Do All Religions Lead to God?
There’s a popular view today which says this: all religions lead to God and basically teach the same thing; for Christianity to claim it is the only true religion is arrogant and intolerant.
Many give the following analogy to support this view: There was once a group of blind men who each grabbed onto a part of an elephant. The man holding the feet described the elephant to be sturdy like a tree; the man holding the trunk described it as flexible; while the man touching the body described the elephant has massive. So it is said that each person possessed a piece of the truth about the elephant, but none of them actually had the whole truth about the elephant. Thus, it is argued, religion is like this: each religion is like a blind man who has a part of the elephant–they all possess some knowledge of God but none of them really understand truly who God is in a big picture or accurate sense! This is used to argue that all religions lead to the same place and all possess part of the truth.
Within this train of thinking, it is said that this approach is the most tolerant and loving of those who hold to various religious views. It is best to understand that God, if He even exists, simply manifests Himself differently in different religions. Such a view is rather common in pop culture and among many individuals in our culture today.
WHY IS THIS VIEW APPEALING?
1. There is superficial or partial truth to it
a. Most religions do teach some similar/overlapping concepts (lying is wrong, stealing is wrong).
b. The principle that different individuals can hold to a subjective view of an event or person with differing views and not be wrong works in some contexts (like 5 people who describe their experience of eating strawberry ice cream–none of them are wrong as they describe how the ice cream tastes even if they have very different responses)
2. The views draws on the value of tolerance, which is the highest held virtue of our day
3. The view lets us off the hook: if no one really has or is able to possess an accurate knowledge of who God is, then no one is held accountable.
WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN POSITION?
The view that all religions lead to God fails to conform to basic logic principles and it fails to conform to what is true as revealed in the Bible.
Why it fails?
1. Though there are some similarities between various religions, it is false to claim they basically teach the same things. (Buddhism–there is no God; Hindus–there are many Gods; Christians there is one God).
2. The analogy of the elephant fails because it is claiming an absolutizing objective exclusive truth. The major flaw with the elephant analogy is this: for the analogy to work, someone has to be able to see the elephant (Keller makes this point in his book ‘Reason for God)! Someone has to not be blind and observe the blind men and the elephant, and as such a person does this they are making claims about God and how we approach God. This person is claiming absolute and objective knowledge about God and how God is known. They are speaking with authority and claim to see the big picture!
Another flaw is this: to claim all religions lead to God is to make an exclusive truth claim in the garb of inclusive language. When we say that all religions lead to God, we exclude every other view that opposes us! Thus, we exclude the view that there is only one way that leads to God or that there are many ways that lead to God. Every truth claim is in some way totalizing or excluding of other ideas.
3. The modern notion of tolerance has been redefined from the old notion of tolerance and is unsatisfactory and ultimately discriminatory. The old understanding of tolerance: we can hold very different views from each other, believing the other is wrong, but will value their opportunity to speak. New understanding: to claim another is wrong is intolerant. The new tolerance is not very tolerant.
4. To claim all views are the same is really offensive and culturally insensitive to each of the world religions.
5. God’s Revelation of Himself in the Scriptures shows that there is only one way to the true God who made the universe, that is through the God of Israel, whom we know to be Jesus Christ.
Texts which refute the notion that all ways lead to God:
1 No other gods:
Exodus 20:3 “You shall no other gods besides me.”
Psalm 96:5 “The gods of the people are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.”
Isaiah 44:6 “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.”
2. Jesus is God
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” John 1:1
3. Jesus as God dwelt among us
“the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” John 1:14
4. Jesus claimed to be the only way to God
“I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me” John 14:6
6. Finally, Only Jesus can make us spiritually alive.
Religious obedience cannot reconcile us to God or make us spiritually alive, only Jesus can do this.
Whoever has the son, has eternal life: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16