Are Christians Arrogant To Say Our Way is the One Way to God?

Yes.

If we say our way is the one way to God, then we are indeed arrogant.

Here’s why.

Next Tuesday (8 pm Eastern time) on “Contentious Questions” at The Stream‘s Facebook pageWhy Do Christians Insist on Fighting These Unseemly Culture Wars?

Image Credit(s): Sean Thomas.

Comments

  1. je

    John 14:6

    Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

    This is my own interpretation of the passage. I pay close attention to the pronouns in this verse. Jesus says, “I am” and then says “the way, the truth and the life”.. Jesus is speaking as the Son of God, not as a simple carpenter from Nazareth. He then says that that we must go through him (“the way, the truth and the life”), using the pronoun “me” to get to the Father, meaning God. For me, this means that in order to get to God we must seek the way (a definite path, not wandering around all over the place), seek the truth (no falsehoods that lead us into sin) and live our life (The Life) seeking the Father God. I believe that there are many ways to the truth and many paths through truth to find God. Of course, this requires love of/for God and love for our neighbors as ourselves. This interpretation leads me to affirm the universality of Christ’s teachings.

  2. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Huh?!

    So when he said He was the way, the truth, and the life, and no one come through the Father but through Him, what he meant was that there are a lot of ways and people can come to the Father in lots of other ways than through Him.

    Am I reading you right in that?

    If words can be twisted the way you’re twisting them, why bother using words at all?

  3. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    You say, “This interpretation leads me to affirm the universality of Christ’s teachings.”

    I doubt it. I think it’s a whale of a lot more likely that it happened the other way around. You decided you want to affirm Christ’s teachings as universal (in the unique way you’re using the word here), and that’s what led you to this interpretation. You never could have reached that interpretation without deciding in advance that’s what you needed it to be. It certainly doesn’t come from the language of the text you’re “interpreting.”

  4. Jenna Black

    Tom,

    What I’m getting at is that what Jesus is saying is that Jesus is Truth and only the Truth is the way to God. Certainly, we can agree that religions other than Christianity convey Truth. My thinking about this passage is informed by Chapter 6 from True Reason (Gilson & Weitnauer, 2013) by David Marshall, p. 76-107, with his excellent response to John Loftus’s “The insider-outsider test for faith.” See in particular what Marshall says o p. 86-87: “The first premise of Christianity is that Judaism is true… That makes at least two true religions. This principles can be extended, to some extend, to the deepest truths in other spiritual traditions as well.”

    If you are troubled by my interpretation, could you please explain why?

    JB

  5. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    I may have misinterpreted you, actually. Let’s see.

    Marshall says (and I agree) that all religions contain truth. He and I both also agree that Jesus Christ is the one way, truth, and life, and that no one comes to the Father but through him. That is, while other belief systems contain truth, none has enough truth to lead to salvation. And none of them has Jesus Christ, who is Himself the one way.

    Other religions all emphasize works — as you yourself seem to have done here, even — as the way to salvation; only Christianity teaches it’s by grace through faith in Christ’s work on our behalf. So in that sense not only do they not contain enough truth to lead to salvation, they actually contain enough error to lead people away from life.

    Now, what I thought you were saying was that other religions provided good ways, within the context of their own teaching, to reach God. If that’s not what you were saying, then I misinterpreted you, and I apologize. I’d appreciate it if you’d clarify. If, however, that was what you were intending to say, then I hope my answer is clear enough for you to know why I would disagree.

  6. Jenna Black

    Tom,

    I think that you are getting my meaning. When Jesus refers to way, truth and life, in John 14: 6, this passage says to me that those three are indivisible. A way that is not congruent with Truth (with a capital letter T) does not lead to God. A life that is not based on Truth does not lead to God. Other religions that do not teach Truth or that preach a way or a life other than one that is congruent with Truth, which Jesus alone gives us, does not allow us to “come to the Father…”, which is what “salvation” means to me.

    Does this help? Thanks for the dialogue. I appreciate your response.

  7. Post
    Author
    Tom Gilson

    Okay, I’m still confused.

    You’re saying now that it’s Jesus alone. (That’s what I would have thought you’d say. I didn’t know it was you in your first comment here.)

    But just earlier I’d written “Now, what I thought you were saying was that other religions provided good ways, within the context of their own teaching, to reach God;” and “Other religions all emphasize works — as you yourself seem to have done here, even — as the way to salvation.” You say now that I was getting your meaning. But if I got this much right, then that would mean you don’t mean that Jesus is the one way.

    Would you like to clarify?

