The other day a friend of mine wrote me an email to askÂ how I answer this question: Don’t you think we’re basically all worshiping the same God? Do you ever get into a conversation with someone who feels that Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, whatever… we are all basically praying to the same God, and we just have different understandings of who that ‘god’ is and how to get to him or her? I spent some time thinking about how I would answer that, and after writing her back I decided to share my thoughts in case they might be an encouragement to you, too.
At the core, I think this question really stems from another question which first has to be answered: Is there absolute truth? Can anything absolutely be true all the time? Is there actually one God who is always only a certain way? Or is God what we make of Him? This is important: Can two contradictory things be true at the same time?
When asked about absolute truth, a lot of people might initially say no, there’s no such thing. Lots of people hold the opinion that nothing is ever always true, and that’s why we like relativism and tolerance so much. If nothing is ever always true, we can pretty much make up the rules as we go. It seems like the only “rule” is that no one is allowed to ‘push their beliefs on’ anyone else. But who gets to say that’s definitely always wrong? Sorry for the tangent. That’s sort of a pet peeve.
Basically, not believing in absolute truth allows us to do what feels right in every situation. It’s easy to see where taking this stance will lead you… If nothing is ever always true, then sometimes it’s okay for people to rape infant girls because they believe it will cure them of HIV. (And that is actually happening in our world today. Is that okay with you?)Â If nothing is ever always wrong, then sometimes it’s okay to kidnap young women to sell them into the sex industry. Can you honestly come up with a logical, reasonable and sound scenario in which kidnapping and repeated rape is okay? If nothing’s always true, human trafficking probably shouldn’t even be punished…maybe it was right for whoever was doing it at the time.
Bringing this back to more ‘reasonable’ terms…consider (based on the relationship you have with the person you’re talking to) secretly taking their purse or book bag (or anything they have with them) and beginning to rummage through it, or pinching them, or better yet smacking them on the arm or in the face. Was it wrong for you to do that? Says who?
The point of all this is to say there has to be truth. There is truth. Some things are always always true. Or else we’re just being ridiculous. You were born on a certain day in a certain year, and that will always be true. This or that team won the Super Bowl in 1985…you get the point. And if someone feels you’re pushing your beliefs on them…I think it’s valid to ask what’s wrong with that? If they try to explain why it’s wrong for you to share your beliefs with them, point out that they’re pushing their belief on you that it’s wrong to push your beliefs on them! Okay, I’ll stop digressing about this.
Now the Bible explicitly says, and leaves no question, that Jesus is the ONLY way to God. The Bible is taking the position that God is specific. Not a life force, not an energy, not the whole universe… but a specific Being. And there is a specific way to get to know Him and to be in relationship with Him. It also makes it clear that God has made a specific provision for the fact that we are sinful people. It’s clear that God wants a relationship with us, and the bridge that He has provided for us to cross the chasm of our own sinfulness is Jesus Christ.Â The Truth is, either the Bible is true or it isn’t. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” and “No one can come to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) C.S. Lewis pointed out three possible responses to the statements Jesus made, like this one.
First option: Jesus was telling the truth, and therefore we should worship Him and follow Him.
Second: Jesus was lying. There are multiple ways to get to God. If this is the case, then Christianity is NOT true, and we are not arriving at the same destination. If we worship Jesus, but Jesus was a liar, then either they are also worshiping a God who’s a liar, or they’re worshiping a different god. We believe Jesus is God. That’s what Christians believe. Jesus is God, He was with God from the beginning, He came forth from God, entered creation, lived a perfect life, died for our sins and rose from the dead, demonstrating His power over sin and death. But if you don’t believe Jesus is God, then we obviously don’t worship the same God.
Here’s the third possibility: Jesus was crazy. Hopefully to you this sounds like an absurdly comical possibility. But if it was the case that He was delusional and wasn’t actually the Son of God, He just thought so — why did people follow Him around? Why did people give up their whole livelihood to become His disciples? Why have so many people, even of different faiths, generation after generation said His teachings were good, and if people lived by them the world would be a better place? Why did the masses come to hear him speak — thousands upon thousands of people at the time? Usually idiots are in the crowd, or run through the crowd streaking perhaps, but they don’t generally draw a crowd like that.
Some may refute Lewis’ Lord, Liar or Lunatic “trilemma” as it is called, and a number of critics have tried. The point in this space is not to try to prove the existence and truth of Jesus’ claims. The evidence of that certainly deserves more blog posts, books, magazines, and news articles than we could ever possibly create. The point I want to make in this space is that those claims are what Christians believe. We believe Jesus was Who He said He was, and we worship Him as our Lord. If anyone does not believe that Jesus deserves to be worshiped as God, then the god that they are worshiping is not the Father, Son and Holy Spirit we worship as the Triune God.
Based on this, there is really no possibility that we’re all worshiping the same God, as Christians, Muslims and Hindus. Because Christians believe that Jesus is God, the Son of God, who came from God and returned to God.Â Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet, but not God. I apologize that I’m not sure exactly what most Hindus think about Jesus. I am, however, sure that they don’t believe that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
I’m obviously not writing an exhaustive treatise on this, although there are many many many that could be written on the subject. I just wanted to share some thoughts about how I answer that question, in hopes that they’d be an encouragement to you. How do you answer?
The Sermon in a Nutshell: What we believe about the person ofÂ Jesus Christ is the most easy to point out and essential difference between the Christian faith and other faiths. So, how do you answer that question?