"Is There One True Religion?”
on Luke 19:28-44 and Selected Texts
on March 27 and 28, 2010
David J. Claassen
2010 by David J. Claassen
I was growing up on a farm in Iowa, our nearby hometown was
Parkersburg. It was a town of about 1500 people. It had, as I
recall, seven religious centers of worship. They were all Christian
churches: six Protestant and one Catholic. I didn't know a single
Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim. I didn't know a single atheist, though
there were farmers who worked their fields on Sunday, so I wasn't too
sure about them! (Even many seemingly lukewarm Christians —
Christmas and Easter Christians — didn't work their fields on
world's different now. Though many people have lived for years in a
pluralistic society where they know people of many faiths, there are
a lot more of us now than before who live among people of other
faiths or of no faith. It easily prompts a question — a really big
question. It's the question we're addressing this weekend in our
“The BIG Question” series.
religious question that’s asked most often is stated in different
ways. “How can anyone say their religion is the only true
religion?” “How can you insist that Jesus is the only way to God
and heaven?” “What about all the good people who don't believe
in Jesus? Aren't they going to be in heaven?” “Isn't it
narrow-minded to believe that one person, group, or religion has a
corner on truth?”
can all be summarized in the really big question that we're
addressing this weekend: “Is there one true religion?”
general consensus today — the politically correct view — is that
there isn’t one true religion. It’s often believed that all
religions have a lot in common and that we should emphasize that
fact. Many people believe that all religions lead to God and to
heaven. Mark L. Y. Chan, a philosopher from Singapore — a very
pluralistic part of the world where many religions thrive — wrote,
“Some professing Christians in Asia regard Christ as but one avatar
among many possible manifestations of the divine.” (Christianity
Feb. 2010, p.46)
want to share with you how I respond to such views. I want to share
some logical arguments that have thoughtfully been laid out by people
much smarter than I am. These arguments, I believe, prove that it
makes sense to hold to the uniqueness of Jesus, that He alone is to
be worshiped and followed, and that we’re supposed to spread the
Word about Him.
Religions Are Exclusive in What They Believe
sometimes try to argue that only Christianity claims to be the true
religion. They propose that we accept the fact that all religions
are equally true, or that we accept the best of each religion.
reality is that all religions make exclusive claims. A Muslim
acquaintance of mine who’s a retired pediatric physician tries to
tell me that Judaism, the Muslim faith, and Christianity have much in
common: particularly Moses, the prophets, and the whole Old Testament
(as we call it). My response to him is that only Christians believe
Jesus to be God in the flesh, and the greatest miracle is His
resurrection from the dead. Muslims believe that Mohammed is God's
greatest spokesman and that the Koran is the greatest miracle.
Judaism believes neither of these views. They disagree as much with
Christianity as Christianity does with their views.
if my Muslim friend wants to be inclusive by putting the three great
religions together, how about Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, and
other faiths? Is he going to exclude them? It would appear so.
religion has exclusive claims and beliefs. Hinduism and Buddhism
don't believe in a personal God whom we can relate to. Either God is
personal or He's not; both views can't be right. Hinduism believes
in the law of Karma, that existence is cyclical, and that we’re
reincarnated. We believe that existence is linear, not cyclical, and
that once a person dies there's a judgment of what future we have for
eternity. The Jewish faith, Muslim faith, and Christian faith have
this general view. Both views — reincarnation and a heaven (and
hell) — can't be right. They’re mutually exclusive views.
if one grants that all religions have an element of truth and that we
should agree that they’re all true, what do we say to an atheist?
By believing in God, we're excluding his belief in no God.
isn’t the only religion to hold mutually exclusive views, and we
shouldn't let people get by with saying that. All the religions do!
We’re doing them an injustice by not entering into an engaging
dialogue where we point out their wrong assumption.
fact is that all truth is exclusive. 1 + 1 = 2. That means that 1 +
1 can’t equal 3 or any number other than 2. It's mutually
exclusive. No one who understands math would call a person
narrow-minded for insisting that 1 + 1 = 2.
seems that people confuse universal truth and personal taste. When I
say 1 + 1 = 2 I'm stating a truth. When I say that the color red is
the best color, I'm expressing my personal taste: that I prefer the
color red. What we believe about God shouldn’t be seen as an
expression of personal taste, of what we prefer to believe. Either
God is a personal God or He isn’t. Either Jesus has always been
the Son of God, the second member of the Godhead, or He hasn’t
been. There's no gray area in such matters. One view is going to be
right and one view is wrong — or maybe they’re both wrong, which
is what an atheist would argue. We may prefer that God exists or
not, and we may prefer Him to be a personal God or not, or we might
prefer to believe that Jesus is or isn’t God in the flesh — but
what we prefer really doesn't matter. What matters is what is.
