“Got Questions about: Do All Religions Lead to God?”

Pt. 2 of the Series, “Got Questions”

January 13, 2019

 

John 14:1-6

Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

 

There is a story that goes like this: Once there were four blind men who discovered an elephant. Since the men had never encountered an elephant, they groped about, seeking to understand and describe this new phenomenon.  One grasped the trunk and concluded it was a snake. Another explored one of the elephant’s legs and described it as a tree. A third found the elephant’s tail and announced that it was a rope. And the fourth blind man, after discovering the elephant’s side, concluded that it was, after all, a wall. Each in his blindness described the same thing: an elephant. Yet each described the same thing in a radically different way.

 

That is how many folks like to view the religions of the world.  Each religion is just another way to view the one God.  In our pluralistic, relativistic world, it is quite fashionable to think that each religion is describing the same thing but in radically different ways which means, of course, that accordingly, no religion has a corner on the religion market but that all should be viewed as equally valid.  This view seems to be the cultural norm today.  This means that all beliefs are all valid, that any claim to ultimate truth is arrogant—the idea of exclusive truth does not sit well with people in our culture--and every religion is right.  So, in the story, the guy who concludes that the elephant is a snake is right but so is the guy who thinks the elephant is a tree or a rope or a wall.  According to this reasoning, they all must be right.

 

Of course, there are others who say that that kind of thinking is silly, that an elephant is an elephant and that a snake and a tree and a rope and a wall are very different things.  Those people look at the vast differences between the religions of the world and assert that they all can’t be right, that they all can’t be truth.  They hear Jesus say, “No one comes to the Father except through me”, they hear Jesus’ exclusive claim, and they assert that there is only one God and that there is only one religion that leads to God.  Today, in our series, “Got Questions?” we are going to explore this issue.  We are going to explore, “Do All religions Lead to God?”  Let’s begin this exploration by asking;

 

  1.  Are all religions the same?

 

Can the differences between the religions be explained away or are these religions so vastly different that it is impossible to say they all lead to God?  Take

 

  1.  Hinduism

 

for example.  Hinduism has one overarching being called Brahmin but then millions of other gods.  Hinduism is a polytheistic religion.  Someone explained it as looking at an object through a stained glass window, that depending on which pane you look through, you will see God differently.  Hinduism asserts that your position in life is determined by your actions in a previous life which means that Hinduism believes in reincarnation.  If you do well in life, if you accumulate enough good karma, you might come back as someone in a higher class.  If you do not accumulate good karma, you might come back as a pig or maybe a gnat or if you are really bad, a Yankee rooter.  The path to God in Hinduism is to be freed from the law of karma, that cycle of reincarnation, and become enlightened, to become one with Brahmin.  Then, there’s 

 

  1.  Buddhism

 

Buddhism is less a religion and more a philosophy.  We’ve seen Buddha statues but Buddhists do not worship Buddha as God.  Buddha was a man who lived around 500BC who was an agnostic.  He didn’t know if there is a God.  Like Hinduism, Buddhism also holds to reincarnation but Buddhism is different from Hinduism in that the goal is to purify your heart by letting go of desires.  A Buddhist’s cravings and desires cause them to be born, live and die, and be born again until they can let go of their desires.  They do this through personal restraint, fasting and meditation.  Nirvana, or their concept of heaven, is described as the blowing out of the flame of desire.  Then, let’s consider

 

  1.  Islam

 

Unlike Hinduism that is polytheistic and Buddhism that doesn’t have a concept of God, Islam is strictly monotheistic.  It has one God, Allah.  Allah is infinitely superior to human beings.  He is the creator of the universe and the source of all that is good as well as evil.  Everything that happens, happens because it was Allah’s will.  The path to God in Islam is, among other things, to follow the 5 Pillars of Islam which are; To repeat a creed daily, to pray 5 times a day facing their holy city of Mecca, to give to the needy, to fast one month, the month of Ramadan, and to make a pilgrimage to Mecca once in a lifetime.  Thus, the path to God in Islam is by what you do.  Next is Judaism.

