“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
–Jesus (John 14:6)
I think it’s safe to say that most, if not all of you, have a friend or family member who is actively involved in a religion other than Christianity. We live in a very religious world. Pew Research Center’s 2014 Religious Landscape Study concluded that atheists make up only 3.1% of the U.S. population; agnostics 4%. (Source)
Most people believe in some sort of god or "higher power." And of course, this is not just true of the day and age in which we live. Whenever and wherever people have lived, they have been found giving some recognition to a power or powers beyond themselves. As far back in time as anthropologists have been able to discover, religion has existed in every society. From the most primitive societies to the most culturally advanced, humans have been found to be worshipping creatures.
And so today, on every continent, the world is filled with different religions:
• Jehovah’s Witnesses
Now, one of the popularly held beliefs today regarding the religions of the world is that all religions basically teach the same thing.
George Lucas, in an interview in Time magazine, said, "I remember when I was ten years old, I asked my mother, ‘If there’s only one God, why are there so many religions?’ I’ve been pondering that question ever since, and the conclusion I’ve come to is that all religions are true." (Time, April 26, 1999)
Madonna concurs. She said, "I do believe that all paths lead to God. It’s a shame that we end up having religious wars, because so many of the messages are the same." (Q Magazine, March 1998)
That is what a lot of people believe today. Yet, when one takes the time to study the religions of the world, you learn that this is not the case. Yes, there are some superficial similarities. But when you look into the foundational, core teachings of the religions, it doesn’t take long to see that many of them are vastly different from one another, and that many of them flat out contradict one another regarding…
• the nature of God
• the problem of evil
• the afterlife
Because that is the case, they certainly cannot all be true.
Now, because there are so many disagreements between people of different faiths, many people have suggested that we need to view all of the religions in light of...
THE ANCIENT HINDU STORY OF THE ELEPHANT
Perhaps you’ve heard this story. It’s very popular in college level philosophy books, comparative religion books, and so on. Here’s how it goes:
Once upon a time in a faraway land, lived six blind men. One day the men were told there was an elephant walking through the village. Each of the men was led out to the creature, where they were encouraged to touch the elephant and describe what they thought about the creature.
Well, after feeling the pointy tip of the elephant’s tusk, the first guy concludes elephants are like spears. The second blind man feels out the broad side of the elephant and concludes that elephants are like walls. The third guy tries to grab the elephant’s ear that’s flapping back and forth. And he concludes elephants are more like fans. The fourth guy, grabbing the tail, concludes a rope. The fifth guy, feeling out the trunk, a snake. The sixth guy, the long circular leg, a tree. What happens? A fight breaks out. The six men begin arguing over who is right. An onlooker to the fight, who is not blind and who sees the whole elephant, ends the fighting by telling the men that each of them is correct and that the elephant is actually like all of those things (a wall, a snake, a tree, a spear, etc.). And that’s the end of the story.
Now, what’s the point of the story? Well, this story is often used today in books and by university professors to illustrate the popular belief that adherents to all the different religions are ultimately grabbing hold of or worshipping the same God. In the parable, the elephant is said to be a picture of God. The blind men in the parable are said to be the people of different faiths who are all convinced that they are right, but who really don’t know for sure.
Those who share this story, usually do so hoping that it will persuade the listener to believe that humans are like those blind men. In other words, we all think we are right, but in reality, when it comes to God, all the religions are successfully laying hold of, or worshipping, the same God.
That belief (that we are all worshipping and praying to the same God) has become a very popular belief in our culture. According to the July 7, 2008 edition of Time magazine, 70% of religious Americans agree that: “Many religions can lead to eternal life.”
