Boyet Olave received his Ph.D. in theology and has ministered in the Philippines and the United States, where he now lives with his family.
Editor's Note: Biblical references contain chapter numbers followed by verse numbers after the colon, a standard usage. "Cf." = "compare," "f" = "and the next following verse," "ff = "and the next following verses" in regard to contextual verses. E.g., "Luke 12:13f" would read, "Book of Luke, chapter 12, verse 13 and following." Also, "v." or "v" = "verse" and "vs." = "verses." Also, "c." = "circa." or "approximate date."
Frequently people profess that many roads or religions lead to the mountaintop—to God and heaven. Evangelical Christians are accordingly accused of appalling arrogance for asserting that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. Should we accommodate our exclusive evangel to the popular view? Is our belief bigoted or biblical?
The spirit of our modern age judges as intolerant and narrow–minded the view that Jesus is the only way. This opposition arises partly due to our great contemporary exposure to the whole spectrum of human religions, ranging from atheistic philosophies to Hindu and Mormon polytheism. To resist worldly thinking Christians need strong convictions based on God’s powerful, infallible Word, not on our emotions (II Corinthians 10:3–5; Ephesians 4:14; New International Version (NIV) Bible® used throughout unless noted). Martin Luther said:
If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ.
Logic, history, biblical morality, and especially biblical theology distinguish between the true and false ways to God. Of all the conceivable ways to God and salvation, those that work must number either none, one, from two up to less than all, or all. However, the popular supposition that most or all creeds provide suitable ways to reach God is disproved by their many mutually contradictory core beliefs.
Shakerism rejected marriage, but early Mormonism required polygamy for salvation (Doctrine & Covenants 132:1–24; Journal of Discourses vol. XI, p. 269). Mormonism and Hinduism each have millions of gods but share none; some Eastern religions have an impersonal deity; Hinayana Buddhists are atheists. Jehovah Witnesses and Muslims agree that the only deity is Unitarian, but they have different ones. While Hindus hope to strive through reincarnations to reach Nirvana, where they lose their personal identities, Islam rejects all these Hindu doctrines and sees itself as uniquely true (Qur'an 109). While non–Christian religions teach salvation by works, they often diametrically disagree over which works. Animists, Hindus, and Mahayana Buddhists worship images or idols that Muslims seek to destroy.
Although such logical incompatibilities disprove the legitimacy of the many-ways-to-God assertion, which particular ones that are thus invalidated remains unclear until the claims are further examined. Fortunately, history and biblical morality help expose some religions’ founders as charlatans, but ultimately, only biblical theology can definitively certify any approach to God.
God has always had one unique, loving, comprehensive, Christ–centered plan of salvation, and not various plans for diverse peoples and times. Only Christ’s redemption is ethnically and geographically global, and only it chronologically covers completely—to the consummation of the age. From the inception of any need, when Adam sinned, God started revealing and working out His perfect plan through His Son. (Jesus, history’s most influential person, split time into BC, before Christ) and AD (anno domini , in the year of our Lord). History is His story. God’s expansive love is most notable at certain points:
God’s love through Christ reached all types—religious leaders who opposed Him, rich, poor, slaves, babies and children, sick, and outcasts (shepherds, disreputable women, the demon possessed, sufferers from leprosy, tax collectors, half–breeds, foreigners, and occupying soldiers). While in some human religions only a select elite group need apply (e.g., intellectuals, philosophers, mystics, members of one race or ethnic group), God’s gospel is for all—even common, ordinary people (I Corinthians 1:18-31; Galatians 3:28).
If God intended to reach mankind through one faith, it would logically be the one with the most extensive historic, ethnic, and geographic outreach—Christianity. Some evidence:
If holy God revealed Himself, it seems it would logically be through precisely inspired, sacred writings through the instrumentality of especially suitable, holy prophets. (See below regarding His ultimate incarnate revelation through His only Son. Many holy men, like Moses, David, Isaiah, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, and Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, revealed God’s word, the Bible, over about 1500 years (Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21; II Timothy 3:16; II Peter 1:20f; 3:2). True prophets were required to:
Authentic prophets spoke thousands of times in God’s personal, Old Testament name Yahweh (often rendered "LORD" in all capital letters). Nevertheless, Buddha, Muhammad, and Confucius never did due to apparent ignorance of Yahweh (Exodus 3:6,13–15; 6:3; Psalm 72:17–19; see comments below on God’s name). Any prophets who were not called by God and did not speak His word in His name in accordance with his prior revelation must be shunned as illegitimate, even if they do miracles (Deuteronomy 13:1–5; 18:20; Matthew 7:15–20; 15:1–14; 24:23f).
True prophets spoke God’s truth, upheld righteousness, and never erred in prophesying future events, (Deuteronomy 18:21f; Lamentations 2:14; 3:37; Ezekiel 12:21–28). God calls the world’s religions to court to substantiate their fulfilled or yet–to–be–fulfilled prophecies and supernatural actions:
"Present your case," says the LORD. "Set forth your arguments," says Jacob’s King. "Bring in your idols to tell us what is going to happen. Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome. Or declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods. Do something, whether good or bad, so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear. But you are less than nothing and your works are utterly worthless; he who chooses you is detestable…. Who told of this from the beginning, so we could know, or beforehand, so we could say, "He was right"? No one told of this, no one foretold it, no one heard any words from you (Isaiah 41:21–24, 26 cf. 42:9; 43:9; 44:7f; 45:21; 46:8–11; 48:14).
Among the many evidences for the Bible’s inspiration are a remarkable number of prophecies fulfilled centuries after their pronouncement (e.g., Psalm 22; Isaiah 7:14; 52:13–53:12; Micah 5:2). Also, archaeological and scientific discoveries have confirmed Biblical texts pronounced centuries or millennia earlier, but that is a topic for another essay.
