Apologetics Finale: Jesus
In the final lesson of the apologetics series, we touch on perhaps the most important question of all: how can Jesus be the only way to God? What about all the other religions of the world? And aren’t all religions basically the same anyway?
And thus ends my Sunday School series. I hope it’s been useful and enlightening to you.
After this week, I’ll be getting back to regular blog posts. I say after this week because I’m preaching this Sunday! I’ll be working on my sermon, which you’ll be able to hear on the Crossroads podcast.
Also, my friends are trying to rope me into playing Warhammer 40k. And I’m tempted. Pray for me.
Below is the lesson as written.
This morning, we’ll talk about our most central apologetic task: defending Jesus Himself. Without Jesus, there’s no point in discussing the rest.
Jesus says this in John 12:32: “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” The term “lifted up,” according to my footnotes, also means “exalted.” Our job is to, in a manner of speaking, make Jesus look good. The best way to do that is to tell the truth about Him.
That means we’ll need to have answers ready for views that oppose Christianity. We need something to say when people ask, “how can Jesus be the only way to God?”
It may be good to start by asking for clarification. If someone asks that question, you still may not know their specific objection. Are they a follower of a different religion, or none at all? Are they offended by the idea of someone claiming to have the “right” religion? Are they offended by God rejecting anyone because of their beliefs?
Some will protest that God couldn’t have given us only one way to Him since there are so many religions in the world. They’re offended at the idea that any one religion or belief could be correct because the others would then be incorrect. It can be a hard thing to believe, let alone say. It’s tempting for a lot of people to embrace relativism, which says that everyone’s beliefs are equally valid.
The problem is, that’s not possible. Logically, all of them could be wrong, but all of them can’t be right at the same time. Why not? Let’s look at some of the claims of the major world religions.
Christianity says that Jesus is the second member of the Trinity — that He’s the God that created the universe, and there are no other gods.
We have the same roots as Judaism, but religious Jews do not believe that Jesus is the son of God either.
Islam says that Jesus was a prophet, but not the son of God. It also rejects the idea of a Trinity. Allah is a singular being. Furthermore, Allah is so holy that he could never come to Earth in person.
Hinduism believes that there are many, many, many gods, which are all manifestations of Brahman, an entity which encompasses all existence. Hindus believe that everything is unified, and of the same essence. Reincarnation is central to Hinduism; your suffering or success in this life is determined by your karma from previous lives.
Buddhism upholds a different flavor of reincarnation. Its foundational teachings are mostly philosophical — and line up nicely with some Christian principles — so the spiritual beliefs of individual Buddhists vary. They may be atheists or polytheists.
There’s a very useful website at www.religioustolerance.org. Lots of good information about the various religions of the world. Here’s an excerpt from their “Our Beliefs” page:
“We are a multi-faith group. As of 2010-DEC, we consist of one Atheist, Agnostic, Christian, Wiccan and Zen Buddhist. Thus, the OCRT staff lack agreement on almost all theological matters, such as belief in a supreme being, the nature of God, interpretation of the Bible and other holy texts, whether life after death exists, what form the afterlife may take, etc.”
They go on to say that together, they believe in the inherent value of human life and several other precepts. But they say outright that they don’t agree on spiritual matters.
This is a good reminder for us as apologists. We can disagree gracefully.
So, the only way these can all be true at the same time is if the law of non-contradiction doesn’t apply.
Ravi Zacharias tells the story of a professor who challenged him on this point. They went out to lunch together, and the professor launched into a rather long discussion of Western logic versus Eastern logic. In the West, he said, we have an either/or system of thinking: if A is true, the opposite of A is false. In the East, however, he said they use a both/and system of logic. In Eastern thinking, an idea and its opposite can both be true. This he was explaining to a man born in India. By the time he was done, Ravi had finished his lunch and the man hadn’t taken a bite. The professor’s point was that you can’t impose a Western mode of thinking when comparing Christianity to Eastern religions.
The man picked up his sandwich and had almost taken a bite when Ravi said, “So, let me ask you a question. I have to use either the either/or system or the both/and system, but not both?”
The man set his sandwich down, looked up, and said, “The either/or does tend to emerge, doesn’t it.”
Ravi then said, “Let me tell you this: even in New Delhi, we look both ways before crossing the street. It’s either the car or us, but not both.”
Let’s say the law of non-contradiction applies. The religions of the world are fundamentally different. It’s safe to say that they can’t all be right.
Some people will object: why can’t there be other ways? Isn’t it unfair of God to only give us one way to Him?
Ravi Zacharias has a brilliant response: how many ways would be enough? It’s kind of an arbitrary number. As he puts it, “if God gave us a million ways, we’d want a million and one.” So long as there’s a limit, we’d complain.
So, if not through faith in Jesus, then how else should God take care of the problem of evil? If someone agrees that there is such a thing as evil, try asking this question. What if we were simply judged by our actions? If we do enough good deeds, we get into Heaven; if we don’t measure up, we go to Hell. Here’s the sticky issue: where’s the cutoff? Would there be a point system? What about the people that just barely missed the cut? Is there any way to establish a standard without being totally arbitrary?
God could just make it simple and require perfection. Then no one would get in.
Or, on the opposite end, God could just let everyone into Heaven no matter what they do. But that’s not really just, is it? Justice gets tossed out the window; our debts to each other and to God are left unpaid. The fact is, we are responsible for our actions, and our sins do have consequences. We’ve all harmed others, in big and small ways. Furthermore, we’ve hurt a perfect, loving God by rejecting Him. He loves us, and when we harm ourselves and others, it hurts Him.
Let me put it another way: despite our circumstances, no one is justified in sinning. There is no valid excuse. Our sins leave a debt that must be paid. A sentence that must be carried out.
The Cross satisfies the need for justice. It solves the problem of sin. It’s merciful. It’s inclusive. It’s the best way.
Remember this, though, as we defend Jesus: we are the best apologetic. If we approach people’s questions with love and humility, that will often speak for itself. As we serve people, as we live out God’s love, we will answer people’s questions about who God is.
Posted on June 7, 2011, in Christianity, God and tagged apologetics, beliefs, Christianity, cross, God, Jesus, philosophy, reason, redemption, religion, spirituality, The Bible. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.