(March 26, 2019) Dr Jim McClure, straight shooting theologian, challenges a undermining deceit…
Is it, as some claim, unloving and bigoted to claim that Jesus is the only way to God?
Today we are being bombarded by a range of views that have one thing in common – they seek to undermine the millennia old Christian principles on which many nations have been built.
One of the worldviews that is being more and more widely peddled and increasingly accepted in today’s rather confused world is called ‘Religious pluralism.’ This is part of the so-called ‘progressive’ agenda of those who seek to erase Western culture, conservative standards and, above all, biblical values.
‘Many’ ways to God?
Religious pluralism, which is usually promoted in the media as a wonderfully tolerant and progressive thing, may be defined as the belief that all religions are equally valid as there are many paths to God (or gods) and the idea that there is only one way to know the true God is objectionable and intolerant.
Susan Laemmle, Rabbi and former Dean of Religious Life at University of Southern California has made this comment that ‘… all spiritual paths are finally leading to the same sacred ground.’ In other words, she is stating that there are many ways to God. To such people the differences among various religions are superficial for ultimately they all are giving directions to God.
Regrettably there are many who claim to be Christians (even some church pastors!) who make the claim that there are more than one way to God!
The late, highly esteemed conservative theologian, John Stott defined religious pluralism as ‘an affirmation of the validity of every religion, and the refusal to choose between them, and the rejection of world evangelism …’
World evangelism is consequently immediately ruled out when the viewpoint of religious pluralism is embraced. So too is…
- Personal evangelism.
- Increasingly in schools today, anything that refers to Jesus, such as Christmas carols.
- In some cases, any comment about Jesus in some business environments.
1. Some things people say about Jesus today
He was a –
- Very special man
- Superb example of how to live
- Major prophet
- Great spiritual leader
- Wonderful teacher.
There are many who would be willing to say that about Jesus – but go no further!
C S Lewis, who was a professor at Cambridge University and once an agnostic, challenged this non-committed position. He wrote, ‘I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the son of God: or else a madman or something worse.” So, was Jesus the Son of God, a madman or something worse?’
Jesus knew that people held different opinions about him. In Luke 9:18-19 we read, ‘Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”’ There was a lot of speculation but none of the guesses hit the mark!
Then Jesus asked his disciples (verse 20) ‘”But what about you? … Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”’ That’s it! He had got it – even if he hadn’t fully understood what he had just said.
2. Something John stated about Jesus in his gospel
In order to understand the depth and significance of how Jesus described himself, we have to start in Exodus chapter three where we read about God meeting with Moses and telling him to return to Egypt to lead the Israelites out of slavery.
Then we read in verses 13-14, ‘Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you”.’
The Hebrew name ‘Yahweh’ is related to the phrase ‘I am.’ The name dominates the Old Testament and occurs 6521 times. It was considered to be too sacred to be spoken by the Israelites, and it is translated in the many English translations as ‘LORD’ (capital letters)
Yahweh is a difficult word to translate but means something like, ‘I am who I am’ or ‘I will be who I will be’ or ‘I am the eternally existing one.’ It refers therefore to God’s self-existence and his eternal nature. No one but the Eternal Creator, the Lord God Almighty, can be called by the name ‘I am.’ That was clearly understood by the Israelites in Old Testament times and by practising Jews today.
The relevance of the phrase ‘I am’ in John’s gospel becomes very clear when we read how many times Jesus used it in reference in reference to himself. The New Testament was written in Greek and the phrase ‘I am’ is normally expressed using just one Greek word, eimi. However when ‘I am’ is written in Greek as ego eimi it means ‘I myself am’ or ‘I the one who exists.’
This was the equivalent to using the divine name, and it was this phrase that Jesus deliberately used concerning himself. He knew what the Old Testament said and he would have been familiar with the words of Isaiah 41:4, ‘… I, the LORD – with the first of them and with the last – I am he.’
So when Jesus referred to himself as ‘I am’ (using the formula ego eimi), He was embracing a phrase that identified with God’s name. When he used it, he was claiming to be God.
In John 1:1 John wrote quite unambiguously, ‘The word was God.’ John used the phrase ego eimi significantly more than the other gospel writers because he clearly wanted to emphasise the fact that Jesus really was and still is and always will be the Lord God Almighty. Here is a fact – the phrase ego eimi occurs twenty four times in this gospel and there are seven references that are particularly important because in them Jesus was clearly declaring his true identity.
Jesus – the way to God
In John 14: 6 Jesus said, ‘I AM (ego eimi) the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.’ Jesus was closing the debate on that matter! Only Jesus Christ is the true and living way!
And Peter, in Act 4:12, refusing to back down when he was being threatened, boldly stated concerning Jesus, ‘There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’
This glorious truth does not need to be –
- Compromised or
- Apologised for.
Rather it should be confidently and courageously proclaimed regardless of the consequences. There is too much at stake if we don’t – and it diminishes the eternal significance of Jesus’ death on the cross.
‘Only one way to know the true God’ may be claimed by some to be objectionable and intolerant, unloving and bigoted. It isn’t!
As Christians worldwide will celebrate next month, a loving, caring Jesus expressed this truth just before he suffered and died on that old rugged cross to become the Saviour of the world!
Something else that John wrote… ‘For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son’ (John 3:16-18NLT).
Jesus is the true way to God! Hallelujah!
Dr Jim McClure, author of several books and Bible study series, welcomes questions from Christians seeking enlightenment on biblical perspectives.
Recommended are his enlightening Grace Revisited and Looking for Answers in a Confusing World; also Overview of the Old and New Testaments, Love, Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage, The Masonic Deception, Word of Life in the Old and New Testaments, Interpreting the Letter of James. All are available in electronic version in EPUB, Kindle and PDF formats with hyperlinks and offered free. Link for orders and questions: firstname.lastname@example.org