The God of Israel demonstrated both to His people and to pagans that He is the one true God by delivering His people, even by miracles (Deuteronomy 3:24; 4:34-39; Exodus 8:10; 9:14; Joshua 3-4; I Samuel 17; II Samuel 7:22f; II Kings 5:1-15; Isaiah 37). The God of Scripture stands alone incomparable as the only God (I Kings 8:23; Psalm 71:19; 86:8; 89:6-13; 113:4-6; Isaiah 46:9; Jeremiah 10:6; 49:19; Micah 7:8). All people are to worship Him (Psalm 113:3; Jeremiah 10:7) and ultimately will do so (Isaiah 45:23f; Philippians 2:9-11).
Medical and other scientific discoveries have corroborated the truth of Scripture:
Non–biblical, sacred writings of human religions often claim divine inspiration but always lack good corroboration. For example, all our relevant historical and archaeological evidence argues against the divine inspiration of the Book of Mormon for nothing it alleges about many events, civilizations, and cities finds any support. The Mormon sacred book, Pearl of Great Price, includes the Book of Abraham. The original manuscript of the latter still exists and testifies that Joseph Smith fraudulently translated it.
Similarly, the Qur'an abounds with errors—historical (17:1; 19:27–34; 20:85–88), doctrinal (4:157; 5:116), and scientific (18:9–26). The prophet of Allah, Muhammad, revealed where the sun set: "And he [a ruler] followed a road. Till, when he reached the setting–place of the sun, he found it setting in a muddy spring…." (Qur'an 18:86). (Note: The Qur’an does not tend to, nor does it in this case, use figurative language and is not being mischaracterized here. Muhammad was ignorant of science and quite superstitious as numerous Hadith texts show.) The Qur’an contains other astronomical errors (13:2; 21:33; 27:61; 31:10; 35:41; 36:38; 39:5) as well as myths and legends (2:67-73; 18:9-25). The Qur’an also frequently distorts the Bible (3:35; 19:23, 28; 20:85-88; 21:81-82; 27:19-21; 28:6-8; 66:12).
At least once the Qur’an concurs with the Bible and disagrees with itself. Scripture says that God created the heavens and the earth in six days (Genesis 1-2:3; Exodus 20:11), while the Qur’an says both that Allah did the same in six days (32:4 cf. 50:38) and in two days (41:12).
Significantly, the great New Testament teachers on God's love, Luke, Paul, John, and the Lord Jesus himself, are unashamedly unanimous in their conviction that Christ is the only way to God. Nevertheless, if anyone could reach God without Jesus, it would likely be the most devout Jews.
The Jews were:
In the Old Testament period, the Jews had special access to holy God only as long as they meticulously followed His biblical revelation. Creatively "improving" upon His perfect way invariably reaped disaster. Yahweh, the LORD God, judged them for innovating an invalid manner or invalid object of worship (Leviticus 20:1–7; John 4:24). God rejects the use of images (idols) as aids or transitional stepping–stones to the worship of Him. Yahweh God severely punished the Jews for wrongful worship through Aaron’s idolatrous golden calf although they sought to worship the true God (Exodus 32). Jereboam repeated the same error (I Kings 12:28-33). The Lord judges idolatry as it violates His law, insults and distorts who He is, and leads people further into deadly heresy.
God authenticated His Son as the essential Savior Messiah of all peoples—Jews and Gentiles (all non–Jews), by:
All the Jews’ advantages were nevertheless vain if they did not trust their Messiah Jesus as their Savior and obey Him as their Lord (Luke 13:28-30; John 3:36; 8:24). Not even two paramount rabbis, teachers, in the strictest Jewish sect—Pharisees—could reach God apart from Jesus. Pharisees obeyed over six hundred religious rules, like fasting two days a week, and were among history’s most devout zealots. Still, Nicodemus, a member of the Jews’ ruling council, had to be born again—believe in the Son of God to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:1-21). Paul similarly had to bow before Jesus (Acts 22:3-5; Philippians 3:3-6; I Timothy 1:12-16).
If no path to God without Christ existed for the most dedicated Jews, could one exist for semi–Scriptural syncretists? The best test case might be Samaritanism, a pagan corruption of Judaism. Yet, God rejected it (II Kings 17:27-41), and Jesus concurred:
You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:22-24).
Although Jesus rejected their traditional, ancestral religion as ignorant, unspiritual, and false, He loved them too much to abandon them to die in it (v4-42). He intentionally went through Samaria and visited with Samaritans, whom Jews loathed and avoided. Again, against cultural norms He evangelized a scandalous woman. Then He took two days from His busy schedule to lead them out of Samaritanism to life by believing in Him as "the Savior of the world" (v.42). His teaching and healing Samaritans (Luke 10:25-37; 17:11-19) and His rebuking James and John for requesting judgment of them (9:51-55) also manifested His love. Finally, His example and command led His disciples to evangelize Samaria (Acts 1:8; 8:1-25, 40; 15:3).
Although people cannot reach God through semi–Scriptural, Christless syncretism, can they do so if Christ is added to a human religion? No, because to supplement Christ is to supplant Christ. Christ is so central and critical to redemption that adding to His gospel destroys it (Galatians 1:6-9), plus Scripture denounces syncretistic paganism (Exodus 20:1-6; 32; Joshua 24:14-27; I Kings 18:16-40; I Corinthians 5:11; 6:9-11; 10:14-22; II Corinthians 6:14-18).
Since apart from Christ neither Jews nor syncretists could reach God, devotees of purely human, unscriptural religions of non–divine origin are in trouble. The Scripture–revealed Creator and Redeemer is incomparably greater than other gods who are all false (II Chronicles 13:9; Psalms 95–97; Isaiah 37:19; Jeremiah 2:11; 5:7; Galatians 4:8). Paul taught that religious pagans (not just atheists) were without Christ, excluded from God’s covenantal salvation promises, "without hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:11f). David said, "The sorrows of those will increase who run after other gods" (Psalm 16:4 cf. Isaiah 41:21–24).
