‘Contentious Questions’: How Can Christians Think Our Way is the One Way to God?

Because some questions are just that way.

By Tom Gilson Published on March 3, 2018

Christianity has a problem: We believe there’s only one way to God but most of America doesn’t. Listen to Oprah speaking that “there are many paths to get to what you call God. … There couldn’t possibly be just one way!”

That’s just one entertainer’s position, and for my money she speaks with as much authority on religion as actor Hugh Laurie does on medical practice. None. Yet she’s influential, and she also reflects widespread public opinion. So yes, we have a problem. We think Christianity is the only way, and a whole lot of people think we’re wrong on that.

 

Oprah’s Problem: Making Jesus Optional

But Oprah has a problem, too: She’s making Jesus optional. That’s pretty hard for one who says, “I am a Christian.” In the video here she acts like she wants to honor Jesus’ teachings, but she doesn’t seem to know (or care) that His teachings include trusting in Him alone. “I am the way, the truth, and life,” He says. “No one comes to the Father but by Me.”

She doesn’t seem to know how unique Christianity is, either. Other religions teach we have to live a certain way, “with a loving heart,” as Oprah puts it in the video, and I’m sure she would add some other standards. It means doing the right things, in other words, and it puts all the burden on us to measure up.

Contentious Questions: New Series, Interacting Live on Facebook Every Tuesday!

Want to talk about this some more? I do!

Today I’m pleased to announce my new weekly Facebook live series, Contentious Questions (because some questions are just that way), set to air on The Stream’s Facebook page every Tuesday at 4:00 pm Eastern time.

We’re kicking it off this Tuesday, March 6, with discussion on the topic in this article. Leave your questions and comments here, and I’ll have material to seed my own comments during the videocast.

We’re naming the series after the kinds of questions I plan to tackle. Some questions are just that way: They stir up fiery debate. I’ll show how you can give a calm and reasoned answer.

This series is for you, so if you’ve got a question you want to hear discussed — anything having to do with Christianity and culture — please leave a note here in the comments.

All videos will remain on the Facebook page for later viewing.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve tried very hard to measure up, and on my own I’ve never been sure I met the standard. I wasn’t even clear on what the standard was — are you? — and yet I was quite sure I wasn’t meeting it.

So we all have a problem there; all of us, including Oprah. And Christianity, alone among all religions, says God Himself will take that burden off us and solve it for us. Instead of us reaching up to heaven with our good works, such as they are, God came down to us in the person of Jesus Christ, to meet us where we are.

Everyone’s Problem; God’s Answer

We really needed Him to do that. Our sin isn’t trivial. It’s open rebellion against the good God who created us. They deserve a death penalty, separation from God forever.

Jesus not only lived for us and taught us, He submitted to extreme suffering on our behalf, showing He was with us in all things. And then He died for us, paying that death penalty for our sins so we could be forgiven in His name. We don’t have to measure up first; He did it for us just as we are, and if we’ll just come to Him, He accepts us just as we are.

That’s unique. Alone among all religions, too, Christianity’s founder proved He had the authority to say He was the one way to conquer death and lead us to heaven. He did it by conquering His own death, rising bodily and physically from the grave on the third day after His crucifixion.

How could there be just one way? That’s most of the answer right there.

How Could There Be More Than One Way to God?

But I’ve got a question to match Oprah’s: How could there possibly be more than one way? 

Think about what that would mean. It’s saying that there are many ways to God. The way of Jesus is one of them, but it’s your choice. It’s optional. Jesus is optional, and His death on the cross was optional.

Now, have you ever seen Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ? Have you seen what Jesus endured before He was executed? Have you seen the brutality of His crucifixion? Have you seen His agony? The movie was horrific, but it was also accurate in its depiction. The Cross was awful.

The Bible tells us Jesus endured it for “the joy set before Him,” which was the door it would open us to heaven and eternal life with Him.

The Cross Can’t Be Optional

That’s what the Bible says. Oprah basically says that Jesus didn’t have to go through the torture. He didn’t have to endure the agony, and God the Father didn’t have to watch His Son writhing in bitter pain. He didn’t have to die on the cross. He had all the power He needed to avoid it, or once on that cross, He still could have called those thousands of angels to take Him down.

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All of that was a matter of take-it-or-leave-it, if there’s more than one way. He could have walked away from it all and we’d have been just fine. The universe has lots of nice ways to get to God, after all. Sure, Christianity is one of them. But it’s one just one good choice among many, so really, it doesn’t matter if Jesus died that way for us all.

If Christianity is true at all, it must be exclusively true.

That’s where Oprah’s thinking leads. I say it’s either woefully ignorant or completely irrational. It’s almost inhuman! If Jesus didn’t have to die on the cross — if that wasn’t the only answer to human sin and death — then who could possibly think He would have gone ahead and done it anyway? Remember how he prayed for “this cup to pass” from Him? It didn’t, because it couldn’t; not if men and women, boys and girls were be forgiven and come to God. There was no other option.

The News Is Still Good!

