12. Is Christ the Only Way? - Part 1
This is part 3 in a 19-part audio series on tough issues done by Dr. Ken Boa.
This issue about how can Christ be the only way to God is one of the toughest objections that will surface. It used to be the questions that concerned the issues of why do the innocent suffer. But now, I think, this question has become perhaps one of the largest obstacles. Why do you suppose that’s true? I think it’s a growth of pluralism and the issue of tolerance. We’ve discussed this in a number of cases but in our culture people have been educating us to suppose that tolerance is defined by agreeing with people or at least agreeing that their view may be just as legitimate as your view. That is to say egalitarianism when it comes to truth has become the kind of course of the time. In other words, we are egalitarian with regard to truth. It’s interesting that we are often still elitists when it comes to people but egalitarian when it comes to truth. As I see it, it should be just the other way around. We are to be elitists when it comes to truth and egalitarian when it comes to people. That is to say, treat people in such a way that tolerance would be defined as loving and caring for the person and agreeing sometimes to disagree but in understanding that when we disagree on a truth that does not mean I’m rejecting you as a person. Some how people have got the notion that to disagree with your thinking is to reject you as a person. I don’t know where that came from but that’s never really been the case at all. Such things would have eliminated the whole possibility of debate and dialogue in the past. Rather you have the idea that it is a good thing. Come now, let us reason together. (Isaiah 1:18) Let’s think things through and let’s have an opportunity to kind of evaluate options in the marketplace of ideas to see which ones hold and which ones do not. That is really all we are doing here.
My desire in our time together is simply to expose rather than to impose. There’s a huge difference between those two. I don’t feel as though I have to manipulate or control or wheedle to get you to accept my particular viewpoint. My intention is not so much to change your mind, as it is to expose you to some biblical perspectives. We may vary in where we are in our spiritual journeys but at least it’s a good thing for us to think these things through. Particularly when it comes to the person and work of Jesus Christ who, as I’ll be saying tonight, is arguably the most unique figure ever to walk on the human scene and we’ll make some comments about that.
But naturally, when we approach this question, the immediate objection surfaces that how can Christ be the only way to God is that means it’s too narrow. Some will say that since religion is all basically the same, some people feel that does it really matter which one you believe. In other words, aren’t all those religions pretty much variations on the same kinds of ideas? Isn’t it a matter of personal preference or upbringing or an estimated 75% of the world isn’t Christian, can they all be wrong? This sort of notion comes up. Jesus may be the only way for you but how does that make Him the only way for everybody?
You see, these are all really variations of the same objection. When this question surfaces then we need to consider that there are three basic options.
One could say that it’s not narrow and to revisit the whole issue and to say actually, as some have tried to do, that Christianity has been redefined in many circles as being so inclusive that it includes virtually anything. The question is whether that really is acceptable within the idea of mere Christianity or historic orthodox Christianity and whether that’s compatible or whether that’s coherent or not. The other option is if it’s narrow it must be wrong. The third option is narrowness doesn’t make it right or wrong. The question is whether it’s true or not. When C.S. Lewis came to faith in Christ, ultimately he communicated that it was not because he wanted to believe. In fact, it was very much against his predilection. His disposition was to go against that. In fact, he said, I was a very satisfied, smug atheist. Then all these friends, these people I ran into, kept on jostling me. An atheist, he says, can never be too careful these days! You might read something, you might run into something that might be factual and so it is. It was not really something he wanted but something that kind of embraced him. It was not unlike Paul’s experience. He was really fighting against this whole thing. It was when Christ laid His hand upon him- that became a decisive experience in his life. So Lewis came to the point where he says, you need to understand, it’s not because of any pragmatic value that Christianity may or may not have, it’s not because I feel good about it or that it is something I want to believe, I happen to be a Christian because I happen to believe it’s true. There is no other reason I believe but because I happen to think it’s true. I have been persuaded that there is a veridical case for Christianity among the worldview options. It’s such that it has the best evidential base of any of them.