  8. Jenna Black

    Tom,

    There is only one Truth so there is only one way. Jesus is (gives us) the Truth. I am not really thinking in terms of salvation through works versus grace here. I think that you brought that into my interpretation even though I didn’t include this idea in my interpretation. I’m thinking in terms of Christianity as Truth. However, pre-Jesus’s era, pre-Christianity people of faith sought and knew Truth. This is why, as David Marshall says, we Christians recognized Judaism as a true religion.

    Is this helping or are we running around in circles?

  9. scbrown(lhrm)

    We have to avoid being confused by the downstream fact that an Atheist and a Muslim and a Christian all in fact emote, perceive, intuit, and reason within the same irreducible transcendentals. In fact Truth is perceived by all and that is not challenged. In fact, given the Christian metaphysic, it is a metaphysical impossibility for ANY possible world to be void of the ontic of God, so to speak. There is ONLY The-Good and its Degrees/Decrements and in fact “Privation” is itself nothing other than “The-Good-Minus-Something”.

    “….My philosophy professor Norman Geisler used to put it in this very provocative way: everything about Satan is good. That is to say, Satan has properties like existence, power, intelligence; these are all good things. But the evil that he is characterized by is a privation of right order in his will, and is not a positive thing….” (by W.L. Craig at https://www.reasonablefaith.org/media/reasonable-faith-podcast/questions-on-the-end-of-time-determinism-and-string-theory ).

    Theologian Norm Geisler and Rajkumar Richard offer more insight in distinctions in the comment box / thread for “Why Does God Love Satan?” at http://christianapologeticsalliance.com/2017/06/18/why-does-god-love-satan/ The difference in and on and of those Degrees / Decrements is that, in the Christian metaphysic, there is the actual means to distinguish – as per http://disq.us/p/1lxfruw

    The Non-Theist (…A-Theist…) and the Muslim and the Christian all in fact emote, perceive, intuit, and reason within the same irreducible transcendentals. The question on the table is one of degree.

    Arithmetic morphs to algebra which then morphs to calculus which then morphs to something along the lines of “….As I see it, the Platonic error is a common one. It’s a mistake about the relationship between our concepts and the external world…” vis-à-vis the pontifications housed in The Metaphysics of Mathematics; Against Platonism (Steve Patterson) as the entire world of numbers is – seemingly – trashed. But of course said world isn’t being “trashed” but, rather, said world (Mathematics) is in fact being, first, affirmed, and, then, it is simply being observed doing what it must in the end do – which is to lead the rational mind first to the end of its own skin and, then, into the far wider, thicker reality of Perception & Reality – and so on, and so on. Are Numbers real? Well, in many ways, YES. But then again…in many ways… if we travel far enough…they are not Non-Real so much as necessarily superseded.

    Doing the work:

    Step 1.

    Quote:

    You said, “Belief in one less God than me is akin to a solipsist’s belief in one less universe than me.”

    Sorry, it may be fun to think about in philosophy class, but it’s just not an enlightened view.

    There have indeed been thousands of religions. Some of them, e.g. Buddhism or Jainism do not assert the existence of a God. Insofar as these religions are simply silent about God and not positively atheistic, and insofar as they do not otherwise conflict with the theistic alternatives, they may even be worth considering as possibly true additions to the true faith.

    Among theistic religions, you can’t seriously be saying that there’s no rational reason to prefer Christianity to, say, Thor worship. If God has chosen to reveal Himself, He’s going to succeed. God is not Thor, because God didn’t see to it that worship of Thor flourished.

    There are only four theistic faiths worth considering as possibly true:

    Christianity
    Judaism
    Hinduism
    Islam

    God is Just, Merciful and Gracious. Of those four religions, which of them is the religion that speaks of a God of Grace?”

    ….In my view it comes down to this: Only Christianity characterizes God as offering Grace to sinners, all of whom desperately need it. Our own need for Grace from God is palpable. And the God revealed by reason to all is a God of Grace. So Christianity is the truest religion. Of the religions with any currency in the world, it is the only one that could be true.”

    End quote (by WL http://disq.us/p/1npuybx )

    Step 2.

    Faith vs. WorksFaith & Works… ↔

    Necessity ↔ Contingency ↔ All-Sufficiency:

    Faith is necessary. But not sufficient. We cannot name even one, just one, contingent vector which can in fact sum to necessary and sufficient in its own being, to sum to its own explanatory terminus, and thereby Steal Glory from God:

    [A] Necessity↔ Contingency → → Christ ← ← Insufficiency ↔ [Z] All Sufficiency

    Now, that is said to be sure we are being accurate as to what a Christian claims when he claims something about love or faith or C or D or E, and so on IF we mean to say the Christian is appealing to WORKS. That term sums to nothing other than CONTINGENT. Whereas:

    All-Sufficiency’s Self-Outpouring is unique to the Christian metaphysic and in fact any Theism which attempts it must make such a move dependent upon creating for it is in the Trinitarian Life alone wherein such Processions in fact sum to Being, to The Always and The Already.

