Friday, May 16, 2014

Why is Jesus the only way? Part 1


Part I - Actions
Estimated reading time: Under 5 Mins
Main points: 1 & 2


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The Bible says that the only way to attain salvation is by believing in Jesus (John 8:24).1  Based on this doctrine, many atheists conclude that the Christian God is a narcissist with poor self-esteem. I admit that on the surface, that claim seems a bit silly, petty, arrogant, and could even be offensive.  So why do Christians believe Jesus is the only way and espouse that belief to others? Good question.  I'm glad you asked.  Whether you reject the truth of the Bible, seek to test its authority, or want confirmation of its claims, we can and should find evidence of its truth and authority from external sources and through critical thinking, including that claim that Jesus is the only way.  In doing so, I think we will find that this claim is much more sensible than it might seem on the surface.

1.) Purpose
worldview-pyramid-larger.jpgI suspect that most people want to know why beliefs about God matter as much or more than behavior.  They don’t necessarily matter more, but our beliefs about God affect your views on everything else in life, including your purpose in life, which affects how you behave.  Beliefs and behaviors go hand in hand.  If you truly believe (and trust) in Jesus, then you will spend the bulk of your time, money, and resources to help others meet and know Him. Having a relationship with God is the most wonderful and meaningful experience a person can have, so helping others attain that experience is the most loving thing you can do for them.  On the other hand, if you do not believe in Jesus, you will spend your time, money, and resources other ways, many of which are probably harmful to you or others.

To illustrate my point, imagine that you develop a new medication that cures every illness, from a common cold to AIDS.  It has no negative side effects, and it costs virtually nothing to produce or purchase.  The pill is so effective that it sells itself, but you still need to hire employees to manufacture and distribute your medication to the world.  Would you reward employees who sat around the warehouse all day gratifying their own desires by watching TV, surfing the Internet, playing games, socializing, eating, and drinking, instead of doing the work you hired them for?  What if some employees were fooled into thinking that a placebo look-a-like pill was somehow better, and so they filled your pill bottles with the placebo and packaged it up to be distributed to the masses.  Would you reward those employees?  Absolutely not!  In fact, you would probably fire all them immediately.

Please don’t take this analogy too far as no analogy is a perfect comparison to God.  The point is that we humans are God’s “employees” and He put us on this earth for a purpose.  We were created to glorify God, serve God and the people He created, and spread the word so others can do the same (1 Cor 10:31, Eph 2:10, Matt 28:19).  If you don’t believe in Jesus, you are not fulfilling the purpose God gave you, which means that you’re either not working at all or you’re working directly against God.2  If we are not fulfilling the purpose we’ve been given, we should expect to be fired, not rewarded.  

2.) Love
The next point concerns what it means to love or be kind to someone.  God gives us commands because He is a loving God who wants and knows what is best for us.  His commands are to protect us and help us flourish individually and collectively.  His commands are not designed to prevent us from having fun or to make us miserable.  On the contrary, by following His commands, we experience greater joy in everything we do, and so do those around us, because we are experiencing life within the confines of how our minds and bodies were created.  Moreover, if you don’t know what is right and loving, you will likely bring some harm on other people.  If someone is dying and you intentionally give them a placebo instead of the cure, you are not showing kindness; you are acting maliciously!

Let’s take sex for example.  It is generally thought of as a good thing between couples, but if you don’t enjoy it the way God intended (within a monogamous & heterosexual marriage), it will lead to negative consequences such as STDs, unwanted pregnancy and the potential negative effects of abortion, decreased trust and intimacy when you do eventually get married, and increased likelihood of divorce when you do get married.3-6  If you have sex outside of marriage, you are probably causing at least a small degree of harm to yourself and those you sleep with (especially if you have an STD or are less than honorable in your seduction methods).  In addition to that, when others see or know about your actions, whether they are strangers or your children, you are normalizing the behavior and implicitly encouraging them to do the same.  Therefore, your actions indirectly lead to harm in others, which might be minimal, but it also might be life threatening (AIDS, abortion, etc.).  Let’s go a step further and say that you’ve only had sex within marriage, but you vocally advocate for people to have sex outside of marriage.  In this case, you may not necessarily be harming yourself, but you are once again making this behavior more acceptable and likely others will do it.  As a result, you are contributing to the harm others bring on themselves or their children when their parents divorce as a result of your ‘advice.’7,8  This same reasoning can be applied to other issues, from the controversial such as abortion and homosexuality, to the mundane such as driving habits and the way you speak.

