The Exclusivity Of Christ
Jesus is the only way to God the Father Photo: © Giuseppe Porzani
A Stumbling-Block To Postmodern Thinking
The trouble with Jesus is he is so exclusive. The postmodern world says that everything is relative - there are no absolutes. Sure, Jesus was a good guy - a great teacher, even a prophet - but he's not the only good guy or prophet. What about Gautama /Buddha, or Mohammed, or Mahatma Gandhi? There are many ways to God, if God exists at all. The trouble with Christians is they are such narrow-minded bigots. They think they're the only ones with the truth.
The Postmodern Challenge To Biblical Truth
An example of how some have sought to reinterpret Jesus' words in terms of the multi-faith pluralism of the postmodern world can be seen in an article by Professor Thomas Thangaraj for the World Council of Churches entitled "Jesus The Christ: The ONLY Way To God And Human Flourishing."
In this article Professor Thangaraj makes the following statement:
"The exclusive claim of Christ is always made in concrete historical settings. It is not an idea held up in the sky somewhere, but is maintained in the concrete realities of history. Therefore, we must admit right away that the exclusivity of this claim simply cannot be maintained because there are in fact, right in front of our eyes, a multiplicity of competing claims for other ways to God and human flourishing. Our contemporary historical experience does not allow us to contradict that. To do so would be to simply write off Tikva, Anantanand, and Mahinda (the Jewish, Hindu, and Buddhist representatives in this Consultation) from our discussion. Our historical experience of people of other faiths, and of interfaith dialogue tells us that it is becoming more and more difficult to affirm the exclusivity of Christ in a multi-religious setting. There are, in fact, many ways to God and many paths to human flourishing. In addition, we are increasingly aware that our visions of God and human flourishing are OUR visions and they are products of our history and our imaginative and creative construction. Once we recognize that they are products of such a kind of human historical creativity, they are instantly relativized and removed from the venue of absolutes."
Later he adds:
"One needs, in fact, to address a much more fundamental question regarding the nature, place, and authority of the Bible in Christian reflection and action."
The New Age Challenge To The Exclusivity Of Christ
In other words, we have got it wrong. Jesus did not really mean to be so exclusive - we have failed to appreciate there are many other ways to God.
According to Professor Thangaraj we have misread and misinterpreted JOHN 14:6 and ACTS 4:12. We need to realise our traditional simplistic interpretations of these verses are a stumbling block to those of other faiths.
Actually, the problem is that Jesus claimed to be the only Way, the only Truth and the only Life. In short he claimed he was/is the only way we can know God or reality. If this is untrue, he was either a liar of the worst kind or a deluded idiot. If it is true, however, we ignore the implications at our peril and no amount of rewriting of history, questioning of Biblical truth or moral relativism can save us from spending a Christless eternity in hell instead of heaven.
The Challenge: Is Jesus Really Who He Claimed To Be?
It is this exclusivity that has so enraged people over the centuries and why Jesus warned those who followed him would be hated as he was. The challenge is the same for us now as it has always been: IS JESUS WHO HE CLAIMED TO BE OR NOT?
Jesus spelled out the alternatives clearly in JOHN 3:16-18 :
"For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, 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 judgement 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."
Q1 Why is Jesus' claim in JOHN 14:6 such a stumbling-block to people?
Q2 What arguments are used to counter such exclusivity?
Q3 What warning did Jesus give those who were considering following him?
Q4 Where do you stand in relation to Jesus' claims?
Q5 How can Christians respond to the challenges to Biblical authority and the claims of Christ in a postmodern world without becoming narrow-minded bigots?
Jesus The Truth
What About Other Religions?
The argument often put forward by those who have not been converted is that it is very narrow-minded of Christians to claim that Jesus is the only Way, the only Truth and the only Life.
What about other religions, they say?
The best way to answer a question of truth is to go to the Person who claimed to be The Truth - Jesus himself.
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