The Truth That is There: Can a Person Find the One True God?
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2003|
|It is our conviction that, considered historically, probably billions of people have done just this: they have found the one true God and come to know Him personally.|
- 1 The Truth That Is There: Can a Person Find the One True God?
- 2 What happens when we compare the basics of Christianity to other philosophies and religions?
- 2.1 1. The finite personal—creation by the gods
- 2.2 2. The infinite personal—creation by a God such as the Muslim Allah
- 2.3 3. The infinite impersonal monistic—creation (self-emanation) by the Brahman of Hinduism
- 2.4 4. The materialistic impersonal—e.g., creation by chance, i.e., the theory of evolution
- 2.5 5. The infinite personal Triune—creation by the God of the Bible
- 3 What about other religions?
- 4 Why isn’t Christianity intolerant or narrow-minded for teaching there is only one way to God?
- 5 Is the quality of evidence for the truth of Christianity compelling?
- 6 What are some specific examples of the evidence for Christianity?
- 7 Why is the resurrection important to each of us personally?
- 8 If Jesus Is the Only Way to God, How Should You Respond?
- 9 Notes
The Truth That Is There: Can a Person Find the One True God?
- Truth is Christianity’s most enduring asset. —Carl F. Henry, Carl Henry at His Best (Multnomah, 1989, p. 203)
It is our conviction that, considered historically, probably billions of people have done just this: they have found the one true God and come to know Him personally. Even today probably several hundreds of millions of people worldwide could truthfully make the same claim. The only issue is, does the evidence support the possibility of knowing the one true God?
In order to begin to answer such a question, controversial as it is to a pluralistic or secular mind-set as ours, sometimes it is easier to reduce things to their basic concepts. This will help us see how unique Christianity really is.
What happens when we compare the basics of Christianity to other philosophies and religions?
One way to illustrate the uniqueness of Christianity is to examine theological concepts. At the time of the patriarch Abraham, the entire world was mired in polytheism. So, in a world of endless gods, how did a belief in one God ever originate? This is a more profound question than it seems because, apart from the Christian explanation, everyone agrees this is a mystery. But if we assume divine revelation—that the one true God had revealed Himself to Abraham—there is a satisfactory explanation. Again, at this time no other religion in the world, no other culture in the world, was monotheistic. Here is the utter uniqueness of Christian beginnings: Judaism was monotheistic.
In fact, we can examine theological concepts in many different ways and all point to the uniqueness of Christianity. For example, among the dozen major categories of Christian theology, almost all of which are unique, is the doctrine of soteriology or salvation.
If we break down the doctrine of salvation into its component parts , we discover teachings that are found nowhere else in the world. How do we account for one religion that is unique theologically—not to mention philosophically and exponentially—when all the other religions of the world teach nothing new? The common themes of other religions include salvation by works, polytheism and occultism. Even Islam’s monotheism was not unique. So how do we account for the development of completely unique teachings such as monotheism, the Trinity, salvation by grace, the doctrine of depravity, resurrection to personal bodily immortality, and a score of others, when they are still a mystery? In other words, there never existed any impetus for their initial development. So again, how do we explain them apart from divine revelation? The fact is, we don’t.
To illustrate, consider just the doctrine of grace. Martin Luther, the great church reformer, was right when he said that there were really only two religions in the world, the religion of works and the religion of grace. If we were to examine all the different religions that exist today and then go back through history and examine all religions that have ever existed, we would find that there is no exception. All other religions teach salvation by meritorious works. Christianity is the only religion that teaches salvation solely by grace through faith alone. This simple fact makes it stand entirely apart from other religions. It also necessitates an answer to the question, “Why, out of the thousands of religions throughout history, is there only one that teaches salvation by grace?” How do we logically explain the origin of only one religion that teaches something no other religion ever has when there was never any human basis for such a belief to arise? In other words, how did mankind everacquire a religion of pure grace with salvation as a free gift when the natural bent of the human heart is one of self-justifying works and earning one’s own salvation? Why does one religion stand out like a floodlight among a group of candles?
The most reasonable (and only satisfactory) answer is divine revelation. This is exactly what the Bible claims: “I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11, 12). Thus, the gospel of Christianity is not something man made up because man never would have made it up; it goes against the grain of self-justification too sharply. The one true God personally revealed the one true way of salvation in the Bible. Obviously, He didn’t reveal it in the scriptures of other religions since they contradict the Bible’s most basic teachings, and God does not contradict Himself nor is He a God of confusion (Titus 1:2; 1 Corinthians 14:33).
In essence, observers of religion and critics of Christianity must explain why there is one religion of grace amidst universal religions of works. It can only be because the one true God who exists is a God of grace (Ephesians 1:7; 2:8) that we find a single religion of grace among all that oppose it.
A related approach would be to evaluate different concepts of origins. In philosophical apologetics this approach is taken by the late Christian philosopher Dr. Francis Schaeffer in He Is There and He Is Not Silent.