Conclusion
Your beliefs and actions have consequences; whether you or someone else experiences those consequences will depend on the situation.  If you believe wrong things about God, your views about other topics and at least some of your actions will also be wrong, and therefore, damaging to yourself or others.  While any wrong action or belief may only result in small or unlikely consequences, it is reckless and selfish not to think of the impact it could have, especially on others.  Consider driving and using a cell phone.  Usually, it usually results in little or no harm such as slowing down traffic or being an annoying driver.  However, sometimes this needless distraction is the cause behind severe or deadly accident.  With a world population of 7 billion people, one in a million chances occur 7,000 times per day.  If you want to be a kind and loving person, you have to have right beliefs about God so you know how to be kind and loving.  Your actions are just as important, if not more important than your intent. Our words and actions have the power to bring pleasure or pain to many people.  The choice is yours, will you help or harm others?

Part II discusses truth and knowledge.  You can read it by scrolling down or clicking here.  I am also working on an article that details how I would act differently if I were an atheist.  Check back soon.  I will post that link here when it’s done.

Thanks for reading.  If you have a question, comment, or disagreement, please write it in the comments.

Footnotes:
1. Many popular verses (John 3:16, etc.) on salvation are ambiguous or leave ‘loopholes’ for people to be saved without being a Christian.  These verses tell us that people who believe will be saved, but don’t explicitly mention those who don’t believe.  John 8:24 is very clear.  It says, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” (NASB).
2. If you are not living your life for God, yet claim to be a Christian, perhaps you are not really a Christian, or you are a spiritually immature Christian.  Believing God exists isn’t enough (James 2:19), you must have faith in God, which means you must actually put your trust in Him.  Truly and humbly examine yourself to see if you’re really in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5) by reading read the book of James and 1 John (specifically chapter 2).  Let the Bible judge whether or not you really are a Christian, and if not, respond by making a genuine commitment to Jesus.
3. Booth, A., & Johnson, D. (1988). Premarital cohabitation and marital success.Journal of Family Issues, 9(2), 255-272.
4. Brown, S. L., Sanchez, L. A., Nock, S. L., & Wright, J. D. (2006). Links between premarital cohabitation and subsequent marital quality, stability, and divorce: A comparison of covenant versus standard marriages. Social Science Research, 35(2), 454-470.
5. Kahn, J. R., & London, K. A. (1991). Premarital sex and the risk of divorce.Journal of Marriage and the Family, 53(4), 845-55.
6. Teachman, J. (2003). Premarital sex, premarital cohabitation, and the risk of subsequent marital dissolution among women. Journal of Marriage and Family,65(2), 444-455.
7. Not all pain and suffering are the result of disobedience to God (although some claim it is the result of Adam and Eve’s actions).  I am merely commenting on pain and suffering that is the direct result of someone’s disobedience or rejection of God..
8. You may be asking, is it loving to send people to hell and what about those who have never heard?  For those who haven’t heard, the Bible says (Acts 17:26-27) that God determined our time and place in the world so we would seek Him.  Whether or not hell is just is very deep issue that is better saved for another time.  Until I get a chance to research it more and write that article, I highly recommend you check other sources, read what the Bible actually says about hell and what it contrasts with everlasting life, or ask a question in the comments.
9. Jesus said He told us of earthly things so we could believe the things He told us of heavenly things (John 3:12).  We are supposed to evaluate the claims of the Bible!