Let’s take a look at the first option then that it is not narrow. My argument here is that such a view would conflict with the very exclusive claims of Christ. Now some people are clever and they try to redefine those claims or try to say that well, it looks like He said it but He really didn’t say it, the church put those words in His mouth. We’ve talked about that a little bit with this whole issue about Jesus being a myth or a legend when we talked earlier about the bible and it’s reliability. But the bottom line here is to say that there is no manuscript or historical or ancient traditions that would support such a view. In fact, it’s a view that’s rather recent that has been imposed upon the material to reconstruct or one might better say to deconstruct the text to fit modern parameters of a more pluralistic context. As we know, we live in a culture where truth is now presumably socially conditioned rather than something that’s objective. In a postmodern culture, which is actually ultra modern, basically the idea is that everything is up for grabs. What may be true for you may not be true for me. We’ll talk about that in a minute but let’s look at least at the texts themselves first of all.
Here’s what people often suppose. It might be that there is a mountain and as we go further and further up this mountain toward its pinnacle there are different ways up this mountain. Various people go up by different routes, some circuitous and others more directly but eventually they’re all going to converge at the top. The idea is that everybody at the top of the mountain will realize it was all the same quest after all. We’re all meeting at the top and whatever god, as you define who God would be, we’ll all say, oh, so all the religions really were all about the same god or about the same thing. It just looked different in our own culture. It’s often presented this way or else they use a wheel illustration. We look at this wheel and the various aspects and when we look at the hub, we see again that we’re all actually kind of heading toward the same hub, same center, whatever that might be and we may not know what it is. There are some accounts given that are of a pluralistic nature that say, nobody of course can know what kind of god this is. The very nature then of god is unknowable. Of course that’s a content statement that everyone has to ask, how do you know that He’s unknowable? Immediately you have to realize that they are importing backhanded some particular facts and making very specific claims that the various people who made claims to know about God were completely deluded.
In other words you cannot be totally neutral on this matter. I’m suggesting here that actually that kind of view does not take seriously into account the claims and credentials of Christ. Now in John 3:18, the statement made by Christ, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Often, Jesus will speak of Himself as the Son of Man or the Son of God. He has this very strong claim that He’s making. In John 8:24 He said, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” Again this is a very strong claim.
Many people say, well, Jesus never really spoke much about Himself but even if He wasn’t true or even if He didn’t live or even if He wasn’t raised from the dead, His teachings would still be true. This was what Gandhi actually held as his position. He said that I admire His teachings so much that even if there never was a historical Jesus, still they would be true for me. The problem is, Jesus’ teachings are always about Himself – unabashedly, constantly referring back to Him. He doesn’t talk just about general terms but He says, unless you believe that I AM, then you will die in your sins. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”
I take it as well, as I look at the various founders of world religions that there is a radical uniqueness of Christ in a number of ways in this regard. Some people promoted their teachings as the only way to God. But as I said earlier, Christ promoted Himself as that way rather than a set of teachings. Some would say that it is only through the teachings of various so-called prophets, and some said truth is spoken of in many ways but Jesus was very specific about this. He was specific not only about his exclusivity but also about His deity and His unique position. He boldly made this statement, (John 8:19b), “You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.” He who does not know Me does not know My Father. This is a very strong claim indeed and can be seen in another text in Matthew 11. This is just before the important text we’ve all heard, Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My Yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Jesus is inviting them not to come to hear His teachings but to come to Him and He will give you rest. Take My yoke- receive – He constantly talks about receiving Him. The verse just before this, Matthew 11:27 says, “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” So you have this pretty strong kind of claim that has to at least be accounted for. In John 14:9, He said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”
This other phrase that we just alluded to, I AM, often in bold letters, is seen again and again throughout the Scriptures in the New Testament as being a claim that Jesus makes. The I AM claim that He is making is related to the claim given to Moses. The proposition was given to Moses at the burning bush and you recall when Moses said in Exodus 3, whom shall I say is sending me? Who, will I tell Pharaoh, is sending me? Who, will I tell Pharaoh, is giving me the authority for this message? What did that voice give Moses? What was that name that Moses heard? Exodus 3:14, “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.” That is the name then for the self-existent One. He exists in and of Himself. He looks to nothing else for His derivation. When Jesus said to the Jews, (John 8: 58), “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM.” How do you suppose they reacted to such a phrase? By the way, He didn’t say, I happen to exist or I am He, He said I AM. Else where, when they came to seek Him and there was a cohort, some 600 of them armed, and they came at night, as you recall in the Garden of Gethsemane, to take Him away, they came armed with lanterns, spears, torches and so forth. John 18: 4b, “Whom do you seek?” John 18:5a, “They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, “I AM.” (Note: now in your bibles it might say He in italics but this phrase was ego eime- I AM) John 18:6, “So when He said to them, “I AM He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.” Something happened that was pretty powerful. In another case (John 57-59), when Jesus said, before Abraham was born, I AM, the Jews objected and said, You’re not even 50 years old and are You saying that You preceded him. They took up stones and wanted to stone Him to death for blasphemy because they understood that such a claim would be to make yourself tantamount to being God.
