IS JESUS THE ONLY WAY TO GOD?
Special Address: Easter Luncheon 2005
22nd March 2005
This week in the NSW Parliament the Anti-Discrimination Amendment (Religious Tolerance) Bill will be moved by The Hon. Peter Breen. Last week the House of Lords, after a marathon 31 hour continuous sitting threw out a similar law in the United Kingdom. Our freedom of speech is a precious right. Restrictions on that freedom allows totalitarianism to flourish. Everything should be able to be discussed and debated. For a Government to censure our discussion (except for reason of treason, inciting racial hatred, blasphemy, and defamation of others) is unbelievable, but that is what the Victorian Government has already done.
As a result two Victorian pastors, Danny Scott and Danny Nalliah were charged under the anti-vilification Act for teaching about Islam in their churches. A judge last December found the two Christian pastors guilty of religious vilification for conducting the seminar. So far their defence has cost over half a million dollars. That should concern every Australian. The two former Muslim pastors know the Koran, and quoted it. No evidence was presented to show they vilified any Muslim. In fact they encouraged Christians to love Muslims. But Judge Michael Higgins, finds this in conflict with Victoria’s Racial and Religious Tolerance Act that everywhere is described as bad law. Religious fundamentalism — and particularly Islamic fundamentalism — is a real and growing phenomenon that has led to terrorism. Such world views need to be discussed. Judge Higgins lists examples of Pastor Daniel Scot’s quoting from the Koran as evidence of vilification. But quotes from the Koran are issues of fact available for anyone to read.
Statements in the Koran on the treatment of women, or the attitude of the Koran to Christians and Jews are matters of fact widely discussed. Are we to ignore these facts of the Koran and its inspiration to some Muslims? While all Muslims don’t interpret the Koran literally, some do, so its literal meaning may therefore be subject to public debate. This should apply equally to the doctrine or religious texts of any religion. Such freedom of speech is essential. The judge was also concerned that Pastor Danny Nalliah discussed other issues that have long been a point of public debate — for example, the existence of the fundamentalist Muslim schools and their well-established links to terrorism, and the growth of mosques in places such as Britain.
These subjects are freely debated in the public domain. It is difficult to see how anyone could judge their being raised in a presentation on Islam to be unreasonable. The best protection we have against terrorism based on worldviews is free speech. No worldview — including Christianity and Islam — should be spared critical examination. The judgement exposes this law as flawed, because it discourages essential public debate. We are today increasingly facing different belief systems. This is called pluralism. Pluralism is a demographic term used to describe the varieties of countries represented in Australia today. A second use is to describe the multitude of cultures in our social diversity. Both of these uses are acceptable by Christians. But there is a third use of pluralism that is not acceptable, even though some Christians use it. That is, pluralism describes all religions as being equally true and valuable to individuals and society.
When the former Secretary of the World Council of Churches Dr W A Visser’t Hooft was asked, “What is the major issue in missiology today?” he replied without hesitation, “The uniqueness of Christ. If Jesus is not unique, there is no gospel.” Today a major shift in Christian doctrine has been described as crossing “a theological Rubicon” the line beyond which Christians should not step. Yet some Church ministers have moved to a pluralist theology rejecting the uniqueness of Christ and Christianity. Instead they believe that all religions are equal.
Christians cannot cross this theological Rubicon. Rather we need to affirm again that unique “Rubicon crossing” event of twenty centuries ago: the redemptive entering of God into human history in the person of Jesus Christ. Unless Jesus is the only way to God, there is no gospel, no mission and no Saviour. The uniqueness of the person and mission of Jesus is crucial. Dr Seuss speaks a great truth to children: “Today you are you, and it’s truer than true, That there’s no-one alive who is you-er than you.” If each of us is unique, is it surprising that God’s Son, Jesus, would be unique? That’s the meaning behind His birth: Jesus was conceived within a virgin — no contribution by man required! That was why He was born in a manger among the sacrificial sheep for the Temple of Bethlehem — He was to be the Lamb of God to take away the sin of the world. That was why He healed people and raised them from the dead: He was unique. That is why He had to suffer and to die upon the cross for the salvation of humanity: He was unique. That was why God raised Him from the grave to eternal life as no other person: He was unique.