How do we attempt to explain our existence? In terms of concepts of origins or explanations of reality, though there are hundreds of religions and philosophies, when reduced to their most common elements, there are only a relatively few options:
- 1. The finite personal—creation by the gods.
- 2. The infinite personal—creation by a God such as the Muslim Allah.
- 3. The infinite impersonal monistic—creation (self-emanation) by the Brahman of Hinduism.
- 4. The materialistic impersonal—e.g., creation by chance, i.e., the theory of evolution.
- 5. The infinite personal Triune—creation by the God of the Bible.
Dr. Schaeffer’s argument is essentially this: Only by beginning with the Christian view of origins can one adequately explain the universe as we know it in terms of metaphysics, epistemology, and morality. (Metaphysics deals with the nature of existence, truth, and knowledge; epistemology with how we know; and morality with how we should live.)
1. The finite personal—creation by the gods
The problem with options one through four is that they cannot adequately explain and/or logically support these key philosophical doctrines. For example, in option one, the finite personal origin, the mythical and bickering, capricious and copulating finite gods (whether of the ancient Greeks and Romans or the modern Hindus and Buddhists) can’t explain the nature of existence because they aren’t big enough to create the world, let alone provide us with the infinite reference point we need in order to have an absolute truth or to justify meaning in life. The preeminent atheist philosopher we discussed earlier, Jean-Paul Sartre, was correct in stating that man required an infinite reference point in order for life to have any meaning. Since Sartre didn’t believe there was such a reference point, he stated, “Man is absurd, but he must grimly act as if he were not” and “Man is a useless passion.” On the other hand, the infinite personal triune God of the Bible is big enough to create the universe and big enough to provide man with an infinite reference point to give his existence meaning. Nor can amoral gods provide any logical basis for moral living. But the God of the Bible, who is infinitely righteous, holy, and immutable can provide such a basis.
2. The infinite personal—creation by a God such as the Muslim Allah
The problem with option two, the infinite personal origin, is that such a God seems ultimately dependent upon his creation in order to express the attributes of his own nature and personality. In other words, for all eternity prior to creation this God would have been alone with himself. With whom does He communicate? Whom does He love? (In part, this may explain why the absolute transcendence and “otherness” of the distant Muslim deity, Allah, is stressed so heavily in Islam and why Allah is not truly a God of love.) It would appear that such a God is “forced” to create and is subsequently dependent upon his creation for expressing the attributes of his own personality—and is, therefore, not a truly independent or free divine Being. The concept of a God who is dependent on something else is hardly an adequate concept of God. The Christian view of origins solves this problem because the triune God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had no need to create in order to express His attributes of personality. The members of the Godhead communicated together, loved one another, etc., for all eternity and are never dependent upon their creation for anything.
3. The infinite impersonal monistic—creation (self-emanation) by the Brahman of Hinduism
The problem with option three, the infinite, impersonal, monistic origin, is that it portrays a God who is infinite but impersonal and therefore it gives no basis for explaining the origin of personality or any logical reason for personhood to have absolute meaning. This explains why, in both Hinduism and Buddhism, the personality is seen as an “enemy” and is finally destroyed by absorption into Brahman or Nirvana. Not only the material creation but human existence, body and personality, are either an illusion, as in Hinduism (maya) or so empty and impermanent, as in Buddhism (sunyata), that they are ultimately meaningless. In the end, man is a hindrance to spiritual enlightenment and must be “destroyed” to find “liberation.” As Dr. Frits Staal comments in “Indian Concepts of the Body,” “Whatever the alleged differences between Hindu and Buddhist doctrines, one conclusion follows from the preceding analysis. No features of the individual personality survive death in either state.” But is an impersonal “immortality” truly meaningful when it extinguishes our existence forever? Is it even desirable? As Ajith Fernando, who has spoken to hundreds of Buddhists and Hindus, illustrates, “When I asked a girl who converted to Christianity from Buddhism through our ministry what attracted her to Christianity, the first thing she told me was, ‘I did not want Nirvana.’ The prospect of having all her desires snuffed out after a long and dreary climb was not attractive to her.”
Monistic philosophies provide no explanation for the diversity within the creation. If “God is one,” then diversity—all creation—is by definition part of the illusion of duality. That includes all moral views, all human hopes and aspirations, and all else that matters. In the end, we are left with a nihilistic outlook despite having an infinite reference point.
The infinite triune God of the Bible addresses this issue as well. Because God is personal, human personality has genuine and eternal significance. The only kind of eternity that has any meaning, or gives this life any meaning, is an eternity of personalimmortality. And because Christianity involves a philosophy of religious dualism, God is the creator of a real creation. The creation is not simply the illusory emanation of an impersonal divine substance. As a result, there is no need to face the very destructive consequences of nihilism.