A Barna poll found that four out of every ten American adults (40%) believe the following statement to be true: “When Christians, Jews, Buddhists, and others pray to their god, all of those individuals are actually praying to the same god, but simply using different names for that deity.” (Source)
A survey of more than 35,000 U.S. adults in 2015 by the Pew Research Center found that: “Among Christians, two-thirds say many religions can lead to eternal life, and most of them (50% of all Christians) say some non-Christian religions can lead to life everlasting.” (Source)
Wow! Even many professing Christians believe this! So, obviously this is a prevalent view. But are there good reasons to believe that this view is actually true? Are there good reasons to believe that the elephant parable might describe the way things really are? No. As popular as this view is today, there are at least...
Three major problems with the elephant parable.
A. The story doesn’t prove anything.
The story of the elephant is simply a story. It’s a captivating, picturesque parable. But that’s all it is. There are no good reasons or evidence given that it is actually true. So, the story doesn’t prove anything.
B. The story self-destructs.
How so? Well, if humans are blind regarding the truth about God (as the story implies), then that would include the unknown human author of the story. If the author is blind, then why would we believe the story he tells? He’s just another confused soul taking a wild guess at the way things are.
C. God has not left us in the dark regarding who He is.
In the parable, the elephant is totally silent and unable to speak to the men. The men are left to guess what is true about the elephant. But God has spoken. The God who created our mouths and gave humans the ability to communicate is certainly capable of communicating Himself. And He has. He hasn’t left us to wander around like the blind men. He’s told us what He is like and what His will is for our lives.
According to the Bible, God has revealed Himself to mankind in at least four ways…
• Through and in Creation (Psalm 19:1-4, Romans 1:20)
• Through man’s Conscience (Romans 2:14-15)
• Through the Canon of Scripture (e.g., John 20:31)
• Through Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2)
And what God has revealed to us has dealt a death blow to the story of the elephant and absolutely demolished this popular notion that all religions are successfully putting people in touch with the same God.
Jesus, who not only claimed to be God, but proved He was God by His miracles and resurrection from the dead, assured us that...
All religions do not lead a person into a right relationship with God.
Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus’ words here make it clear that if a person wants to be reconciled to God, he must have a relationship with Jesus. He is the way—the way to Heaven.
I find it interesting that the word “Christianity” was not the title chosen by the disciples to describe the movement they were a part of. The title “Christian” was given to them by outsiders in the city of Antioch (Acts 11:26), possibly as a term of derision. The disciples referred to faith in Christ as “The Way” (Acts 19:9, 23; 24:14, 22). They did not refer to Christianity as:
• a way
• some way
• my way
• the disciples’ way
The name they used was “the Way.” That was very telling of their familiarity with Jesus’s words in John 14:6 and their belief in the truth of them. And of course, this isn’t the only verse that speaks to this issue. There are others. You might write these verse references in the margin of your Bible there at John 14:6. When you get into a conversation with somebody about this topic, you can start in John 14, but then you will also have some other verses you can turn to.
“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.”
The name that is being spoken of here is Jesus. When Peter was threatened by the powerful Sanhedrin for saying this, he was unmoved. Peter boldly said in...
“Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”
God give us that kind of boldness with God's Word.
Now there in the margin of your Bible at John 14, write 1 Timothy 2:5.
1 Timothy 2:5
“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.”
A mediator is a person who is able to intervene between two parties who are involved in a dispute and bring about reconciliation. Well, according to the Bible (Isaiah 59:1-2), humanity has been separated from God because of our sin. The Bible says here in this verse that there is only one person who can help us: Jesus.
All right, now there in the margin of your Bible at John 14, you might write down John 3:36.
“He who believes in the Son has eternal life; and he who does not believe the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
That’s pretty clear! I could go on and on with these kinds of verses, but I think you get the point.
The Bible is crystal clear on this issue: If you want to have your sins forgiven, if you want to be rescued from spending eternity in Hell, if you want to go to Heaven, you must turn from your sin (Acts 17:30) and put your faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). This is what the Bible teaches.
Now, some critics of the Bible would say, “That’s ridiculous! You quote these verses in the Bible, but I don’t even believe the Bible! It was written by men. It’s not trustworthy!” This has become a very common objection to the Bible today.
