I've had the privilege of emailing with a friend about issues of faith. In one of these discussions, we got into the question of the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ.
What do we do with the absolutely exclusive claims of Jesus Christ in a pluralistic society?
There is no doubt that there are general truths in all religions. There is no doubt that there is value in all the major religions - Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.
There are portions of the Quran, Buddhist, and Hindu texts which if I were to read at church on Sunday, most folks would never know that the truths being shared were not from the Bible but from these other sacred texts.
The very fact that these religions have been around for centuries is proof that there are truths present in them.
Having said that, I need to also say that the exclusive claims of the church are actually the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ. It is Jesus who declares, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me"(John14:6)
That's about as exclusive as one can get.
Does that mean that other religions possess no truth?
Of course not.
Does that mean that Jesus' exclusive claim is false?
Of course not.
What Jesus claims is that there is no other pathway for human beings to get right with God apart from receiving the grace and gift of eternal life. We cannot get to God through our performance. We cannot will our way to God. We cannot gain entry into heaven by good deeds.
The only way to bridge the gap between our frailties and shortcomings and God's perfection is to accept Jesus and his sacrificial death on the cross.
This is a difficult thing to consider. It sounds so elitist. How can so many good people of other faiths be wrong?
I don't think Jesus is saying that other religions are intentionally bad. But Jesus is claiming that all other systems, religions, and ways fall short because no other way deals with the issue of sin. Adherence to the truths present in religious systems will make people more moral, kind, compassionate, giving, etc. The best religious systems - including Christianity as a religious system - can do is make us better sinners.
The only way that we can be changed from sinners and become saved and redeemed people of God is by accepting the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ.
What Jesus is saying is that all of humanity has been infected with a disease called sin. And because of that, we all fall short and will die in our sin.
This doesn't mean that other religions, including Christianity, doesn't have truths. It doesn't mean that adherents to other religions, including Christianity aren't often time better people and live more generous lives. All those things are true.
However, when it comes to the matter of our souls, the only remedy for the disease of sin is the infusion of the grace of Jesus Christ. And if what Jesus claims is true, then the most kind thing we can do is to share what Jesus says as plainly as possible.
The good news is that Jesus has paid the penalty for sin by dying on the cross and descending into hell. Jesus rose again from the dead so that all who receive Jesus as Lord and Savior can rise again as new creations.
And that my friends, is great news!