4. The materialistic impersonal—e.g., creation by chance, i.e., the theory of evolution
Option number four, the materialistic impersonal origin, has similar problems to option three. Ultimate reality is still impersonal, although not a divine substance. Ultimate reality is dead matter. There is no God, period. Where does anyone find any dignity or meaning when our own self-portrait is the cold atoms of deep space? In the end, after a single, probably difficult, life, we die forever. Although such a fate is infinitely more merciful than the endless reincarnations and final dissolutions of Hinduism and Buddhism, it is still far too nihilistic and despairing for most people to live out practically. As Leslie Paul observed, in this view, “All life is no more than a match struck in the dark and blown out again. The final result is to deprive it completely of meaning.”
Famous philosophers and social commentators alike have stated the logical results of the death of God at the hands of materialism. Albert Camus said, “I proclaim that I believe in nothing and that everything is absurd.” Andy Warhol declared of his six-hour film showing a man sleeping, “It keeps you from thinking. I wish I were a machine.” “Death of God” philosopher Nietzsche informs us that the inhumane aspects of man “are perhaps the fertile soil out of which alone all humanity can grow” and then proceeds to destroy everything by having the Madman give us his famous discourse on God’s death;
- The madman sprang into their midst and pierced them with his glances. Then “Whither is God?” he cried. “I shall tell you. We have killed him—you and I.” All of us are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night and more night coming on all the while? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God’s decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead, and we have killed him.
- How shall we, the murderers of all murderers, comfort ourselves? What was holiest and most powerful of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives.
- Who will wipe this blood off us?… Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must not we ourselves become gods simply to seem worthy of it?
Walter Kaufman comments that “Nietzsche prophetically envisages himself as a madman: to have lost God means madness; and when mankind will discover that it has lost God, universal madness will break out.”
In essence, the problem with option No. 4 is that it is utterly impossible to rationally explain the origin of life materialistically on evolutionary or any other grounds.
5. The infinite personal Triune—creation by the God of the Bible
However, when we begin with the Christian religion—an infinite and personal triune concept of origins—we logically and reasonably have an explanation for things as they are—human personality, the desire for meaning in life, the yearning for personal immortality, a real creation having both unity and diversity, a transcendent basis for absolute morality, etc. Indeed, the nature of the creation itself mirrors the nature of its Creator. For example, just as there is unity and diversity in the Godhead—three centers of consciousness in one divine essence—so there is unity and diversity in the creation. Whether we speak of men, trees, butterflies or snowflakes, every category of life is the “same but different.” All men, trees, butterflies or snowflakes are alike but no two are identical. In one sense, God has not only made man, but the creation itself, “after His image.”
In conclusion, the fact that Christianity logically and adequately explains more about the facts of our existence than any other religion argues, in part, for biblical Christianity being the true religion. Other reasons are given below.
For the moment, let’s assume that the Bible really is the only revelation of God, that biblical Christianity is the one fully true religion and that, as the Bible teaches, Jesus Christ is the only way to God and salvation. In John 14:6, Jesus declared that He was the only way to God because He alone was the atoning sacrifice for the world’s sin: “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28); “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
It is a fact that no religion can logically deny the reality of sin and equally a fact that no religion but Christianity solves the problem of sin. To argue that sin is merely an “illusion” or “ignorance,” as Hinduism and Buddhism do, does not solve the problem of sin. To argue as Islam does, that God can forgive sin by fiat apart from a just payment to God’s justice and holiness, is inconceivable if God is truly infinitely righteous. If, as the Bible teaches, the just penalty for sin is physical and spiritual death, then only Jesus has solved the problem of sin. As a true man Jesus could die for man’s sin. As true God He could both pay the required penalty to infinite justice and also resurrect from the dead as proof the penalty had been paid. Thus, when Jesus died on the cross he took in His own person the penalty for our sin. Because He was “made sin,” and thus immediately prior to physical death separated from God, Jesus thereby paid the penalty for sin that was due to God’s justice, physical and spiritual death. He truly solved the problem of sin, and its consequence, death (Romans 3:23).
Did Buddha die for our sins? Did Muhammad die for our sins? Did Lao Tze, the founder of Taoism? Or Moses? Did Zoroaster, the founder of Parsism? Or Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism? None of these men ever claimed to do this. Put another way, isn’t it rather startling that not one of the founders of a religion ever claimed and offered proof that he solved the problems of human sin, evil, and death, the most fundamental human problems of all? Only Jesus solved the sin problem and conquered death, so logically, only Jesus is the way of salvation and the way to God and eternal life. J. I. Packer once noted, “No philosophy that will not teach us how to master death is worth two pence to us,” and L. P. Jacks wrote in The Inner Sentinel,“No religion is worth its name unless it can prove itself more than a match for death.”
We reiterate, because Jesus is the only incarnation of God, and God’s only begotten Son (John 3:16, 18), when He died on the cross for human sin, and rose from the dead. He became the only possible way of salvation and eternal life for all men and women. This is why the Bible teaches, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Further, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God andone mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time” (1 Timothy 2:3-6). All this is why Jesus Himself warned, “if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24).
