excludes the view that all ways or some ways lead to God. Every view excludes some – so the issue is not who is excluding people but what is actually true and real.
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