Isn't Christianity just one way to God?
- Do you think Christianity is better than other religions? Isn't that intolerance?
- Isn’t it just arrogant to assume that you’ve got the only answer?
- All faith is the same, isn’t it? All religions lead to God, don’t they?
I have yet to meet anyone who, when considering the claims of Christianity, doesn’t feel uncomfortable at the thought of accepting it as absolutely true and thereby discounting the truth claims of any other religion or faiths. In our post modern culture in which the all pervasive philosophy underlying much of what we believe is now wholly relativist, i.e. “if it's true for you then it is true” – we would rather accept differing and often opposing views of truth from those around us than appear judgemental in proposing that there are or could be any absolutes when it comes to truth.
However, it is philosophically impossible to maintain that there is no such thing as an absolute. If you are absolutely certain that we cannot be absolutely certain, then you are an absolutist and not a relativist. I was in the pub with friends recently discussing whether or not there are any absolutes in the world. It was interesting how adverse people were to claiming that there were. The only three things everyone agreed were absolutely wrong (in their eyes – again still relativist) were rape, genocide and paedophilia. Interestingly, murder, adultery and stealing raised problems based on mitigating circumstances. But the truth cannot be relative. If I were to ask you, “Are you married?” and you answered, “Sort of”, I’d have to wonder whether you’d misheard me! You are either are or you aren’t.
Our cultural aversion to life holding any absolutes has an impact on the question of Christianity versus other religions. Most people in the UK today would hold the opinion that if God exists, then surely Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Sikhs, and others are all worshippers travelling up the same mountain, albeit by different paths. Each path is strongly influenced by your cultural, familial and personal experiences but ultimately the path you take makes no real difference because ultimately all paths lead to the same God.
This is a nice thought and rests well within our relativist, politically correct, “respect” culture. However, even at face value, there are irreconcilable contradictions between the main religions. I’m not saying we shouldn’t respect one another. Jesus was the most compassionate and respectful man who has ever lived. But he also said and did things which people found offensive because it jarred with their worldview.
Starting with the fundamental question of God, Hindus say there are many gods, Christianity says that God is three persons in one: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Islam and Judaism state that there is one God and Buddhism that there is no God. On whether it is possible to make contact with God – Buddhism says it’s impossible; for Judaism, Islam and Hinduism it’s about performing moral and spiritual duties or rituals; for Christianity God has already made direct contact with us and in response we can enter a personal, non-ritualistic relationship with him.
Whilst most religions of the world share the common belief that love is central, even their definition of what love is and what it means to truly love differs. Most mainstream religions would agree that all religions don't lead to God in the same way or worship the same God.
Central to understanding why Christianity differs from other religions is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
It is impossible to read the Gospels and not to be struck by the extraordinary words, life and actions of Jesus who forgave people their wrong-doing, healed the sick, restored sight to the blind, freed people from demonic spirits, and even raised the dead. He taught about life and the things which are as relevant to humanity now as they were then – money, sex, power, marriage, family, love, helping those in need, death and the after-life. Jesus made claims about himself which, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “present us with a frightening alternative. The man we are talking about was and is just who he said, or else a lunatic or something worse. Now it seems to me obvious that he was neither a lunatic nor a fiend, and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that he was and is God.”
If he is God the Son, we should listen to what he has to say about life rather than try and assign his words as those of another enlightened teacher, wise guru or great spiritual philosopher. He either is or isn’t the Son of God, and if he is, then all other claims pale in comparison.
In John’s gospel, Jesus’ words cut through any ambiguity; “I have come that you might have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). Jesus proposes that the meaning of life is 100% to do with him and that he wants to bring the fullness of life to our actual experience. From this perspective, Christianity is offensive because it proposes that rather than having to strive to attain a moral standard or earn the love of God, God the Father invites us to discover the fullest meaning, purpose and enjoyment of life through his son Jesus. The Christian faith is grounded in a relationship with the living Jesus compared to other religions which are the pursuit of a relationship with God through applying oneself to the teaching of dead human beings.
As human beings we can attribute vast amounts of significance to our academic achievement, our job title, our salary and our savings, our material possessions, who are friends or who are parents are. It’s very easy for our hearts to become self-righteous, proud, or arrogant as we use these benchmarks to compare ourselves to others. The same applies in religion. If we are measuring spirituality and faith by moral standards, human endeavour, and right and wrong ways of living, then arrogance will undoubtedly ensue as we compare ourselves to one another. Additionally, we face the problem of who decides what the moral standards are in the first place.
Jesus does not subscribe to human criteria when it comes to measuring true faith. The Christian faith flows out of relationship with God through Jesus, in which we discover that his love and grace are the keys to the freedom that every human being yearns for and aspires to find in life. Isn’t this why there are so many religions and spiritual pursuits? Everyone’s looking and searching for absolute truth in one form or another. God the Father reveals that the truth is real, intimate and personal through his son Jesus. There’s no room in the story for arrogance, only humility as the revelation of this amazing truth turns hearts inside out and upside down. Surely there is only room for joy, tears, laughter and a desire to share this amazing truth with others.