But if Jesus really is the only way to God, does this make the Christian faith “narrow-minded ” or “intolerant ” as so many people seem to think? We will answer this question from the perspectives of comparative religion, common sense, and historical evidence. When we answer the question, “What about other religions?” we will show that Jesus’ utter uniqueness makes His claims of being exclusively the way of salvation worth considering. In a later section we will prove that exclusivity in salvation is not inconsistent with how we live our lives in other areas, noting that most other religions also claim to be the best or only way. Therefore, it is simply a matter of the evidence as to which exclusive truth claim, if any, is true.
What about other religions?
When we consider all the great religious teachers, leaders, and prophets who have ever lived, who is the equal of Jesus? Not Moses, Confucius, Buddha, or Lao Tze (Taoism), who never claimed to be anything other than sinful men. Not Muhammad, Joseph Smith, Zoroaster, or Guru Nanak (Sikhism), who never gave any proof they were true prophets of God. Not Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, or Krishna, who were only mythical deities. Not Mahavira (Jainism) or the founder/leader of any other religion the world has known has ever been like Jesus. Neither animism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Mormonism, Shinto, Sikhism, Sufism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism nor any other religious belief outside Christianity has anything that can even be slightly compared to Jesus.
Thus, if we examine the specific claims of the founders of the great religions, we find that none of them claims what Jesus does. In The Koran the Muslim prophet Muhammad states, “Muhammad is naught but a messenger” and “Surely I am no more than a human apostle.” In fact, several times in The Koran, Muhammad is acknowledged as sinful, asks forgiveness from God, or is even rebuked by God. Muhammad confessed he was sinful, but Jesus claimed He was sinless. Muhammad only claimed to be a prophet of God; Jesus claimed to be God. Muhammad was rebuked by God; Jesus never was—in fact. He said, “I always do what pleases Him” (John 8:29).
Consider Buddha for a more in-depth illustration. The Buddha simply claimed to be an enlightened man, one who could show others how to escape the futility of this world and find eternal release from suffering in a state of individual nonexistence called “nirvana.” After his alleged enlightenment, the Buddha said he realized the importance of maintaining an attitude of equanimity towards all things because this attitude helps one to end the cycle of rebirth, attain permanent release from the human condition and enter nirvana:
- Monks, I’m a Brahmana [enlightened being], one to ask a favor of, ever clean-handed, wearing my last body. I am inexorable, bear no love nor hatred toward anyone. I have the same feelings for respectable people as for the low; or moral persons as for the immoral; for the depraved as for those who observe the rules of good conduct. You disciples, do not affirm that the Lord Buddha reflects thus within himself, “I bring salvation to every living being.” Subhuti entertain no such delusive thought! Because in reality there are no living beings to whom the Lord Buddha can bring salvation.
Houston Smith in The Religions of Man comments about the Buddha,
- Notwithstanding his own objectivity toward himself, there was constant pressure during his lifetime to turn him into a god. He rebuffed all these categorically, insisting that he was human in every respect. He made no attempt to conceal his temptations and weaknesses, how difficult it had been to attain enlightenment, how narrow the margin by which he had won through, how fallible he still remained.
Clive Erricker, a lecturer and prolific writer in the field of religious studies with a special interest in Buddhism, writes accurately of the Buddha when he discussed what Buddha did not claim:
- Indeed, he did not even claim that his teachings were a unique and original source of wisdom…. [Citing John Bowker in Worlds of Faith, 1983] Buddha always said, “Don’t take what I’m saying [i.e., on my own authority], just try to analyze as far as possible and see whether what I’m saying makes sense or not. If it doesn’t make sense, discard it. If it does make sense, then pick it up.”
Buddha claimed merely a personal enlightenment designed to escape human nature; Jesus claimed (in His own nature) to bethe light of the world. Buddha claimed it was wrong to consider him one who brings salvation to men because men, having no permanent reality, do not finally exist; Jesus taught that He came to bring salvation to all men and to dignify their existence eternally. Buddha promised to give others enlightenment so that they might find nirvana, a state of personal dissolution in the afterlife; Jesus promised to give men abundant life and eternal personal immortality in heaven. Buddha had the same feelings for good and evil; Jesus exalted righteousness and hated evil.
Confucius said, “As to being a Divine Sage or even a Good Man, far be it for me to make any such claim.” If Confucius denied that he was divine or even a good man, Jesus claimed He was divine and morally perfect.
Zoroaster claimed to be only a prophet. “I was ordained by Thee at the first. All others I look upon with hatred of spirit.” Lao-Tze and Guru Nanak sum up the attitude of all the great religious founders when they confessed their humanity and even their ignorance. For example, Lao-Tze, the founder of Taoism, said, “I alone appear empty. Ignorant am I, O so ignorant! I am dull! I alone am confused, so confused!” Even in the latter part of his life, Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, still struggled to achieve enlightenment and lamented over his own spiritual darkness: “I have become perplexed in my search. In the darkness I find no way. Devoted to pride, I weep in sorrow. How shall deliverance be obtained?”
