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Many ways to God?
Posted by Clare
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“My son believes there may be many ways to God, including other religions.  I know that’s not true but what do I say to him?”

The man sitting across from me, asking the question appeared to be a sincere Christian attending a good church.  But his son ran off to college and heard other opinions that sounded more “fair” than the claim of his church and of Jesus, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father, except through me.” John 14:6 And, fairness is the most celebrated virtue on college campus’ today – almost a religion itself.

“Tell me” I asked, “Do you think your son is a believer?” “He was, but not anymore. He says he’s on a spiritual search, like many of his friends.”

That doesn’t surprise me.  Ironically, it’s my experience that the only people who seem to believe there are many ways to God, are people who don’t really believe in a real god.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  That’s taking too big a risk. They’re not atheists – instead, for all practical purposes most believe in the mush god.

The mush god is an all-purpose god. He’s the god of the Chamber of Commerce – the god who’s blessing they ask on the food and for prosperity for our nation.  The mush god expects very little from you except to love others and live and let live, but otherwise he doesn’t stick his nose in your moral business. He understands that “boys will be boys” and forgives anyone, from anything, if you’re sincere.  After all, he’s a god of love!

The mush god is the one your son’s friends will pray to if they need something big – too big for them to handle.  They’ll cry out to him if their mother is dying, or if they get arrested for something.  He’s close enough to be a comfort but distant enough, to not be terribly inconvenient.”  The reason I explained first about the mush god is because if they believe in any god, it’s likely this one, or the god of another religion they really don’t know much about that they believe there are many paths to.

Many ways?

I once addressed a large high school group on this question of “Are there other ways to God?”  I began by showing them three travel guides to three different countries – Switzerland, Ethiopia and China.

“Each of these are books.  They have that in common.  They also have this in common, they’re all travel books.  They describe a specific country, how to get there, how to enjoy your time and the rules and customs you’re expected to observe when you’re there. They also tell you whether or not you need visas, because each country has its own requirements for entry.  But here’s what they don’t have in common.  Each book describes a country, completely different from the other two.  No one reading the book on Switzerland, particularly a Swiss citizen, would think that all countries were alike.  Ethiopia and China are nothing like Switzerland.

Here’s the point: Almost every religion believes in a god and an afterlife, and has its own requirements for entry. But, no two religions describe them the same, or believe they are the same thing, but just use different terminology. If you read the Koran, it describes their version of heaven (paradise) and how you get there, which is completely different than the description of the Christian heaven. And, no Jew would mistake the Christian idea of heaven and the kingdom of God for whatever afterlife different Jews claim to believe in.  And, no Hindu would say you have to believe in Jesus to get to Nirvana and their Nirvana bears absolutely no relationship to the idea of either heaven or paradise!

So, no serious Jew, or Hindu, Muslim or Christian would say all paths lead to God.  As I said at the outset, the only people who seem to believe that all paths lead to God are those who don’t take seriously any gods!

Does that prove anything?

Being intellectually honest, that argument doesn’t prove that Jesus is the only way.  But ideas like, “there are many ways to God”, get repeated so often that they become urban legends – believed only by the uninformed and unreligious.

My initial goal when meeting with young people, who have been exposed to biblical truth when they were young, but then have been led to doubt their faith, is to help them to begin doubting these myths they’ve recently come to believe.

It’s been my experience that many of them truly want to believe in a real God who loves them and has a purpose and plan for them individually and for his world. But, often they’re fearful of losing the respect of the intellectuals in their life, who think religion is for the feeble minded.

If your college age kids or young adults don’t have close Christian friends, humanly speaking it’s going to be tough. One of the best things parents can do for their freshman children or grandchildren is look up the various Christian ministries working on the campus of the school being attended. Then give your child all their contact information. Also, contact a few of these ministries yourself and give them your students contact information as well. Be intentional!

Also, here are some websites that may help you prepare yourself for a discussion with your student:

Ultimately, the best defense I know is serious prayer and parents living out the truths of the gospel in a way that your kids will truly admire.  The following statement was made on the website and it sums up the opinions of a number of non-Christians in America. “If Christianity were true, it would produce better people.”

While I believe that ultimately your child’s eternal fate is in God’s hands, your ministry and mine is to validate the gospel by our transformed lives, not just clever apologetics. That and prayer is your best human defense against these counterfeit faiths.

Question:  How have you prepared your student for the “many ways” challenge someone will make to their faith?

Following Jesus in Real Life


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Comments (3)
  1. DeLaine said...

    Thank you for your ministry and your posts. This one hit home for me as I have a college student who has turned away from God.
    She used to go to church “religiously” and was involved in the High School ministry. But these days, if I sneeze, she won’t even say “God Bless You”. I recently asked her if I got sick and was in the hospital, would she pray to God? And she said, “I don’t pray”. So like you said, all I can do is pray that God will open her heart again and she will know the truth. I know God answers prayers!

    • Clare said...

      I’m sorry, truly. But this I know: I’ve never met a parent yet who’s been able to argue their child back into the kingdom. Others perhaps, but not us. However, reasoning with them thoughtfully? Yes. It just takes far more personal discipline to bite your tongue than most parents can muster. Better to let someone else do it.
      Is there a spiritually mature person that she trusts?

  2. Pete Deutsch said...

    Mr DeGraaf,

    Again, another outstanding thought provoking message, thank you! All four of our children are grown and have kids of their own. Being polite and respectful to all has been the taught message to our children and now our grandkids to other people of different faith. This has been the key to their friendships with these folks of other beliefs.
    We have Jesus as our point man, how can we possibly go wrong!

    Blessing to you

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