He supported His case for deity in a number of ways besides His numerous I AM statements. He also claimed the attributes of God. For example, the attribute of eternality is something that He claimed in John 17:5, “ Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” He claims as well the attribute of omnipresence. You see this illustrated in several passages for example when Jesus says in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” Now you can see where there are lots of times when more than 2 or 3 groups of people as well will gather together and it would imply a clear statement of omnipresence. “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b) I am with you. I’m constantly present with you. I would also say another claim, His sinlessness, is also a divine attribute. He would say, which of you convicts Me, charges Me with any sin. That’s a pretty strong statement. Now I have run into one or two people, maybe two people, who claimed to be sinless. They’re pretty rare but every so often I’ll run into someone who claims to be absolutely perfect. It’s an astounding claim but it requires no self-consciousness whatsoever or the perfection of those 3 defense mechanisms of denial, rationalization and projection. The only way I can account for a person who thinks himself or herself sinless is of course to see what friends and perhaps a spouse would reply to that statement about them! This particular person had to hold that view because he held a particular theology where by if he sinned at all, he would lose his salvation. What I did was I pressed him a little bit with that particular theology and said, well, what kind of sin are we talking about? Is it something pretty big or something more modest because the question is, where is your cutoff? I pressed him with that. He hadn’t murdered anyone. Then the problem would be, what if you hate somebody in your heart? Do you recall when Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said if you hate your brother you’ve committed murder in your heart? Then I pressed it farther and I got it down to where if he exceeded the speed limit, unbeknownst to him, by ½ mph, he would lose his salvation. Now at that point, frankly, he had committed the sin of pride in order to hold to such a stubborn position because he refused to acknowledge the incoherence of his position. The point is, if that’s your view then any sin will do it- thought, word or deed and it can be sins of omission as well. The sins of omission cut both ways as well. There are a lot of things I have done wrong by simply not doing them. Remember that idea- if you have a liturgical background part of the confession is that we have sinned in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and in what we have failed to do. That will nail you because there are all kinds of things that we should’ve done. We look back and say, I should’ve said a word of kindness to that person or I should’ve- you see where I’m going with that? Thought, word and deed will get you too. It’s not just your deeds but your thoughts and your words count too! We have a dilemma that we have to address. Scripture hits us front on with that.
There are a number of indirect claims that Jesus makes concerning His deity. There are a number of these but one of these is His ability to forgive sin. That is a pretty strong claim in Mark 2:5-11 and Luke 7:48-50 when Jesus says, I forgive them, and particularly when it was not a sin committed against Him. Try this at home- somebody complains to you about another person who had said something mean to your friend and your friend told you about this and whatever they did you say, that’s okay, I forgive them. Do you see the absurdity there? Wait a minute, what do you have to do with this, you weren’t involved? To make such a claim is to make the supposition that all sins are committed ultimately against Him. This would mean, of course, that He claimed to be God. In fact the Pharisees rightly said, who but God could forgive sins? They were right and again- they wanted to stone Him for these kinds of claims and these so-called blasphemies because they were right- if He wasn’t God these were indeed blasphemies.
