Is Christianity different from other religions? Does it really matter what you believe? Do all roads lead to heaven? Are the claims of the Bible true? These questions are more relevant today than perhaps ever. Students and others are being challenged to understand what Islam really teaches and how the teachings of the Qur'an compare to what the Bible teaches.
According to theologian Dr. Timothy George, in the post-September 11 world there's been an outpouring of good will that is expressed toward the unity of all people and away from the kind of divisiveness that so often rears its ugly head. The problem, George points out, is that we're seeing an over-reaction -- a kind of easy-going ecumenism that would amalgamate different faith traditions into a single homogenized whole. (breakpoint.org) One evidence of this is the bumper sticker that reads “coexist,” the letters of which are made from symbols of many of the world’s religions.
We see this tendency to boil every belief down to some sort of common denominator throughout our culture. Popular television programs, especially shows like “Oprah,” would have us believe that all roads lead to the same place. Her guest list reads like a “Who’s Who” of New Age religion, with the likes of Deepak Chopra, whose teachings come out of Hinduism, and Gary Zukav, who espouses reincarnation.
So should we who follow Christ be theologically inclusive and open our arms to embrace every religious view? Should we consider every religion on earth as equally valid? Are we being narrow minded to claim that Jesus is the only way to God? Is it possible to be so open minded that our brains fall out? Are the claims of Christianity exclusive?
Let me borrow some thoughts from Paul Little, whose book, "Know Why You Believe" should be a must read for every Christian.
For the Christian it is impossible to be theologically inclusive. The cornerstone of the Christian message is Jesus Christ – God come to earth. Without this basis, every other part of the Christian faith lacks meaning. In fact, a multitude of verses in the New Testament assert this basic belief. (Know Why You Believe, pp 132-133)
So, what does the Bible teach about Jesus?
First of all, the Bible states that Jesus is God. Jesus Himself said, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” (John 14:9) “I and the Father are one.” (John 10:30) We cannot settle for what many people want to consider Jesus today – simply a great teacher, a good man, or a prophet. No one who claims to be God and isn’t could be considered a good teacher. He would either be a liar or a lunatic. (hat tip to C.S. Lewis) Our only choice, since Jesus Himself claimed to be God, is to take Him at His word or disregard Him as crazy.
Secondly, the Bible teaches that Jesus is the means of salvation for the entire world. In John 3:16 Jesus states, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
In Acts Peter says emphatically that, “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)
Again, Jesus declared, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6)
The Bible teaches that Jesus is God and became a man; that He lived a sinless life; that He died in our place, taking our sin on Himself; that He was buried; and that, three days later, He arose from death and even now lives as King of kings and Lord of lords. (see 1Corinthians 15:3-4)
This is a truth that cannot be watered down nor compromised, because it is at the heart of the Christian faith.