The only way?

While atheism seems to be an increasingly popular world-view in our western societies, many people still seek some form of spirituality. However, that doesn’t mean that religion is the hot topic on the street being curiously and openly discussed. Instead, while it is still fine to debate religions like Islam or Hinduism, and while many more aim to follow ideas like Buddhism, it’s interesting to notice that the minute one brings up Jesus Christ people tend to cringe or even get aggressive.

Growing up in Germany in a Christian home in the 70s and 80s I didn’t think too much about other religions. The small place I’m from didn’t really get exposed to other religious movements or world-views. Moving away to study my horizon was significantly broadened by spending time in London, Seoul and Tokyo. There I met all these super-nice people who weren’t Christian. Either they were agnostic or had some other religious believe they wouldn’t really profess.

But how could I fit all these people into the picture? Surely, they’d also be part of God’s creation! Yet, rather than deepening my understanding of my own religious background I settled for the ever so popular view that eventually all roads, i.e. faiths, lead to God and that different religions are just different forms of God’s revelation of himself to humanity. It’s like a mountain, where many roads start at the bottom leading up to the summit.

For years I was very comfortable with this view. It is seemingly inclusive, non-offensive and therefore politically correct. Yet, years later, having moved to Japan, I was confronted with the question about my view of God. Initially, I wasn’t really keen to discuss this question and therefore presented my ‘happy view of the world and God’. Yet rather than ending that conversation, I was instead challenged on this view. At first I didn’t want to discuss this further, but then realized that I had to finally answer this question instead of further entertaining a view, which I ultimately knew was just an excuse.

As I started, I quickly had to realize that holding the position of many ways leading to God is not at all inclusive and non-offensive. Firstly, it of course excludes anyone who doesn’t believe in a God, plus all the others who believe there is only one way to God – specifically in the Christian faith. It is also a highly arrogant view as the only one who can ultimately and certainly know whether all these ways lead to God is – in fact – God alone. Simply because he would be the only one at the top. So, someone claiming that this illustration is correct, in a way claims to have the same insight as God himself!

With this out of the way, I engaged in intense Bible study. Having made friends with some Christian missionaries in Japan I regularly pestered them with my questions. A wonderful experience, which I deepened further by studying scripture at Bible Study Fellowship (BSF).

In any case, the core however lies in the claim of Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth and the life and that no one comes to the father except through Him. It’s an absolute claim about an absolute truth. It stands in combination with various claims of Jesus to be God. Consequently, one has to make a call. One can’t sit on the fence when it comes to Jesus. He was either bad, mad or the one he claimed to be. There aren’t any more options.

But wait, some may say, what evidence is there that Jesus actually existed in the first place? Well, the evidence of Jesus having lived is considered a fact among historians world-wide.

So let’s consider the possibility that Jesus was bad. A clever but bad guy who deceived these followers of his. Well, the question of course would be: To what end? To gain political power? Possibly. Financial advantage? Maybe. But would such a person go all the way to a Roman cross and get himself killed? Highly unlikely! And him being mad? After all, everyone can claim to be God. But then it is virtually impossible that people around him wouldn’t have noticed in his three-year ministry. Also, what’s recorded about Jesus, his teachings, the way he argued with the Jewish leadership, his miraculous signs, point very much away from the possibility of him having a screw loose.

Which leaves us with only one more option, namely that he is indeed the one he claimed to be! If, in addition, we then consider all the tremendous developments after Jesus’ resurrection, we are left with very little room not to believe he was true. I concluded that there is none. Yet that’s not where it ends. In fact, it’s where it starts. For the God of the Bible is a living God and he is a personal God, who wants to establish an eternal relationship with us – not a religion. A relationship through Jesus Christ, who didn’t come to make bad people good, but to make dead people live.

Join us this Sunday morning for a special celebration of Pentecost as Pastor Will asks a pertinent question: Is the Holy Spirit a Stranger to you?! (Acts 1:1-13), preceded by my baptism.

Oliver Herrmann

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