Jesus’ acceptance of worship was pretty strong. Remember when, for example, Thomas sees Him and he says, my Lord and my God. (John 20:28) Peter worships Him in the boat and when Jesus says, all must honor the Son even as they have honored the Father. (John 5:23) The word that is used is the word for worship. These are very strong claims. That all people would face Him in judgment is not a modest claim either in John 5. Imagine me coming to say to you that by the way, when you die it’s going to be me that you give an account to- not anyone else- me. These are pretty strong claims if you would analyze the implications of that. Also, that judgment will be based upon what you did about Me is again, a very strong claim.
You can write Him off and say He’s crazy but one thing you can’t do is to say that He’s an ordinary, humble teacher from Galilee. There’s something more going on than that. That’s not an option but many people want to make it that. That He was a mysterious and magnetic Jew as many modern groups are trying to do that is to divest the New Testament of its contents by coming around that through various clever techniques that never really were supportable either textually, historically or by the Early Church Fathers who were in the position to know. Those are ingenious devices, like the Jesus Seminar, to try to avoid those claims, having a vote as to what He really said. It’s amazing, of course, how the vote always turns out to fit their preconceptions. Their theology is amazingly reflected by the votes. So what we have here is a vote indicating their viewpoint that Jesus didn’t do any miracles, He wasn’t God, and then we vote and find out that the texts that we arrive at are authentic, very few, are the ones where He didn’t do any miracles or claim to be God. It’s an amazing thing how this happens. I’m not saying these people are intentionally deceiving people. I think that they are wrong but I think that many of them are quite sincere in their views because of the particular views that they picked up in their own courses and seminaries and so forth. The radical implications of buying into these things are pretty strong. It doesn’t go against the current thrust of scholarship- parts of scholarship. Though I might say the Jesus Seminar is actually a fringe movement with New Testament scholarship.
There are also statements about Jesus made by others claiming His deity. His own followers made such statements as these, for example, in Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else for there is no other name under heaven that is given among men where by we must be saved.” as Peter put it in his sermon. Or in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” Or as Paul put it in Galatians 1:8, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” Paul addressed Jesus as our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus. John, in his gospel, speaks bout His pre-incarnate state and that He is the living Word. Paul says that He spoke all things into being and in Him and through Him all things hold together. Now these are very strong claims and it’s not surprising the Jews often accused Him of blasphemy.
You couldn’t spend much time with Him and remain neutral. As a result of the encounter, you’d either move closer to Him or further away. But one thing you couldn’t do and that is just to be indifferent. That was never seemingly an option. Jesus made the claim that the only way for us to bridge the gap between God and ourselves is that we receive this free gift that He is offering to us and that good deeds that we have- systems of human effort and merit- will fall woefully short. Frankly, as Paul puts it, I have to agree, if there was any other way by which we could in fact obtain salvation other than the death of Christ- then Christ died needlessly. What He did on the cross would be a considerable waste because such a desperate means would have been an error. It would have been a tragic martyrdom. Do you see where I’m going with this? If I deal honestly and simply with the primary materials themselves, it forces me into a position where I have to acknowledge that there’s more to it than just the idea that He could’ve said anything you wanted Him to say. There’s a good deal more going on. Again we go back to the New Testament and the authority of that, as we looked at earlier in one of the sessions.
Some say that He staged it so that He could appear to be the Messiah. I see very little gain that He gets from that or what His disciples would gain from that. Remember the disciples themselves, we saw one of the cases for the resurrection, didn’t even think that He would or was going to rise from the dead even though He told them again and again. They refused to believe it and it was against their own preconceptions and furthermore, they were terrified about this whole matter. Suddenly, they became bold. If anyone was in the position to know if it was a fraud, these were the people who would’ve known. Again as we said before, no one willingly dies for something they know is a fraud. Now they may die willingly for something that’s fraudulent but they don’t know it is. But these were people who were in a position to know whether it was true or not.
