A popular question in our climate of wide spread religious diversity is this: “Do all religions lead to God?” The charitable nature of the question fits nicely into our postmodern upbringing, where we’ve been taught that religious truth is a matter of preference until further reflection reveals a problem. The question actually reflects two major assumptions about religion: that God exists and that this God can be reached. Most religions do not share this belief. Buddhists, strictly speaking, do not believe god exists, nor are they trying to reach god; Muslims believe a god exists but they don’t think their god (Allah) can be reached.
Assumptions aside, what is really being
asked is this: “Are all religions true?”
But this raises an immediate problem. What if I made up a religion? Would it then also be true? Often we skirt the logic by saying, “Well, your religions is true for you and this is true for me.” In this case, the person has merely replaced the word “meaningful” with “true.” I think we would all agree that religions, even made up ones, are meaningful to those practicing in them. But are they true?
Can the Buddhist be correct that God does not exist and, at the very same time, the Christian be correct that God does exist? Can God be reached, and at the same time not be reached? Logic tells us that all religions could be wrong or only one religion is true while the rest are false. Logic does not allow for the possibility that all religions are true.
What if the world’s religions only appear to be contradictory? Often the Hindu parable of ‘The Blind Men and the Elephant’ is told at this juncture to demonstrate. Three blind men encounter an elephant: one man feels an ear and calls it a fan, another feels the leg and calls it a tree and a third feels the tail and describes it as a rope. The reality is an elephant being described from different perspectives.
At first the parable sounds convincing until you realize it’s flawed. All the blind men were wrong. They described reality incorrectly and in the process make an important point. Only one person could SEE the one truth – the storyteller! The narrator is the only one who understood reality correctly – IT’S AN ELEPHANT! This raises an important question, how do we gain the storyteller perspective? In other words, why follow blind men if there is someone with sight?
There is only one person in history that claimed the storyteller perspective and then proved it – Jesus Christ. Unlike people who grope blindly for truth, Jesus spoke with the authority of sight. In fact, He didn’t just claim to know the truth; He claimed to be the truth (John 14:6)! Jesus didn’t only claim to be the storyteller but the story itself. He is the reality – God.
Often people ask, “Where in the Bible does Jesus say, ‘I am God’?”
The truth is, Jesus never does specifically say, “I am God.” But that is for a very good reason; He literarily couldn’t have. Jesus spoke Aramaic, a dialect of Hebrew, which has only one personal name for God: YHWH. It contains no vowels and can only be written. In reverence the Jews kept it unpronounceable.
How then did Jews speak of YHWH? The names we find in the Old Testament for God are all attributes of divinity, not personal names. For example, Elohim means “all powerful one” or El Shaddai means “the all sufficient one.” Notice, even when God reveals Himself to Moses He calls Himself, I AM that I AM. This is the claim of self-existence.
When you read the New Testament, you’ll find Jesus continually referring to Himself with the attributes of God. This is the name of God that crosses language and culture. It is a claim on reality and the Jew’s understood it. They were not confused as to who Jesus claimed to be, but only if His claims were true. Three days after Jesus was crucified, He rose from the dead demonstrating that what He had said weren’t mere words. He really is “all powerful, all sufficient and self-existent.”
The answer to the question: “Do all religions lead to God?” is simply, “no.” But then again, Jesus taught that no religion leads to God. Religion is like the blind leading the blind. Jesus explained that man cannot reach God, but God, through Himself, reached man.
Andy Steiger is the Director of Apologetics Canada. Learn more on this subject at ThinkingSeries.com. The thinking Series addresses five of the most asked questions today.