Some—without biblical support—submit that God will accept non–biblical, non–Christian religions by subsuming them under Christianity. God will allegedly excuse all their inadequacies and heresies and simply acknowledge them as passable ways to Him.
This theory implodes upon examination. The infinitely holy God can only be reached through Christ’s perfect atonement. God progressively revealed His unique way through His sacrificial system (including the Tabernacle, Temple, and priesthood) from Genesis until its fulfillment in Christ’s death and resurrection (Genesis 22; Isaiah 53; Mark 10:45; John 1:29,35; Romans 5:6–11; I Corinthians 5:7; Ephesians 2:13–22; Colossians 1:19–22; Hebrews 9:11–10:18; I Peter 1:18–21 cf. Matthew 27:50f). God views all false, pagan, and syncretistic religions, not as less satisfactory ways to heaven than His Son but as evil dead–ends. They blasphemously displace the one true God with false idols and offer no miraculous means for fallen, spiritually dead sinners to be cleansed of their sin and raised from eternal death to reach holy God in heaven.
Jesus most graphically portrayed the hopelessness of people, even Jews, God’s "chosen people," without Him: "Seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion on them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36 New American Standard Version (NASV) Bible®. Only when the Jews’ religious leaders were completely corrupt did their society descend so far as to be this pitifully portrayed (I Kings 22:17; Jeremiah 23:1f; Ezekiel 34; Zechariah 10:2; 11:15–17; cf. Numbers 27:17).
W. Phillip Keller, in his classic book, A Shepherd Looks at the Twenty–Third Psalm (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), sheds light on the passage above. Sheep are exceptionally dependent on their shepherd for guidance, food, water, and protection from other sheep, predators, flies, parasites, diseases, and thieves. They require the most meticulous attention and care of any livestock and easily get lost. While shepherdless sheep will soon die, Jesus intensified their predicament’s immediacy. A "downcast" sheep has lain on the ground and rolled over to stretch out and relax but cannot get back up. It may panic, pathetically struggle, and frantically flay away with its feet. Gas builds up in its rumen (a stomach) restricting blood flow to its legs. Death occurs within days in ideal, cool, wet weather but occurs quickly when under a scorching sun or if a predator strikes (cf. Ezekiel 34:5, 8, 28). A responsible shepherd, upon finding many such pitiful sheep, characteristically rushes to the rescue. In the same way, the multitudes without Jesus are characterized as terminal—only quick emergency help can save them. Jesus was speaking to the urgency of the hour! Facing lost humanity, Jesus implored prayer for harvesters—evangelists, His only chosen means to reach a lost world (Matthew 9:37f; Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 10:9-15).
The Lord Jesus’ "I am" statements found in John's Gospel show that Jesus is central and essential to salvation.: Jesus stresses in each case His vital redemptive role by using the emphatic Greek pronoun egō, I. (Note: Emphasis added to the text of John in the rest of this article shows this "I" usage.):
7I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. 11I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep (John 10:7–11).
Jesus emphasizes the importance of His words (v.7). Since a shepherd went to his sheepfold gate at daybreak, only rustlers preceded Him in the dark over a wall (v.1–3). All substitute "saviors" of any period are deadly imposters and evil enemies (vs.1, 8, 10), but His disciples will instead hear and accept Jesus (vs.3–5, 8). To freely "come in and go out" (v.9) refers to them doing all their daily work and activities in safety and peace (NASV—Psalm 121:8; Deuteronomy 28:6 cf. v19; Joshua 6:1; I Kings 15:16f) with free pasture access because their loving shepherd cared for every need. Life, even abundant life, came exclusively through Jesus, "the gate" (John 10:7, 9), and also their "good shepherd" who died for them to enjoy life (v11, 14). Jesus denounces false religious leaders as thieves who come "only to steal and kill and destroy" (v10).
The Lord Jesus further declares, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6); emphatic words: "I"—by usage of the Greek pronoun egō; "way"—by usage three times, v.4-6, and by the context, 13:33-14:5). God’s Son Himself is the exclusive path to God, spiritual truth, and spiritual and eternal life.
Jesus likewise proclaims His centrality in salvation in John's Gospel with statements like "I am":
Translations often add to the original Greek text after Jesus’ "I am" (John 4:26; 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19) the descriptive predicate nominative pronoun "He" or an explanatory phrase (which NIV usually indicates with brackets and NASV with italics). Jesus warns the Jews that they must believe in Him as the eternal, sovereign, independent, self–existent Yahweh or LORD: "I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins" (John 8:24 NASV cf. v.58). It might be better, instead of adding the pronoun "He" to the original text (as in 13:19 NIV), to have a margin note refer to Exodus 3:14 (like the NASV does): "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."’" When in the Gospel of John, Christ revealed Himself absolutely as "I am" (with no following predicate), He identified Himself as LORD God, and the Jews so understood His claim (John 8:58f). Thus, Jesus required belief in Him as God for salvation. This self–revelation again demonstrates that Jesus is the sole way to God and heaven.
Throughout Acts miraculous healings and evangelistic messages point to Jesus Himself as vital for salvation (Acts 2:22-41; 3:1-4:22; 5:12-16,29-32; 7; 8:26-40; 9:20-22,27-29,32-42; 10:34-48; 13:16-48; 16:29-34; 17:1-4,16-34; 18:4-8,28; 22:1-21; 24:10-21; 26; 28:23-31).
The divinely inspired writers Luke and John reveal that no one can substitute for our Lord Jesus Christ because salvation comes distinctively through His name. They focus on the indispensability and exclusive specificity of our Lord’s name (John 1:12; 2:23; 3:18; 5:43; 20:31; I John 3:23; 5:13; Luke 21:8; 24:46f; Acts 2:21,38; 10:43; 22:16; cf. Romans 10:13). Peter testified of Jesus to Jews that, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). No substitute is possible because salvation comes specifically through the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. (Note Paul’s usage of "in Christ" below.)