You have a number of texts that are found in the synoptics that allude to His divinity. For example, all the texts I gave you that relate to His ability to forgive sins- who but God can forgive sins? The Jews themselves understood His claim to be divine. He claimed to be omnipresent- that was in Matthew- I am with you always until the end of the age and the other- wherever two or three are gathered in My name there I am with them. These are not the kinds of claims that are made just by an ordinary sage or someone like that. If you put the synoptic gospels together, you can derive a very strong case for His deity even from just those. The Jews understood His claims about the unique relationship He has with His Father and to them this would be blasphemy. John is more direct and explicit about it. It doesn’t mean he would depart from the basic teachings of the synoptics on these matters.
Let me move on to the next area. Suppose it is narrow so that makes it wrong. Here’s why there are three basic false assumptions that are made. One is that sincerity makes something true. The second is that belief makes something true. Last, is that exclusiveness makes something wrong. I’m suggesting here that those don’t really wash very well.
Let’s talk about sincerity. Remember Charlie Brown and how he said, how can we lose so many games when we’re so sincere? That is the idea. Can you give me a counter factual of some people that were sincere but sincerely wrong? How about David Koresh as an example? Perhaps on of the worst examples we could all think of is Jim Jones in Guyana with over 900 people drinking that poisoned Kool-Aid. Now these folks were pretty sincere when they did that. Nobody forced them against their will or twisted their arm but they were sincere and sincerely wrong. There are a number of cases where people can be sincerely wrong. There’s a case I read about where a nurse changed a patient’s oxygen tank and the next morning the patient was found dead. They later discovered that this oxygen tank was mislabeled at the warehouse and it was nitrogen. Now she was quite sincere about the matter but sincerely wrong. Many of you will know about Jim Marshal of the Minnesota Vikings and you recall that he picked up a fumble and threw off tacklers repeatedly until he crossed the goal line. Then he discovered that he went over the wrong goal line and scored for the wrong team. I want to tell you in that moment of glory- what he thought was glory- would in a moment later be horror. The realization of what have I done? I promise you he was sincere about what he was doing but he was going the wrong direction. Sincerity then has little to do as you can see with whether a thing is true or not.
The other claim that we can see is the second assumption that exclusiveness would make something wrong. Now there are a lot of people who raise this objection in this way. They think about neutral kinds of things; some people like oysters and some people don’t; some people like the Ivy League look and some people don’t- that sort of a notion. The idea here is that everybody needs to do his own thing. However, while that might be true about fashion and taste that may not apply to a lot of other areas of reality. I’m particular about things that have to do not so much with my belief or lack of belief but whether they are really true or false. For example, which side of the road are you going to drive your car on? We know that the earth is not flat. I think there is a Flat Earth Society that still exists and they say it’s all kind of hokum and malarkey and we are just being deceived into thinking it’s spherical. Most of us probably wouldn’t be candidates for joining the Flat Earth Society. I know of one person who says the trips to the moon were staged in a studio. You can make that kind of claim but there are a lot of counterfactuals that will go against such a claim. The fact is the earth is spherical- technically the earth is an obelisk spheroid though it’s pretty close to being a sphere. It’s not flat. My point here is that it’s not a question of opinion, it’s a question of good evidence. You could say I happen to believe in an octagonal planet myself. I happen to be from the planet Zendar. You might well claim to be from such a planet but you see where I’m going with that? There are some things that aren’t a question of just a matter of majority vote or popular opinion. I may believe as much as I want that such things are so but they may be completely wrong. It’s not a question of belief making a thing right or wrong.
Religions exclusiveness is a big issue in our culture. If a thing is exclusive it must, by its nature be wrong. But again when we press home and ask for some examples of this- we have to ask what do you mean by exclusiveness? Nature and everything we do in our culture is rather exclusive. I’m very particular about when I’m on an airplane and when they’re going to land that they know which runway and at what time they are going to land. They are very important factors to me and that they listen to the directives of the control towers. My car is mighty particular as well when it requires me to put unleaded fuel in. If I object and put diesel fuel in there, well I can do so, but the fact is I’ll suffer the consequences especially if I decide to get real cheap and put water in the thing! My point is the way things are is very, very specific. It’s not just a question of just saying that everything goes. As soon as you make a claim for something, you are by the very nature of that excluding the counterfactuals of that claim. I find it interesting where people, in the name of tolerance, are intolerant of people who don’t embrace their tolerance. It’s a self-defeating proposition. In fact, I just read a book by Thomas Odin called Requiem which should be read by every person in liberal seminaries. He teaches in such a seminary and says, I’ve got to come clean. Here’s what’s going on here. In the name of tolerance we’ve marginalized and also turned these people into like children, we’ve marginalized them and we have vilified them for their particular views, which don’t happen to correspond with our particular views of tolerance. It doesn’t fly. It doesn’t work. In other words, any position that you hold, by its very nature, will exclude its contraries.