The theology of this uniqueness is summed up in one word that is translated by two English words: “only begotten” son of the Father. In the Nicene Creed we say: “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father”. This key word “only begotten” is of great significance in the history of the Church. The NIV translates the word “God’s one and only son.” John writes: 1 Jn 4:9–10 “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice.” Only the Son reveals God 4:9 and redeems humanity.4:10
These two ideas are elaborated in John’s Gospel. The Son reveals God as the Word becoming flesh: JOHN 1:14–18 “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.” John calls the Son “God, the One and Only.” “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Jesus is the only Son. Humans are creatures of God, but only believers are “children of God”. John 1:12 “To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” Jesus is unique, the one and only expression of God.
Jesus was both true God and true man. This double qualification is the testimony of the whole New Testament. We are saved by God Himself, in Christ. Jesus is unique! He is the only way! Christians enjoy multi-culturalism and find other faiths challenging. Today pluralism is largely due to the diminishing influence of the church, and the increase in non-Christian religions because of migration. We want all people to live in peace and harmony. We accept the plurality of religions without sacrificing Christian claims for the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. Some people say: “Other cultures have their religion. Why not live and let live? We are all going in the same direction.” Such talk is shallow reasoning. Two opposites cannot both be true. By definition, one is false. Jesus claimed to be the only way to the Father. Either His claims are true, or false.
If His are true, all contradictory ones are false. Only one way leads to the Father. These religions cannot all be true at the same time, because they teach many things opposite to each another. They all may be wrong, but certainly they all cannot be right. The claims of one exclude the other. Jesus’ claim “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations”, Matt 28:18–20 shatters the idea that all religions are good so long as its adherents are sincere. Jesus claims to be the only way to God. Only Christianity recognises Jesus as the eternal God becoming a man who died for the sins of the world and who arose again the third day. Salvation is obtained only by putting one’s trust in this Jesus. Salvation an act of grace through faith, not a matter of earning salvation by merit as others teach. Why does Christianity say Jesus is the only way?
THE ONLY WAY BECAUSE JESUS SAID SO. The scriptures testify that Jesus is the only way to God. Thomas’s asked Jesus: John 14:5–6 “How can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus’ reply is the foundation for a satisfactory philosophy of life. It is personal. He did not claim merely to know the way, the truth and the life but to be the way, truth and the life. Jesus did not argue with Thomas. Jesus asserted He is the way to the Father because He alone has knowledge of God unmarred by sin. He is the truth because He alone has the power to make life whole. He is the life because He alone was not subject to death but made it subject to Himself. Because He is the way, the truth, and the life, He is the only means of reaching the Father. Jesus, the unique Son, was the sole access to the Father.
THE ONLY WAY BECAUSE OF HOW WE ARE SAVED. The term “salvation” focuses on what God has done in Christ to deliver us from the powers of death, sin, and Satan. The method of salvation involved Jesus Christ taking our place, dying for our sins, being crucified upon the Cross and being raised by God’s power as the conqueror of death. No one else in history can save us like that. Our salvation shows why Jesus is the only way.
THE ONLY WAY BECAUSE OF THE JUDGMENT. Christianity teaches judgment awaits the world, nations and individuals. The judgment of hell is as eternal as is eternal life. As Jesus said: Matt 25:46 “They will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” God gives each person the privilege of choice. We can accept or reject God’s eternal life. So pluralists reject Jesus, the Bible and the judgment.
THE ONLY WAY BECAUSE OF EVANGELISM. The Catholic evangelist Ralph C. Martin says “The words of Jesus Matt 7:13–14 could scarcely be clearer. The way to salvation is narrow. The road is difficult, and few, not many, successfully follow that road.” Hence we must evangelise: the message of the Gospel is to everyone that Jesus Christ alone saves.
In a multicultural world we can never use force to impose our Christian views upon others. Likewise we cannot stand by with easy going tolerance, never speaking of what we believe. We need freedom of speech. That is why I will fight with all my strength, this new law in Parliament that will be discriminatory against Christians. We have the commands of Christ. We have to witness to what we know is right and evangelise so that others may be saved and have the joy of eternal life. Not to evangelise is to fail them. Christians have no option. Jesus is the only way to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
You understand the Good News: that lost in sin and facing judgement, Jesus offers you forgiveness and eternal life. You can be right with God through faith in Jesus. There are many religions but only one way to God. That is the core meaning of all these Easter events.
John Hick and Paul F. Knitter “The Myth of Christian Uniqueness.”