    As per http://disq.us/p/1nlq5dd

    Step 3.

    Getting back to that pool of irreducible transcendentals in which all splash about, this-way and that-way – an excerpt from http://disq.us/p/1ltbu94 as follows:

    Begin excerpt:

    Christian: “….the fact that Christians do trust God in the midst of their suffering should be intriguing to atheists….”

    Non-Theist: “….in the case of Allah, you are an atheist…When you see people worship him, even in difficult situations, you are not confused, intrigued or obsessed with getting to know Allah better. That is the same reaction “overall” atheists, who have given this topic any thought, have when we witness Christians doing the same thing. It is not a mystery….”

    Non-Theist: “….Humans have a remarkable capacity for resilience in the face of very real suffering and threats to well-being; this is true irrespective of faith in a particular deity, or no faith at all….”

    Non-Theist: “….anyone reading who thinks that is the only source of hope through suffering [should] know that there is hope even outside of Christianity….”

    Before addressing those three responses, it is worth observing that our Non-Theist friends get confused by the downstream fact that an Atheist and a Muslim and a Christian all in fact emote, perceive, intuit, and reason within the same irreducible transcendentals. That is in part why they are also confused when they are asked to trace all such currents upstream to their fountainhead. They get lost inside of little downstream cul-de-sacs and, upon noting that said pool has the Atheist and the Muslim and the Christian all splashing about in its currents, run off into this or that tangent which simply fails to swim so much as a few yards. That unwillingness to swim upstream or downstream is made worse by a seeming unawareness of the fact that in Suffering, as in the Moral, as in the Good, there is no such possibility of those little downstream pools or ontological cul-de-sacs constituting, all by themselves, the proverbial “necessary and sufficient“. Stopping one’s explanatory trail in any such downstream cul-de-sac or pool is just uninformed. Worse, the very concept of an ontological cul-de-sac is itself a logical impossibility.

    The Non-Theist’s three responses at the opening are for the most part well stated and that reaction “there” is appropriate given the conclusion which our Non-Theist friends note. And it suffices – so long as – we allow our lens to stay “there”.

    The reason it does not go the full distance “here” though may not become apparent “until” this same epistemic stopping point begins to reference, not this or that God, but ANY contour, at all, of reality’s concrete furniture vis-à-vis The Good. Any theodicy or lack thereof just does begin and end “there” and if our Non-Theist friends really do mean to strip reality of the irreducible, of the immutable, when it comes to The Good then there are necessary consequences to that move – there is a “Y” in the road and they are too often unwilling to embrace such consequences – yet it is “there” where this whole affair of “intriguing” lives. Our Non-Theist friends are, too often, inconsistent in their philosophy once they reach that “Y” in the road in that they, too often, do not think things through when it comes to The Good.

    As in:

    This or that God / No-God is fine – we are happy to grant it at this juncture. However, any Non-Theist who claims to have thought about it lots and lots and then doesn’t follow through at that “Y” is not fully informed. They’re great at (…for example…), say, quoting a few Old Testament verses and invoking a kind of cloud or a category of vapor constituted of Moral Facts in which to couch their complaints with respect to the verses in their complaint, but, that’s about the end of their reach as things just inexplicably come to a full stop “there”. Again, we can allow or grant something like this reply to our Non-Theist friends in such situations, “Well, okay, given the narrative you’ve just given us, constituted of your cloud or vapor of moral facts on your end and of those few chapters from the Christian’s end which you just quoted, yes, the Christian God is not real, or does not comport with reality, or whatever….” – and so on. But the current content – and Christianity writ large – is not about “that narrative”.

    The essay here is on Suffering and anyone who tries to rip that out of The Moral won’t go far.

    Theodicy:

    The question of this or that theodicy is absolute regardless of one’s conclusion pro or con as there is a final Cosmic Terminus which – either way – pro or con – touches every last thread of reality, and that is whether we are speaking of the actual or of the possible. If one affirms this or that theodicy with respect to suffering, well that brings with it some necessary content depending on the various transcendentals in play. Just the same, if one rejects any such “Cosmic Substrate” as it were, as the Non-Theist must, well then that too brings with it necessary content. The specific fact of The Good in the irreducible senses which are made note of are, here, when made by ANY person of ANY philosophical persuasion, what all of our assessments present to the Non-Theist which the Non-Theist must, in no uncertain terms, reject. The Non-Theist’s mistake in the replies quoted earlier is a common one in that it focuses on everything but the point that is that “Y” in the road of ontic-possibility. Should there never have been any such thing as religion / talk-of-god, and etc., and, then, should, say, “Mr. So-&-So” then begin to speak of The Good which, say, something like, “cosmically outdistances” all the affairs of Time and Physicality, well then the point would be harder to miss. But, given the real world of differing views, the Non-Theist has grown tone-deaf to his own Non-Theism and therefore focuses on everything but the very thing we are reminding him he ought to find intriguing.

