Anyone can claim to be the only path to God. In fact, quite a few crackpots have made that assertion throughout history. The real issue is why anybody should believe Jesus was telling the truth when he said it.
"On what basis do you believe this claim by Jesus is true?" I asked Zacharias.
"Ah, yes, that is the heart of the question," he replied, his head nodding. "On one hand, you can say that the resurrection of Jesus established him as being the son of God. If that's true, then all other faith systems cannot be true, because they each assert something contrary to his divinity. And of course, the historical record concerning the Resurrection is extremely compelling.
"On the other hand, you can approach this issue by looking at the four fundamental questions that every religion seeks to answer: Origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. I believe that only the answers of Jesus Christ correspond to reality. There is a coherence among his answers unlike those of any other religion."
That was a bold statement. "Can you back that up with examples of how other faiths fail those tests?"
"Consider Buddhism," he replied. "Buddha's answer on the question of morality does not cohere with his answer concerning origins. You see, Buddhism is technically nontheistic, if not atheistic. But if there was no Creator, from where does one arrive at a moral law? Or consider the Hindu version of reincarnation. If every birth is a rebirth, and if every life pays for the previous life, then what were you paying for in your first birth? You see-incoherence dominates."
He was quick to add that he was not trying to denigrate those religions. "Great scholars will tell you there is incoherence," he said. "Even Gandhi said that if he had his way he would expunge some of the scriptures from Hinduism, because they are so contradictory with each other. By contrast, Jesus provides answers to these four fundamental questions of life in a way that corresponds with reality and has internal consistency, unlike any other faith system."
That statement invited challenge. "Go through each one," I said, "and tell me how."
"Fair enough," he replied. "Concerning origins, the Bible says we are not identical with God-contrary to the Hindu claim-but we are distinct from him. In other words, we didn't bring ourselves into being, but we are a creation of God. Since we were created in his image, this accounts for human beings having a moral point of reference. No system is able to explain this except the monotheistic ones. Even naturalists have no explanation for humanity's moral framework. However, this moral framework corresponds to the reality of human experience.
"Also, Christianity says we rejected the divine will. The tempter in the garden said if you eat this fruit, you will become as gods, knowing good and evil. The implication is that you become the definer of good and evil. Humanism was born right there; man became the measure of all things. This willful rebellion and rejection of God corresponds to reality. As Malcolm Muggeridge said, human depravity is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but also the most philosophically resistant.
"Next, the issue of meaning. Here again, the Christian faith stands without parallel. The simplest way to describe it is that God does not call us to meaning by asking us to be good people. He does not call us to meaning just by telling us to love one another. It is only in the experience of worship that meaning comes to be. Only something greater than pleasure can provide meaning, and that is the perpetual novelty of God himself in worship. The Bible tells us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and only when we've done that can we begin to love our neighbors as ourselves. This also corresponds to experience.
"Next, Christianity says morality is not culturally based, but instead it grows out of the very character of God. Otherwise, you end up with the dilemma from philosophy of old: is the moral law over and above you, or is a moral law subject to you? If it is over and above you, where do you find its root, then? The only way to explain that is to find it in an eternal, moral, omnipotent, infinite God who is inseparable from his character. Thus, Christianity explains morality in a coherent manner.
"Finally, destiny is based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the historical event that proved his divinity and that opened the door to heaven for everyone who will follow him. Where else do you have anything that comes close to claiming this?
"Billy Graham once told of meeting Konrad Adenauer, the mayor of Cologne who was imprisoned by Hitler for opposing the Nazi regime and who later became the highly regarded chancellor of West Germany from 1949 to 1963. Adenauer looked Graham in the eyes and asked, 'Do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead?' Graham said, 'Of course I do.' To which Adenauer replied: Mr. Graham, outside of the resurrection of Jesus, I do not know of any other hope for this world.'
"He was right. Because the Resurrection is an actual historical event, we can be forgiven, we can be reconciled with God, we can spend eternity with him, and we can trust Jesus' teachings as being from God.
"One of my friends was a Muslim convert who was later martyred. I remember visiting him in the hospital after his legs had been blown off, and he said: 'The more I understand of what others have claimed and taught, the more beautiful Jesus Christ looks to me.' I've never forgotten that, and I believe that to be absolutely true.
"No man spoke like Jesus. No one ever answered the questions the way he answered them, not only propositionally but also in his person. Existentially, we can test it out. Empirically, we can test it out. The Bible is not just a book of mysticism or spirituality; it is a book that also gives geographical truths and historical truths. If you're an honest skeptic, it's not just calling you to a feeling; it's calling you to a real Person. That's why the apostle Peter said, 'We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.'i4
"He's saying, 'This is true. This is reality. This can be trusted.' And, yes, this truth excludes that which is contrary."
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