 

  1. Judaism

 

Of course, Judaism comes from the same tradition as Christianity.  The Old Testament is about God’s interactions with the people of Israel.  Judaism is also monotheistic.  There is only one God.  The path to that God is to follow the law, the 10 commandments but also all of the laws that came later as well.  It is interesting that for the most part, Judaism is not so concerned about the afterlife.

 

  1.  Humanism

 

Again, humanism is more of a philosophy than a religion.  There is no God in humanism.  Humanists consider all people to be basically good and they look to other humans to show the way, to decide right from wrong, to determine what truth is.  There is no path to God since humanists by and large do not believe in God.       

 

  1. Christianity

 

Christianity is also a monotheistic religion.  We believe in only one God who is seen as 3 in 1, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Christianity believes that humanity is by nature sinful, that sin needs to be paid for and that Jesus did indeed pay the penalty for sin when He died on the cross.  The way to God is all about grace, it is all about God reaching down to us, sending Jesus to die on the cross for our forgiveness and that we are accepted by God not on the basis of what we have done, but that we are accepted by God through God’s grace. 

 

So, Hinduism believes in a multitude of gods and goddesses, Buddhism says there is no deity, Humanism says there is no God, Muslims believe in a powerful but unknowable God, Judaism has one god but has little concept for life after death and the way to that God is through following the law, and Christians believe in a loving God who provided a way to Him through the cross of Jesus.  With all of those vast differences—from reincarnation to having no concept of an afterlife to believing in an eternal heaven, from working your way to God to heaven is given to those who believe through God’s grace, do all religions worship the same God?  Here’s a second question to explore: 

 

  1. Do All Religions View Jesus the Same?

 

Hinduism may see Jesus as just another emanation of god.  Buddhism and humanism may see Jesus as a great teacher on the level of other human teachers, just someone else to consider in one’s personal search for meaning and truth. Judaism sees Jesus perhaps as a great teacher but not the messiah and certainly not God.  Islam is similar.  Islam considers Jesus a great prophet but that is all.  The Trinity or the belief that Jesus is God is considered blasphemy.   

 

Christianity sees Jesus in a totally different light.  We see Jesus as far more than just a great teacher.  We see Him as God, the second Person of the Trinity.  We just finished celebrating Christmas in which we might read from the Gospel of John;

 

“In the beginning was the Word (that is Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made… 14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”  John 1:1-3, 14

 

“(From the people of Israel come) the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.”  Romans 9:5

 

“Thomas said to (Jesus), “My Lord and my God!”  John 20:28

 

“We know also that the Son of God has come…  He is the true God and eternal life.”  1 John 5:20

 

Jesus said that He would judge the world at the end of time, something only God will do.  He said He would give eternal life to people.  He said that if you have seen Him, you have seen God and to believe in Him was to believe in God and to hate Him was to hate God.  Jesus accepted worship and He accepted being called God.  He said that He and the Father are one and when He said that, the Jewish leaders were about to stone Him for blasphemy.  They knew He was claiming to be God.  After the resurrection, He told His disciples that He would be with them always, something only God can do.  Can all of the religions be truth when some see Jesus just as a man and Christianity sees Jesus as God?  Is it that one sees the elephant as a rope and another as a tree, or that to think an elephant is a rope is not quite right?  Here’s another point to consider.

 

  1. If all religions lead to God, then why is the Bible so concerned about evangelism?

 

Let’s go back to the Old Testament, first.  God provided a way of escape for the Israelites from bondage to the Egyptians partly because the Egyptian gods were moving the people away from Him.  When God gave Moses the 10 Commandments, the very first one was, “I am the Lord your God.  You shall have no other gods before me.”  If all religions lead to God, what would God care if the Israelites worshipped other gods?  The same was true of the Israelites entering the Promised Land.  They were not to intermarry with other people because the people would begin worshipping their gods.  God told Joshua, Israel’s leader as they went into the Promised Land: 

 

“Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. 8 But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now.”  Joshua 23:7-8

 

If all religions lead to God, why would God care if they intermarried?  Why would God care if the Israelites worshipped the gods of the Canaanites?  And later, we hear of Israel being a light to the Gentiles.  If all religions lead to God, why would there be a need for Israel to be a light.  What the Gentiles believed would have been fine and dandy.    

