Ed’s. note: This column first appeared in the Sept. 20, 2012 edition of The Christian Index, a publication of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
Recently, I was on a plane from Atlanta to Dallas-Fort Worth. Next to me was a middle-aged man. We spoke about his work, his family, and his weekly commute. I noticed he was reading from a journal with notes in another language. I learned that it was his handwritten Hindu prayer journal. Sensing a perfect opportunity to talk about spiritual issues, I asked him about the content of his journal. To which of the millions of Hindu gods does he pray? How can he know if his prayers are heard? What if he steps into eternity and discovers that Jesus was correct about everything He ever said?
As he spoke about Hinduism, my new friend made this statement which has been voiced countless times: “I think all paths lead to God.” He thinks every person who is sincere, whether Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, or Christian, is on a religious path which will eventually lead to God. He thinks all religions lead to God.
Have you ever heard someone make that claim? If so, how did you reply? If you have not been in that situation, then what will you say when that conversation occurs? The world is getting smaller. We no longer have to travel to other countries to meet people who follow other world religions. We live in the same neighborhood, shop at the same grocery store, and our children (or grandchildren) attend the same public school. How will you respond to the person who says, “All paths lead to God.”
There are two different ways to consider paths to God, either from the Bible or without the Bible. What do we learn from the Bible? Jesus made an exclusive claim when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NKJV). Jesus could have said He is a way, one of the many ways or paths to the Father. Instead, Jesus said He is the way to the Father. In order to be understood, Jesus clarifies that He is also the truth, rather than a truth. And Jesus notes that He is the life. Acts 4:12 and other biblical texts reveal the same truth. The first way to discuss religious paths is to consider the clear teaching of the Bible, in which Jesus insists that He is the only way to God.
What if you speak with someone who doesn’t accept the authority of the Bible? Is it possible to engage a person in conversation who does not yet accept the authority of the BIble? Yes. That was the situation with my new Hindu friend on the airplane. He understood that Jesus claimed to be God’s Son. But the man viewed Christianity as one path which was equal to the paths of other world religions. I told him about a book that I had read recently, God is Not One (HarperOne, 2011). It was written by a professor at Boston University, Dr. Stephen Prothero. His thesis is that it’s not possible for all religions to lead to the same god because the major world religions have different goals. For Christians, the goal is salvation from sin. But the goal for Muslims is submission to Allah. And the goal for Hindus is devotion in life. How can all paths lead to the same god if these major world religions lead followers to a different destination? My new friend admitted he had not considered that idea. I’m still praying for him to repent of His sin and receive Christ, who is our only hope for being made right with the one true God.