One of the things that I loved about studying in Austria was being engulfed by the stunning landscape of mountains. It’s easy to understand why mountains were typically associated with God or gods in the ancient world. There’s something majestic in their appearance. In the Bible, Noah’s ark rested upon a mountain in a sign of new hope. Moses not only came upon the burning bush on a mountain, but also received the Ten Commandments in the mountains…both events telling of God’s guidance and presence. In modern-day thought and philosophy, a mountain is also used in understanding God and faith. One of most common is the analogy that God sits at the summit of a mountain. God, however, has provided many paths up the mountain in order to get to God/heaven/paradise/afterlife. In short, this image attempts to explain the belief that all religions are the same.
Now I have Masters of Divinity degree; I’ve studied the intricacies of the Christian faith. I claim to be no expert, but because of my experience and training I am more attuned to the details of following the way of Jesus Christ perhaps than many. So I find it difficult to reduce Christianity into such a generic form that looks so much like other faiths, and I imagine leaders and scholars of other faiths would have the same difficulty. If Christianity is everything, then it is nothing. Something that has impacted my life to such a degree simply can’t “blend in with the crowd” of other faiths. But the reality is that this pluralistic view is not only prominent in our culture…it’s gaining steam. I just can’t brush it off as nonsense.
The ugly truth is that I have seen and read about non-Christians behaving more like Jesus than Christians; and I have experienced Christians acting out evil. How could I possibly view this issue in black-and-white? I would have to be intellectually dishonest to say that Christians have it down pat and the rest are spawns of the devil. My view on all this is predicated on the belief that no person is outside the reach of God’s love…that no one is a lost cause. God, rather, is chasing after each individual, revealing himself to all (1Tim. 2:4). Yet we recognize and respond to that in a variety of ways; and some ways better than others. A Zen Buddhist, for example, has come to understand God’s call for simplicity and meditation far better than me. I can learn from the example of Ghandi on how to love my enemies. If God is revealing himself to all, I believe I can see others’ responses to that and learn from it.
THE DISTINCTION OF JESUS
Yet, I cannot accept that all are the same. You see I may have a lot to learn, and I can learn from people with all different faiths and perspectives…but there’s this thing about Jesus. I could go into the many reasons why I have come to believe in Jesus Christ as opposed to other faiths, but for the sake of brevity let me just say that I believe that Jesus is the embodiment of God. If I want to know what God is like, I look at Jesus. So while many paths on the way to the mountain top may have similar traits and recognizable features, I believe that there is one way to God…the way of Jesus.