    The series of mistakes made by our Non-Theist friends here in the arena of “The Good / God” juxtaposed to “Pain / Privation” is in fact the same series of mistakes they make in the arena of “the irreducibly moral“. It all springboards off of the Non-Theists very first step of either unknowingly missing or else knowingly ignoring the express content of the irreducible / immutable which in fact outdistances all mutable and contingent situations.

    Upstream & Downstream:

    That is why our Non-Theist friends get confused by the downstream fact that an Atheist and a Muslim and a Christian all in fact emote, perceive, intuit, and reason within such irreducible transcendentals. That is also why our Non-T. friends are confused when they are asked to trace all such currents upstream to their fountainhead. They get lost inside of little downstream cul-de-sacs and, upon noting that said pool has the Atheist and the Muslim and the Christian all splashing about in its currents, run off into this or that irrelevant tangent which simply fails to swim so much as a few yards. That unwillingness to swim upstream or downstream is made worse by a seeming unawareness of the fact that in Suffering, as in the Moral, as in the Good, there is no such possibility of those little downstream pools or ontological cul-de-sacs constituting, all by themselves, the proverbial “necessary and sufficient“. Stopping one’s explanatory trail in any such downstream cul-de-sac or pool is just uninformed. Worse, the very concept of an ontological cul-de-sac is itself a logical impossibility.

    Options:

    Pantheism is temporally (as in temporarily – or in the now – or within Time… Etc., …) more coherent than Non-Theism there, but only temporally, for, in the end, it (Pantheism) is unable to sustain the ontic-distinction between The Good (on the one hand) and Privation (on the other hand), for all that is is God and therefore Good (“All-That-Is-Is-God-Full-Stop”).

    Non-Theism does not have that problem for there is nothing to plug-in after the word “is” – in that on Non-Theism there is no possibility of an A and/or a Z to tack on which is anything but the amoral substratum of irreducible indifference (“All-That-Is-Is-Full-Stop”).

    Those two options, the one of Non-Theism’s “All-That-Is-Is-Full-Stop” and of Pantheism’s “All-That-Is-Is-God-Full-Stop” have some coherent layers when held in isolation from all the other layers and attract many followers given said isolation, but, in the end, neither is able to push through without trading away lucidity. That trade is trouble. Why? Because all the Buzz around Town is telling us what all the major Networks have always been telling us – that Reason is just head-over-heels in love with Lucidity. Rumor has it that those two kids are going to have some sort of Wedding or some such some-thing. Now, that should be quite a celebration!

    End excerpt.

  10. scbrown(lhrm)

    Regarding those degrees and distinctions in the previous comment:

    It is a logical impossibility for something less than the Necessary, the All-Sufficient, to somehow quench insufficiency in the contingent being. Degrees and distinctions in and of and amid all weaker vectors does not expunge reality of that necessary fact amid The-Necessary / The-Contingent.

    To affirm that Final Fact is not to deny the reality of all weaker vectors (as discussed in the previous comment). Rather, it is the inevitable result of logic’s relentless demands for lucidity being allowed to push through to her proper explanatory terminus.

    It is a logical impossibility for something less than the Necessary, the All-Sufficient, to somehow quench what is an (ontic) necessary insufficiency in ANY contingent being. Degrees and distinctions in and of and amid all weaker vectors does not expunge reality of that necessary fact amid The-Necessary / The-Contingent.

    Necessity & Contingency Force The Syntax of Christ, as the nature of what we mean by The Necessary Being and by the contingent being forces our hand:

    Why Is Jesus the Only Way?” at https://www.str.org/blog/why-jesus-only-way-video#.Wry56IjwZPZ and the question of from where and how can the Contingent Being find Eternal Life but for the Necessary Being? Our hand is forced:

    [A] Necessity
    ↔ Contingency → → Christ ← ← Insufficiency ↔
    [Z] All Sufficiency

    The A and Z of all ontological possibilities cannot yield any other sum:

    a. http://disq.us/p/1muihvj
    b. http://disq.us/p/1muijld
    c. http://disq.us/p/1muj7qs
    d. http://disq.us/p/1m2yx69

    ~

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