Someone responded to something I tweeted recently and said, “The Bible is not trustworthy. It was written by men.” I found his Tweet a bit humorous. This man wrote to tell me that the Bible can’t be trusted because it was written by men. Do you see the irony? This man wanted me to trust what he wrote, even as he denounced the trustworthiness of what men write. His Tweet self-destructed before he even clicked "Send."
Critics who brush off the trustworthiness of the Bible because it was “written by men” overlook the fact that human beings are capable of communicating the truth. If we don’t think so, we might as well tear up all our encyclopedias, dictionaries, manuals, etc. They were all written by men. We don’t brush them off and say “Oh, written by men! Not trustworthy!” No. We’ve carefully considered what those books have to say, who produced them, and have found them to be worthy of a considerable amount of trust. And we believe there are a wealth of good reasons and evidences to trust what the authors of the Bible wrote as well.
The Bible, unlike other ancient religious writings, has a wealth of evidence to support its reliability…
• Extrabiblical historical confirmation in the records of the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Romans
• Scientific discoveries
• Thousands of archaeological discoveries
• Hundreds of fulfilled prophecies
If you are unfamiliar with these kinds of evidences for the Bible, and want to become familiar with them, I have written articles, books, and DVDs on these evidences here.
So, in light of what the Bible teaches in these passages we just considered (John 14:6; Acts 4:12, etc.), we believe that all other religious systems outside of Biblical Christianity are false religions that are not leading people into relationships with the true and living God nor providing a remedy for people’s sin.
Following the teachings of Buddha, Muhammad, Confucius, Joseph Smith, or some other religious leader, may lead to some changes in a person’s life but it will only lead a person away from the one, true, and living God. And notice where Jesus said these other roads lead. Jesus said…
“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.”
That, unfortunately, is where false religions are leading people to: “destruction,” a place the Bible calls “Hell.” (Revelation 20:15).
A lady emailed me a while back after she read an article I wrote wherein I quoted Jesus' words here in Matthew 7. And she said, “I can’t believe you think this! You are just trying to scare people. That’s not very loving.”
Well, I disagree. Being forthright about what awaits people after death, as Jesus was, is actually very loving. Imagine a blind woman walking towards the edge of a cliff. You and I are familiar with the terrain. And she’s not. And we can see where the woman is heading. And we know there is a 500 foot drop down a jagged rocky cliff to icy-cold, shark-infested water. Would it be unloving to warn her about what’s coming? No. It would actually be unloving to let her continue unwarned.
Here’s another analogy. There are some beautiful rivers in the world that have signs warning boaters of what will happen if they continue down the river. The signs are usually big bright-colored signs that say: “Pullout canoes here. Danger waterfall ahead!!”
Now, some people might look at those signs and say, “How unloving that someone would put those signs up here...they’re ruining the pristine beauty of this place...they’re just trying to spoil our fun...they’re just trying to scare people.” And if there really wasn’t a waterfall, those statements might be true. But what if there really was a waterfall? Well then, the Park Ranger who put up the signs did a very loving thing didn't he? It was out of concern for unaware boaters that the signs were put up. Because if people continue floating down the river, they are going to have some serious problems.
That’s why Jesus spoke about Hell. Hell actually exists. It’s a real place. And because “The Lord is...not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) and “God our Savior...desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3–4), Jesus lovingly spoke of Hell, when He shared the gospel with people. And we can follow that example.
SKEPTIC: “But Charlie, though I’m not religious, I’m a good person. Surely the Bible doesn’t say good people go to Hell.”
Well, actually, the Bible says…
• “All have sinned” (Romans 3:23)
• “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way;” (Isaiah 53:6)
• “...in Your sight [God’s] no man living is righteous.” (Psalm 143:2)
We have all broken a variety of God's commandments. Those are the people who deserve to be judged, condemned, and to end up in Hell. Sinners, people like you and me (before we were forgiven). And those are the people, if they continue to reject God’s offer of forgiveness, who will end up there. The choice is up to them.
