Is Jesus Really the Only Way to God/Part 4 | John Ankerberg Show

Is Jesus Really the Only Way to God/Part 4

By: Dr. John Weldon
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By: Dr. John Ankerberg with various Scholars; ©{{{copyright}}}
Part II—Analysis: The Truth That Is There: Can a Person Find the One True God? What happens when we compare the basics of Christianity to other philosophies and religions? What happens when we compare the basics of Christianity to other philosophies and religions?

Ed. note: This article is based upon the transcript from programs produced by the John Ankerberg Show. Additional material has been added for this print version.

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Part II—Analysis: 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.[1]

If we break down the doctrine of salvation into its component parts (see note 1), 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 ever acquire 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?

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”[2] and “Man is a useless passion.”[3] 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.”[4] 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.”[5]

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 personal immortality. 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.”[6]

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.”[7] Andy Warhol declared of his six-hour film showing a man sleeping, “It keeps you from thinking. I wish I were a machine.”[8] “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?[9]

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.”[10]

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.[11]

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 in questions 6-8.

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 and one 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 Question 5, 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.

Read Part 5

Notes

  1. In addition to Soteriology (the doctrine of Salvation, basic Christian doctrines include Bibliology, the doctrine of the Bible; Theology Proper, the doctrine of God (theism, Trinitarianism); Angelology, the doctrine of angels, elect and reprobate; Anthropology, the doctrine of man; Harmartiology, the doctrine of sin; Ecclesiology, the doctrine of the church; Christology, the doctrine of Christ; Pneumatology, the doctrine of the Holy Spirit; and Eschatology, the doctrine of last things. All these doctrines are unique in key ways when compared with those in other religions. Under the doctrine of salvation, we find the doctrines of depravity, imputation, grace, propitiation/atonement, reconciliation, calling, regeneration, union with Christ, conversion (repentance/faith), justification, adoption, sanctification, eternal security (perseverance), election/predestination, redemption, and death, resurrection and the final state. Despite the surface similarities of some of these doctrines to those in other faiths, these doctrines are also unique.
  2. Cited in Clark Pinnock, Set Forth Your Case (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 9.
  3. Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness (London: Methuen, 1957), p. 566.
  4. Frits Staal, “Indian Concepts of the Body,” Somatics, Autumn/Winter 1983-1984, p. 33.
  5. Ajith Fernando, The Supremacy of Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1995), p. 241.
  6. Leslie Paul, The Annihilation of Man (NY: Harcourt Brace, 1945), p. 154, from Arthur Custance, A Framework of History (Doorway Paper, #29, Ottawa, 1968), p. III.
  7. Albert Camus, The Rebel, A. Bower, trans. (Hammondsworth: Penguin, 1962), p. 16, from Os Guinness, The Dust of Death (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973), p. 37.
  8. Cited in Clark Pinnock, Live Now Brother (Chicago, Moody Press, 1972), p. 18.
  9. Walter Kaufman, Nietzsche (NY: Vintage, 1968), p. 97, citing Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882), p. 125. The full citation is given in Fredrick Nietzsche, “The Madman,” a section of The Gay Science in Walter Kaufman, ed., The Portable Nietzsche (NY: Viking, 1954), p. 125.
  10. Kaufman, Nietzsche, p. 97.
  11. See R.C. Sproul, Not A Chance. Scholarly works such as W. R. Bird’s The Origin of Species Revisited (Philosophical Library, 2 Vols., 1993), Michael Denton’s Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (Adler & Adler, 1986), A. E. Wilder-Smith’s The Natural Sciences Know Nothing of Evolution (Master Books, 1981), Phillip E. Johnson’s Darwin on Trial (InterVarsity, 1993), James Coppedge’s Evolution: Possible Or Impossible? (Zondervan, 1973), and many others should prove this to any thinking person who does not allow naturalistic philosophical biases to dominate his worldview. In addition, books like J. P. Moreland’s (ed.) The Creation Hypothesis: Scientific Evidence for An Intelligent Designer (InterVarsity, 1994) and A. E. Wilder-Smith’s The Scientific Alternative to Neo- Darwinian Evolutionary Theory (T.W.F.P. Publishers, 1987) demonstrate that there is solid scientific evidence for a rational belief in creationism. Books such as Robert Clarke and James Bales’ Why Scientists Accept Evolution (Baker, 1976) and Phillip E. Johnson’s Reason in the Balance: The Case Against NATURALISM in Science, Law and Education (InterVarsity, 1995) provide additional important information on this issue. In general, the academic qualifications of the authors of these books are both highly distinguished and impeccable.

Dr. John Weldon

Dr. John Weldon

Dr. John Weldon (born February 6, 1948) went to be with the Lord on August 30, 2014 following a long-time battle with cancer. John served for more than 20 years as a researcher for The John Ankerberg Show. During his tenure, he authored or coauthored more than 100 books, including the best-selling Facts On Series of books that has sold more than 2.5 million copies in 16 languages. His final book, published in July 2014 with Harvest House Publishers (coauthored with John Ankerberg), is especially fitting. How to Know You’re Going to Heaven offers a biblical and personal look at the way God has provided salvation through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12) and the confidence the believer can have of eternity with Him in heaven (1 John 5:13). John’s life and work have touched countless others seeking to grow spiritually and better understand the Bible. His friends describe him as genuine, humble, and passionate to share the hope of eternal life with everyone he met. His work will continue through his many books, his online writings at The John Ankerberg Show website (JAshow.org), as well as through the many people John has personally influenced through his ministry.
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