Probably no assertion of Christianity is as offensive to more people than the assertion that Christ is the only way to God.
It is an integral part of Christianity because it is so clearly stated in Scripture. It is difficult to be a Christian without also believing in the absolute uniqueness of Christianity to bridge the gap between God and man.
Such a reality is explicitly detailed in Scripture, so if Christians believe in the truth of Scripture, they also believe in the truth of this exclusivity claim; there is no other way to God.
Christ was very clear when he said,
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Most non-Christians find the exclusivity claim of Christianity to be particularly offensive, particularly in the society of today where inclusivity and diversity of opinion are held to be of paramount importance. For example, Oprah Winfrey claimed that there are “millions of ways” to get to God, including New Age gurus such as Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle.
The non-Christian often treats the Biblical assertion of exclusivity as mere circular logic, and there is no extra-Biblical reason to believe Christianity is unique from any other religious – or for that matter, non-religious – world view. Those who are adherents believe in the exclusivity of their world view, including Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Baha’is, among many others.
There are also many others who hold a belief system that is not formalized into any religious movements such as with New Age philosophy.
More recently, the New Atheist movement proposes there is no Supreme Being at all and any evidence for one is merely wishful thinking. The whole question of exclusivity becomes irrelevant in the atheist worldview.
Atheists have come to call themselves the “Brights” while those who hold a religious worldview are the “Dims.” The Bright’s website asserts they “have a naturalistic worldview, free of supernatural or mystical elements.”
Objections to Christian Exclusivity
The objection is often raised that individuals raised in a society where a particular religion is practiced usually grow up believing in that religion. It is familiar, understood, and often part of the culture while other religions are foreign and difficult to comprehend.
Another objection is how can a Christian legitimately propose the exclusive truth of their faith when they have not even evaluated the vast majority of other religious worldviews throughout the world. There are literally thousands of different religious belief systems, and within each system, there are often further differentiating sects and factions.
A Christian who holds Scripture to be God’s Word is being disingenuous when he “knows” Christianity to be the only path to God when he has not examined the other paths.
Christians often seem not only to be intolerant but also have willful ignorance of their non-Christian neighbor’s belief system.
An Evaluation of the Exclusivity Claim of Christianity
Christians are frequently fuzzy about this exclusivity claim and have difficulty defending its truth due to the above-noted objections. A cursory evaluation of different religious belief systems seems to show more similarities than differences. The belief in the commonality of mankind, being good to your neighbor, helping the poor, and doing good works all are shared among religions to some extent.
But there are many fundamental differences among religious belief systems as well.
Religions are often mutually exclusive so the pablum that “all religions are alike” is not logically valid. For example, both Muslims and Christians believe they have God’s Truth and the other is mistaken – both can not be correct (although both could be wrong).
Religious belief must be more than just an accident of birthplace; there have to be empiric, logically valid and internally consistent reasons to believe in a particular worldview since a belief system largely determines motivation and interactions with the outside world.
There also needs to be a means for the evaluation of the thousands of religions and other worldviews without an intimate knowledge of each of them. Most do not have the means or even inclination to evaluate each worldview according to its individual merits. Plus, the accusation could always be made that a worldview investigator was prejudiced according to his own culture and viewpoints.
Objectivity of Evaluation
Evaluation of religious truth claims must be with whether it is supportive, objective evidence. One of the most popular means for this type of evaluation has been proposed by Ravi Zacharias – a now Christian apologist with extensive training in multiple religious viewpoints. Raised in India as a Hindu lost his faith and became suicidal and struggled urgently to determine whether life is worth living.
He developed a method for viewpoint evaluation; whether it can explain humanity’s origin, the meaning – if any – of life, how to decide what is good and bad, and what is your ultimate destiny – especially if there is life after death.
If one particular religious worldview best represents reality, then its insistence on representing objective truth must seriously be considered. Any belief system, be it atheist or religious, has to have certain characteristics that make it more likely to represent reality. Having faith in any belief system should be grounded in fact.
These four tests might be listed as follows:
The answers each worldview provides for these tests can then be empirically evaluated by science or philosophy to determine how well they correspond to the truth as we best know it, and how well the answers to each question complement each other or coherence.
A worldview that has become more popular recently is atheism – the belief that there is no God, and that our presence on this unimportant rock orbiting an unimportant star is meaningless. There is no objective morality and our ultimate destiny is to rot in the ground eventually to be forgotten by all as our family and friends follow us into oblivion.
Certainly a dark worldview; however, atheists often frame themselves as being noble followers of science where it leads.
I will not here try to write a treatise about the conflicts within atheism but will evaluate utilizing the above noted four tests.