The prophet Isaiah revealed about the unique Savior God:
This crucial, exact specificity of our Lord’s name was stressed even earlier as Yahweh revealed to Moses:
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death (Deuteronomy 18:18–20 cf. 13:1–5; Exodus 23:13; Psalm 16:4; Hosea 2:17; see above comments on Yahweh).
Some may presume, contrary to Scripture, that God will accept worship in the name of a pagan deity instead of in the name of His Son Jesus Christ. Their error is as disastrous as that of the Jews who thought that they could worship God through Aaron’s calf idol (Exodus 32).
Scripture’s most common command is to praise Yahweh (e.g., Psalms 145–50). All people are in debt to worship their Creator, and He commands all to praise Him (Psalm 117; 145:21; 150:6):
By way of an analogy from commerce, we never discharge our debt to business A by paying competing business X. Nevertheless, some wrongly presume that they can discharge their worship debt to the Creator God of Scripture by worshipping a phony deity of their ancestral tradition, choice, or creation.
Paul stresses in his letters that many gospel blessings are "in Christ." All sinners die (Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:1), but "in Christ" (or equivalent phrases) born–again Christians enjoy, for example:
Jesus’ still future fulfillments of Bible prophecies also point to Him as essential for eternal spiritual life. His centrality is seen at His first coming (Luke 4:14-21; 24:25-27, 44-47; Acts 8:30-35; 13:16-48; John 1:45; 5:45-47 cf. Luke 16:27-31) and at His return to complete history and rescue and raise His followers (John 5:22-29; I Thessalonians 4:13-18; Titus 2:13; and often in Revelation).
It should not surprise us that God only provides one way of salvation, as that was His established pattern in history and biblical typology (analogous events, places, and people). God only redeems those who believe and obey Him. He only saved from the Flood the few who in faith and obedience accompanied righteous Noah on the one ark (Genesis 6–7; I Peter 3:20f; II Peter 2:5). The Lord rescued only Lot and his two daughters from His destruction of evil Sodom and Gomorrah; Lot’s wife and sons–in–law died for failure to evacuate in faith and obedience (Genesis 19:1–29).
In the Exodus God saved the Israelites only if they, by faith and obedience, availed themselves of His miraculous provisions through one leader, Moses, and later Joshua. God gave them salvation exclusively and supernaturally through:
Similarly, only those in Rahab’s home marked with the scarlet cord survived Jericho’s annihilation (Joshua 2; 6:22f). Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15–19 cf. John 5:46; 6:14; Acts 3:22f; 7:37), the ark, Passover lamb, crossing the sea and Jordan, manna, rock, bronze serpent, and scarlet cord were all types or signs pointing to the coming, unique Savior Jesus.
Since Jews abounded with spiritual advantages and Gentiles had a glut of human religions, why would God send His Son from holy heaven to be born in a dirty stable into a poor family, persecuted, crucified, and cut off from His Father—that is, die spiritually? Why call Christians to give their time, talent, treasure, and lives to evangelize the world? Why ask adherents of human religions to suffer the persecution that converting to follow Jesus can bring?
The Creator’s answer: Judaism and the world’s religions suffer a deadly deficiency that only His unique Son and gospel rectify. To bridge the infinite chasm from the Holy One to sinful humanity our Savior had to be both:
Such an atoning sacrifice would be impossible for a Unitarian god as a one–person god could not die spiritually—be alienated from himself. Because of the unique Trinitarian distinction between God the Father and His incarnate Son, Jesus could die simultaneously spiritually and physically as both God and man. Jesus, the Lamb of God, bore humanity’s sins Himself and was consequently cut off from His Father—suffered spiritual death (Isaiah 53; Matthew 27:46; John 1:29; II Corinthians 5:21), but He rose again proving that He had redeemed sinners in body and spirit. No others begin to meet the requirements that the Savior satisfied fully. "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men" (I Timothy 2:5f). This exclusive truth claim applies universally to all—Jews and Gentiles alike.
Nevertheless, let us compare Jesus with theoretical substitutes—Confucius, Buddha, and Muhammad, founders and archetypes of world religions.
Three Founders of World Religions
|Immortal God and Creator of universe||Yes||No, only mortal creatures|
|Creation’s purpose to glorify Him||Yes||No, their scriptures lack a comparable concept|
|Fulfilled many ancient inspired prophecies of the coming Savior, Messiah, & King||Yes||No, none made nor fulfilled|
|Sent by God from heaven by supernatural virgin birth; eternal being without origin||Yes||No, not sent by God; only earthly origins by ordinary natural births|
|Unique incarnation of God—His Son who personally, eternally identifies with us||Yes||
No, never even claimed such
His life, character, teaching, miracles revealed God as personal & loving
|Yes||No, at best taught a cold, unholy, distant, or impersonal deity|
|Matchless Holy One of God, sinless in thought, word, deed and omission||Yes||No, just sinners lacking salvation|
God authenticated His Son’s identity & teaching authority by speaking from heaven, Holy Spirit anointing, transfiguration, & many other miracles
No miracles; no comparable divine authentication nor authorization; spoke and acted merely on their own
|Taught in accord with prior Biblical revelation as required of true prophets||Yes||No, often contradicted God’s word|
|Died a perfect, unrepeatable, atoning sacrifice for all time that God accepted||Yes||
Not martyred; died as sinners;
provided no atoning sacrifice nor any provision for sin
Raised from death & ascended into heaven
No, buried in graves or cremated
By His work gives sinners salvation by faith through His grace apart from works (deeds)
No, people must earn it by works
of obedience to laws & rules
Loves, indwells, & empowers His followers
No, dead & powerless
Intercedes as holy high priest beside His Father; simultaneously understands all languages & millions of prayers
No, not in heaven; cannot intercede, hear prayer, nor simultaneously understand many languages
|Holy King will return to judge all people||Yes||No, never expected to return nor to judge anyone|
Accepts worship by people & angels
No, never accepted any worship
A river is purest and highest at its source. Do the founders of alleged ways to God manifest actions, characters, and revelations consistent with the great, holy, loving Creator they often purport to represent? Only Jesus could say truthfully, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9 cf. 1:14, 18; 10:30; 12:45; II Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3). The ever–living King of kings and Lord of lords is unequaled and supreme. All lifeless, sinful founders of world religions fall embarrassingly short. Assigning Jesus to the level of mere mortal, sinful, religious leaders, displays at least great ignorance of Him and the others.