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Keywords: truth apologetics exclusivity exclude inclusive inclusivity heaven hell savior evangelism sermon Jesus Bible New Testament Old Testament Christianity religion philosophy science reason logic true real reality love purpose meaning life Christ cross logos believe belief faith trust atheism skepticism questions skeptical doubt Islam Hindu Hinduism Buddhism Buddha Buddhist Catholic Catholicism Confucianism Jewish Mormon Mormonism Latter-Day Saints Jehovah's Witness testimony Church Baptist baptism Holy Spirit Holy Ghost priest pastor father guru friar imam ministry saint apostle disciple spirituality spiritual universal relative relativism absolute objective subjective hypothesis theory gay homosexual marriage straight God deism flying spaghetti monster agnostic agnosticism unbelief disbelief the Word right wrong good bad morality history historical scientific archaeology physics chemistry biology evolution creation old earth young earth intelligent design theistic evolution theism theology Jesus freak leadership money time Vishnu Krishna Moses Mohammed cosmological teleological intellectual blind lamb genesis broken suicide help need tithe donate give saving grace missionary meaningful important uncertain Muslim Scientology doctor PhD medicine living garden of eden Israel war genocide rape murder abortion marriage marry politics liberal conservative republican democrat world universe communism protestant lutheran methodist non-denominational parenting children teens money finances investing retirement investments stocks bonds mutual funds food eating health fitness $ hope generosity salvation lifestyle worldview scripture verses  chapters TV music movies audio books media baby blood tradition correct Internet learn psychology psychic mysticism healing fire water food bread walk journey exercise genetics DNA eastern western mentor greek hebrew read roman sin everyone new age original sin Taoism Shinto law legal court justice mercy punishment divorce Sikhism satan devil eternity eternal infinite mathematics arabic english latin modern progressive evil sex relationships hate hatred defend challenging thoughtful encouraging repentance guilt shame gospel resurrection argument evidence support growing maturing weight loss sports hockey baseball basketball football soccer futbol culture righteousness forgiveness adultery cheating affair praise worship mind body soul heart peace kingdom persecuted

Why is Jesus the only way? Part 2

Part II - Truth & Knowledge
Estimated reading time: Under 5 Mins
Main points: all
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Part I of this article discussed how our beliefs about God affect our behavior, and so we need to have right beliefs so that we can act accordingly.  You can read that article by clicking here.  Part II, while still intertwined with human behavior, focuses more on truth and knowledge.


3.) Knowing God  
look alike 3 amy ilsa.jpgGod wants to have a relationship with us (Galatians 3:26, 1 John 4:10).  If our knowledge of God is wrong, then we cannot have a very good relationship with Him, nor can we love Him very well.  Think of this in terms of actual people.  For example, let's assume that you are a world famous celebrity who is very nice and caring (hopefully the second part isn’t too much of a stretch of the imagination).  One day you meet a few people at a party and really hit it off, so you exchange contact information.  Over the next few months, you hang out, talk on the phone, and send e-mails to each other.  However, your new friends start to believe bad and untrue things about you based on unreliable sources instead of believing what you say is true.  To add insult to injury, they constantly confuse you with another celebrity that looks like you (like Amy Adams & Isla Fisher).


You may feel you know these people pretty well, but how well do they know you?  How will their inaccurate knowledge of you affect how their friends, family, and coworkers view you?  You could not have a genuine and meaningful relationship with them and it would be very difficult to have a relationship with anyone who they've gossiped to about you.  How can you love God and have a meaningful relationship with Him if your knowledge of Him is inaccurate?  If you view Him as angry or indifferent, why would you bother to put your trust in Him?  If you don’t think He even exists, how can you experience the joy He can bring to your life?  If you think He is weak or controlling, why would you bother to follow His commands and make disciples for Him?


4.) Exclusion
Many people criticise Christianity because it is exclusivistic, only accepting one way.  Yes, Christianity excludes certain beliefs, but it does not exclude people, not anyone at all.  Anybody can come to Christ, at any time, in anyway, and Christians should be accepting of all people.  What Christianity excludes is ideas.  While this may seem unique to Christianity, all worldviews and religions exclude others, some just might be more subtle about it.  The reason for this is because truth, by definition, is exclusive.  For instance, 2+2=4.  The correct answer is the one and only right answer and, therefore, all other answers are wrong or excluded.  We should actually be leery of inclusion rather than exclusion because the inclusivists are making claims that at the very least, are excluding the exclusivists.


Ironically, despite the accusations, Christianity should be the least exclusive worldview in terms of acceptance and respect of other people (I recognize it is not always practiced or portrayed this way, but this is what it SHOULD be).  What other worldview so clearly says to love your neighbor and even your enemy?  The view of Christians should be that, yes, we have the truth and will do anything we can to help you see it, but you are free to reject it.  Whether you accept or reject it, we will still love and respect you as a person.  This balance is possible because Christianity says all people are made in the image of God and worthy of respect, regardless of what they do or what they believe.


5.) What is right or good?
Most people want to do what is right and be a good person.  Unfortunately, without the existence of God (an absolute and objective standard), right and wrong are man-made constructs that are defined by personal or cultural preferences.  There is no such thing as absolute right or absolute wrong without God.  Therefore, if God does not exist, then it does not even make sense to criticize a religion for being exclusivistic because exclusion is not wrong or bad.  Any particular person or culture may not like it; however, others might like it.  It is only preference, just like choosing a favorite color.


