Is Jesus Really the Only Way?

This blog post has been revised and turned into a chapter in The Rethinking Series.

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About Frank Viola

Frank Viola is a best-selling author, A-list blogger, speaker, and consultant to authors and writers. His mission is to help serious followers of Jesus know their Lord more deeply so they can experience real transformation and make a lasting impact. See his About page for more information.

  • Frank Viola

    I’m not sure what you are asking/suggesting because there were numerous texts I put forth with very little interpretation given to many of them. In many of them, I just quoted Jesus. Hence my comment about your assumption of Him being “narrow.” It was His words, not my own. So in short, I don’t know how to answer your question because I am unsure what the question is, exactly.

    Consequently, let me offer this as a way through. Could you state one excerpt from the post and then explain why you feel it’s wrong and what you regard to be the correct way to interpret the text? That would help us all. Thx.

  • Michael

    Frank, it’s not that I was thinking that Jesus was narrow, he often is – though he’s often surprisingly wide. It’s more that I thought you were being narrow in what I perceived to be your view – that is, the quote I pulled out about the meaning of Jesus’ death on the cross, and the sense I get from your article that this is the only way a Christian can interpret the Scriptures. I do admit that it has a long history of being interpreted precisely as you do – which I take seriously. However, it’s not the only way it has been – I take that seriously too. I do embrace that the Scriptures are inspired, dynamically empowered to lead people to a saving faith in Jesus, and have staked my life, and ministry and sense of call on them. What I am hearing you say in your reply, is that Yes, Jesus is often regarded as narrow. I was asking if you were saying in order to be a Christian (a good/right/legitimate one) you have to accept the view/interpretation you seem to advocate for.

  • ruben

    I have to add that hell could be envisioned differently, in CS Lewis’ Great Divorce it is a dreary place where it’s inhabitants choose to stay and constantly reject heaven for. It is separation from God and that results in a tormented state. Sounds like you come from a “hell and brimstone” background, I also came from that and it was so hard for me to let the images and fear go. I was afraid of God and just wanted to run away from Him, because they presented Him wrongly. It took decades to undo.

  • ruben

    Regarding the lost/saved comment, I meant that not only the “Christian” camp will be saved, people from other religions and even people who have no religion may be saved because their acts towards the least were performed to Christ. Faith is not intellectual assent, it is trust and confidence in Christ. Some people have this faith without realizing it. I think God knew about the sacrifice from eternity, this was why He asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, He was seeking companionship from His friend over something He would eventually have to do (at least in my thinking). I think God gives you what you want, hell is just that. Also I totally agree with you findings among the lost that everyone is special and has value, we are sinful (all of us) and so valuable to the Father. So sorry about what you learned from your Pentecostal/Baptist past, sounds something so different from what Christ taught and shown us.

  • LarryRR

    Though I feel both of our statements are completely about religion, I understand that many see no separation between religion and mere existence. Still, your statement about many who ‘believe’ are lost and some who are clueless are saved is one of the things that makes belief in God/Christ so difficult for some (or me, at least).

    Are you also saying that God, and Christ, didn’t know Christ’s eventual sacrifice would be necessary – and temporary – and that humanity’s rebellion and required salvation was a surprise? I’m not disputing that God may be capable of incredible love, just not unconditional. Once He says you must be saved to enter the kingdom, it’s conditional. I’m actually ok with that for those WANTING to worship God for eternity, but I’m also ok with annihilation for those that are essentially good people but aren’t interested in going to heaven and for those not lucky enough to be born in a Christian nation. Eternal non-existence seems, ultimately, a much more just and much more loving sentence for our blink-of-an-eye, no-choice-of-our-own lives here on earth. For the truly evil? That’s tough. You want to see justice, but without end?? How does one even process such a concept? Or that God would need to fix such a hopeless situation that was all His doing? Perhaps it would have been better had not even Noah and his family been spared….

    How we answer those questions determines to a large degree how we see God and how we see each other. Are we lost, doomed abominations, or do we have intrinsic worth as humans, apart from any system of belief? My Pentecostal/Southern Baptist upbringing says the former but my living among the ‘lost’ says everyone is special and has value. Religion says that too but it often feel more like lip service.

  • ruben

    I don’t think it is about religion at all, Jesus says that in the last judgement that many who claim to know Him and speak for him will not be known by Him and conversely, that many who never had a clue that they were His will in fact be his sheep. Regarding unconditional love, I think that God giving up what was most precious to Him to save our lot demonstrates that. Why He had to do that we do not know, it just brings out the gravity of our situation and it is not something lightly fixed.