Probably most people assume that all religions at an absolute minimum teach love and practical service to others, at least and especially to one’s family members. Nevertheless, Buddha permanently abandoned his wife and son for his religious quest. Buddhism teaches detachment not only from material possessions but also from one’s own family. Buddha named his son Rahoul meaning "obstacle" as he hindered Buddha’s philosophical fulfillment.
In contrast, Jesus showed great family concern. He provided for His mother Mary while He was being tortured to death (John 19:26f). When raised, He appeared to His brother James, who had not believed in Him (John 7:2-5; I Corinthians 15:7).
Probably no religious leader contrasts more with Jesus than Muhammad (c.570–632), the founder of the largest creed after Christianity. The Qur'an emphasizes that Muhammad is the greatest and final prophet—Seal of the prophets (33:40), and denies:
Nevertheless, the Qur'an in some ways exalts Jesus as superior by:
The Qur'an attributes to Muhammad no physical miracles. He turned aside challenges to do them to prove his authority by identifying himself as only a mortal man, warner, apostle, and guide (2:118f; 3:144; 6:37, 50, 125; 7:188; 10:21; 13:7,27; 17:59, 90–97; 18:111; 29:49–55; 41:6; 46:9; cf. 6:109-12; 18:10. On his alleged miracles in the Hadith see Norman L. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam: the Crescent in Light of the Cross, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002), pp. 163-74.)
Muhammad, the archetypal Muslim militant, put to the sword innocent, caravan–trader "infidels" resisting robbery and conversion. In actions that today would be considered terrorism, he violated his own peace treaties and revelation (Qur'an 9:4) to surprise attack, pillage, and murder many Arabs—even his own fellow tribesmen in Ramadan, the traditional truce month—and about 800 Jewish men. His brigands raped these Jews’ widows and enslaved them and their children (Bukhari, Hadith 5.59:512f) establishing a pattern for subsequent Muslim atrocities. Muhammad also tortured some victims (Bukhari, Hadith 7.71:590; 8.82:794–97) and cruelly murdered multiple women, who objected to his wrongdoing (Ibn Sa’d, Kitab Al–Tabaqat Al–Kabir, translated by S. Moinul Haq as Book of the Major Classes (Pakistan Historical Society) , vol. 2, p. 31; Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah, translated by A. Guillaume as Life of Muhammad (NYC: Oxford U. Press, 1955), pp. 675–76).
A monumental disparity exists between the deaths of the perpetrator of mass murder, slavery and serial robbery (Muhammad) and the meek, all–powerful Prince of Peace, who freed the captives (Luke 4:16–21). Muhammad, attended by his wives, died in bed cursing Jews and Christians (Muslim, Hadith 4:1079-82) and launched ethnic cleansing of pagans from Arabia (Bukhari, Hadith 5.59:716 cf. Muslim, Hadith 19:4360, 4363f, 4366). In contrast, just before and even during His crucifixion, Jesus Christ, who taught and exemplified love and forgiveness for even His enemies (Matthew 5:5; 11:29; Luke 6:27–36; Romans 5:10f):
The prophet Muhammad, a veteran of many terrorist attacks, astonishingly parallels early Mormon prophets. In the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre, Mormon militants deceptively used a white truce flag to surprise attack and plunder non–Mormon families peacefully migrating through Utah by wagon train to California. Mormon prophet Brigham Young prevented prosecution of his terrorist henchmen (except for one scapegoat) for murdering 120 innocent men, women, and children.
The first seven Mormon leaders—polygamist prophets—recruited wives with promised future–life rewards. Founder Joseph Smith had over 30 wives; his successor, Young, had 55. Muhammad had over a dozen but limited Muslim men to four (Qur'an 4:3; 33:50–52). He claimed that by Allah’s commands he married his cousin and daughter–in–law Zayab Bint Jahsh (33:36–39) and his favorite, the six–year–old ‘A’isha. He consummated his marriage to this little girl when she was age nine and he was 53 (Bukhari, Hadith 5.58:234f; 7.62:64f, 88). Their union opened the way for many Muslim men to take child brides—after their first menstruation (Qur'an 24:59).
Only Jesus, who shattered the bonds of death, actually achieved, freely gives, and absolutely assures salvation for His disciples. Quite the reverse, the dead founders of lifeless religions failed to raise or save even themselves. All their mutually contradictory ways of salvation through sinful, self–righteous, human works are dead–ends.
The designer and Creator of the universe, including notably all physical life—microscopic to mammoth; flowers to fish; bats and birds to butterflies—is also the designer and Creator of all spiritual and resurrection life (Romans 4:17; 8:11). The self-existent, eternal God uniquely possesses and gives life (Psalm 36:9; John 1:4; 5:26; I John 1:1–3; 5:20). A major distinctive of Christ, "the author of life" (Acts 3:15), is that He taught, "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25). All past and future resurrections come through His Father and Him (and sometimes His prophets and disciples). Jesus raised perhaps scores of people, no one knows an exact number. (Matthew 27:51-53 cf. 10:8; John 20:30; 21:25). The Bible claims that Jesus, "the first to rise from the dead" (Acts 26:23; permanently with a new glorified body), will raise everyone eternally to life or condemnation at the end of the age (John 5:28f).
In comparison, earthly religions are resurrection–less. They promise deliverance but deliver death. While alive, the helpless heads of human religions failed to raise even a single person. Can they now, many years after death defeated them, be relied upon to successfully raise millions?
God warns against trusting in mere man:
Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives (Jeremiah 17:5f).
