"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me'" (John 14:6, NIV). That is a pretty clear and clearly exclusive statement.
Jesus here does not claim to be one way to God, he claims to be the only way to God. Those who wish to level the claim that Christianity is narrow and bigoted have to first level that accusation at Jesus.
Now people get very creative at trying to explain this statement away. One lady told me that Jesus didn't mean he was the only way; he meant his way of love was the only way. She went on to argue then that "as long as people loved one another, it didn't matter what they believed, they would go to heaven."
The problem with that argument is two-fold. Number one, it is not what Jesus said. The operative words of his claim are "I and me," he is clearly pointing to his person not to his teachings.
He doesn't say, "My teaching is the way, the truth and the life," nor does he say "my way is the way the truth and the life." He says, "I am the way the truth and the life."
Let me pause here for a minute and observe that his statement is solid both philosophically and logically. Truth, by its very nature is exclusive - you cannot have opposing statements both of which are equally true. The concept of "true for me but not for you" is a blatant untruth.
For instance, if you tell me that the law of gravity is always present on earth, and I respond by stating, "that may be true for you, but it is not true for me," you would instantly recognize me as some sort of kook.
Even if you didn't (because you couldn't see the fallacy of my statement because you really believed the mantra), still, I guarantee you that if I stepped off a cliff claiming the law of gravity was not true for me, well, lets just say my sudden stop would silence my argument pretty emphatically.
Furthermore, the "true for you but not for me" people really don't believe their slogan anyway. When all is said and done, if you don't agree with them, they simply write you off as not recognizing what is really true.
By that act they betray their true belief: what is true is only what I say is true.
Jesus' statement is logically consistent and philosophically sound. Now, you may disagree with his claim, but you can't argue that his claim is somehow wrong. If what he said is true, the statement leaves us no other options; if what he said isn't true, then there is no reason we should want to follow him anyway.
If he is not the only way to God, then he would not even be one way to God if he is wrong in this vital point.
Others argue that this is a statement Jesus didn't make. They want us to believe that it was the invention of the church many centuries later. You can believe that if you are willing to ignore the mountains of evidence which place John's eyewitness account as recorded in his book at 85-90 A.D.
Now the problem is he is writing this account at the time where others who were around could have said, "Wait a minute. Jesus didn't claim that." But there is no record of such a dispute. Indeed the argument doesn't seem to arise until some 1,800 years later when a group of theologians with an anti-supernatural bias decide to start re-writing the accounts to fit their views.
At such a distance, how can one possibly successfully argue, "Wait a minute, I was there and that is exactly what he claimed." I find it appalling that we are so willing to accept the claims of people who are speculating what he said or didn't say from so far a distance, but we are unwilling to accept the testimony of those who saw and heard him.
We are willing to give credence to supposedly new gospels (Thomas, Mary, etc.) clearly written four centuries after the facts then we are to the Gospels written within the lifetime of those who saw and heard Jesus.
When all is said and done, you have to answer the claim. If you believe what Jesus said to be true, shame on you if you let people go to their death believing their way is as good as our way. If you don't believe what Jesus said was true, shame on you for calling yourself a Christian.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church. Write him in care of the church at 11677 Brown Bridge Road Covington, GA 30016. Or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org For more information visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org