Origins. Atheists have a problem here despite their objections to the contrary. An atheist needs to explain how something (the universe) came into being from nothing. For example, Lawrence Krauss has proposed a model of “vacuum genesis” where the entire universe began as a single particle arising from an energy vacuum. Krauss published his model in a popular book A Universe from Nothing.
Reviewers of this model object that Krauss is not really starting from “nothing” as this theory requires relativistic quantum fields which is arguably something and not nothing. For example, Sean Carroll noted,
Do advances in modern physics and cosmology help us address these underlying questions, of why there is something called the universe at all, and why there are things called “the laws of physics,” and why these laws seem to take the form of quantum mechanics, and why some particular wave function and Hamiltonian? In a word: no. I don’t see how they could.
Krauss’ theory fails as he tries to define “nothing” as “something.”
Some have pleaded the multiverse, explaining that we live in but one of the millions of universes – or perhaps an infinite number of universes so that the explanation of our existence is merely a chance occurrence. Given enough time and space, anything and everything becomes possible.
Origin of life also is difficult for the atheist because science today has no idea how life started on earth. Furthermore, the best laboratories in the world have not been able to produce a simple bacteria from shelf chemicals. Yet, the atheist supposes life cam into existence somehow in the wild. Seems unlikely.
And then there is the problem of information. Every cell of our body contains information in the form of DNA and proteins. No scientist has the faintest idea as to how the information for making life chemicals occurred in nature. In fact, the gigabytes of information within each cell’s DNA is meticulously guarded by other processes to keep it from making errors as its code is translated. There are hundreds of biochemical pathways that are carefully controlled so that chemicals are made and processed when needed. The complexity of even the simplest bacteria is staggering.
Meaning. The atheist believes there is no ultimate meaning of life. You may try to find some meaning yourself, but the world would not much care if your existence stopped tonight. Maybe you might get a few accolades from your fellow atheists but eventually, you will rot in the ground.
Atheists have a suicide problem which they blame on many causes but one seems obvious; the ultimately meaningless nature of life apparently leads to an increased incidence of depression, loneliness, lower levels of dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the brain. Atheists also give less to charitable and volunteer work per capita and the theist population and presumably have less satisfaction with their life.
Morality Certainly, an atheist can lead a moral life, and frankly, many atheists lead a more moral life than some religious people. But an atheist has no objective basis for their morality.
History has shown that morality not based upon an objective standard can lead to serious societal problems. The last century saw abundant evidence of the result of ungrounded moral judgment.
Nazi Germany believed it was for the greater good of society – and therefore moral – that handicapped people, those with mental retardation, those who were of the wrong ethnic background (especially Jews) should be disposed of in order to allow the German race to prosper.
More recently, those without religious conviction affirm letting a child born alive after a failed abortion is acceptable as long as it is done in consultation between physician and family.
George Bernard Shaw was a very prolific English playwright with considerable influence over English politics. Shaw believed that individuals were only worth as much as they could produce for society, and if they no longer could prove their worth, they needed to be killed – humanely, of course.
Destiny. The atheist does not believe in “destiny” – there is no existence after bodily death and so there is no concept of eternal destiny.
Atheism fails the tests of origins, destiny, morality, and meaning on multiple grounds. For the atheist, there is no objective morality and so anything becomes possible (as noted above), there is no meaning to life leading to increased rates of despair and suicide, there is no destiny other than to rot in the ground, and there is no origin of our universe despite Big Bang cosmology.
Atheists believe the universe (multiverse) is likely eternal while empirical evidence suggests the contrary.
Atheists deny objective morality which places a society in danger of selecting a morality that places individuals in grave dangers such as with abortion, euthanasia (whether voluntary or not), ethnic cleansing from an ethnic group that considers itself so superior that inferior groups must be killed, etc.
Atheists have no ultimate meaning to their life and realize they will be forgotten within a few years of their death. Such a viewpoint frequently leads to despair, depression, and suicide; their only destiny is to become plant food in the ground or ashes scattered to the wind.
Summary – is Christ the Only Way to God?
Worldviews can be loosely classified into three groups:
- Those who believe only in a Universe (with no God) – these are the atheists
- Those who believe only in a God (with no material universe) – these are the Asian religions
- Those who believe in both a God and a Universe; are only Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
When evaluating religious worldviews, you do not need to be an expert in all religious believes – only have an understanding of these three large groups.
Atheism leads to despair and depression as it suggests there is no ultimate meaning for life and no reason for existence, Asian religions believe there is, in reality, no material universe, and everything that is material is illusory. The three Abrahamic religions are the only ones who believe in a world (universe, multiverse) that is created by God.
Christianity is the only Abrahamic religion that offers everybody forgiveness for the asking, a morality to keep you on the best track toward happiness and a fulfilled life, agrees with the best science concerning there being a beginning of space and time, and that we have an ultimate destiny to live as an adopted child of God.