The Qur’an itself admits all Muslims go to hell (Qur'an 19:69-71 Shakir's version: "Then We will most certainly draw forth from every sect of them him who is most exorbitantly rebellious against the Beneficent Allah. Again we do certainly know best those who deserve most to be burned therein. And there is not one of you but shall come to it; this is an unavoidable decree of your Lord.") Islamic scholars strive to soften this teaching; e.g., Muslims are just there while the fire is out). Muhammad could offer no assurance of salvation (16:93, 95; 17:13) as he had none himself: "…[N]or know I what will be done with me or with you" (46:9); "By Allah, though I am the apostle of Allah, yet I do not know what Allah will do to me" (Bukhari, Hadith 5.58:266; cf. 7.70:577; 8.75:374–88; 8.76:470). Muslims do not even see Muhammad as saved. Whenever they mention his name, they are to plead, "Allah, pray for him and give him peace" (Qur'an 33:56). Although many Muslims are ignorant of it, Muhammad admitted his sins (40:55; 47:19; 48:1f; 94:1–3; Bukhari, Hadith 6.60:3; 7.70:577; 8.75:374, 378–82, 386, 388; 9.93:482) and his powerlessness to save others (Bukhari, Hadith 4.51:16).
Despite their best efforts, all the devotees of this world’s religions lack true assurance of salvation because they never know whether they have done enough. They grope in darkness toward a mirage because they lack vital Scriptural light and the indwelling, life-giving, God–man Savior and His substitutionary, atoning death and resurrection. Jesus did for His followers what no one else ever could. Fortunately, like Christians, all followers of human religions can have all their righteous religious ideals and aspirations fulfilled if they turn in conversion to obey Christ.
Fallen, blind, dead sinners cannot reach up to the heights of heaven to the infinitely Holy One and attain eternal, spiritual life on their own sinful terms through dead religions contrived by helpless prophets. The unholy can only approach the Creator of the universe on His terms through His heaven–revealed Scripture and Son, our Savior. God distinctively sends and reveals His Son Jesus Christ and His gospel from heaven above to lost humanity on earth (John 3:11–13, 17, 31–34; 8:23, 26, 40; 10:36; 17:6–8, 14; 18:37 cf. I Corinthians 15:47). Salvation occurs only of God’s grace by faith in His Son and His supernatural work (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 10:9-13; Ephesians 2:8f; Titus 3:5). For anyone to be saved requires God to do a miracle (Mark 10:26f). Salvation is by Christ’s atonement not our attainment. Human religions futilely command dead sinners do. Christ lovingly counters, as it were, "I have already done it all for you." Only through Christ and His work is salvation full, free, and finished.
Omniscient God, who infinitely loves sinners and cannot lie, would not condemn the world’s religions as false and ignorant if they truly met humanity’s needs; however, God does in fact condemn them (Exodus 12:12; Deuteronomy 30:11-20; 31:14-32:47; Jeremiah 10:11; Romans 1:18-32; I Corinthians 8:4-7; 12:2; Galatians 4:8; Colossians 2:8; II Thessalonians 2:9-12; Revelation 21:8). Although idols and sacrifices to them are nothing, "the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God" (I Corinthians 10:19f). God "commands all people everywhere to repent" of their ignorant idolatry and turn to Him (Acts 17:30 cf. 14:15; I Thessalonians 1:9). If God tolerated heresies, He would violate His own truth, holiness, and love for sinful people that impel Him to reveal that human religions are death traps.
An examination of the fruit of human religions reaches the same conclusion. While lacking the exalted ethics of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, human religions generally teach some positive morality that they however misconstrue as redemptive. They have also often required wickedness:
Conversely, the gospel has provided many peoples with blessings in addition to salvation. To the extent that peoples have received the Good News, evils incited by human religions have diminished, and benefits have overflowed:
Certainly, Christians have too often morally failed by not following Jesus and by misapplying and disobeying Scripture, for example, by practicing racial segregation and, until the 19th century, slavery; by tolerating evils like abortion; by not always demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22f). Recent public moral failings of Christian broadcasters only serve to highlight the corrupt human nature which only Christ can transform and ultimately redeem.
The biblical doctrine of God reveals theological deficiencies in human religions. Their deities pale when compared to the Triune Creator who is self–existent, sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, eternal, personal, holy, just, faithful, true, merciful, and loving. Human religions contradict heaven–revealed Christianity and often contradict themselves.
The countless Hindu gods have similar character defects to those of the disunited Greek pantheon. While Hinayana Buddhists are atheists, Mahayana Buddhists mistakenly promoted philosopher Buddha, who denied his deity, to godhood.
Muhammad misguidedly promoted one of the Arabs’ pagan pantheon (quite possibly their fertility god) as Islam’s sole deity: Allah. Muhammad displaced the true Creator and Redeemer of Scripture by blasphemously crediting Allah with attributes and works of the true Lord God. Sovereign, distant Allah is so aloof above Muslims and morality as to be capable of capriciously condemning committed Muslims to hell. Their great theologian al–Ghazali, referring to Allah’s 99 names, said, "Every name of Allah is contradicted by another of his names. Allah is everything and nothing. No one can approach his greatness or fathom his essence. He remains the unknowable and authoritative God."
Mormonism began as monotheistic but degenerated into polytheism. Mormonism has made over 3,900 unpublicized corrections to Joseph Smith’s 1830 Book of Mormon that he called "the most correct of any book on earth" (History of the Church, vol. 4, p. 461). Nevertheless, this sacred book still contradicts their later more heretical scriptures, which, for example, abrogate monotheistic Trinitarianism, replacing it with polytheism. Now, Mormons who serve a couple years as missionaries, tithe, and so on, proudly presume their promotion to godhood over their own planets based on revelations from Brigham Young (Journal of Discourses vol. 3, p. 93; vol. 10, p. 223).
