Friday, March 03, 2006
New essay on the supremacy of Jesus
My essay, "Why Believe Jesus is the Only Way?" is now posted here. Please search the cite, TrueU, for other apologetics articles by me, J.P. Moreland, Robert Velarde, and others.
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A good piece. But I have found that there are two sides to this problem (Is Jesus the "only way"?). The first is what you addressed in this essay, that is: Is there a strong biblical case that Jesus claimed he was the only way? You effectively outline the undeniable evidence that he made such claims clearly in the NT as well as the supportive NT text that supports him as the only way to the Father (the Peter verse, etc.).
There can be no question that the Bible presents us with Jesus as the only way, and you present this.
But the second, and my experience has found much bigger, deeper problem, is IS THIS (that Jesus is the only way to heaven) an acceptable position? (Regardless of whether or not Jesus did in fact make the claim, which he did). Apologetic arguments as to why, if Jesus was who he said he was, he is the only way, and why sincere belief in other faiths won't make the grade, as it were, are what is crucially needed. I think this is the more important side of the question to defend against because it seems to be the question at the heart of the objection -- in fact, I think it is because of this deeper issue that "confusion" on if Christ claimed to be the only way even comes up. People don't WANT Christ to be the only way, so they conveniently ignore or miss is clear claims to the contrary. Your essay is a good tonic to these folks that would like to avoid the difficult claims of Christ yet keep him around in their faith. But the deeper issue, the difficulty with the fact that if Jesus is the only way then a whole lot of people are "left out" of salvation, is, I think really at the heart of the matter. Which then comes back to, ultimately, the problem of evil and suffering. Which then comes back to our understanding of who God is. Tozer was right when he warned us that our concept of God is the single most important thing in the life of any human being.
I remember very early on in my Christian life, my mother pressed me that if God was "big" enough, powerful enough, that he would be able to let people into heaven even though they never believed in Christ. My insistence that Christ was the only way led her to reject any God I worshiped because, under her stated view (you can see how the logic would flow), such an exclusivity God was weak and/or unloving (because he was incapable of (or just chose not to) letting people into heaven who did not have faith in Christ).
Such a position hopefully illustrates that what is needed from an apologetic perspective on the exclusivity of Christianity problem: First, a defense, yes (as you made), of the clear claims of exclusivity made by Christ. But then, second, and very importantly, an effective explanation as to WHY Christ is (and must be) the exclusive way to God is critically neeeded.
Much love in truth,
(PS: I know that you've made such defenses to the second side of the problem before, and I know you're WELL aquainted with them, particularly as I studied essentially this question for a semester with you in the religious pluralism class, I am just suggesting that any discussion of the exclusivity issue, even in a short essay like you have at TrueU, should include at least some help on the second part of the problem.)
The Tornado is right: much more needs to be said on the rationale in the Christian worldview for saying that Jesus is the only way in light of other religions, hell, and so on. My essay is only one (necessary) part of the apologetic case, but one that is often neglected because people want a "designer Jesus," whatever the historical facts may be: "My Jesus," not "The Real Jesus."
1. If Jesus and the apostles claimed he was unique and supreme.
2. Then these claims are either true or fase.
3. The biblical evidence itself--given its historical reliability and coherence--gives some good evidence that it is, in fact, true.
4. However, there are possible defeaters to defeat:
a. Any God who limits himself to Jesus is unfair and unjust.
b. Other religious leaders, such as Buddha, are just a good as Jesus. (See D. Groothuis, "Jesus and Buddha: Two Masters or One?" at www.equip.org under "The Christian Research Journal.")
c. And so on.
I have addressed these objections elsewhere and hope to present arguments in my forthcoming (someday) apolgetics textbook.
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