On top of that, we live in a world that is created by God and will be judged by God.  There is no appealing to a higher standard because God is the highest standard.  We have no choice to accept it and if we do not like it, then we must realize that the problem is that our selfish desires are giving us an incorrect view of reality.  Luckily, we were created by a loving and forgiving God who judges us based on who we really are in our heart.  We all make mistakes and act out of character at times, but those rare instances don't reflect who we are.  If we are to be judged, wouldn’t you want to be judged fairly, by who you actually are in your heart and not on your imperfections?  If, at your core, you really love truth and honestly desire to know it, He will be revealed to you (Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9, James 4:8).


6.) Because the Bible says so
The Bible is true; however, not everyone accepts it as true.  The standard dogmatic answer to the question of “why is Jesus the only way?” is because the Bible says so.  To the skeptic or honest doubter, this is a terrible answer by itself.  To make is a good answer, we must support that claim that Bible is true.  We can support this claim by evaluating the full ranges of evidence, which comes from areas such as philosophy (logic and  reason), science, history, and more.  There are piles of evidence supporting the truth of the Bible.  If, by those other means, it is determined that the Bible is true, it would be foolish to reject what it says about things that cannot be tested (even if we don't like it).1  The gravity really exists, even if I don’t want it to.  It would be foolish of me to admit it’s true, but refuse to accept it because I don’t like it.  No matter how much I don’t like gravity or don’t believe it, I will still fall if I decide to jump off a building.












Conclusion
Everything we do in life can be traced back to what we believe about God.  The God of the universe is personal, loving, and is concerned with truth.  Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).  As a result, we should only expect one way to salvation and that is what He's given us. If we have an accurate view of God, our actions will also be accurate (morally right), which will lead our lives and the lives of those around us to be more fulfilling and joyful.


Thanks for reading.  If you have a question, comment, or disagreement, please write it in the comments.


Footnotes:
1. Jesus said He told us of earthly things so we could believe the things He told us of heavenly things (John 3:12).  We are supposed to evaluate the claims of the Bible!


Please follow me on Facebook and Twitter

Keywords: truth apologetics exclusivity exclude inclusive inclusivity heaven hell savior evangelism sermon Jesus Bible New Testament Old Testament Christianity religion philosophy science reason logic true real reality love purpose meaning life Christ cross logos believe belief faith trust atheism skepticism questions skeptical doubt Islam Hindu Hinduism Buddhism Buddha Buddhist Catholic Catholicism Confucianism Jewish Mormon Mormonism Latter-Day Saints Jehovah's Witness testimony Church Baptist baptism Holy Spirit Holy Ghost priest pastor father guru friar imam ministry saint apostle disciple spirituality spiritual universal relative relativism absolute objective subjective hypothesis theory gay homosexual marriage straight God deism flying spaghetti monster agnostic agnosticism unbelief disbelief the Word right wrong good bad morality history historical scientific archaeology physics chemistry biology evolution creation old earth young earth intelligent design theistic evolution theism theology Jesus freak leadership money time Vishnu Krishna Moses Mohammed cosmological teleological intellectual blind lamb genesis broken suicide help need tithe donate give saving grace missionary meaningful important uncertain Muslim Scientology doctor PhD medicine living garden of eden Israel war genocide rape murder abortion marriage marry politics liberal conservative republican democrat world universe communism protestant lutheran methodist non-denominational parenting children teens money finances investing retirement investments stocks bonds mutual funds food eating health fitness $ hope generosity salvation lifestyle worldview scripture verses  chapters TV music movies audio books media baby blood tradition correct Internet learn psychology psychic mysticism healing fire water food bread walk journey exercise genetics DNA eastern western mentor greek hebrew read roman sin everyone new age original sin Taoism Shinto law legal court justice mercy punishment divorce Sikhism satan devil eternity eternal infinite mathematics arabic english latin modern progressive evil sex relationships hate hatred defend challenging thoughtful encouraging repentance guilt shame gospel resurrection argument evidence support growing maturing weight loss sports hockey baseball basketball football soccer futbol culture righteousness forgiveness adultery cheating affair praise worship mind body soul heart peace kingdom persecuted