Philosophical and practical atheists also both fall far short. "The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’" (Psalm 14:1). "In all his thoughts there is no room for God" (10:3 cf. vs. 2-13). He has no fear or awe of God (36:1 cf. vs. 1-4). Such wicked, proud fools may be practical, not theological, atheists. They may be religious, even superficially Christian, but selfishly live independently as though God did not exist, dedicating their time, treasure, and thoughts to their own little gods—themselves.
It is a grievous heresy for people to promote a philosopher, or a phony, pagan god, or themselves to sinfully replace the universe’s Sovereign. "Man–made gods are no gods at all" (Acts 19:26 cf. I Corinthians 8:4-6). God Almighty cannot excuse worshipping and following synthetic imitations.
The omniscient Lord Jesus prayed at Gethsemane about the necessity of His atoning death, "My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done" (Matthew 26:42). Jesus did not submit needlessly to crucifixion and receiving the essence of hell when He was cut off from His Father (27:46). Quite the opposite, He surrendered to this horror as the only way to save sinners—even His enemies (Romans 5:6-11). If anyone could reach God apart from Christ, He never needed to come (Galatians 2:21 cf. 3:21; Acts 13:39; Hebrews 7:11): "For if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"
Amazingly, our Lord accepted this only–way truth when it cost Him everything. Some Christians reject this same only–way truth when it costs them one thing—obedience to Christ’s last command, His Great Commission. If Judaism or world religions had been sufficient, Christ would never have come, nor died, nor called His disciples to surrender their lives to evangelize the world.
When our car runs low on oil, the manufacturer tells us in the owner’s manual to add only high–grade motor oil. Anything else will wreck our engine. Our Creator tells us in His owner’s manual, the Bible, that ignoring His only–way teaching about Jesus brings catastrophe.
Some people have a proclivity to reject truths that are new to them or come from an unexpected source. If a brilliant Jewish doctor, through a sacrificial life of dedicated, painstaking research, broke through great obstacles to discover the AIDS cure, should we reflexively shake our fists at God for giving us only one cure and that through a Jew? Rather, everyone should thank and honor God and this scientist for his marvelous medicine. If quacks counterfeited it, and this compassionate, preeminent scientist, exposed and denounced their fraudulent, deadly narcotics, should we castigate him as intolerant? If he publicized and donated his life–saving remedy to his beloved AIDS patients, who had been deceived into addiction to bogus cures, must we condemn him for arrogance?
God designed our bodies to require oxygen and has graciously, globally supplied all we need. Should we scold God for creating no alternatives to oxygen? Should we reprimand God for warning us through general revelation against breathing poison carbon monoxide? After all, invisible, odorless carbon monoxide appears harmless, has oxygen, and seems at first to work well as our blood readily receives it. However, in the end it saturates our blood’s hemoglobin and blocks out life–giving oxygen. Earthly religions, similarly, have no life to give but do block out life–giving truth.
No matter how much sincerity, full–hearted zeal, and dedication one has, death devolves from mortal heresy (mistaken means to a false goal—Communist utopia, Nazi Third Reich, heretical heaven; Romans 10:1-3). Ardent, misdirected sincerity can produce death (e.g., in medical care, engineering, scuba diving, aircraft flying, and friendly fire in war). While Nicodemus (John 3; 19:38-42), Paul (Philippians 3:3-11), and pagan Thessalonians (I Thessalonians 1:9) repented of their theological errors and gained life, Uzzah (II Samuel 6:3-6 cf. Exodus 25:10-22; Numbers 4:1-20; 7:6-9) and the sons of Aaron (Leviticus 10:1-3 cf. Exodus 30:7-9) followed incorrect doctrines—apparently sincerely—and paid with their lives. Infinite idealism, fervent faith, and earnest enthusiasm cannot transform evil falsehood into true salvation (John 4:24; Romans 10:1-3; Galatians 1:6-9). Consequently, God will not reward murdering Muslim terrorists with eternal harems as Muhammad promised (Qur'an 2:25; 3:157f, 169–73, 193–95; 4:57, 74–77, 95f, 100; 9:20, 111; 22:58f; 37:40–49; 38:50–56; 44:51–57; 47:4–15; 48:16f; 52:17–24; 55:46–78; 56:1–38; 61:10–12; 76:11–22; 78:31–36; Bukhari, Hadith 1.2:35; 4.53:352; 9.93:621; Muslim, Hadith 20:4626–35, 4646, 4649–53). Rather, wrong–headed religion reaps ruin. "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12). Sincerely following human heresy and insincerely following God’s gospel both bring death (Matthew 3:7-12; 7:13-27; 13:1-23; 21:33-44; 23; 25:31-46).
Ravi Zacharias, evangelist to intellectuals, has observed that if God said people could reach Him and heaven by several ways but not every conceivable way, mankind would still object. Unless God accepted every human religion as valid, they would attack Him as intolerant, narrow–minded, overly restrictive, and unfair. (See his Jesus Among Other Gods: The Absolute Claims Of The Christian Message (Nashville: Word, 2000).) Rebellious sinners protest regardless of where loving God defines the boundary between right and wrong, truth and heresy. They are not particularly concerned about the expansiveness and sufficiency of the freedom and truth He bestows. Instead, they fixate on His authority and are offended by His "gall" in limiting them at all. While pre–Fall Adam and Eve could freely eat fruit of every garden tree but one, they were so obsessed with that one that we have no indication that they ever ate from other garden trees (Genesis 2:15–17; 3:1–6).
Sinners may oppose Jesus as the only way of salvation even though they intellectually assent to His gospel as a way. They philosophize an indulgent, little god who automatically rubber–stamps all their religious theories "approved." They have a heart attitude of rebellion against the true Sovereign, whom they seek to displace with an idol of their own choice or creation. They deliberately defy the holy God of Scripture for challenging and impinging on their absolute autonomy, self–sufficiency, and self–righteousness. If they persist in rejecting Christ’s light and truth, He will ultimately, reluctantly grant them self–imposed, permanent independence from Him—hell.
