In my previous article I asked if it is reasonable to conclude that ‘Jesus is the only way.’ I concluded that an absolute and exclusive statement is very reasonable, making the real and reasonable question to then ask: is it true?
Not a fairy story
The Bible forms the basis of Judeo-Christian belief, and it is not a collection of legends or fancy stories with epic characters. CS Lewis makes the point well in his essay What are we to make of Jesus Christ?
‘Now as a literary historian I am perfectly convinced that whatever else the Gospels are they are not legends. I have read a great deal of legend and I am quite clear that they are not the same sort of thing. They are not artistic enough to be legends. From an imaginative point of view they are clumsy; they don’t work up to things properly. Most of the life of Jesus is totally unknown to us, as is the life of anyone else who lived at that time, and no people building up a legend would allow for that to be so.’
Quite simply, the biographical accounts (the gospels) and historical narratives of the scriptures recount the life and activities of Jesus Christ.
Christianity appeals to history, it exists and functions in human history and has helped to shape human history. In speaking about Jesus in John chapter 1 it says: ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’, in other words Jesus’s entrance into time and space was not figurative or metaphoric; the claim is that it actually happened.
The Jewish historian Josephus makes a strong point in his historical work Antiquities of the Jews:
‘About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.’
In other words, the first claim we ought to give attention to is the strong claim of the historicity of the person of Jesus Christ.
Who is Jesus?
To ask why Jesus is the only way we need to consider who he is.
In October 2008 professors Richard Dawkins—a famed atheist—and John Lennox—a Christian apologist—debated at the Museum of Natural History in Oxford. During the debate, Dawkins corrects a statement he made earlier in the debate relating to the existence of Jesus Christ, he says: ‘maybe I alluded to the possibility that some historians think Jesus never existed, I take that back, Jesus existed.’ His major issue, however, is ‘so what?’
According to the Bible, in Matthew 1 verse 21: ‘She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ Jesus existing is one thing, who he is matters in the bigger question of why he is the only way. He is the mediator and the only means by which we can stand before God. In the face of our imperfect actions Jesus steps in as the bridge for that gap.
Karl Menninger recounts an incident where he speaks about a man who stood on a soap box pointing to every person who passed and said ‘Guilty!’ Now, one may imagine he was greeted with unfavourable responses—very probable—but the most common one was this: ‘One man, turning to another who was my informant, exclaimed: But how did he know?’
Menninger goes on to say: ‘No doubt many others had similar thoughts. How did he know indeed?’The man on the soap box was simply speaking to a universal issue: We do feel—and, according to God’s law, are—culpable. But our own efforts will not save us, a saviour is needed and this is who Jesus is.
Finally, it is good and well to speak about all the evidences presented about Jesus, historical and otherwise, but with a sceptical worldview it simply won’t mean much! The mindset matters just as much as the burden of proof.
Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky, in his novel The Brothers Karamazov, makes this poignant statement:
The genuine realist, if he is an unbeliever, will always find strength and ability to disbelieve in the miraculous, and if he is confronted with a miracle as an irrefutable fact he would rather disbelieve his own senses than admit the fact. Even if he admits it, he admits it as a fact of nature till then unrecognised by him. Faith does not, in the realist, spring from the miracle but the miracle from faith. If the realist once believes, then he is bound by his very realism to admit the miraculous also.
If Jesus was simply a moral prophet this would seem to be acceptable enough, but this is not what he is presented as in the Bible. Jesus is presented as, and claims to be, the ‘only way’. Conversely, any other chosen way is false.
It is easy to be uncomfortable with such a controversial figure. What it takes to follow Jesus is certainly not the easiest, and Lewis solidifies this:
“The things he says are very different from what any other teacher has said. Others say, ‘This is the truth about the universe. This is the way you ought to go,’ but He says, ‘I am the Truth, and the Way, and the Life.’ He says, ‘No man can reach absolute reality, except through Me. Try to retain your own life and you will be inevitably ruined. Give yourself away and you will be saved.
He says, ‘If you are ashamed of Me, if, when you hear this call, you turn the other way, I also will look the other way when I come again as God without disguise. If anything whatever is keeping you from God and from me, whatever it is, throw it away. If it is your eye, pull it out. If it is your hand, cut it off. If you put yourself first you will be last.
Come to Me everyone who is carrying a heavy load, I will set that right. Your sins, all of them, are wiped out, I can do that. I am Re-birth, I am Life. Eat ME, drink Me, I am your Food. And finally, do not be afraid, I have overcome the whole Universe.’ That is the issue.”
This is the Jesus I commend to you—a King men did not crown, a person who walked among us as a man, and, above all, a man who claimed to be—by word and deed—God incarnate.
We must either take him at his claim, or not at all. If we even decide to call him a prophet, a prophet has a message—as a teacher of mine would say—Jesus’s message is:
‘I am the way the truth and the life, no man comes to the father except through me.’ (John chapter 14 verse 6)
Paul Lewis is a Staff Worker for Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship in Kingston Jamaica, where he also resides. He has aspirations of becoming a Christian Apologist and he loves reading especially topics like: History, Philosophy and Theology. You can follow him on twitter @VeritasDeiVinci