 

In the New Testament, Jesus tells His disciples to go and make disciples of all nations.  Why would He do that if all religions lead to God?  Why did Peter and Paul spend their lives going from village to village preaching the Gospel, converting people to come to faith in Jesus?  Wouldn’t the Greek gods and the Roman gods and even the god the Jews were worshipping be equally as valid as the Christian religion and therefore there would be no need to evangelize those people?  No, again and again the call went forth to go from town to town and country to country to preach the Christian faith.  If all religions lead to God, what was the point?  Why would millions of people since then go off to far away countries and convert people to Christianity?  Why do that?

 

So, we’ve seen that there are vast differences between the world religions, that they see Jesus very differently and that there is a concern in the Bible to bring people to know the One True God.    

 

  1.  So, do all religions lead to God?

 

Let’s go back to our story of the elephant.  One blind man felt its tail and said it was a rope.  Another grasped its trunk and said it was a snake.  Another its legs and said it was a tree and another felt its side and said it was a wall.  Keep in mind that the blind men were in fact touching an elephant.  It was an elephant whether they believed it or not.  Thus, not all opinions, whether concerning elephants or the nature of God, are equally true.  Second, note that the four blind men are mistaken.  It wasn’t a rope or snake or tree or wall.  It was an elephant.  It wasn’t that the opinions of the 4 blind men were equally true.  In fact, they were equally false.  Third, there is a true answer as to what it is.  There is only one God, one, not many.  This is what Pastor R. C. Sproul wrote;

 

How can Buddhism be true when it denies the existence of a personal God and at the same time Christianity be true when it affirms the existence of a personal God?  Can there be a personal God and not be a personal God at the same time?... Can orthodox Judaism be right when it denies life after death and Christianity be equally right when it affirms life after death?  Can classical Islam have a valid ethic that endorses the killing of infidels while at the same time the Christian ethic of loving your enemies be equally valid? 

 

Poet Steve Turner wrote: “They (all religions) all believe in love and goodness, they only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.” [1]  Anatoly France said, “If 50 million people believe a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing.” [2]  Listen to what the Bible says;

 

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  John 14:6

 

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.  Acts 4:12

 

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”  John 3:18

 

“God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.  1 John 5:11-13

 

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus…”  1 Timothy 2:5

 

There is only one God, not many.  That one God is the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  There is only one Savior and that is Jesus.  There is only one path to God and that is through the cross, by God’s grace.   All of the religions of the world do not know Jesus for who He really is.  They do not know God.  They do not worship God.  Only Christians do.  And, all the believers in other religions will one day stand before Jesus and, as Paul says; 

 

“…at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  Philippians 2:10

 

This is pretty explicit stuff.  It is pretty clear.  There really is no ambiguity in these verses.  And, this is pretty exclusive stuff, which, in our tolerant, pluralistic world makes people feel pretty anxious.  But, it is truth.  It is Biblical.  It is who God is and that is not what all of the other religions of the world claim.  Jesus truly is the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him.  So,

 

  1. Why, then are there so many religions?

 

Romans 1:19-21 tells us:

 

“For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  Romans 1:21

 

People don’t like the way the Bible describes God so they fashion a god after their own liking.  I like the way one person put it;

 

Many people do not want to believe in a God who demands righteousness and morality, so they invent a God who makes no such requirements.  Many people do not want to believe in a God who declares it impossible for people to earn their own way to heaven.  So they invent a God who accepts people into heaven if they have completed certain steps, followed certain rules, and/or obeyed certain laws, at least to the best of their ability.  Many people do not want a relationship with a God who is sovereign and omnipotent.  So they imagine God as being more of a mystical force than a personal and sovereign ruler. [3]