Without heaven’s help, unbelievers cannot find spiritual truth because they are spiritually blind, in darkness, enslaved, dead in sin, and hopelessly alienated from holy God (Romans 6:15-23; Acts 26:17f; I Corinthians 2:6-16; II Corinthians 4:3f; Ephesians 2:1-5; 4:17-19; 5:8-14; Colossians 1:13,21; I Peter 2:9). Ungodly people suppress the plain truth about God by their wickedness and idolatry, which lead them downward through debauchery to death (Romans 1:18–32 cf. II Thessalonians 2:9–12). No sinners are good, sincere, self–motivated seekers of God and His truth (Romans 3:9-23).
Unholy people only seek God if He supernaturally draws them (John 6:44, 65; 15:16; Romans 10:20). He guarantees such seekers success:
God gives spiritual light to all and then more light to those who humbly and rightly receive it (Psalm 19; John 1:9; Acts 14:8-20; Romans 1:19f). To find fullness of light is to find Jesus, who said:
While believers know both the Son and His Father, the unbelieving world knows neither (John 8:19; 15:21; 16:3; 17:3,25).
To be redeemed, the lost require both the gospel message and the gospel messenger or missionary:
God prepared three lost, sincere, religious seekers—the Ethiopian eunuch, Pharisee Saul (Paul), and the Roman centurion Cornelius—to receive light. When they responded positively, He sent them full gospel light by evangelists (Acts 8:26-11:18). God providentially and sovereignly motivated and guided together in divine rendezvous both His seekers and His messengers.
Jesus graciously assisted seekers who had goodwill, including Jewish religious leaders, even if one had imperfect motives (John 3:1ff; Mark 12:28-34 cf. Matthew 22:35). Conversely, when proud Jews hardened their hearts in evil and error against God the Son, they gained His Father’s condemnation and lost His truth (John 5:31-47; 8:31-47; 9; 12:37-41; 15:18-16:3; Matthew 3:7-12; 10:11-15; 11:16-26; 13:10-15; 15:1-20; 23; Acts 28:23-27; Romans 1:18-2:29). At His trial, Jesus ironically spoke His last words in Matthew to His Jewish judges as their divine judge (Matthew 26:64 cf. Psalm 110:1; Daniel 7:13f).
Some people mistake Romans 2:7, 10, 14-16 to teach that good, self-motivated, sincere seekers can find God and His truth apart from knowing the gospel. Correct contextual interpretation of 2:6ff though, shows the reverse. Such hypothetical seekers do not even exist (3:9–23). God will judge people lacking biblical revelation on the basis of their own moral standards; however, all fail this test as no one always lives even up to one's own low ethical standards, much less up to God’s holy perfection. People’s consciences will condemn them: "All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law" (v. 12 cf. v.6). Therefore, no one can make it on one's own righteousness.
Paul teaches the universality of sin including original sin, which earns God’s necessary, just penalty—death (Romans 3:23; 5:12; 6:23). Sinners who are ignorant of Christ remain guilty and unexcused. Otherwise, if ignorance of the gospel was more effective at saving sinners than acceptance of the gospel was, Christ should have forbidden evangelization. Sinners condemn themselves, not by being innocently ignorant of gospel truth but by choosing to omit doing good and choosing to do evil in thought, word, and deed. However, the more gospel light people have and disobey, the greater their condemnation (Luke 10:8-15; 11:29-32; 12:47f).
Can anyone love God the Father, an unseen spirit, but reject His perfect, full revelation—His incarnate Son (Colossians 1:15; 2:9; John 1:14-18; 14:6-11; Hebrews 1:3 cf. 4:20-5:1)? Jesus answers:
While believers know both the Son and His Father, the unbelieving world knows neither (John 8:19; 15:21; 16:3; 17:3, 25).
John’s gospel emphasizes the Son’s deity and His close Trinitarian unity with His Father. Jesus proclaims, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30 cf. v33), and about 18 special actions that relate to both His Father and Himself but not to lesser beings (except a few times to Christians). Thus, Jesus said in John (also see above "Sincerely Seeking Spiritual Truth"):
John’s first two letters add:
To know, see, honor, love, hate, reject, deny, or have God the Son is to do the same to His Father who perfectly revealed Himself in Jesus and is forever united with Him in the Trinity. Therefore, to renounce God the Son is also to renounce His Father and salvation:
It is not stunning that Jesus is the only way but rather that any way to God exists. To comprehend Jesus and His ministry is to know that He is obviously the way. Moreover, wonder of wonders—Jesus paid for it in full—a free way for us evil sinners to reach infinitely just God. He cried out while dying, "It is finished" (John 19:30), an idiom meaning that He "paid in full" our debt of sin. Thus, Jesus opened a free way for us as rebellious sinners to reach infinitely just God. All people stand self–condemned, guilty before the Holy One, deserving only eternal wrath. Nevertheless, through faith in His Son, God "justifies the wicked" (Romans 4:5) and even credits them with Christ’s infinite righteousness (Romans 4).
To recognize the unique saving sufficiency of Christ and His gospel is not arrogance. Rather, it is to grasp the greatest Good News: the Holy One has not abandoned us sinners to our own choice of complete independence and separation from Him—in hell. Amazingly, God freely offers us abundant eternal life! The biblical picture is of a King, with infinite agape (unconditional) love, inviting all people everywhere—undeserving, humble beggars, perishing from thirst and starvation—to His free banquet. Believers are, moreover, privileged in obedience, love, and the empowering of the Holy Spirit to give out His royal invitation.
Yes, many roads lead to the mountaintop—to God’s Son. These roads are all the languages and loving ways through which God gives sinners the Good News of Jesus Christ—through churches, youth groups, Bible studies, missions, literature, radio, TV, movies, the Internet, and personal and mass evangelism. Only God’s risen Son, who alone ascended from a mountaintop to heaven, can take us up to God.
Copyright ©2003, Boyet Olave. Used by permission. All rights reserved.