Thursday, October 09, 2008

Truthbomb August/September Newsletter


Is Jesus the Only Way to Heaven?

Greetings and I hope all is well with you and yours! If you’ll remember (I realize it’s been awhile…new dad and all!), in our last newsletter we mentioned that we would be critiquing Eckhart Tolle’s book, A New Earth. However, after reading the first 3-4 chapters of the book, it became apparent that a more pressing issue arose from Tolle’s writings; namely, Jesus Christ’s claim that He, and He alone, is the sole source of salvation (Jn. 14:6). This claim will be our focus this month.

The fact that Jesus Christ Himself claimed to be the exclusive way to salvation and eternal life has long offended those who do not believe in Christ and even some who do! Those who embrace this claim most often earn labels such as intolerant, narrow-minded, or even bigoted.

However, one must ask: What if Jesus' claim to be the exclusive way to God is logical? What if it’s verifiable? Then, the belief that Jesus is the only way to God would be rendered essential.
The answers to these questions undoubtedly have tremendous implications on one’s life regardless if they acknowledge it or not. Truth does not change simply because it’s ignored, scoffed at, or disbelieved.

Our purpose in this month’s newsletter is to examine the claims of Jesus Christ and to assess if His exclusive claim to salvation is logical and verifiable and then, as a result, essential.

Clearing Away the Clutter-Nonsense to Sense

When discussing the exclusive claim Jesus Himself made (John 14:6), it is amazing to hear some of the unreasonable statements those opposed to this belief will make in an effort to avoid taking a definitive stance on the issue.

Before examining the question of Jesus and His claims, it’s important to clear away some false assertions so that the question being pondered can be investigated without hindrance. Please consider the logical bankruptcy of the following statements that often come up when discussing Jesus, religion, or Christ’s claim to exclusivity:

a) “There is no absolute truth in religion.”
Are you absolutely sure about that? Is this not an absolute truth claim about all religions?


b) “That may be true for you, but it’s not true for me.”
Okay, is this statement only true for you or true for me as well?

Philosopher Paul Copan exposes the fallacy of this belief beautifully:

“If my belief is only true for me, then why isn’t your belief only true for you? Aren’t you saying you want me to believe the same thing you do? You say that no belief is true for everyone, but you want everyone to believe what you do.

You’re making universal claims that relativism is true and absolutism is false. You can’t in the same breath say, ‘Nothing is universally true’ and ‘My view is universally true.’ Relativism falsifies itself. It claims there is one position that is true – relativism!

You’re applying your view to everyone but yourself. You expect others to believe your views (the ‘self-excepting fallacy’).” [1]

c) “I don’t believe you can examine religious claims logically.”
Did you come to this conclusion logically or illogically?

d) “I believe that everyone has a right to believe in whatever they want.”
I completely agree! However, I also have to right to believe that they are wrong! Further, does this apply to morality? Does someone have the right to believe murder is okay and is therefore justified? I think not.

e) “It doesn’t matter what someone believes as long as they are sincere.”

Sincerity is not a good test for truth. The terrorists who flew planes into the World Trade Center on 9/11 were very sincere, however, does this validate their actions? Of course not. Someone can be very sincere, but be sincerely wrong. Beliefs have consequences and clearly it does matter what we accept as true.

f) “I believe that all religions are equally true or valid.”

Those who claim that all religions lead to God are basing this conviction in pure sentiment, not in logic or truth.

Religions that teach opposite truth claims cannot be true at the same time. For example, the Bible tells us that Jesus died upon the cross (John 19:33), while the Koran, Islam’s “sacred scriptures,” asserts that He did not (Surah 4:157-158). No one in their right mind would claim that both could be true at the same time, however, when someone claims that Islam and Christianity are equally true belief systems, this is precisely what they are saying!

Orthodox Christianity claims to be the true religion. Islam and Buddhism, in spite of the fact that on the surface they claim to be diverse, declare to be true. Since there are mutually exclusive truth claims among these religions, it is obvious that they cannot all be correct.

Further, some religions are monotheistic (belief in only one God), such as, traditional Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Others are pantheistic (the belief that God and the material world are one and the same thing and that God is present in everything), such as, Hinduism, Zen Buddhism, and Christian Science. Paganism, neo-paganism, and Mormonism are polytheistic (the worship of or belief in more than one deity, especially several deities). These varying views of God are irreconcilable. [2]

Further, as Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias puts it, “The statement that Christians are arrogant by claiming exclusivity ignores the reality that every other major religion does as well. So when people talk of arrogance, this cannot be a logical attack they are making.” [3] Even the religion that claims to accept all religious truth claims does not allow for someone to believe that there is only one way. Therefore, even they are being exclusive; by definition, truth must be exclusive.