We often hear that if you look at religions they all teach the same thing. All religions differ from one another and hold exclusive views about God, humanity and salvation. I’m either going to say one is right or the others are wrong or they’re all wrong but they cannot all be right. What we often hear is that if you look at all religions they teach the same thing. I’m going to suggest here that this is not the case. The three areas we can look at are their views of God, salvation and human destiny. In other words, who is God? What is the means of salvation? What is our destiny and what will our end look like? We will do a quick survey of five major religions; Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and Hinduism. We will see a number of different perspectives.
What are the options for God in Hinduism? One option is a view of God, particularly in the philosophical Hindu, as being monotheistic. Monism means all is one and all is God. There are variations of pantheism as well. There are different pantheistic viewpoints where we have a God who is eternal, impersonal and abstract without any knowable attributes whatsoever. The popular forms of Hinduism are polytheistic.
In Buddhism you have forms that are atheistic. Many forms of Buddhism, in particular philosophical forms, they have no God at all. There is not a doctrine and there is no God. Some forms, for example, myahanna, the wide path, can often be polytheistic or in some cases there’s the worship of Buddha. This was the last thing that he had in mind. You have various notions ranging from monism to pantheism to polytheism even to atheism.
What would God’s nature be? In Christianity, you have three persons but one God. In the Christian view God is three eternal and co-equal persons. In Islam and in Judaism you have one God and one person. Now these views then, it seems to me, can’t all be right in any meaningful way. If God is impersonal then He’s not personal and so forth.
We can go from there and look at salvation and see that there’s something similar that goes on here. As to salvation, we have the idea that some people will try to turn to God and lead a moral life so in many forms of Judaism you have the idea of good works and you have repentance, particularly on Yon Kippur. You have this idea of good works or deeds and repentance as being involved. Generally speaking we have variations of this in the various religious systems. In Islam there are the five pillars. In Buddhism you have to follow the four noble truths and the eight-fold path- right thinking, right consciousness, right behavior and all these things. In Hinduism there are forms of devotional service or works or various forms of meditation and so forth. But again we have in all these religions variation of works in one way or another. The idea is that if you work your way hard and long enough-in Eastern thought- what do you have? You have the law of karma, which is the law of cause and effect. This means that whatever you do in this life will produce good or bad karma. You will have kind of a net karma. I don’t know if the term is used this way but you have to net it out because doing some things would presumably bring some good but some things would offset that. Of course the question is what happens when your total karma is more negative than positive? I suppose there can be in fact a reincarnational regress. In fact, Eastern thought allows that. There’s no guarantee that you’re going to be progressing in reincarnation. Actually if you read Plato, you discover that he too had a doctrine of transmigration of souls. Achilles chose to go downward rather than upwards. You have here different views of human salvation. The problem with that is you have to have thousands if not millions of incarnations to eventually break off of the wheel of life, which brings us to human destiny.
