“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” These famous words of Jesus have been held dear and near by Christians for two millennia. Yet people chafe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. How can we respond?
First, the exclusive claim of Christ that he is THE way, truth, and life, has always cut against the grain. The Romans and Greeks had many gods. Pluralist tribal groups hear Christ undercutting their gods. Hindis bristle at Christ’s Lordship. So we should not be surprised that Christ’s exclusivity causes people to react.
Second, some assert that Christ’s exclusivity cannot be true because all religions offer a perspective on the divine. In other words, Christianity is just “your opinion” or “your truth.” The example that is given is that of several blind men who approach an elephant. “This creature feels like a snake,” said the first man, holding the elephant’s trunk. “No – this creature is thick and solid like a tree,” replied the second, grasping the elephant’s leg. “That can’t be because it is flat and flexible,” said the third, rubbing the ear. Each man could only feel part of the elephant but none could see the whole beast. In the same way, some claim that each religion of the world has some partial grasp on the truth but none sees the whole thing.
The problem, however, is that the person telling the story assumes that they see the entire picture and are not blind. It sounds like humility to say that all humans see only partly and all have a bit of the truth. Yet when this claim is used to dismiss the truth, it is an act of arrogance because it assumes someone has superior knowledge and sees more clearly than anyone else.
Third, some people state that Christianity cannot be true because it is a culturally conditioned belief. If I grew up in North Africa, what would the chances be that I’d believe Christianity? Would I not be Muslim? Most likely, where you grow up would affect what you believe. Therefore, the conclusion goes, all belief is relative to location.
What this assertion fails to recognize is how culturally conditioned it is. The claim sounds like the person has the vantage point of seeing clearly. Yet if every statement is culturally conditioned, why should we believe this declaration? You cannot make absolute statements that everything is relative without relativizing your own assertion!
Every group believes in some form of exclusivity. Women’s hockey teams exclude men and children. Classical music groups exclude indie and rock instruments. Secularists exclude anyone who does not fit their definition of tolerance. So why be surprised that Christ’s claim to be “the way, the truth, and the life” is exclusive?
While these responses don’t pave the way for belief, we pray that people might see the confusion of our cultural moment and find Christ to be the legitimate reason for life, hope, and peace.
For the glory of Christ,
Missional Action Plan: What other objections do you hear about Christianity’s exclusive claims? Email Pastor Andrew to share what you’ve heard and how you’ve responded.
Missional Action Prayer: Lord, in your kindness, you have opened my eyes to see the beauty and glory of Christ. Keep me from the arrogance that infects our age and causes others to think they see more clearly than what they really do. Help me to be full of grace and truth as I speak to others about the exclusive Christ. Amen.