|After a long, hard day of navigating life's slippery slopes and sloppy obstacles, I've been known to watch other people do it with a rollicking episode of Wipeout! The Sinistairs. Big Balls. Dizzy Dummy. They're just a few of the pitfalls on the hit ABC reality/game show that features gung-ho contestants racing through a grueling course in pursuit of $50,000. |
The obstacles are tough. And the wipeouts can be hilarious. But while some viewers tune in simply to watch people fall in the mud, I get a kick out of watching them size up each challenge just seconds before tackling it. It's as if they're thinking, "OK, what did the creator of this hazard have in mind? What's the right way to get through this?" They try, and—splash!—they fail. So they give it another shot. Kersploosh! And all the while, I'm cheering from my couch, "Slow down! Wait for the wheel to get there! It's all about timing. You can do it!"
I often get a similar feeling as I root for people struggling to overcome spiritual obstacles. The emotional hurdles to faith. The slippery slope of unreliable ideas. Soon the person is sizing up the chasm of sin and deciding how to tackle it. But there's only one way across without wiping out—Jesus—and the stakes couldn't be higher.
We live in a culture of choices, options and preferences. To suggest that the Creator of the universe has engineered one correct way to safely navigate this life and enter eternity is offensive to a lot of people, including a young man I met at a book signing. The bookstore was about to close, and I was jotting notes to the last few people in line when he pleaded, "Don't leave yet, I have a question!" Daryl had come in to purchase a work on Taoism recommended by his martial arts instructor. As we talked he asked, "Why do Christians claim that belief in Jesus is the only way to heaven? Couldn't God just make it so that everyone gets in?"
This is a common question. Now more than ever, it seems those outside the church bristle at the idea of Jesus being the only Savior. A recent national headline read, "Jesus Panned by 16- to 29-Year-Olds." The article went on to say that young people view Christians as being narrow, judgmental and too exclusive in their truth claims. Using a similar tone, Daryl told me, "I just don't accept the idea anymore that there can be only one way to heaven."
It is sometimes assumed that, historically, religious leaders have been pointing people to essentially the same God. But this is not the case. Muhammad, Buddha, Confucius and countless others have set forth ideas about God that contradict one another. Islam's Quran teaches that there is one God. The Hindu Upanishads embrace many gods. Other philosophies assert that everything is God. Those and other concepts from divergent texts can't be simultaneously true.
A reporter once asked George W. Bush, "Some people who share your [Christian] beliefs don't believe that Muslims worship the same Almighty. I wonder about your views on that." After prefacing his response with comments about freedom being a divine gift to all people, the president said, "I believe we worship the same God."
Do we? History says Jesus was crucified, yet Islam teaches that Jesus was not crucified. Was He, or wasn't He? Furthermore, the Lord's own words set Christianity apart. The narrow position "Jesus is the only way to heaven" comes to us from … Jesus.
I often say that He was either the world's greatest truth-teller or history's greatest blasphemer. In verses such as Matthew 26:64, Mark 14:62-64 and Luke 22:66-71, Jesus asserts Himself to be deity, that is, God. Also, Jesus said that people would die spiritually if they didn't entrust their souls to Him (John 8:24). He can't be the Savior and not be the Savior. If Jesus was correct about these things and was saying what He did in order to point souls to salvation, He should be praised as the noblest truth-teller.
Indeed, there is no evidence that Jesus was mistaken about His identity, nor was He intentionally trying to mislead His followers. Jesus' core message was two-fold: He is history's promised Savior, and the spiritual destiny of all people hangs on their response to Him. Christ claimed attributes for Himself that are appropriate only to God. Specifically, He claimed that He sent prophets to Israel (Matt. 23:34), is able to forgive sin (Mark 2:10), is the fulfillment of Scripture (Luke 4:21; John 5:39), can set people free (John 8:36), came from God (John 8:42), is eternal (John 8:58), has the same nature as God the Father (John 10:30, 14:9), is Lord (John 13:13) and—here's that controversial position again—is the only way to God (John 14:6).
Don't wipe out. From prophecies and miraculous deeds to a sinless life and physical resurrection, evidence overwhelmingly points to the legitimacy of Christ's unique claims. Those who accept what He said and did are justified in doing so, while skeptics must recognize that contradictory claims of world religions cannot all be true. Confronted with this fact, people must then decide what to do with this exclusive Savior.
Alex McFarland is Plugged In's teen apologetics expert. For more on his ministry and speaking schedule, visit alexmcfarland.com.
Published March 2011