Now, obviously, this message that Jesus is mankind’s only Savior is not very popular outside of Christian circles is it?
SKEPTIC: “Well yeah Charlie! What you Christians believe totally excludes all the other religions! That’s what I don’t like about you Christians; you think you’re the only ones who are right.”
Well, in response to this accusation, there are a couple things I’d like to point out. Although the gospel message is often labeled by critics as being exclusive, it is actually very inclusive. Jesus told us to take the good news about salvation and God’s offer of forgiveness and share it with the entire world. For example, in Luke 24:47 Jesus said that...
“...repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name [Jesus’ name] to all the nations beginning from Jerusalem.”
So, God’s offer of salvation is very broad! No one—even the guiltiest of sinners—is excluded from the offer. And in the end people from every nation, tribe and tongue will be saved.
In the Book of Revelation, chapter 7, John describes a future scene in Heaven and says he sees people standing there, in verse 9...
“...which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb...”
In Heaven, we are going to meet people from every nation, tribe, and tongue who were recipients of God’s grace. That's going to be amazing!
So, the Bible’s offer of salvation is very broad in that sense. I think it’s important to point that out.
Now, having said that, there is another sense in which the gospel is exclusive. If what the Bible says about Jesus being the only way of salvation is true (and we believe there are good reasons that is the case), then yes, statements to the contrary are wrong. But critics of Christianity need to keep in mind that...
ALL TRUTHS AND ALL TRUTH CLAIMS ARE EXCLUSIVE.
For example 1 + 1 = 2 is exclusive. Three doesn’t work for an answer, nor does 4 or 5 or any other number. There’s only one right answer. When Richard Dawkins and other atheists say, “There is no God,” they are making an exclusive claim—insisting that everyone who believes in God is wrong. When Muslims say, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet!” they are claiming that everybody who believes otherwise is wrong.
Anyone who makes a truth claim, whether he’s a Muslim, a politician, or an atheist, believes he is right and that those who disagree are wrong. And again, the reason why is because all truths and all truth claims are exclusive.
That's something critics often overlook when they single out Christians for our exclusive claims.
SKEPTIC: “I hear what you’re saying Charlie, and you raise some good points, but I still don’t understand why a person must put their faith in Jesus in order to be saved.”
That is a popular question: Why must a person trust in Jesus and not one of these other persons or deities that are admired in some other religion? Well, think this through with me. Let’s suppose you hurt my feelings. In fact, let’s suppose you walk up and kick me. Would you be able to go to just any person and apologize to him in order to make right our relationship? No. Why not? Because to make right our relationship, you would need to return directly to me. You can’t go and apologize to my friend James and ask for his forgiveness and think that our relationship has been fixed. They’re dragging me off to the hospital. You can sing songs to James. You can write poems to James. You can give money to James. You can build a temple for James. And it’s not going to do anything to fix our relationship, is it?
The same is true in our relationship with God. Having sinned against the God of the Bible, we must go back to Him in order to have our relationship restored. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that a person must have a relationship with Jesus in order to receive God’s forgiveness. Why?
Because Jesus is God. (John 1:1, 5:18, 8:58, 20:28; Col. 2:9; Isaiah 9:6). He’s the One you’ve kicked. He’s the One we’ve sinned against. We can’t invent religions and then cry out to man-made deities and hope they will save us. These other gods don’t even exist (1 Cor. 8:4). They are the inventions of men! The figment of people’s imaginations. And imaginary deities can't do anything on the day of judgment to help anybody.
In Jeremiah 11:12, God spoke of those who worshiped man-made gods...
“[They] will go and cry out to the gods to whom they offer incense, but they will not save them at all in the time of their trouble.”
They “will not save them at all” because they can’t. They don’t exist. If you want to be saved, you must have a relationship with the God who actually exists—the true and living God, revealed to us in the person of Jesus Christ.