So we all have to make a choice. If you think Christianity is a way to God, you have to conclude it’s the only way. If you think some of those other ways work, then you have to conclude that Christianity is a brutal hoax of a lie — because the message of the Cross can’t be true and optional, both at the same time. If Christianity is true at all, it must be exclusively true.

But that’s okay: It’s also really good news, because God did come to us all, to be with us all, to show us all the way, and to die for us all so we could live with Him forever. Who needs another way, when God has given us His very best?

 

What do you think? We always encourage thoughtful comments here at The Stream, but this is the first in a series of special opportunities. There’s a lot I didn’t have space to say here, a lot of questions left unanswered, so I’m sure you’ll have some for me. Leave your thoughts here, and I’ll interact with them live on The Stream’s Facebook page, next Tuesday at 4 pm Eastern time.

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  • JP

    This should be fun. Looking forward to this.

  • Patmos

    I came to Christ through no ministry or denomination, roughly a decade ago, and it’s been truly stunning to me to see how far off so many self proclaimed Christians are. I’m not talking making a small doctrinal mistake here or there, I’m talking not even being in the same ballpark with God’s word. It’s like an episode of The Twilight Zone.

  • Stephen D

    Why should there not be only one way to God? There’s only one way to the moon, and that’s by rocket. There’s only one way to my bathroom, and that’s down the passage and turn left. There’s only one way from this town to the next one, and that’s down the road connecting them. There’s only one way to learn about quadratic equations, and that’s to study mathematics. There’s only one way to have a baby and that’s to get pregnant.
    There could in theory be many ways to God, but as a matter of fact only one way works. That’s just how it is. If you are talking about the God of the Bible, that is.

  • I’m studying the book of Romans right now. Of course I’ve read it multiple times, but never really dug in and studied it. Among other things, I am watching a great video series where the teacher describes Romans as the book that explains how a sinful person can get to heaven and at the same time a holy and righteous God not compromise who He is. There may be many ways to Jesus Christ, but there is only one way to heaven and that is through Jesus Christ.

    Sadly, a great many people (something like half the country, so it includes a lot of people who consider themselves Christian) think that you get to heaven by being “basically good.” What is sad is that while none of us can remotely measure up to God’s standards of being good, the path to heaven is much easier than being basically good. Just accept God’s free gift of salvation. Accept it and make it part of your life and you will never be the same.

  • Grn724

    Christianity is been on decline for 50 years now. If you look closely at the circumstances as they were in 1967, the world and in particular the U.S. was in utter turmoil. The radicals were waging war domestically, Viet Nam was in full bloom, assassinations of political leaders past and yet to come were upon us, abortion, though relatively new on the scene, was making inroads in the American psyche and Catholics were confused and disillusioned about Vatican II. Who at the time would have thought these events would lead us down the path of one day the majority of Americans would be indifferent to God or Jesus Christ? There are so many biblical references that go to the heart of any discussion about our outcome as humans after out time on earth is finished, but one I think about often is; The Narrow Gate. 13 “Enter through the narrow gate;* for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many.j 14 How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.
    This citation is pretty much inline with the world we live in today and you will not hear Oprah nor thousands of other influential people cite it because it makes their words into dust. Many who promulgate Christian principles without ever knowing anything behind their understanding are merely talking to inflate their worth to the world and themselves.

  • Trilemma

    If Christianity is the one and only way to God, then why did God wait thousands of years to provide it? Why did God leave so many billions of people without a way to God?

    • JP

      Wow… speaking of a leap of faith!

      Some assumptions that make we wonder…

      1. Why would you say that “God wait(ed) thousands of years…” that really seems to indicated some misinformation and/or lack of understanding of the Biblical narrative and how Christ came at the exact foretold time, for the precise reasons that the OT told us this would take place.
      and
      2. The question of “Why did God leave so many billions of people without a way to God?” again assumes your answer, but in no way offers any validation that your statement is actually true.

      Why would you attempt to make this case, unless you don’t know that God has actually provided an unlimited means of access via creation and conscience, and ultimately in His personal coming to this earth (aka, Jesus Christ), again, just as the prophets had foretold in advance through convincing prophecy of the OT.

      Seek, and you will find…

      • Trilemma

        1. Why couldn’t the foretold time for Christ to come have been closer the fall? Why not 100 years after Adam and Eve ate the fruit?

        2. If Christianity is the only way to God, then how did people get to God before there was any Christianity? After the resurrection, how did people get to God before Christianity got to them? It took 1500 years for Christianity to reach the Americas.

        • JP

          Question #1
          The Bible does not address this question, and not sure why it would be relevant, perhaps you could explain why it is meaningful to you?

          Question #2
          That’s easy… the road to heaven has always been paved by faith, trusting the Lord for the knowledge you have before you… go for it my friend.

          • Trilemma

            1. If faith in Jesus is the only way to get to God, then why did God wait thousands of years to send Jesus? Until Jesus came, nobody could have faith in Jesus. That means before Jesus came, nobody could get to heaven.

            2. The road to heaven has always been paved by faith, trusting in the Lord. But which Lord? It couldn’t have been Lord Jesus before the cross. Could faith and trusting in Lord Vishnu, who is the sustainer of life and the lord of order, righteousness, and truth, also get you to heaven before Jesus came?

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