As noted in my previous article, I will be detailing important points from each chapter of Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Faith, in subsequent articles. These articles, by nature, are going to be a bit longer, so I’d grab a snack and some coffee or tea and get ready for some mental exercise!
OBJECTION #5: It’s Offensive to Claim Jesus is the Only Way to God
Lee Strobel continues his search for answers to eight of the most emotional objections to Christianity in his sixth interview and fifth chapter of The Case for Faith with Ravi Zacharias, D.D., LL.D. Dr. Zacharias, born and raised in India, has been called “a man of great spiritual perception and intellectual integrity” by Billy Graham. He has authored several books, earned a master’s of divinity degree, and been conferred a few as well. Knowing Dr Zacharias grew up among Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs, Strobel believed his upbringing “would enrich his perspective on this troubling question of Christ’s exclusivity.”
Dr. Zacharias first points out that Christianity is not the only religion that claims exclusivity. “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.” He then asserts that all truth is exclusive by definition. He states that “if truth does not exclude, then no assertion of a truth claim is being made, it’s just an opinion that is being stated. Any time you make a truth claim, you mean something contrary to it is false. Truth excludes its opposite.” Strobel then addresses the problem of Christians sounding smug rather than loving when proclaiming the truth that “no one gets to the Father except through [Jesus]”. Dr. Zacharias concurs that it’s impossible to communicate the love of Jesus Christ in a non-loving manner and that arrogance can hinder a person’s receptivity to Christianity. Interestingly, however, Dr. Zacharias points out that there is no Christianized country that threatens the lives of those of other faiths. Sometimes the manner in which Christians spread the Gospel is not offensive and people are actually offended by the message itself.
“On what basis do you believe this claim by Jesus is true?” Strobel asks Dr. Zacharias. Aside from mentioning the historical event of the Resurrection as part of his answer, Dr. Zacharias believes that there are “four fundamental questions that every religion seeks to answer: origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. [He] believe[s] that only the answers of Jesus Christ correspond to reality. There is a coherence among his answers unlike those of any other religion.”
- Buddhism is nontheistic. If there is no Creator, how was a moral law established?
- Hinduism believes in reincarnation. If every life pays for the previous life, then what do you pay for in your first birth?
- Christianity says we are not identical to God but created by Him. This explains a moral point of reference.
- “God does not call us to meaning by asking us to be good people.” Good works cannot get us into heaven. “Works have a place–but as a demonstration of having received God’s forgiveness, not as a badge of merit of having earned it.”
- Christianity argues that the standard of morality is not culturally based but comes from the character of God. “If [morality] 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.”
- This fundamental issue is based on the “resurrection of Jesus Christ, the historical event…that opened the door to heaven for everyone who will follow him. Where else do you have anything that comes close to claiming this?”
As Dr. Zacharias next points out to Strobel, “Distinct and mutually exclusive religious doctrines all cannot be true at the same time…there are aspects of truth in virtually all of the major religions…” Because God reveals himself to us and we can then have knowledge of who he is, “Jesus Christ is the centerpiece of the gospel–in him, all of truth came together. So while there may be aspects of truth elsewhere, the sum total of truth is in Christ.”
Strobel then challenges Dr. Zacharias by asking, “Isn’t how a person lives and treats his neighbor more important than what he believes theologically? Dr. Zacharias admits that morality is very important but a person’s beliefs reflect how they live. He points out that Strobel’s question “makes the assumption that morality is what life is all about.” Dr. Zacharias says, “Jesus Christ didn’t come into this world to make bad people good; he came into the world to make dead people live…If this life were only about morality, then how you live would be the most important thing, although it would still be connected to what you believe. But that misunderstands the Christian concept, which is no matter how well we live, we cannot live up to the standard and character of God.”
Strobel points out that Gandhi lived a good life–a better one than some Christians–people might argue. How is that fair? Dr. Zacharias answers, “Because we are moral human beings, we want to see equity. But when we reduce equity to issues of who behaved in what way during a given span of time, we miss the whole concept of equity. We are judging this from the point of view of our system. If God were to truly give what every one of us deserved, none of us would get to heaven…We all need God’s forgiveness and grace…the worst thing is to say to God that you don’t need him. [To this person], what is the recourse?”
Strobel then asks Dr. Zacharias, “Isn’t it unfair to condemn [people] when they never heard about Jesus and merely followed the religious traditions of their parents?”
From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. —Acts 17:26
Dr Zacharias explains, “God knows where we will be born and raised, and he puts us in a position where we might seek him.”
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
Dr. Zacharias elaborates, “We have to be very careful here, but I believe that if a person genuinely and sincerely seeks after him, there will be some way God makes available for that person to hear of him. If that person would not have responded to God under any circumstance, then perhaps he will not hear of him.”
Dr. Zacharias sums up the chapter by saying, “The Bible says, ‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’ For any genuine person who brings an unprejudiced view, I don’t see how he or she can walk away except saying there is nothing like this on the face of the earth.”
Have you sought Him with all of your heart?
*Stay tuned for objection #6 next month!