Is Jesus the Only Way?
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Is Jesus the Only Way?
By Dr. Mickey Anders
Pastor David Benke has been disciplined by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod because he participated in an interfaith “Prayer for America” service held at Yankee Stadium in September 2001. Because the event included Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus, Pastor Benke was accused of encouraging syncretism. (The Christian Century, September 25-October 8, 2002)
His denomination would ask, “How can you participate in a worship service with people who are absolutely wrong about their faith? None of those people are going to heaven because they don’t believe in Jesus. God doesn’t even hear their prayers. Instead of praying with them, you should be telling them they are bound for hell fires.”
This is just one of the many incidences where modern Christians run into problems with the exclusive aspects of our faith. Our text for today is one of those passages that stress the exclusive nature of the Gospel. The last line says, “There is salvation in none other, for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, by which we must be saved!”
In a similar way, Jesus proclaimed in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.”
So my question for you today is simply this, “Is Jesus the only way?”
For some people this is an easy question. The answer is an unhesitating “Yes.” They would respond based on their understanding of the Scripture and their theology that Jesus is the only way.
I recently heard of a preacher who noted that another Christian minister had introduced a Muslim cleric as a fellow man of God. The preacher protested that such a claim was clearly false. The Muslim cleric was certainly not a man of God because he didn’t know Jesus as Savior.
I have heard others argue that Muslim’s worship a different god from ours. For those with such theology, anyone of no religion or of any other religion is simply going to hell.
On the other hand, we find people who will clearly say the answer to our question is “No, Jesus is not the only way. He may be my way, but he is not the only way.” Some of these are simply reacting against the bluntness of the exclusive claims. They would prefer to provide some wiggle room.
Which camp do you find yourself in? Or do you have a different position altogether? I want you to think about this difficult question with me for awhile this morning. Is Jesus the only way?
First, we have to deal with the Scriptures. In the final analysis, this question is really one of how we handle the Bible. We claim that the Bible is the source of all that we believe about God.
The simple fact is there are many exclusive verses in Scripture. In order to get around the exclusivism of our Gospel, we will have to dismiss a lot of our Scriptures. I have already read a couple of the classic statements. But there is also that theme that runs from the Old Testament into the New Testament that a sacrifice must be made for our sins, and, especially in Hebrews, Jesus is presented as the one, true and final sacrificial lamb who died for the sins of all humankind.
Some will dismiss the passages from John and Acts as statements of the early church and will say they are not really statements from Jesus. They are comfortable saying that the early Christians put those exclusive words in the mouth of Jesus. Jesus really didn’t say those things himself.
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Personally, I can’t take this approach. I have a higher view of Scripture than that. I will not casually dismiss what the Bible clearly says. Jesus is central to our faith, and we cannot easily dismiss him. I believe we can never get around the centrality of Jesus.
The over-arching theme of the Old Testament is that there is one God; the primary theme of the New Testament is that there is one Messiah, and he is Jesus. I personally think this whole idea, exclusive though it is, is at the heart of our faith. I believe that ours IS an exclusive faith. I believe we are right about God, and other faiths just don’t measure up.
So make no mistake about it, my answer to the question “Is Jesus the only way?” is “Yes.” However, I must say it is a “Yes, but…”
F. Dale Bruner is professor of religion emeritus at Whitworth College, Spokane, Washington. In a recent lecture he said, “Religious pluralism is the reigning orthodoxy on most [college] campuses, and you will be felt to be an arrogant, bigoted, narrow-minded, chauvinist if you say Jesus Christ is the only way.” But I don’t think we have to be arrogant, bigoted, narrow-minded, and chauvinistic, as many are, just because we believe in Jesus.
And I have to admit that there are Scriptures that challenge me to have a little humility about this issue. Matthew 25:31-32, 34, 41 is one such passage. It begins by saying, “But when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. Before him all the nations will be gathered, and he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separate