Do all religions lead to God?
Happy Holidays! This seems to be a popular seasonal greeting this year! In fact, each year it feels like I see fewer signs that say ‘Merry Christmas’. Though we may have different perspectives on the motivation or impact of these changes, I believe we would all agree that the ‘holiday’ greetings reflect our pluralistic culture. We benefit from the richness of diversity that pluralism brings and we also struggle as claims to truth are seen as narrow-minded and, sometimes, even as dangerous.
Our children are not immune to this culture we live in. They are taught a new type of tolerance by their peers, teachers and the media. Today tolerance no longer means accepting people of different cultures and faiths. Tolerance now means we should celebrate other faiths without claiming ours to be exclusively true. To our children’s ears, a claim that Christianity is the only way to God may sound intolerant and be difficult to accept. We may need to wrestle with the question of whether all religions are equally valid paths to God with our children. We need to help them live confidently with a Christian worldview today and equip them to respond with sensitivity.
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]Today tolerance no longer means accepting people of different cultures and faiths. Tolerance now means we shouldn’t claim that our faith is true to the exclusion of others.[/quote]
Illustrations are really helpful in beginning a discussion, especially on this topic. For example to illustrate the commonly held perception that all religions lead to God, ask your child to imagine a mountain with many different paths leading to the top, some paths winding and others more direct. Each path represents a different religion and the top, the perceived common goal of finding God. Our children may relate to this analogy as it acknowledges the sincerity of each path and the diversity of the world’s religions. To point out where this illustration and commonly held perception break down, Moreland and Muehloff, [in The God Conversation], suggest asking, “Who waits for you at the top of the mountain?” Comparing the answer to this question from different religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Christianity will begin to open up the idea that these world religions are really quite different. For example, a Buddhist would say there is no one at the top and a Hindu would say there are thousands of gods and goddesses. A Muslim would say only one God (Allah) is at the top , a Jew would claim YHWH, the God of Abraham is there and a Christian, one God within whom are three persons.
Moreland and Muehloff propose a better illustration of the world’s religions to be that of a maze. When entering the maze, you immediately face a choice – which path you will take as you try to reach the goal of getting to the centre, which represents finding God. Some paths will walk in parallel for a while, signifying similarities between religions, and some will lead to dead ends. The challenge is to find the one path that leads you to the final destination, the centre. The maze illustration can lead to discussion about your or a child’s personal decision of faith and what would cause him or her to choose one path over another. It may also spark interest in what types of ‘dead ends’, such as contradictions or illogical teachings, are found in different religions.
This fall I attempted to do a corn maze with our two boys. We did well at first, but soon we were deep in the middle and kept seeing the same sign post over and over again. As it began to get dark, I got pretty nervous as I realized we were really lost and I didn’t know how to get to the exit, or even back to the beginning! A miracle happened as we finally stumbled upon a bridge where a person sat who could see above the maze and directed us out. Like the person on the bridge, God sees the entire maze. He came to earth at Christmas to show us the way to God. The maze illustration helps us to talk about how Jesus is uniquely qualified out of all the world’s religious leaders to show us the right path to the centre – God. This includes his unique claim to divinity, ability to forgive sins, performing of miracles and his resurrection from the dead.[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]Remember, we don’t need to be an expert in any of these things. We can journey alongside our children, share, ask questions and learn together, as we trust God to be at work to reveal His truth in their hearts and lives.[/quote]
Before delving deeply into the theological and philosophical differences in world religions with our children, I am reminded again of the encouragement from the last Thinking Family blog to search for ‘The Question Behind the Question’! By asking what has led a child to ask a question about different faiths, or what they already know about them, we will be able to respond better to their need. In this case, a question about whether all religions lead to God may be coming from a concern for what will happen to their friends or those around the world who don’t believe in Jesus. When encountering tough questions like this, Moreland encourages us to “begin with what we know and move to what is less clear.” We can teach our children what we know from Scripture, for example God’s love and desire for all to be saved, and to trust in God for what we do not understand.
There’s much room for growth for us as parents in all of this. It may be a stretching experience to discuss other religious beliefs or share how we came to choose one path in the maze of different beliefs. Remember, we don’t need to be an expert in any of these things. We can journey alongside our children, share, ask questions and learn together, as we trust God to be at work to reveal His truth in their hearts and lives.
Family Discussion Starters
- The Hindu Parable of the Elephant is a very popular illustration today that people use when discussing whether all religions lead to God. Ask your children whether they have heard of this yet and discuss their thoughts. Andy Steiger explains the parable and the critical assumption it contains in his article titled “Do all religions Lead to God?” https://www.apologeticscanada.com/2012/09/07/do-all-religions-lead-to-god-2/
- Some people say that religious beliefs are like a big mountain where God lives on top. At the base of the mountain are individuals who are trying to get to the top. Each may choose a different path but all paths lead to the top. What do you think about that? What seems right or wrong to you?
- J.P. Moreland & Tim Muehlhoff. The God Conversation Using Stories and Illustrations to Explain Your Faith. Intervarsity Press, 2007
- Apologetics Canada. “Think for a Minute, Do All Religions Lead to God?” www.youtube.com March 12, 2013.
- Andy Steiger. “Do all Religions Lead to God?” https://www.apologeticscanada.com/2012/09/07/do-all-religions-lead-to-god-2/. Sept. 7, 2012.
- McFarland, Alex. The 21 toughest questions your kids will ask about Christianity and how to answer them confidently. Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2013.
- Strobel, Lee. Case for Faith For Kids. Zonderkidz, 2010.