If one truly desires to discover the truth about God, Jesus Christ, and the Bible as it relates to other belief systems, he or she must be willing to consider which, if any, of these world views, offers the answers to life's most important questions, corresponds with reality, offers evidence to support it’s claims, and works when put into practice. Jesus Christ stands unique in every way when compared to the other so-called religious leaders of the past and present for various demonstrable reasons.

The Objectivity of Christ’s Resurrection


Before examining the radically unique claims of Jesus Christ, it’s important to point out that Jesus and His bodily resurrection from the dead provides us with an objective test for the truth of Christianity.

Dr. Gary Habermas and Mike Licona, in their book, The Case for the Resurrection, explain:

"We have the external test that, if Jesus actually rose from the dead, it appears the truth of Christianity is confirmed and all adherents to conflicting beliefs must reassess whether their assurance came from a spirit other than God's or was the result of self-delusion." [5]

Indeed, if we have good reason to believe Jesus rose from the dead then His words and claims stand authoritative over all others, past and present.

For those who may have missed our past newsletters on the evidence for the resurrection, please see here and here.

The Uniqueness of Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ was unique in that he alone, of all who ever lived, was both God and man. The New Testament teaches the fully unified deity and humanity of Christ. This claim alone makes him unique above all other religious leaders or persons who have ever lived, and it can be backed up with factual evidence.

Historian Gary Habermas offers numerous other examples of the uniqueness of Jesus:

“Jesus claimed dual titles of divinity. Particularly, He said He was both the Son of God (Mt. 11:27) and the Son of Man (Mark 2:10-11). He spoke of His Father in familiar ways (Mk 13:36) and even claimed to forgive sins, for which He was charged with blasphemy (Mk 2:5-7).

In perhaps the clearest indication of His claims about Himself, when the high priest asked Jesus if He was the Christ, the Son of God, Jesus plainly declared that He was. Then He further asserted that He was also the Son of Man who would co reign on God’s throne and come on the clouds in judgment. The high priest pronounced these claims blasphemy (Mk 14:61-64).

These sayings of Jesus were recorded in documents that were written just decades after the events, and there are strong reasons to hold that all were composed by authors who were close to the occurrences. Moreover, many of the individual passages exhibit earmarks of historicity. Last, very early creedal texts (e.g., Ac 2:36; Rm 1:3-4; 10:9) also apply titles of deity to Jesus Christ.

Many religious teachers have claimed to present God’s way. But Jesus declared not only that He was initiating God’s path of salvation (Mk 1:15-20) but also that what His hearers did specifically with Him determined their eternal destiny (Mt 10:37-40; 19:23-30). Further, of these religious founders, only Jesus taught that His death would serve as a payment for human sin, achieving what we could not (Mk 10:45; 14:22-25).

Additionally, only Jesus has miracles reported of Him by early sources. Most importantly, according to the Gospels, Jesus taught that His resurrection from the dead would be the sign that evidenced the truth of His message (Mt. 12:38-42; 16:1-4; 1 Pt 1:3-6). After all, dead men do not do much! So if Jesus was raised, God must have performed the event in order to approve Jesus’ message (Ac 2:22-24; 17:30-31).” [6]

For exhaustive documentation regarding the uniqeness of Christ and how He compares to other religious leaders, please see here.

Does this mean that all other religions are completely false?

No! As long as these truths are not contradictory to God’s revealed truth, the Bible.

Author Michael Green, in his book, Avoiding Jesus, explains:

“Christians welcome truth wherever it is found. As you look into other faiths, you will find an enormous amount that is true and worthy, that is moral and good, as well as much that is not. But you will not find anything that is good and true that cannot be found in Christ. You will not hear from them about a God who cares for you enough to die for you, to rise from the grave as a pledge of your future, and to be willing to come and share your life with you. You will not find in any other faith a revelation of God in fully personal terms, a rescue of man from his self-centeredness and sin, and the offer by this God to come and indwell the life of every man, woman, or child who welcomes him.” [4]

All truth, regardless of where it is found, originates with and comes from God alone and His only begotten Son (John 3:16), Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

1) It simply is not important whether or not Jesus’ claim to exclusivity is narrow-minded or not. What matters is if it’s true.

2) Claiming that all religions are equally valid is an illogical statement due to the fact they teach contradictory doctrines.

3) Jesus Christ was/is unique in His life, death, virtuous life, resurrection, and teachings. When He is compared alongside other major religious leaders, He alone stands utterly and completely unique.

4) The resurrection of Jesus Christ offers the inquirer an objective test to evaluate the truth claims of Christianity. If we have good reason to believe Jesus rose from the dead, then He has proved that He is who He said He was and that His words have authority over all others.

