By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
Several years ago, I was walking with a friend and her dog in downtown Columbia, South Carolina, when the subject of God came up. She asked me straight away: “You say Jesus is the only way to God and that the Christian faith is the only true faith; but Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists would all argue that their faith is the only faith. And they believe just as strongly and as committedly as you do. What makes you right and them wrong?”
It was a question I was ill-prepared to answer.
“Well, faith in Christ is more like a relationship and not really a religion,” I feebly responded. It was all I had. It was weak. It fell flat. And I felt I had let God down at one of the plum opportunities He had blessed me with to speak the truth of the Gospel.
I’ve thought about that exchange for years. I’ve heard all the answers since – some quick and powerful, others meandering and platitudinous – but I’ve never really stopped long enough to boil it all down. Until now.
So how would I answer my friend today? I would begin with six salient points: (1) What truth is, (2) the radical difference between the Christian faith and all other worldviews, (3) the unique claims and life of Jesus, (4) the veracity of Scripture, (5) how Jesus is perceived by other faiths, and (6) truth reviewed and reiterated.
The first truth we have to accept is that not all faith-based belief-systems are true. They simply cannot be though the relativists and the universalists may argue that there are many pathways to God. But if Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” – and He indeed does as we read in John 14:6 – then are we not as believers to conclude that HE IS THE WAY? And are we not also to conclude that, according to Jesus, NO ONE comes to the Father BUT through Christ Himself?
Did Jesus speak the truth? Of course. But let’s first establish what truth is.
Truth is something that is true. It is by its very definition, exact. When we say a knife’s edge is true, we mean it is perfectly sharp. When a marksman’s aim is true, that means he is able to aim, breathe, squeeze, fire, and place a single round at a precise point on a given target where he wants the round to strike. And in elementary addition, two plus two equals four. No matter how much we may want it to be five, the sum of two and two is always four.
Truth is not relative. It never can be, not without violating the integrity of truth’s purest definition. There is none of this “my truth or your truth.” That relative nonsense may make us feel better temporarily, but it is as untrue as two plus two equaling five.
Truth is an absolute. Truth is not and will never be something that is settled according to our wants or whims.
Moreover, Jesus says, “I am the truth.”
Then there is the veracity of Scripture. In my experience as a professional writer and editor, I can without equivocation say that if what we find in the Bible was being fabricated or written as fictional accounts of what happened, it would have been written with an entirely different approach. Example after example too numerous to list here, demonstrate that what was being written about in Scripture was being written matter-of-factly without any hint of the clever literary techniques of persuasion or agenda. But we’ll save that for another discussion.
So, having established what Jesus said, what truth is, and touching on the veracity of Scripture; what about the other leading central figures of other religious belief-systems?
That’s fairly easy to address because no other central religious figure in history claims to be able to atone for – or forgive us of – our transgressions (sins) against God and our fellow man.
The central figures of other belief-systems may claim to have the answers to a happy and fulfilled life, and they may tell us what paths we might best take or what particular works or good deeds we might do to achieve some level of lofty bliss, cosmic understanding or nirvana. But Jesus is the only one who tells us that He – and He alone – is the Way, the road, the lamp-lighted path if you will toward salvation and an eternal relationship with God. He further tells us how and why, and along the way He demonstrates His deity, His perfection, His righteousness, His goodness, and His mercy.
Jesus was and is able to do all the things it is written He has done unlike any other person who has walked the earth because He is God. He is God who condescended to us in the physical form and life of a man full of grace and truth. He is the one who leads us from the darkness into the light. And everything that Christians are taught to believe about Him is increasingly verifiable through the varying research and investigative disciplines.
So you see, because of Jesus, our Christian faith is not so much a religion like all the others or a religious worldview or even a philosophy or a means of achieving some spiritually transcendental state. The faith of the Christian follower of Jesus is based on the fact that Christ walked the earth, that He lives eternally, and that we are able to have and enjoy a personal relationship with Him. This faith is also a coming-to-grips with our own brokenness, our imperfections, and our recognition and need to be forgiven of sin: Yes, all truths to be sure if we are honest with ourselves. And this faith of ours is an embracing of the only perfection, the perfect way which has been gifted to humankind by God because there was (and is) no way we would otherwise be able to achieve any of it on our own. Again, Jesus is the only One from any belief-system who atones for our sins.
Is all of this true? Jesus cannot lie. This truth is both explicit and implicit throughout all of Scripture from every independent source whoever encountered Him and from every prophet who foretold His coming, and it is also why nearly every other worldview that I know of which has come into contact with the truth of Scripture – though perhaps rejecting the essential truths of Jesus – embrace Jesus as a “good man” or “a prophet” whose empty tomb, whose increasingly verifiable work, and whose exponentially increasing followership has stymied even the harshest critics and unbelievers.
Truth is truth. It is unshakeable and unyielding, which along with Christ’s love is perhaps what moved Gandi, probably the world’s most famous Hindu, to proclaim, “I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Yes, Gandi’s last line may be a bit of truth that stings, But it speaks to a greater truth; that being that Jesus is “the way, and the truth, and the life.” Even Gandi in his faint patronizing praise was conceding a little on that front.
“Facts are stubborn things,” as John Adams famously said.
Even Islam, which has corrupted the truth of Christ, admits that Jesus was one of the “greatest messengers of God,” a miracle worker and a healer who “will return to bring justice to the world” (The Christian Century, May 23, 2017). And don’t get me started on “the global phenomenon” of so many Muslims converting to Christianity after experiencing the truth of Christ.
Then we have but to step back to the Old Testament Hebrew prophets who foretold Christ’s coming and uncannily described what would happen to Him (while He was here) centuries before another group of men from an entirely different culture and worldview – perhaps Persian astrologers or Zoroastrians – journeyed westward after seeing a star in the east heralding the birth of a child. Like all the others before them and since, these wise men were seeking the Truth.
They obviously knew where and for Whom to look.
“To look for another is the supreme fool’s errand,” said the late Dr. R.C. Sproul. “Because there is no other.”
– W. Thomas Smith Jr. is a New York Times bestselling editor and military technical advisor. Visit him online at uswriter.com.