Sunday, 2 May 2010

Only One Way

I was watching a Hindu program the other day on television. I don't remember the name of the program, although I have seeen it before, and I probably couldn't pronounce it properly if I did. I involves a shaved-headed teacher sitting in front of what reminds me of some kind of padded headboard teaching on various spiritual matters from a Hindu point of view. He actually mentions God quite a bit.

On this particular program he mentioned a question that was asked to, I think, a Buddhist. He obviously considered this question quite important because he paused, repeated it, and spoke quite slowly and emphatically as he spoke. The question was, "What is the best religion?"

And then he gave the Buddhist's answer... "The best religion is the one that brings you closest to God." Now, it seemed he considered this answer quite profound, because again, he repeated it, and repeated it slowly for emphasis. He said that he was surprised at the answer. One would expect a Buddhist to answer that Buddhism was the best religion, but instead, he answered that the best religion was the one that brought you, "...closest to God." And this Hindu teacher felt that this was quite a wonderful answer. It sounds quite wonderful, doesn't it?

Except that it is completely wrong! And it is exactly what is wrong with all the world's "religions." Because no religion brings you closer to God. It is the arrogance of religion to think that anything its participants can do can enable us to approach God at all. In fact, if all other religions are defined by the term, "religion," then Christianity (as Chesterton says) is not a religion at all. The thing about Christianity, and the very different thing, is that Christianity is not an attempt to reach God, but rather a communication of truth; the truth that, although we cannot on our own, or through anything we do, get close to God, God has indeed reached down to us. It is a declaration that God, in Jesus, came to us, for the very reason that we could not approach Him.

Other religions tell us we can get close to God through their system. Christianity realizes we can't. Some religions try to avoid God by saying we don't need Him, or that He doesn't exist, or everything we need is within us, or He is so loving that He accepts everyone and their behaviours just the way they are. They say there need be no accountability for sin. Christianity acknowledges that need, but also declares the forgiveness that is available as its antidote. Every other religion says, "This is what you must do." Christianity says, "This is what God, in Christ, has already done.

But in spite of what any other religion might say, there is only one way; only one truth; only one life. Only one way to God.

Take Care

3 comments:

Shaw said...

I don't understand; you're saying Christianity is God reaching down to us, because "we could not approach Him", and then conclude that there is only one way to God. Isn't that exactly what religion is, based on your description, how to "get close to God through their system"? Specifically a belief in the redeeming work of Jesus? What is the distinction here?

John K said...

Christianity is a recognition of the fact that God has reached out to us, through Jesus of Nazareth. If He hadn't, there is no way we could get close to Him by ourselves. Other religions try to tell us how to reach up to God, which I believe is rather a pretentious enterprise, deigning to assume that we can somehow be worthy of strolling into His presence, or by somehow obligating Him to accept us depending on how good we are. Christianity tells us He has reached down to us. The initiative was His, not ours.

GB Shaw said...

Isn't the rending of the temple curtain understood to be a symbol of christians' ability to approach god? I've reread the post and your comment again and I genuinely don't see the distinction you're making. In Islam, no one, even the devout, are able to reach up to god--salvation is only as Allah wills. Nothing they can do guarantees them anything. That's far less pretentious than the christian faith.