5) Truth can be found in various places. To the follower of Christ, truth is whatever doesn’t contradict the Word of God, the Bible. This is a much more opened minded view than the numerous atheists that claim all religions offer nothing of real value.

Book Review


The Jesus of Suburbia
by Mike Erre

Positive


When I picked-up this book and saw that J.P. Moreland had written a recommendation for it, I was immediately interested. I believe Moreland to be one of the bravest thinkers within Christendom today. Needless to say, I was not disappointed.

Mike Erre has had his fill of “American Christianity” and isn’t afraid to let you know:
“We have never really embraced the message and movement of Jesus Christ as a call to revolution. Instead, we have gotten comfortable with a watered-down, whitewashed, religiously safe version of him” [Intro].

I could not agree more and for those who are seeking Jesus among the 10 million dollar, plane flying evangelists or the self-help Christianity that permeates even Christian bookstores, The Jesus of Suburbia is a great place to start your search. One finds the Jesus of the Gospels alive and well throughout the book and we are reminded that Jesus is anything but safe. If obeyed, He will turn your life upside down.

Negative


I was disappointed with Erre’s treatment of apologetics in this book. Erre himself admits that he “became fascinated by the branch of Christian thought called apologetics…I learned that you didn’t have to be an idiot to believe in Jesus” [p.176].

However, he goes on to say:

“…issues like the existence of God, the possibility of miracles, and the inspiration of the Bible are no longer the primary objections people have to faith in Christ…”

I could not disagree more! The so-called New Atheists have waged war against belief in God, the Bible, and Jesus Himself. There is a desperate need for intellectuals within the body of Christ now, more than ever.

Conclusion


Overall, this book was a great read. I recommend it to those who are asking the question, “What does it really mean to follow Jesus Christ in this modern age?” Further, I recommend it to those that have bought the argument that Christianity is evil. This book will demonstrate that Jesus Christ, the Jesus of the Gospels, has started a revolution of love and He is inviting us all to join up!

Article of the Month


Brian Auten offers his Case for Apologetics and the case is opened and shut! In this outstanding defense, Brian demonstrates why apologetics is historical, biblical, and necessary.

Website of the Month

For those who have friends and/or relatives caught up in the trap of New Age beliefs, this site will prove to be a great resource. I also recommend the author’s treatment of Tolle’s New Earth.

Truthbomb Apologetics Update


With Truthbomb still being in it’s infancy, it seems that we are constantly seeing ways that we can improve our ministry efforts. Next month, Truthbomb will release it’s new Mission Statement and begin a new direction. Please pray for the ministry!

Apologetic Verse for the Month


“Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3; CSB).

It is easy for one who is involved in Christian Apologetics to strive to “slam-dunk” the argument in order to communicate one’s point. However, this verse reminds us that humility is the attitude in which we should approach others.

Prayer Requests


1) Truthbomb Apologetics Ministry- Pray that God will guide us in the material we present and help us to reach those who are truly seeking answers about God, Jesus, and His Word. We must have God leading the way!
2) Pray for the Convoy of Hope taking place at E. Russell Hicks in Hagerstown on October 18th, 2008.
3) Pray for the upcoming election.
4) Pray for those you know that do not know Christ.
5) Please pray for me as I am teaching a class at Faith Christian Fellowship on Evangelism.

Courage and Godspeed,
Chad A. Gross

Resources

1) Paul Copan, It’s True for You, but Not for Me, http://www.bethinking.org/truth-tolerance/introductory/thats-true-for-you-but-not-for-me-relativism.htm, 1998.
2) Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, p. 783.
3) Lee Strobel, The Case for Faith, p. 149
4) Gary Habermas and Mike Licona, The Case for the Resurrection, p. 28.
5) Gary Habermas, Are Jesus’ Claims Unique Among the Religions of the World?, The Apologetics Study Bible, p. 1582-1583.
6) Michael Green, Avoiding Jesus, p. 81-82.

For further study, please check out the following articles:

1) Only One Way to Heaven? Is Jesus Christ the Only Means to Reach God? by Boyet Olave, Ph.D.

2) Jesus, the Only Savior by Greg Koukl

3) Why is Jesus the only way to Heaven/God? by Matthew Slick

4) Politically Incorrect Salvation by Dr. William Lane Craig

5) You Christians are so Narrow-minded! by Paul Copan

2 comments:

K-tribe said...

This website is good for people who are New Age. I have heard this women speak in VA.
www.christiananswersforthenewage.org

Chad said...

Hello K-tribe,

Thank you for the information and thank you for following Truthbomb!

God Bless