In The World’s Living Religions, Robert Hume, Professor of the History of Religions, comments that there are three features of Christian faith that “cannot be paralleled anywhere among the religions of the world.” These include the character of God as a loving heavenly Father, the character of the founder of Christianity as the Son of God, and the work of the Holy Spirit. Further,
- All of the nine founders of religion, with the exception of Jesus Christ, are reported in their respective sacred scriptures as having passed through a preliminary period of uncertainty, or of searching for religious light. All the founders of the non-Christian religions evinced inconsistencies in their personal character; some of them altered their practical policies under change of circumstances. Jesus Christ alone is reported as having had a consistent God-consciousness, a consistent character himself, and a consistent program for his religion.
Again, Jesus is unique in the claims He makes for Himself. He says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). How many other men have ever said that? Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). How many other men have ever said that? Jesus even claimed that 1500 years before His birth, Moses wrote about Him and further, that the entire Old Testament bore witness to Him (John 6:46, 47; Luke 24:27, 44).
Jesus commanded men to love Him in the exact same way that they love God—with all their heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37, 38). Jesus said that God the Holy Spirit would bear witness of Him and glorify Him (John 16:14). Who ever made such a claim? Jesus said that to know Him was to know God (John 14:7); to receive Him was to receive God (Matthew 10:40); to honor Him was to honor God (John 5:23); to believe in Him was to believe in God (John 12:44,45; 14:1); to see Him was to see God (John 8:19; 14:7); to deny Him was to deny God (John 8:19, cf. 1 John 2:23); to hate Him was to hate God (John 15:23). Did any other religious founders in history ever make such statements?
In Mark 2, Jesus claimed He could forgive sins—something all religions concede is reserved for God alone. In John 10:28 and 11:25, He said He could give all who believed on Him eternal life. How can a mere man—indeed, anyone less than God—give eternal life to creatures who die? Yet Jesus raised the dead even in front of His enemies—not in some dark alley, but before scores of eyewitnesses (Luke 7:11-15; 8:41-42, 49-56; John 11:43, 44). Who ever did that? He did other miracles that amazed those who saw them:
- We have never seen anything like this! (Mark 2:12).
- Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind (John 9:32).
In Matthew 25, He said that He would return at the end of the world and that He would judge every person who ever lived; He would personally raise all the dead of history and all the nations would be gathered before Him! Who else ever said that? He would sit on His throne of glory and judge and separate men from one another as a shepherd does the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46, cf. John 5:25-34). Just as clearly, Jesus taught that every person’s eternal destiny depended upon how they treated Him (John 8:24; Matthew 10:32). All these statements, and many more like them, leave us little choice. Either Jesus was who He said He was—God incarnate—or else He was absolutely crazy. But who can believe that?
Why isn’t Christianity intolerant or narrow-minded for teaching there is only one way to God?
We have seen that Jesus Christ stands alone when compared to the founders of other great religions. We have also mentioned that the creation parallels the nature of its Creator through its unity and diversity. So we could logically expect the same things for the Creator’s approach to salvation. In other words, that salvation itself would stand alone and that, in ways, it would parallel the nature of the Creator and the nature of the creation.
Thus, first, Jesus is unique; Christian salvation is unique. Jesus is exclusively God’s Son; salvation is exclusively through Jesus. Only Jesus died for sin; only Jesus can forgive sin. Only Jesus resurrected from the dead; only Jesus can resurrect others to eternal life.
Essentially, if there is only one true God, then there should be only one true way of salvation because the way of salvation must be consistent with the nature of the one true God—His grace, love, mercy, truth, etc. As Dr. Robert Morey comments, “Logically, since all religions contradict each other, there are only two options open to us. Either they are all false, or there is only one true religion. If there is only one God—there will be onlyone religion.” If so, then isn’t it possible that it is really the person who objects to this who is being narrow—too narrow to accept the truth? The truth may be difficult but that is no reason to reject it.
Second, what we find to be true about God’s creation is also true about the nature of salvation. Like everything else in the world, salvation must be done correctly to be successful. For example, consider some examples of how life works, or doesn’t work:
What happens if you drive your car in reverse? Or stop in the middle of a busy freeway? What happens if you let your dog drive your car? Or if you drive on the wrong side of the road—or drive drunk?
The result of driving incorrectly is that you injure or kill yourself and others. Driving incorrectly sooner or later has consequences, even for the best driver in the world.
When you build a house, what happens if you place the glass where wood should be and wood where the glass should be? Or build in a flood zone? Or use highly flammable materials? The result is that your house is not functional, or you risk losing your home.
Consider playing tennis. What if you try to play tennis with a broken arm? Or use your hand as a racket? Or play with your side of the court under water? The result is you will lose the game.
Consider learning math or having surgery. What if you try to learn math by reading comic books? What if you’re scheduled for a routine appendectomy and the surgeon takes out your brain instead? In either case, you’re in trouble.
If everything in the world must be done correctly to be successful, and if our lives are literally filled with examples of the problems caused for us when we do things incorrectly, why should we conclude that salvation is any different? Why should we conclude there wouldn’t be consequences for doing salvation wrong?
