By Jonathan Dodson
In the prior four posts, we examined, all too briefly, the claim of Christ and the claim of pluralism: the belief in Jesus as the only way to God and belief that the many paths lead to God. Which is the better claim? We’ve seen that religious pluralism is inaccurate, arrogant, and intolerant. Is Christianity any better? I’d like to suggest three ways that Christianity is better from the claim of Jesus himself. He said that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Let’s take each point.
Christianity Should Make Us Incredibly Humble
First, Jesus is the Way. What does this mean? Does it mean that Jesus is our trailblazer, clearing the other religious options aside so we can hike our way to heaven through spiritual or moral improvement. If I keep the Ten Commandments, if I serve the poor and love my neighbor, if I pray and read the Bible enough, then God will accept me. No. As the way, Jesus doesn’t create a path for us to hike. We can never make it, do enough spiritual, moral, or social good to impress God. Much less love him with all our soul, mind, and strength. We can't make it up the path. We all fail to love and serve the infinitely admirable and lovable God. In fact, we love other things more, that’s a crime of infinite proportions. It’s against an infinite God. The sentence for our crime must be carried out.
When Jesus takes the arduous hike for us he goes down into the valley where the criminals die. He hikes down into our sin, our rebellion, our failures and he heaps them all on his back and climbs on a cross, where he is punished for our crime, a bloody gruesome death. The innocent punished for the guilty. If he doesn’t take our punishment, then we must endure it—forever separation from God. If you reject Jesus, then you will pay the infinite consequences. However, if you embrace Jesus in his sin-absorbing death you get forgiveness, and Jesus hikes not only through the valley but up the mountain to carry your forgiveness to God, where he pleads our innocence (Heb 10). This is what it means for Jesus to be the way. He hikes into the valley of our just punishment and up the mountain for our forgiveness. He is the redemptive way. He takes our place. This understanding of Jesus as the way should make us incredibly humble not arrogant. We realize how undeserving we are and how much mercy we have been shown.
Christianity is Wonderfully Enlightening
Jesus is also the Truth. What does that mean? In John chapter 1, we are told that God became flesh and was full of grace and truth in Jesus. The truth is that God is Jesus. This is enlightening. Christianity is the only religion where God comes down to man, becomes man. All other religions man has to work his way to God. The truth is Jesus, the truth is a person, who dies in our place, for our crimes, and in turn gives us his life. The truth is that God, works his way down to man, and dies for us. That’s grace. See, the truth isn’t a special prayer or a codeword we say at the pearly gates. In Christianity, the truth is essentially revealed in a Person, Jesus, full of grace and truth. All other religions God is impersonal, but in Christianity we meet God in Jesus. The truth is a Person who dies for us. Wonderfully enlightening, moving.
Christianity Should Make Us Persuasively Tolerant
Finally, Jesus is the Life. As if it wasn’t enough to be our way, incredibly humbling, and the truth, truly enlightening, Jesus caps it off by offering us not just his death but his life. What life? Later on in John, Jesus says he is the resurrection and the life, and that whoever believes in him, though he die yet he will live” (11:25). He does down into the valley to take our death, and raises up from the dead to up the other side of valley where he prepares a new place for us to enjoy life with him forever. The hope of that life should break into the lives of Christians today, making us persuasively tolerant. We tolerantly extend people the dignity of their own beliefs. We don’t minimize the differences between religions. We honor them. The life of Christ produces in us true humility. But it also produces in us true enlightenment. We’ve come to grasp grace, that God works his way down to us, dies for our moral and religious failures, and offers us life. If this is true, we must lovingly, humbly try to persuade others to believe in Jesus, who alone offers the wonderful promise of the way to God, the truth of God, and life of God.
See, in the end it doesn’t matter how nice or moral a person is because there is not enough niceness or morality to pay for our rejection of God. Either we must be rejected or we turn to Jesus who was rejected for us. This is the heart of the gospel. Jesus lays down his very own life for those who reject him, for his enemies, for those who don’t believe in him, and offers them forgiveness. Why would we reject such a man? So you see, Jesus claim is better than the claim of the religious pluralism. In fact Christianity delivers where pluralism cannot. Instead of being unenlightened, Jesus is truly enlightening as the God who is full of grace and truth. Instead of being arrogant, Jesus should make us incredibly humble, he created the way to God for us at the expense of his own death. Finally, instead of being intolerant, Jesus should make us persuasively tolerant, granting people the dignity of unbelief in Christ but pleading with them to believe in Christ for true life!
So, in the end, you have to decide where to place your faith. Will you place it in the unenlightened, dogmatic, and intolerant pluralism? Or will you place it in Jesus, who is the incredibly humbling way, the enlightening truth, and the persuasively tolerant life? Both require faith. Leslie Newbigin said: “Doubt is not autonomous.” What he meant is that you can’t doubt alone. We can’t doubt one thing without placing our faith in another. You doubt Jesus and trust pluralism or your trust Jesus and doubt pluralism. You can't say “I believe Jesus is the only way” and say “I believe all religions lead to God.” So, will you place faith in Jesus who is the way, truth, and life? Or will you place your faith religious pluralism? I hope you’ll choose Jesus.
This series was orginally post here.
Jonathan Dodson is lead pastor of Austin City Life in Austin, Texas. Dodson is author of Fight Clubs: Gospel-centered Discipleship and Viral Hope: Good News from the Urbs and Burbs (and everything in between). For more information about the author, check out his bio.