Our taste in colors may vary, and red may or may not be your
favorite color. However, the truth of 1 + 1 = 2 stands no matter
whether I prefer odd numbers rather than even numbers. We mustn’t
confuse truth and taste.
Truth about Jesus
a previous message we explored the claim that the Biblical text is a
compilation of trustworthy documents and that there's no reason to
question their historical accuracy. Many people — even
non-Christians — affirm that Jesus was a great teacher and that
what He taught was true.
of the subjects Jesus taught about was Himself! For instance, Jesus
am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father
except through me.” (John
14:6) Even His enemies saw clearly in His teaching that He claimed
to be God, and they charged Him with blasphemy: “For
this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was
he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father,
making himself equal with God.”
not only said amazing things about Himself, He did amazing things.
We have record of Jesus' amazing power over nature when He stilled a
storm and walked on water. He healed many people with diseases and
even raised dead people back to life. Next weekend — Easter
weekend — we'll explore the proofs for His resurrection from the
the people who knew Him best were convinced that He was God in the
flesh and the one and only bridge to God. Peter declared in a
message that he delivered to a large crowd, “Salvation
is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven
given to men by which we must be saved.”
issue of who Jesus was came to a head when He entered Jerusalem
accompanied by a huge crowd that was declaring Him to be king.
People waved palm fronds and threw their coats in front of the donkey
He rode. They shouted, “Blessed
is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
(Luke 19:38) Of course they thought that Jesus would claim the
throne and rule their land, taking it away from Roman rule. As we
know with 20/20 hindsight, Jesus had bigger plans! He was heading to
a cross to claim victory over the greatest tyrannical rule of all:
the rule of Satan and sin.
religious leaders observing this red-carpet treatment and massive
parade for Jesus came up to Him and said, “Teacher,
rebuke your disciples!”
(Luke 19:39) The last thing they wanted to happen was to rile the
Roman authorities. Jesus' response to their request was amazing.
Though the Palm Sunday parade account is in all four gospels, only
Luke included this exchange between the Pharisees and Jesus. Jesus
they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
(Luke 19:40) Jesus was declaring that He will be praised even if
inanimate stones have to be animated to have it happen!
Palm Sunday event is a vivid proclamation that Jesus is to be praised
and worshiped. It’s a clear, distinct affirmation of the truth
that there’s no one like Him!
Uniqueness of Jesus
ask, “Do you mean that the only way to get right with God, to go to
heaven, is through Jesus? What about good people who don't know
Christ or who weren't Christians, someone like Gandhi?” My answer
to such questions is that I don't know where any one particular
person's heart is in reference to God. That's for God to know. All
I know for sure is that everyone who’s with God for eternity, who’s
in His heaven, is there because of Jesus.
watched the crucifixion scene in the movie The
Passion of the Christ;
the movie portrayed what unbelievable suffering Jesus went though. I
thought to myself that if there’s any other way on God's earth to
get right with God, through good works or believing in Buddha,
Confucius, Mohammed, or whoever or whatever, Jesus would never have
put Himself through that! He did it because it was the only way —
because He was the only way!
R. C. Sproul stated, “Moses could mediate on the law; Muhammad
could brandish a sword; Buddha could give personal counsel; Confucius
could offer wise sayings; but none of these men was qualified to
offer an atonement for the sins of the world. . . . Christ alone is
worthy of unlimited devotion and service.”
this mean that we should be intolerant of others' views or faith?
No. Anyone can believe however they want to believe, and we want to
respect that. Even God allows people to believe as they want!
However, this doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to winsomely and
lovingly convince people to follow Jesus.
we think, as followers of Jesus, that we’re better or smarter than
other people? No. It's just that as D. T. Niles put it, we're “one
beggar telling another beggar where to find food.” We want to do
just that, because we believe that we’ve found the Bread of Life —
and it’s Jesus!