Do we say it is being narrow-minded, intolerant or bigoted for us to drive sober or for surgeons to operate on us properly? Indeed, our very lives may be at stake. And if our lives are already at stake in worldly things, isn’t it also possible that our souls may be at stake in spiritual things? But a life is only for a short period of time; a soul is forever.
Then how much more vital is it that we be certain that salvationbe done correctly if our very souls are at stake? The point is that the Christian claim to exclusivity is not something that is out of harmony with how people experience life and with how the world functions. God made the world this way because He had to. Given His character. He also had to make the way of salvation through Christ and Christ alone. A fascinating, if detailed study of this can be found in the late Canadian scholar Arthur C. Custance’s The Seed of the Woman (1980).
Christianity is indeed exclusive—it claims that only those who believe in Christ will find salvation—but it is not narrow-minded, intolerant, or bigoted. People can be broadminded or narrow-minded but not ideas. Ideas are neither broad nor narrow—they are true or false. The claim that Christ is the only way of salvation is either true or false. This can be determined only on the basis of the evidence, which we briefly address below.
Those who think Christianity is intolerant should ask whetherother religions and philosophies are really as tolerant as theyclaim. In fact, they usually aren’t. So why should only Christianity be singled out for criticism? Merely because Christianity is the most honest about its beliefs?
When people claim to be tolerant, open-minded, objective, and fair, one must question such claims based on biblical revelation. Biblically speaking, if people in their natural state, prior to regeneration, are said to be God’s enemies (Romans 5:10) who deliberately suppress the truth by unrighteousness (Romans 1:18) and who, actually, hate God (Romans 1:30) where can we logically expect to find tolerance, neutrality, or objectivity regarding religion and philosophy?
Ironically, it is frequently those people who claim to be accepting and tolerant of almost anything who are not tolerant of one thing—Christian faith. Literally thousands of examples could be cited of bigotry, hypocrisy, narrow-mindedness, and intolerance expressed towards Christians for doing no more than living out the logical consequences of their own religious faith—something that those who malign Christian faith often claim to defend in all religions. Indeed, we challenge our readers to find a single religion anywhere that accepts Christianity as being fully true. Obviously, there are none, because all religions claim theyare fully true.
Christianity is exclusive, but it is not intolerant. While it seeks to convert others to faith in Christ, it respects the right of all men to choose their own destinies. But if men’s destinies are at stake in the issue of salvation, people everywhere should also rejoice that Christians are sharing the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Because if Christianity really is true, Christians have no other choice.
Is the quality of evidence for the truth of Christianity compelling?
Christianity is unique in both the evidence upon which it rests and the doctrines it teaches. Dr. Robert A. Morey writes, “There is more than enough evidence on every hand from every department of human experience and knowledge to demonstrate that Christianity is true…. [It is] the faith of the non-Christian [that] is externally and internally groundless. They are the ones who leap in the dark. Some, like Kierkegaard, have admitted this.” Further, no one anywhere can deny that “Christianity stands unique and apart from all other religions by its doctrines.”
When one examines all the arguments and attacks made against Christianity for 2,000 years, by some of the greatest minds ever, guess what one finds? Not one is valid. And not one, individually or collectively, disproves Christianity. Even regarding the most difficult problems, such as the problem of evil, Christianity has the best answer of any religion or philosophy and the best solution to the problem. If the leading minds of the world have been unable to disprove Christianity, this may explain why many of the other leading minds in the world, including those from other religions, have accepted it. James Sire correctly points out in Why Should Anyone Believe Anything At All?, an argument for belief, religious or other, must be secured on the best evidence, validly argued, and able to refute the strongest objections that can be mustered against it. In the area of finding God, only Christianity passes the test.
Obviously, if the God of the Bible has revealed Himself and if He is the only God—and if Christ is the only way of salvation—then we would expect convincing evidence in substantiation. Not just some evidence, or inferior evidence—so that a person has a dozen equally valid options in their choice of religion—but superior evidence. As Dr. John Warwick Montgomery asks:
- What if a revelational truth-claim did not turn on questions of theology and religious philosophy—on any kind of esoteric, fideistic method available only to those who are already “true believers”—but on the very reasoning employed in the law to determine questions of fact?… Eastern faiths and Islam, to take familiar examples, ask the uncommitted seeker to discover their truth experientially: the faith-experience will be self-validating…. Christianity, on the other hand, declares that the truth of its absolute claims rests squarely on certain historical facts, open to ordinary investigation…. The advantage of a jurisprudential approach lies in the difficulty of jettisoning it: legal standards of evidence developed as essential means of resolving the most intractable disputes in society…. Thus one cannot very well throw out legal reasoning merely because its application to Christianity results in a verdict for the Christian faith.
If we assume that a God of truth is dedicated to truth and desires that men find Him, then what is the most logical place to begin our search for the one true religion? And is there a religion that God has made stand apart from all others? Logically, the best, and only practical, way to see if one religion is absolutely true is to start with the largest, most unique, influential, and evidentiary religion in the world. It is much more reasonable to determine whether or not this religion is true than to seek another approach to the issue such as examining, one by one, all religions from A to Z, or picking one randomly or by personal preference.
