|A reporter for one of the network news programs called to ask me about the resurgence of interest in spirituality around the country. We had an amiable chat for a while — until I mentioned that it was my hope that all those who were experimenting with various belief systems would eventually meet Jesus.
Instantly the conversation turned cold. “Are you telling me that two-thirds of the world is going to hell because they’ve never heard of Christ?” he angrily demanded. The tone of his voice made it clear: he was accusing me of being narrow-minded, bigoted, and snobbish.
He didn’t linger long enough for me to defend myself, but ultimately his argument isn’t with me. It’s with Jesus. Because in the single most outrageous claim he ever uttered, Jesus announced, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Out of all the incredible statements by Jesus, this exorbitant assertion has the greatest tendency to outrage people. Many consider it arrogant, intolerant, and politically incorrect. Even Jesus’ claim to being divine doesn’t upset people the way this declaration does. In fact, while I was in India, I had an encounter that many other Christians also have experienced there: I told some Hindus that Jesus was God, and they replied, “No problem!”
I was perplexed. “You’re saying that you accept the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?” I asked.
“Sure,” they said. “We have millions of gods. There’s no problem adding Jesus.”
But when I said, “No, you don’t understand — Jesus said he’s the only Son of God, and the only path that leads to eternal life,” that’s when they got indignant and drew the line.
One reason Jesus’ exclusivity claim is so controversial is because it contradicts the popularly held viewpoint that all religions are basically the same. In other words, there are a variety of paths that people can take in their spiritual journey, and they all eventually lead to the same God. When you strip them down to their essential beliefs, every religion is similar, although they may use different languages and rituals in teaching God’s universal nature.
However, Jesus’ outlandish claim to being the only way to God puts Christianity in a class by itself. By contending that he is the only route to God, Jesus is alleging that Christianity is unique and that it therefore cannot be reconciled with any other religion in the world.