  • Wim

    A very logical and insightful approach dealing with a major issue for many people and different religions. Jesus has said that He is the corner stone of the Church but also to many the/their “stumbling” block. The Truth will set us free, provide peace, healing and a new life. Why don’t you give God a chance, what can you loose by doing this and simply start reading the Bible and about Jesus and ask Him the difficult questions, speak to Him and let Him speak to you – you may be surprised what God will do for you?

  • LarryRR

    I think most religions would agree with your assertion that all religions can’t be true, but I suspect none will agree with the possibility that they can all be wrong. You have reasons that have convinced you (and have outlined them well) and the other faiths have reasons that they too are just as convinced by. And it’s that conviction of being the one True religion that has led to so much destruction and bitterness between the religions since the beginning of recorded history.

    God’s love may be righteous but I don’t know how it can be called merciful or unconditional. It if were merciful, would not the judge in your analogy go to hell for eternity in your place, rather than just a few days, and then make you still pay that debt for not believing? If it were unconditional, then there would be no threat of eternal torture. There’d be no threat or conditions, period. We would love God because He and heaven were so amazing instead of fabricating a love as a means of escaping unfathomable, unending pain (but you can certainly see why some would try).

    I can understand the renewed focus on universalism for just that reason because many people just can’t reconcile those two opposing views of God, but they also can’t imagine any purpose apart from God. Even I’m not willing to go that far yet. But I will go as far as to say that our attempts at defining and describing God have, for the most part, not been very merciful or loving to our fellow humans.

  • Frank Viola

    Thanks for your comment. I want to challenge your statement about Hinduism. There is only one mention of Hinduism and it’s in the context of it claiming to be true . . . as you have demonstrated (the other religions do the same). See the top of the post. As for a founder, obviously someone(s) founded the teachings of Hinduism. I don’t think that can be disputed. The point I was making is that Christianity isn’t based on a teaching or set of teachings, but upon a Person. Hinduism is not (as you demonstrated, nor are any of the other religions). I won’t answer your other question because you asked me not to. ;-) Thx. again for the comment.

  • Ambaa

    An interesting question, which I (of course) think is “no.”

    But I think you aren’t entirely accurate in the descriptions of other religions. What you say about Hinduism here is just not at all true.

    Hinduism, for example, is not based on the philosophy or teaching or a founder. There is no known founder.

    I also think it’s strange to say that Gods other than the God of the Bible are not loving or based on love.
    I mean, that’s just ridiculous :-/

    I think your discussion makes a lot of logical sense from the perspective of a western and Christian mind,
    but it has that inherent bias that means you’re comparing apples and oranges between Christianity and other religions. For example, sin. Hinduism doesn’t really have the concept of “sin” that Christianity does and so you can’t compare how Hinduism treats sin to how Christianity treats sin.

    Your explanation of how God is loving and therefore accepts a sacrifice is very confusing to me. I’ve never understood the blood sacrifice requirement in Christianity. Why would a loving God need to have someone brutally killed in order to forgive people? Actually, don’t answer that. It won’t convince me that Jesus is a good path. I love my religion and my Gods very much.

    For me, since I don’t believe in Jesus or the Bible at all, using scriptural Biblical references to argue in favor of Jesus being the “only way” doesn’t get very far. It’s an authority I don’t recognize. You may as well tell me that I should believe it because Tolkien said so.

  • Frank Viola

    Yes, Jesus is often regarded to be narrow because of His claims of being *the* Messiah, the Lord of the world, and “the way, the truth, and the life whereby no man comes to the Father but by Me.” The apostles which I quoted were also considered narrow by some because of their belief in what Jesus stated about Himself. Can you please be more specific about your objection and explain what I’ve said in the post that you regard to be a misinterpretation of Scripture and in turn explain what you believe to be the proper interpretation of those texts? If, of course, you don’t believe those texts to be inspired by God, please reveal that as well as it would help all us to understand where you’re coming from. Thx.

  • Michael

    Frank: I find this article narrow. Are you saying that this is the way Christians have to be/believe in order to be Christian? I have a hard time agreeing with much of what you have written; especially: “Through Christ’s sacrificial death, God can forgive us in such a way that He shows Himself to be both merciful and righteous.” And also having a difficult time drawing the parallel with Christ’s death in your analogy about the judge.

  • Hardik Modi

    Sir, I want to thank you with all my heart for this wonderful and awesome post. I just can’t imagine how awesome our God is! No words to describe. Today I’m completely a different person by the grace of God. How true it is that just by beholding Him changes us completely from the inside out! Praise God!

  • Sally Roach

    Excellent! Christ is all!