All non-Christian religions are experientially based. As such, they cannot be proven because of their inherent subjectivism. So having profound religious experiences alone cannot prove such a religion is true. And, obviously, to attempt to examine allreligions (whether the sequence is random, preferential, or alphabetical) would be a daunting and confusing, if not impossible, task. Regardless, if there is only one God and if only one religion is fully true, then one should not expect to discover sustainable evidence in any other religion. And indeed, no other religion, anywhere, large or small, has sustainable evidence in its favor. If no credible evidence exists for any other religion and only Christianity has compelling evidence, why should any time at all be spent examining religions that have no basis to substantiate their claims? Especially if there may be significant consequences for trusting in false religion, both in this life and the next?
It is much easier, and much more logical, to start by examining probabilities of truth on the highest end of the scale.
In “The Value of an Evidential Approach,” William J. Cairney (Ph.D., Cornell) discusses some of the possibilities that constitute genuine evidence for the fact God has inspired the Bible and the Christianity based on it:
- History Written in Advance. We can all write history in retrospect, but an almighty, omnipotent Creator would not be bound by our notions of space and time, and would thus be able to write history before it occurs. Suppose that we encountered a sourcebook that contained page after page of history written in advance with such accuracy and in such detail that good guessing would be completely ruled out.
- Prescience. Suppose that in this same sourcebook, we were able to find accurate statements written ages ago demonstrating scientific knowledge and concepts far before mankind had developed the technological base necessary for discovering that knowledge or those concepts. …
- Historical Evidence. Suppose that in this same source-book, we were to find historical assertions that time after time were verified as true as historical scholarship continued….
- Archaeological Evidence. Suppose that in this same sourcebook, statements that are difficult to verify are made about people and places, but as archaeology “unearths” more knowledge of the past, time after time the sourcebook is seen to be true in its assertions.
- Philosophical and Logical Coherence. Suppose that this same sourcebook, even though written piecemeal over thousands of years, contains well-developed common themes and is internally consistent.
- And suppose all of these evidences hang together without internal contradiction or literary stress within the same anthology. Collectively, we could not take these evidences lightly.
Overall, the evidence strongly asserts that Christianity is true, whether that evidence is internal (the documents), philosophical, moral, historical, scientific, archaeological, or when compared with the evidence found in other religions. For example, “The competence of the New Testament documents would be established in any court of law” and “Modern archaeological research has confirmed again and again the reliability of New Testament geography, chronology, and general history.” Further, as the noted classical scholar Professor E. M. Blaiklock points out,
- Recent archaeology has destroyed much nonsense and will destroy more. And I use the word nonsense deliberately, for theories and speculations find currency in [liberal] biblical scholarship that would not be tolerated for a moment in any other branch of literary or historical criticism.
In essence, only Christianity meets the burden of proof necessary to say, “This religion alone is fully true.” That means Jesus Christ really is the only way of salvation. And no one can argue successfully that Christianity has not been thoroughly investigated. As the fifth edition of Man’s Religion by John B. Noss points out,
- The first Christian century has had more books written about it than any other comparable period of history. The chief sources bearing on its history are the gospels and epistles of the New Testament, and these—again we must make a comparative statement—have been more thoroughly searched by inquiring minds than any other books ever written.
What are some specific examples of the evidence for Christianity?
Among many possible lines of evidence for Christianity, we have selected two we feel will command the attention of any open-minded person—specifically, fulfilled prophecy and the historical resurrection of Jesus Christ. First, the existence of specifically fulfilled prophecy in the Bible cannot be denied. For example, the internal and external evidence both clearly support a pre-neo-Babylonian composition for the book of Isaiah (seventh century BC) and a neo-Babylonian composition for the book of Daniel (sixth century BC). Yet Isaiah predicts and describes what King Cyrus will do (by name) over 100 years before he even lived (Isaiah 44:28-45:6). Isaiah also describes the specific nature and death of the Jewish Messiah 700 years in advance (Isaiah 9:6; 53:1-12), and the Babylonian captivity of Judah 100 years in advance (Isaiah 39:5-7). Indeed, the Assyrian captivity is hinted at by Moses as early as 1400 BC in Deuteronomy 28:64-66.
Similarly, in 530 BC, hundreds of years in advance, the prophet Daniel (Matthew 24:15) predicts the Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman empires so clearly that antisupernaturalists are forced, against all the evidence, to date this book at 165 BC and thus imply it is a forgery (cf., Daniel 2, 7, 11:1-35 in light of subsequent Persian, Greek, and Roman history and the dynasties of the Egyptians and Syrians). First Kings 13:1, 2 predicts King Josiah 300 years before he was born, and Micah5:2 predicts the very birthplace of Jesus 700 years before He was born. In the November 2003 issue of the ATRI Journal, we provided a great deal of additional evidence of supernatural prophecy in the Bible, and we show why this is impossible to explain apart from the divine inspiration of the Bible. How are we to account for such things if the Bible is not a book inspired by God? Nothing like this is found in other religions.
