Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Can’t There Be More Than One Way To Heaven?

What about other religions? Can’t there be more than one way to heaven?

Religions of the east, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, teach that there are many paths of enlightenment that lead to heaven (they would call it Nirvana). Now when we take this into consideration and look at all the religions of the world and say to ourselves, “all of these religions are ways to heaven. You should try your way and I’ll try mine,” we run into a problem. Jesus repeatedly made it clear who would go to heaven and who would not, and He made it very clear that you must go through Him.

And so, here’s the problem. If what Jesus said is true then all of the other religions are false and we must go through Jesus in order to see heaven. But let’s look at the person who believes that’s Jesus’ claim to be the only way to heaven is false. If Jesus is a liar then all of Christianity is a lie, but this also means the belief that all ways to heaven are acceptable is false because we’ve said Jesus is a liar. This leaves us with no other conclusion than there is a right way to heaven and a wrong way to heaven. All ways do NOT lead to God.

Whether you believe Jesus is the only way to heaven or not, logic shows us that following whatever “feels right for us” is not the path to heaven.

“Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’” John 14:6

I'm trying to write short answers (around or less than 600 words) to tough questions. These will find their way to www.verostudents.org under the Questions & Objections section (a total of 22 Q&O). Any advice, suggestions, or corrections are very welcomed. I've been studying apologetics for about 8 years so I thought it was wise to use some of the knowledge to share with students and parents with question, without writing a complete thesis paper on the subject.


Daniel said...

Hi Terry. I read your blog post, and felt the need to respond. By the way, on a personal level, I don’t know if you heard, but we’ve got a baby coming along. So, yay us!

Anyway, back to the blog. You made a couple of points that need to be clarified and rebutted.

You asked the question:

What about other religions? Can’t there be more than one way to heaven?

You mentioned that in Hinduism and Buddhism, they teach many paths to Enlightenment, but Enlightenment is not Heaven, and furthermore, neither, really, is Nirvana. Unfortunately, westerners attempt to compare our religions (Islam, Christianity, Judaism) directly to eastern religions, when they are, in fact, very different conceptual frameworks, and operate on very different assumptions. It’s like comparing apples to oranges, in the philosophical sense, of course. So your arguments are based on a false understanding of the religions you are critiquing.

Heaven, or at least, Christianity’s conception of it, does not compare well to Enlightenment because Enlightenment is a state of existential being. For example, you or I can achieve Enlightenment because we are alive. And even more importantly, once you achieve Enlightenment, that does not mean you automatically remain Enlightened for the rest of your life. See, again, because Enlightenment is an existential state of being, one’s state of being can change. Hence Buddhism originally was considered a philosophy, rather than a religion. Only later did the cult of personality surrounding the Buddha. In Hinduism, the concept of Enlightenment is called Samadhi, and is more of an asymptotic state of being. What I mean is, according to Vedic scriptures, no one can achieve union with the divine until after death, but one can get extremely close. That concept of getting really, really close to the divine without ever truly experiencing it is called Samadhi. Even in Jewish Kabbalah, which borrows heavily from both western Jewish traditions as well as from Eastern esoterica, there is a similar idea of getting close to the divine, but never being able to experience it completely. It’s sort of like in Dogma, when “God”, played by Alannis Morrisette, cannot speak directly to humans or angels, because the sheer power would overwhelm.

I honestly don’t know anyone who would say all paths are equally valid in order to achieve either Enlightenment, or Heavenly bliss. Anyone who would make such a statement is either hopelessly misinformed or pushing their own agenda. So you are forming your argument as a response to a straw man rhetorical device. As such, your entire point is invalid.

The bottom line is this. You happen to be a Christian. You base your conception of the world on a set of assumptions like “Jesus is Lord”, and doubt all other conceptions of the world because they run contrary to your base assumptions, hence they run contrary to the logical outgrowths of those original principle assumptions. Here’s the rub. Those with whom you disagree can make precisely the same empty arguments about you, because, guess what… you don’t share the same basic assumptions about reality with them.

The conclusion is… it all comes down to faith. And faith is fundamentally based on doubt. I personally feel like there is a severe lack of humility within the Church, and that stems directly from the lack of doubt that is necessity in order to have a true and honest relationship with God.

TerryKM said...

Hey Dan, it's been a LONG time. Man I didn't even know you were married!

Back to the blog. . .Thank you for posting your thoughts. I appreciate it. Man was it a long read too!

First, I had to make an edit. I forgot to place the small print at the bottom that I've been placing on the other apologetic arguments. In short, I didn't cover the subject fully and I did so on purpose.

You're right that Enlightenment and Heaven are not the same at all. But, I guess you haven't met those groups of people that say all roads lead to heaven (or to God) and my arguement is really to them (I've encountered those kinds of people all the time: in college, in NC, and here in FL. You can also find tons of people who think that on the internet. And you're right; they are misinformed (or choosing to not be informed). But still, maybe I didn't answer those people very well.

With Christianity, there is tons that is faith, but Christianity is also very intellectual and even much of the faith is a very rational faith. Christianity isn't 100% blind trust. There's too much evidence for their to be the need for 100% blind trust.

I would agree that we need more humility. I also think the church needs a good many other things as well, such as men who stand up and take the lead (in a godly way) instead of being lazy, sluggish, and lousy role-models.

Rick Lawrenson said...

But, Daniel, are you assuming that to believe in Jesus as "Lord" or divine requires a presupposition that He is? Or can one not come to that conclusion without that presupposition?

And is faith based on doubt or is faith based on fact? Couldn't it be that the point of Christianity (ie. the Gospel of Jesus) is to give those who have doubts a concrete foundation based upon the proofs that Jesus is who he claimed to be, and therefore, removing the doubts?

I think that's what John meant when he wrote to the first century church, "These things I've written that you may know...". He had lived long after his 3 plus years with Jesus and as an old man was as confident (ie. without doubt), maybe more confident then about Jesus claim to be the one and only Son of God as ever.

Doubt, I would say, drives us to find the truth. And once we have found it, the doubt is replaced by faith.

beachbug said...

Read this:


TerryKM said...

Well said Rick.

Andy, thanks. That's good advice.

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