One of the most common concerns that people raise with me is the exclusivity of the Christian faith. Many people in our postmodern, relativistic society want to believe that all roads lead to heaven. In 2016 Lifeway Research conducted a poll and found that 60 percent of all Americans believe that “Heaven is a place where all people will ultimately be reunited with their loved ones.” Only 40 percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement that “Hell is an eternal place of judgment where God sends all people who do not personally trust in Jesus Christ.”(1)
Most people in our contemporary culture — and that includes many who identify as Christians — don’t want to consider the idea that the loving relative, the kindly neighbor, the gentle classmate or the generous philanthropist may suffer eternal torment in hell.
How did we get here? There are a number of factors that would take us well beyond the scope of this brief article, but there can be no doubt that when teaching evolution replaced teaching the Bible in our public schools, it was inevitable that our society would abandon the notion of absolute truth.
Belgian author Émile Cammaerts wrote, “The first effect of not believing in God is to believe in anything.” Cammaerts’ observation (which is frequently attributed to G. K. Chesterton) is all too true. Today, many of those who claim to believe in God worship a god of their own imagination, not the God of revelation. They imagine a god who inspires but doesn’t instruct… a god who comforts but doesn’t command… a god who directs but doesn’t demand. This is the god they want, but it is not the God who is. The grandfatherly “man upstairs” that so many visualize bears very little resemblance to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who reveals Himself to us in sacred Scripture.
The question that each one of us must ask and answer is this: “What do you believe about God?” If you believe in the God of revelation, then you believe that the Bible is the Word of God, that everything contained in it is true and trustworthy, and that Bible reveals that Jesus Christ is God incarnate. You don’t get to pick and choose which verses you want to believe and throw out the others. You must take God at His word — all of His Word — and that living and active Word includes this statement made by Jesus: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
That’s exclusive! Jesus made it clear that all roads do not lead to heaven, only the road that was paved with His Passion. Jesus did not say, “I am one way to the Father,” satisfying the secularist, pacifying the pluralist and undergirding the universalists. Rather, He said He is the only way.
Either this exclusive claim of Christ is true or it is false. If it is false, then Jesus cannot be thought of as “a good teacher,” “a great prophet,” and certainly not as God incarnate. He would either be a manipulative liar or a raving lunatic. However, if His claim is true — and it is, for a myriad of reasons (including the Resurrection, which we will cover at Easter time as His greatest apologetic) — then we must not shrink from sharing that truth with a world that desperately needs to hear the truth and believe it.
All religious worldviews are not and cannot be true. The differing truth claims made by various faiths contradict each other, which negates the possibility that all these claims are true. To say, for example, that both Christianity and Confucianism are true is a logical fallacy.
Many skeptics point to the “Golden Rule” and insist that this rule is found in all religions — which teach us to “be good,” work toward justice, give to the poor, etc. — thereby making all religious claims equally true. But this simply cannot be the case because all religions make some kind of exclusive claim that is opposed to the claims of other faiths. It’s possible that all faiths are false, but they cannot all be true.
The truth claims of Christianity are rooted in the One who made them: Jesus Christ. We don’t get a vote. Truth is not what people say it is; truth is what God says. When Jesus said that the only one way to get to heaven is by trusting in Him alone, He meant what He said!
Jesus told us that the most important commandment is to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). In so doing He is reminding us to think through what we believe. All roads do not lead to heaven, and that includes the roads currently traveled by Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and others. Many of the people travelling these roads are very nice and very sincere, but they are sincerely wrong about what is true.
If we are going to live out The Great Commission with any degree of effectiveness, we must learn to speak the truth in love and to disagree without being disagreeable. We must gently explain that Christianity is exclusive because Jesus is exclusive, and He made it crystal clear that the only way to heaven is to trust in His atoning death alone for the free gift of eternal life.
May this exclusive truth claim be your truth today!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. Never forget that… Amen!
Tommy Boland is senior pastor of Cross Community Church in Deerfield Beach. He blogs regularly at tommyboland.com.
(1)Bob Smietana, “Americans love God and the Bible, are fuzzy on the details,” Lifeway Research, September 27, 2016.