by Bill Nugent
On Tuesday December 17, 2002 on MSNBC Phil Donahue hosted a panel of scholars in the discussion of the question “Is Jesus the only way to heaven?” As usual on these types of shows the discussion got rather loud and confused. Sober, scholarly reflection was drowned out by rude interruptions and hostile audience remarks. One hyperventilating panelist even accused Christians of tending toward “spiritual bigotry” because we believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven.
Let me first clear the air by saying that Christianity is not the only religion or ideology that makes exclusive truth claims. Every religion claims to be true. Anyone who has studied logic knows that a truth claim is an implicit rejection of everything that contradicts that truth claim. For instance a Hindu believes Hinduism to be true and therefore regards anything that directly contradicts Hinduism to be false. In another example a secular humanist believes that humans evolved from apelike creatures. The secularist rejects creationism not because he’s a “spiritual bigot” but simply because he affirms secularism.
Any truth claim is by definition an exclusive truth claim!
Getting back to our Hindu example, Hinduism teaches that people die and are reincarnated over and over until they live righteously and then enter paradise. Hinduism in its purest form teaches that everyone, no matter what their religion is now, will eventually be reincarnated as a good Hindu in a future life and then enter paradise. Hindus therefore believe that Hinduism is the only way to paradise.
The central truth claim of Christianity regarding personal salvation is that Jesus died for our sins. Jesus said that He came“to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28 NAS). In this passage Jesus is saying that He came to give His life as a ransom which means He came to die in our place. Paul the apostle wrote “if righteousness comes through the Law,[i.e., if we could qualify for heaven by our own lawkeeping] then Christ died needlessly” (Galatians 2:21 NAS). Peter the apostle wrote that Jesus “bore our sins in His body on the cross” (I Peter 2:24 NAS).
Buddha did not claim to die for anyone’s sins. Zoroaster didn’t die for our sins. Neither did Mohammed or Confucius. The Christian truth claim is quite unique. Indeed, Jesus made the oft quoted statement: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6 NAS).
The boldness of the Christian truth claim is backed up by supernatural witness. The miracles that Jesus performed and the miracles of the apostles that followed Him gave witness to the truth of the Christian salvation message. Eyewitnesses recorded the miracles in the written record of the New Testament. Miracles performed in the name of Jesus have continued down through the centuries and even occur in our own times.
Another aspect of the supernatural witness to the truth of the Gospel is the hundreds of predictive prophecies and fulfillments contained in the Bible. Jesus’ life and ministry was prophesied centuries before He came. Other historical events in the affairs of nations were predictively prophesied in the Bible centuries before they came to pass. Books have been written showing how Bible prophecies have been fulfilled down to the most minute detail.The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel and Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell are two such books.
No other sacred or scholarly writing such as the Koran, the HinduVedas, the Upanishads or The Origin of Species can make anything like the Bible’s claim of predictive prophecy and fulfillment. Prophetic fulfillment is like the microprinting on a hundred dollar bill that proves it’s genuine. Prophetic fulfillment is a sort of divine signature on the Bible that proves that it is inspired by God. It is eminently logical to take the Bible at face value because it is true. It is also eminently logical to reject the sacred writings of other faiths because they are not true.
In the 19th century, in the early days of the modernist controversy, certain people objected to the Gospel and regarded it as primitive that God would pour out His wrath on His beloved Son and cause His Son to suffer in our place. In other words they just didn’t like it. They just didn’t like the Christian salvation message! I would hasten to point out that the important thing is not whether or not you like the Gospel message. The important thing to consider is whether or not it is true!!!
I happen to regard the message of Jesus’ self sacrifice on our behalf to be a thing of great beauty but that’s not why I believe it. I believe it because it’s true! The Gospel message is vindicated by more supernatural miraculous phenomena than any other message in the history of the world!!! I urge you therefore to receive the free gift of salvation that Jesus provided for us through His death and resurrection on our behalf.