Have you ever been in a discussion with someone who asked you if Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God and what about followers of other religions? Jesus said He was the only way to God, “I am the way, the truth and the life…no man comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) If we accept the historical accuracy of the gospel accounts, then as C.S. Lewis once said, we must decide that Jesus is or was either a liar, a lunatic or He is Lord as He claimed. (See John 8:58-59 for a reference where Jesus claimed to be God) The gospels are the most accurate historical documents ever recorded. By standards of manuscript evidence, preservation, and outside corroboration, there is no work of history that can be compared to the Bible. (See McDowell, Evidence That Demands A Verdict or Strobel, The Case For Christ)
It is a fact that Jesus received and accepted worship from His disciples. Peter’s said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Peter also affirmed in his Pentecost message that Jesus is the only way to God. He said, “There is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
In evangelizing, we compete in a culture where pluralism is highly valued. All views are considered to be equally true. The problem with pluralism is that we lose any absolute standards of truth and morality. This thinking has become so pervasive that even many young Christians doubt the truth of Christ’s claim that he is the only way. In our surveys done on the University of Iowa campus, we found that 41% of professing Christians rejected Christ’s exclusive claim. Our culture worships at the altar of tolerance. I once received a solicitation in the mail from Showtime advertising a new show about homosexuals. A theme quotation on their literature proudly boasts, “no limits”. Is this where we’ve come? Knowing the sinful, debased nature of mankind, which is clearly seen by history, that is a scary situation.
Is there absolute truth? Jesus said that He is the truth. As Christians will we stand up for truth? If we are not willing to open our mouth in defense of truth, then we disobey Christ’s great commission. Our secular culture is attempting to force us to shut up. We risk rejection, ridicule and even violence for daring to speak the truth, but there are lives at stake, both in an eternal spiritual as well as in an earthly physical sense.
How should we respond to the person who raises the objection about other religions? First, we must realize that the intellectual argument is, more often than not, a “smoke screen” used to hide true objections, which usually have more to do with sin than truth. But, we have to clear away the smoke to get the person to state their true objections. We begin by making it clear that Jesus is unique. He is God in the flesh forever. (John 1:14) Buddha never made that claim. The avatars of Hinduism were only temporary mythical reincarnations of deity. Jesus is the only person to be permanently resurrected from the dead, He is alive!
All other religions are a man made system of man working his way to God. Christ is God reaching out to man. The cross is a stumbling block to those who would earn eternal life by their own works. It humbles the proud.
What about those who have never heard of Jesus? The patriarchs never heard the name of Jesus and yet The Bible, in both the Old and New Testament, teaches us that they were justified by faith, looking forward to the cross. (Romans 4:3) Anyone truly searching for the truth will find the gospel and be led to God. Creation itself points to God. “The unseen qualities of God, His eternal power and divine nature, have been seen, being clearly understood by what has been made so that man is without excuse.” (Ro 1:20) There are numerous accounts of people who never had heard of Jesus, but who found Christ because they were searching. Samuel Morris is only one example. Read his biography.
Has the gospel been preached to the whole world? According to Colossians 1:6 it has! All one need do is look at creation. Look at the heavens. They declare the glory of God! (Ps. 19:1)
Curiously one can discover remnants of the redemption story in ancient languages, which may be proof that the gospel was understood but rejected.
I believe that people today who have not heard the name of Jesus are judged on the same basis as the patriarchs. Though Job never heard the name of Jesus, he clearly understood that his creator was his redeemer and that his creator would be God in the flesh. (See Job 19:25-27) The Bible teaches that the righteous are justified by faith. What is that faith in? It is that your creator is your redeemer. To be saved, you must believe that you need a redeemer; that you are separated from God by your sin. You must believe that God offers Himself as a sacrifice for your sin. You must repent of sin and turn to God for salvation.