By the way, in Christianity, faith alone is the vehicle of salvation- it is by grace through faith. It’s something that stands apart and is unique just as the idea of the Trinity is unique. The idea that God is a community of persons, three-in-one, is utterly unique to the biblical vision. By the way that idea of persons in relationship is what human life is pretty much about if you hadn’t noticed yet. We have an ultimate basis for such relationship that’s actually imbedded within the context of community of the Godhead. It also gives us an answer for the problem of the one and the many. If God is the ultimate iceberg or cosmic monad- how did anything come out? Why did He even make anything? Constantly the thought is that those things are illusion and evil because they are not really related to the all that is. Why did He bother doing that in the first place? Was there some kind of thing that made Him do something like that? To kind of spawn off these illusory worlds, people now for millions of lives have to kind of get back to godhead. Have you ever run into the Harakrishna people at the airport? They now wear wigs so they’re not as easy to see- they used to go bald-headed and they used to be pretty obvious-but they also discovered that they could do better is some places wearing wigs. They sell books and they have a magazine called back to the godhead. The idea is to do devotional or Bacta Yoga working our way back to godhead by devotion to the god Krishna through works and so forth. Human destiny is the idea of Nirvannah. Basically it means you break off this awful wheel of life, all these cycles, and to be absorbed into that which is. They have this phrase in Hinduism, Tak twam asee- thou are that. Once you come to realize that the individual self is the same as the ultimate universal self- you’ve got it. Right now your problem is just one of ignorance. You just didn’t know that you are god. So once you figure out that you really are god and you realize that all things are you and you are all things, you’re moving in the right direction. The idea of Sutori, also spoken of as Enlightenment, all have to do with the idea of breaking away from the boundaries and shackles of reason and entering into or being absorbed into the all that is. In many forms of Buddhism, annihilation, extinction, is the real meaning of this term. Extinction means the light is out and you are no longer in any form of any substantive existence. In the Christian version it is about relationship and persons in relation. In fact, you don’t really know yet what it’s really like to be in full and total relationship. We won’t know until we’re in the presence of the living community of Being- God Himself. Your best moments of relationship on earth are only hints of something God has in store.
Many times we hear that these other religions are more tolerant in view of our previous mountain and wheel illustration. I want to suggest that they’re more exclusive than you might suppose. I don’t know any Hindus that would allow for their kids to be raised in a Christian home. If they were born into one, the ultimate idea is that eventually they might have enough incarnations and be born into a Hindu home. The fact is that they are exclusive claims but I want to suggest they’re not going up the mountain this way, in fact, they’re not even on the same mountain. When we’re not even close to the same view of God- what makes you suppose we’re heading in the same direction on the same mountain? Do you see my thinking here? Let me give you an example of how this works when we talk about the law of non-contradiction. Suppose the statement A contradicts B. Now either A is true and B is false or B is true and A is false or they are both false but they cannot both be true. For example, if I say all dogs shed hair and then someone says poodles don’t shed hair they both can’t be right. They could both be wrong. All dogs shedding hair is incompatible with poodles not shedding hair. One could say, well, poodles aren’t dogs and we could go from there but that wouldn’t be a good way to go! One thing it can’t be is that the two statements are right nor does anyone think this way. They may claim that way but they can’t even in phrasing a sentence avoid the law of non-contradiction because in trying to make a claim that non-contradiction is not true is in fact to affirm the law of non-contradiction. You can’t speak in any meaningful way apart from that law. It’s not an Aristotelian logic being imposed here. It’s the way we are and the way we think.
Let me give you another example. We could say that Mohammed says that there’s another way to God besides Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ says, I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:6) Now Christ could be right or Mohamed could be right but they can’t both be right. If there is one way and then Mohammed says that there is another way then they cannot both be correct.
I’m suggesting that the way we live and the way we are drives us to this position and that we have some very unique claims and very strong conclusions which can be derived from this claim which often brings us to the liar, lunatic or Lord dilemma. The idea that perhaps Jesus was lying about it and maybe He knew He was wrong but He just deceived His disciples to give them a false hope. Well, I suggest to you that it would’ve been a deliberate and conscious act of inviting these followers to put their hope in something that He knew was not true and that He was asking them to base their life deliberately on a lie. The evidence is weighted very strongly against Him being a person who would be a fabricator. He seems to be One who embraces truth. He seems to be One who pursues truth and virtue. Nothing that we know about Him would be compatible with the idea of Him deliberately deceiving people when He made these messages. Another option would be to say that He was nuts. He was a lunatic, which is what some people said. They said this man is demon possessed or that He is blaspheming and He’s getting His power from Satan so He might be demonic. (John 10) In other words, He might be totally deluded-maybe He has delusions of grandeur. Imagine you running into someone who makes those kinds of claims about themselves and stop to think about that! Those are mighty unusual claims. I’m suggesting here the evidence that we have for Him and everything we know about Him does not suggest any lunacy.
