Letter to the Editor
Recently I read an opinion article in your newspaper wherein the writer referred to Christians as “narrow minded” because they claim Jesus is the only way to God. My concern is that this type of rhetoric left unchecked tends to marginalize and even demonize Christians. “Narrow minded” is rarely used to describe people of other faiths. I will attempt to provide a more constructive context for which Christians claim Jesus is the only way to God.
Americans live in a pluralistic society with many religions and different competing faith claims. All religions deem their way to be the true way. Muslims are candid in expressing their belief that there is no god but Allah. Their holy book teaches that non-Muslims have only three options: convert, be enslaved, or die. Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses frequently go door to door sharing their faith with the goal of converting others. Catholics believe the only way to be saved is to be baptized in the Catholic Church. Radical Hindus in other countries have violently persecuted Christians. Even atheists condemn non-atheists. For example, atheist Richard Dawkins claims it is child abuse for religious families to teach children about their faith.
It is obvious that Christianity’s exclusive claim, that there is only one way to God, is not unique. However, what makes Christianity unique is that this faith claim is not based on a philosophy, or religion per se, but on a person—the person of Jesus Christ. It was Jesus who made the exclusive claim about salvation when he said, “…I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn 14:6 [NIV])
A Christian is a follower of Jesus Christ. Now, there are many non-Christians who enjoy some of the teachings of Jesus without calling themselves a Christian. However Christianity was never meant to be a buffet where one picks and chooses what they like about Jesus and avoids what appears undesirable. The key issue in Christianity is not the teaching of Jesus—although his teaching was wise and true—it was his identity. He claimed to be the Christ and the only way to God.
This is a bold statement. So the logical question is: Was Jesus right about his claim? He was either right or wrong. If he was wrong, he either knew it or didn’t know it. If he knew he was wrong, he was a liar. If he didn’t know he was wrong, but thought he was the only way to God, he was a lunatic. But if he was right, he is Lord, and the only way to God.
Some people argue that all religions are essentially the same, that is, “all roads lead to heaven.” However, different religions have different views of God, different views of salvation, and different views about what happens after we die. If they contradict each other, they cannot all be true.
Therefore, if all religions (including the “religion” of atheism) make exclusive claims and they can’t all be true, then it follows that anyone who expresses their religious/atheist exclusive belief must be “narrow minded.”
The problem is the accusation against Christians being “narrow minded” is more frequently being used at a weapon to attack them. Christians who repeat Jesus’ exclusive claims are accused of hate speech. They are either dismissed or vilified. Ironically, the phrase is rarely used to describe people of other religious beliefs or atheists, even though their exclusive claims make them just as “narrow minded.”
In a pluralistic society, we should accept that competing faith claims each assert their way is the true way. And yet we should allow the free exchange of ideas and arguments to allow the best argument to prevail. We should take great care to restore civility in our religious discussions and disagreement with each other. We would do well to avoid ad hominem attacks meant to intimidate, silence and denigrate. Let’s choose civility.