Aren’t All Religions the Same?
Dr. Jim Denison
Poliomyelitis, or polio, is a disease caused by tiny virus particles which attack the brain and spinal cord. Until this generation, polio was a kind of AIDS in American society. Many of you remember those days when polio was a feared enemy; many of us know someone affected by the disease and its accompanying physical problems.
Why is polio not feared as it once was? The answer is named Jonas Edward Salk. Dr. Salk, an American research scientist, announced in 1953 that he had developed a trial vaccine for polio. He tested his vaccine on himself, his wife, and their three sons. It worked for them. Immediately it was tested widely; by 1955, it was being used across the world.
In those exciting days, there were two questions no one thought to ask. First, aren’t all vaccines basically the same? They knew that all others had failed, and that Dr. Salk’s had succeeded. And second, why only one vaccine? For the simple reason that only one was needed.
No one asked these questions, for the answers were obvious. And across the world, millions of people made sure they were vaccinated, and those they cared about as well. Today polio is virtually no threat to world health.
Unfortunately, there is another disease which still exists today, and is far worse even than polio. This disease has infected every person who has ever lived, and is always fatal. Fortunately, there is a vaccine which will work for every person on earth, and is free of charge.
The disease, of course, is sin, our broken relationship with God. The cure is salvation through Jesus Christ, his Son. And yet questions persist about this spiritual, eternal “vaccine”: aren’t all faiths the same? Why is there only one way to God?
Today, as we continue to ask hard questions about God, let’s explore this issue together.
What does the Bible say?
First let’s examine what God’s word says, four clear facts in Scripture. We need to understand what Jesus claimed about himself.
Fact number one: Jesus is God (v. 1). “Trust in God; trust also in me,” he says. In verse 9 he repeats the assertion: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Earlier the authorities tried to stone him to death “because you claim to be God” (John 10:33).
Other religious leaders claimed to reveal God; Jesus alone claims to be God.
Fact number two: Jesus is preparing our place in heaven (v. 2).
“Prepare” means one sent ahead to get ready for the arrival of those to come.
This is the picture of an Army scout, making sure the way is clear. It’s the President’s envoy, preparing the way for his arrival. In Malaysia, I had guides who would hack a trail through the jungle for me to follow. This is what Jesus is doing for us, right now.
He says that his Father’s house has “many rooms.” This is an oriental picture of the family, where all the rooms are under the father’s one roof. Jesus has already gone there, to get our room ready for us. This is what he’s doing this moment.
Other religious leaders taught about heaven or the afterlife; Jesus alone claims to be preparing it for us.
Fact number three: Jesus will take us to heaven personally (v. 3).
Here we discover another great word for what he is doing for us. “Take you to be with me” translates a word which means “to walk alongside of.”Jesus hasn’t gone to heaven and merely left us directions for finding our way there. He will come back and lead us there, personally. He will escort us home.
Other religious leaders taught about the way to heaven; Jesus alone claims to take us there.
Fact number four: Jesus is the only way to the Father (v. 6).
Jesus is not just a way, truth, or life. His Greek is emphatic: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” He claims to be the exclusive way to God the Father.
Later he was even more emphatic: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). No one in all of human history ever made this claim! Not Buddha, or Mohammad, or Caesar, or Stalin, or anyone else. No one but Jesus.
Peter made the same announcement: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Now, you may agree or disagree with Jesus, but you need to know what he claims about himself: that he is God, preparing our place in heaven, and that he will one day take us there, as only he can. These are the clear statements of Jesus Christ.
What do people say?
Now, this claim flies in the face of contemporary culture, doesn’t it? These statements are politically incorrect, to say the least. Three “isms” dominate our culture and reject everything we’ve heard so far today.
The first is relativism, the idea that all truth is relative and subjective. Most Americans don’t believe there is such a thing as absolute truth, let alone that it is found in Jesus Christ alone.
200 years ago, philosopher Immanuel Kant said that we come to truth as our minds process sense data. As a result, we cannot know “the thing in itself,” but only our experience of it. Now, two centuries later, everyone seems to agree. Truth is personal and subjective, we’re told. This “postmodern” worldview dominates our culture.
And so 93% of us say that we alone determine what is moral in our lives.
Only 13% of us believe in all ten of the Ten Commandments.
We’re taught that language is only a convention of human power; words do not describe reality, but only our version of it. There can be no objective truth claims, only subjective experiences. It’s fine if Jesus is your way to God, but don’t insist that he must be mine.