We read about His composure, His poise, His love, His grace, His peace and He’s never in a hurry. Do you notice that about Jesus? He’s never in a hurry. It’s an amazing thing isn’t it? He was constantly in demand by people for His time but He had an inner poise, a peace, a shalom, about Him that was contagious. People saw a quality about Him. That’s where He said I’m offering you My rest, My peace, My joy and My love. He was in fact the embodiment of other-centered love. He noticed the unnoticeable. He loved the unlovable. He was One who showed great care and effort and attention to people who would often be overlooked. He was One who gave Himself away for people.
The other option then would be that He is the Lord. If He were not a liar or a lunatic then He would be the Lord of all. We are about out of time but here are just a few quick words about the claims and credentials of Christ. It’s one thing to make claims and another to back them up with credentials. What are some of His claims? The I AM claims. He claims to be deity either directly or indirectly. How about the Old Testament Messianic prophesies? Again and again He said, in order that you might know, thus what the prophets said has been fulfilled. Luke 4:21, “And He began to say to them, ”Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 24: 27, “Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” He said this to the Jews as well. They said tell us plainly who You are. You claim to be the Messiah, the Christ, or are You not? He said, it is as you say. They tore their robes and so forth. The fact is He was making very strong claims and they picked it up. How about His resurrection? It’s one thing as some have said, the best way to start a religion would be to claim you’re going to rise from the dead and then do it. There was a cult in New York City a few years ago when someone made such a claim. There was a problem though when a horrible stench was detected coming out from underneath an apartment door. The corpse was rotting and yet his followers were convinced that he would rise from the dead. They had to fumigate the apartment and as you could imagine their faith diminished day by day as the body rotted. Maybe he’s not who he claimed to be after all. It’s one thing to make a claim and another thing to back it up. He claimed to be the exclusive way. I am the way of knowing the Father. He claimed that He would come again and be the judge of the world. He was also sinless. Now what kind of credentials did He have to back up these kinds of claims? Remember after He had said, I am the Bread of Life, He multiplied the loaves? It’s an interesting audio-visual illustration. He said, I am the manna who comes out of heaven (John 6) and then He feeds the multitudes and He connects the two. After awhile you begin to see that something is going on here- His fulfillment of these claims. In fact, He fulfilled 30 Old Testament prophecies on the day of His crucifixion down to the details; He would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, His garments would be divided, they would cast lots for His garments, they would pierce His hands and His feet, His side would be pierced as well but furthermore they would not break His bones and so on. The money that was used to betray Him would be used to buy the potter’s field. There are specific details being confirmed again and again in His life. There was the fulfillment of the prophecy in Micah 5:2 that He would be born in Bethlehem and on and on these details are fulfilled- from the tribe of Judah and so forth. How about His miracles? If you don’t believe Me on account of My words then believe on account of the works that I do- the works bear witness that I am the Son of God. My works themselves bear witness of who I claim to be. (John 11:37-38) We have the fulfillment of the prophecies, His miraculous life and His power. He had an awesome power to change lives. I submit to you for example the woman at the well as being a marvelous illustration of that very thing. Mary Magdalene is also another marvelous illustration of how this woman is transformed permanently and irrevocably. He had the power to change and transform lives. He still has that power today. His resurrection is also another divine substantiation of His deity. We spent a whole hour discussing the evidence for the historical resurrection from the dead. He also lived a sinless life. In fact His disciples who lived with Him, ate with Him, walked with Him, and for three and one half years saw everything He did and they could make the claims that in Him there was no sin. Jesus’ credentials were unparalleled. The reality of His authority over disease, demons, nature and death are well documented. The claims and credentials back each other up. They support one another. His words and His works are a seamless tunic. We’ll complete this discussion next time.
Related Topics: Apologetics