Second, nothing like the historical resurrection of Christ is found in other religions. As Newsweek magazine commented in its cover story for April 8, 1996 (p. 61), “By any measure, the resurrection of Jesus is the most radical of Christian doctrines… of no other historical figure has the claim been made persistently that God has raised him from the dead.” In light of the evidence, the resurrection cannot logically be denied and, if it is true, given the teachings of Jesus, it proves beyond a reasonable doubt that Christianity alone is fully true. (See our Knowing the Truth about the Resurrection.)
How? On the authority of accepted principles of historic and textual analysis, the New Testament documents can be shown to be reliable and trustworthy. That is, they give accurate primary source evidence for the life and death of Jesus Christ. In 2,000 years the New Testament authors have never been proven unethical, dishonest, or the object of deception. In the Gospel records, Jesus claims to be God incarnate (John 5:18; 10:27- 33); He exercises innumerable divine prerogatives, and fully rests His claims on His numerous, abundantly testified, historically unparalleled miracles (John 10:37, 38), and His forthcoming physical resurrection from the dead (John 10:17, 18). No one else ever did this.
Christ’s resurrection is minutely described in the gospels; it was subject to repeated eyewitness verification by skeptics; and over 2,000 years it has never been disproved despite the detailed scholarship of the world’s best skeptics. Nor can the resurrection be rejected a priori on antisupernaturalist grounds, for miracles are impossible only if so defined. The probability of a miracle is determined by the cumulative weight of the evidence, not philosophical bias.
To illustrate the quality of the evidence for the resurrection, a two-day public debate was held between Dr. Gary R. Habermas, a Christian scholar, and Antony Flew, a leading philosopher and skeptic of the resurrection. Ten independent judges, all of whom served on the faculty of American universities, were to render a verdict. The first panel of judges was composed of five philosophers who were instructed to evaluate the debate content and judge the winner. The second panel of judges was told to evaluate the argumentation technique of the debaters.
The results on content were four votes in favor of the Christian argument, one vote for a draw, and no vote in favor of the skeptical position. The decision on argumentation technique was three to two in favor of the Christian debater. The overall decision of both panels was seven to two in favor of the Christian position, with one draw. With one of the world’s leading philosophers defending the skeptical position, the judges were often surprised that the outcome resulted so heavily in favor of the resurrection. The details are given in Did Jesus Rise From the Dead? The Resurrection Debate (Terry L. Miethe, ed., Harper & Row, 1987). But the fact is that hundreds of such professional debates on the resurrection, the existence of God, the creation-evolution controversy, etc., have now been held. And Christians characteristically win the debates. If Christian truth claims withstand all counter arguments and win in scholarly debate, isn’t this compelling evidence Christianity is true?
Why is the resurrection important to each of us personally?
In The Son Rises, an excellent text on the historical and logical evidence for the resurrection. Dr. William Lane Craig gives the following important anecdote:
- “There ain’t gonna be no Easter this year,” a student friend remarked to me.
- “Why not?” I asked incredulously.
- “They found the body.”
- Despite his irreverent humor, my friend displayed a measure of insight often not shared by modern [liberal] theologians. His joke correctly perceived that without the resurrection Christianity is worthless.
- The earliest Christians would certainly have agreed with my friend. The apostle Paul put it straight and simple: “If Christ was not raised then neither our preaching nor your faith has any meaning at all…. If Christ did not rise your faith is futile and your sins have never been forgiven” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17, phillips). For the earliest Christians, Jesus’ resurrection was a historical fact, every bit as real as His death on the cross. Without the resurrection, Christianity would have been simply false. Jesus would have been just another prophet who had met His unfortunate fate at the hands of the Jews. Faith in Him as Lord, Messiah, or Son of God would have been stupid. There would be no use in trying to save the situation by interpreting the resurrection as some sort of symbol. The cold, hard facts of reality would remain: Jesus was dead and anything He started died with Him.
- David C. K. Watson tells the true story of another man who understood this, with tragic consequences. The man was a retired clergyman who in his spare time began to study the thought of certain modern theologians on the resurrection. He read books on the resurrection and watched television talk shows on the subject. In his old age, he felt sure that the highly educated professors and writers knew far more than he did and that they were surely right when they said Jesus had not literally risen from the dead. He understood clearly what that meant for him: His whole life and ministry had been based on a bundle of lies. He committed suicide.
- I believe that modern theologians must answer to God for that man’s death. One cannot make statements on such matters without accepting part of the responsibility for the consequences. The average layman probably expects that theologians would be biased in favor of the resurrection, when in fact exactly the opposite is often true. It has not been historians who have denied the historical resurrection of Jesus, but theologians. Why this strange situation? According to Carl Braaten, theologians who deny the resurrection have not done so on historical grounds; rather theology has been derailed by existentialism and historicism, which have a stranglehold on the formation of theological statements. Hence, the statements of ma