 

Like the people of Israel in the wilderness, people today don’t like how God reveals Himself in the Bible, His exclusive nature, how Jesus is the only way to the Father, so they craft a God to their own liking.  For the Israelites, it was a Golden Calf.  For others it is Hinduism or Buddhism or Humanism .  And, if an organized religion is not to their liking, they craft another god and truth be told, that God, if they looked in a mirror, would look just like them.  Apply this verse to our world: 

 

“There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”  Proverbs 16:25

 

One last thing;

 

  1. How should Christians relate to non-Christians?

 

A few weeks back some people rang our doorbell.  I came to the door to find a man and a woman standing there.  They asked me some penetrating questions and, being the astute theological whizbang that I am, it wasn’t long before I realized that these people were Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Did I recognize them because I’m such a whizbang or was it the name tag that said “Jehovah’s Witness”?  Hmmm, not such a whizbang, after all.  Anyway, I was involved in some things at home—we had some company over—and I came to the point with them pretty quickly.  I told them that they were not Christian, that they didn’t see Jesus as God in human flesh, that they are recognized by many Christian denominations as a cult and that I wished they would stop trying to peddle their beliefs to our community because they were leading people away from God.  Then, with a cordial smile on my face, I invited them to church and wished them a good day.

 

How should Christians relate to non-Christians?  Not that way!  I will admit to you that I blew it with those people.  I’m serious, I really blew it.  I don’t think they will ever be back at my doorstep again.  They probably drew a big black “X” on my door.  Even worse, because of the way I approached them, they may have placed a giant wall in their hearts towards who Jesus really is.  How should Christians relate to non-Christians?  Not the way I did it then.  I have done batter at other times and to do better, we need to

 

  1. Treat them as people loved by God

 

That is who they are.  They are people loved by God.  They were made in the image of God.  Jesus died for them, too.  We need to care for them and give them the dignity and value they deserve.  We should not reach out to people with fear and hate, as a enemy to be vanquished.  We need to remember that at one point, we were enemies of God, too.  Yet, God sent Jesus to you, His enemy, and Jesus died for you.  He loved you.  We need to love our non-Christian neighbors and co-workers.  We need to love them into the Kingdom of heaven.  Now,

 

  1.  There is a time and a place to acknowledge our differences

 

As I have tried to do in today’s sermon, there is a need for what is called Christian apologetics, where we lay out how Christians are different from the world.  There is a time and place for that.  However, usually it is within the crucible of a winsome relationship that their defenses can be dropped to the point where they can actually hear about Jesus.  Again, we need to love them into the Kingdom of God.  And, that also means, we need to

 

  1.  Be ready

 

We need to be ready to share our faith.  We need to know some of the theology of these various groups so that we can better point them to Jesus.  We need to have a real concern for our friends and relatives who do not believe in Jesus, who do not know that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him.  We need to be concerned about the Hindu people we know and the Buddhists and the Muslims and the Jews and the Humanists, we need to be concerned about those dear souls who don’t know just how much God loves them, and we need to do all we can to love them into the kingdom.  Let me say it again, We need to do all we can to love these people into the kingdom.  For, as one person wrote; “Eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong.”

 

There are so many views of God in the various religions of the world and so many ideas about how to get to God.  There are so many concepts of life after death and so many views about who Jesus is.  Do all religions lead to God?  The Bible says no, that there is only one way and His name is Jesus.  May God give us understanding about this, and courage to share the Gospel and compassion for the lost and thankfulness that God has come to us and shown us the way and the truth and the life.  

 

In Jesus’ name.

 

Amen.

 

  

 

   

 

   

 

 

 

 

     

 

 

 

 

[1] “Do All Religions Ultimately Point to the Same God?” by Evi Rodemann

[2] “Tough Questions: Don’t All Religions Lead to God?” by Gary Poole and Judson Poling, Zondervan Publishing, 1998

[3] From the article, “Why Are There So Many Religions?” found at “Got Questions?.com”