SKEPTIC: “Well hold on here a second Charlie. What about those who have never heard of Jesus? Are you saying that they are going to be condemned to Hell?”
God will make the final decision on that matter. For those who do end up there, we must keep in mind that it won’t be because they never heard of Jesus. People will end up in Hell because they have lived their lives ignoring or even retreating from the truth God has revealed to them.
SKEPTIC: “But some people have never even heard of God.”
Well, in response to this, we believe they will still be without excuse on the Day of Judgment. Why? God has revealed Himself to all people through creation...
1. Revelation of Creation
Paul spoke about this in...
“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
All people from the beginning of time down to this day have had the testimony of creation to point them to their Creator.
This is spoken of in Psalm 19 as well...
“The heavens tell of the glory of God. The skies display His marvelous craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known. They speak without a sound or a word; their voice is silent in the skies; yet their message has gone out to all the Earth, and their words to all the world....” (New Living Translation)
Another reason people will be without excuse on the Day of Judgment is because of God’s revelation in and through man’s conscience...
2. Revelation of Conscience
The Bible says that those who haven't had access or exposure to the Scriptures (the written law of God)...
“…show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their con-science bearing wit-ness, and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them…”
God has inscribed evidence of His existence and His moral laws on the heart (or conscience) of every person. And their consciences convict them when they do something sinful. And that conviction (that guilt) is good. It is there to lead them to seek out God and His mercy.
So, all of mankind can know through an examination of creation and their consciences that God exists and that they have failed to live up to His laws written in their hearts. If a person will respond to the truth God has revealed to him through creation or the convicting work of his conscience, God will give that person additional light about Himself.
If a person who has never heard of Jesus, truly wants to know God, God will let Himself be found. Why do I believe that? Because God said that is the case. Where?
“…you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.”
David assured his son Solomon...
1 Chronicles 28:9
“...If you seek Him, He will let you find Him...”
One of the reasons many people are not finding God today is because they do not want to find Him! They realize having a relationship with God will require them to turn their backs on sins that they find too enticing. But, if they will seek to know God, they will find Him.
“…He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
There are lots of ways God can get the truth about Jesus to a seeker.
God might send them…
• a missionary
• a radio signal
• a social media post
• a gospel tract
• an angel
• a dream or vision
He might put a coworker, friend, or family member in their life who will invite them to church or send them a link to check out an article (like this one) so that they might come to learn more about Jesus. Maybe that's why you're reading this right now. Someone sent a link to you. God is drawing you to Himself (John 12:32)! He loves you and wants to have a relationship with you now and throughout eternity.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
God loves you! He wants to save you. That’s why Jesus died on that cruel wooden cross. He suffered there in your place to pay the penalty for your sins. He rose from the grave on the third day and today He’s offering forgiveness of sins and everlasting life to all who will repent and place their faith in Him.
If you have never placed your faith in Him, I exhort you to do so today. If you have already placed your faith in Jesus (as I suspect most of my readers have), I encourage you to not be ashamed of the gospel. Brothers and sisters, what God has done for needy sinners is news that too good to keep to ourselves! Let’s share it with others while we still have time! Amen?
is the founder of the ABR Apologetics Ministry (AlwaysBeReady.com) and a popular guest speaker at churches and conferences all over North America. He is the author of several articles, books, and DVDs, some of which include:
• The Bible's Scientific Accuracy and Foresight
• Scrolls & Stones: Compelling Evidence the Bible Can Be Trusted
• Evidence for God
• One Minute Answers to Skeptics
• Archaeological Evidence for the Bible
• The Case for the Resurrection
• If God is Loving, Why is there Evil and Suffering?
• Homosexuality and the Bible
• The End Times: Ten Upcoming Events in Bible Prophecy
• Teaching and Preaching God's Word
• Apologetics Quotes
His resources have been endorsed by Norman Geisler, Charles Colson, Chuck Smith, Ed Hindson, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Jeremy Camp, and many others. His doctrinal beliefs are outlined here. You can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.