Did Jesus Teach the Only True Faith? (part one)

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Title: The Adoration of the Magi
Artist: Joseph Christian Leyendecker

That is what Jesus seemed to be saying, which is disturbing in our pluralistic society — even for many  Christians.  Many believe instead that all religions are like paths on a mountain — they all eventually lead to the same place.  I must be honest here — when I see the intolerance, hatred and bigotry of religious groups towards one another, I wish this were true.   

Here are two problems I see with pluralism:

1.  Almost all religions (Bahai might be an exception) do not teach that they all have the same destination — in fact, they reject this.  They have some things in common (fatherhood of God, brotherhood of man, etc.), but there are irreconcilable differences.  For example, some believe there is one God (Christianity, Islam), others believe there are more than one (Hinduism, Wicca).  Can all these paths lead to the same destination?  

2. Some belief systems are evil. Most would agree radical Islam is wrong.  And let’s remember that Christianity has, at certain points in history, produced its own radical forms.  Other religions have taught mass suicide and marital infidelity.  Can we say that these paths lead to the same mountaintop?  

If the above arguments are true, does this mean Christians should reject everything about other religions?  What positive lessons can we learn from other religions?

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About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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17 Responses to Did Jesus Teach the Only True Faith? (part one)

  1. Carol Childers says:

    I thought I replied to this earlier ; here goes again.
    Jesus said that no man comes to the Father except by Him. That is that! He didn’t give a lot of wriggle room.
    If we sat down together and went at this by using sets (does anyone still do that ?) we might have some overlapping with other religions. In a few areas. No other religion, by generally-accepted Christian standards, would be sufficient to assure eternal life with Him. Life everlasting with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is not important to Wiccans, for example.
    There is that Cornerstone for us!
    If we say we are Christ-followers, we accept that God sets the rules, not us.

  2. Birdie Cutair says:

    I don’t believe in Universalism. And, I do agree with Carol. John 14:6 “Jesus said to him (Thomas), ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through me.'” This is what I believe and see no reason to compromise on this.

  3. Pastor Corey says:

    Indeed that is the teaching of Scripture. However, Christianity faces serious challenges from militant atheism and from tolerant pluralism (and also Islam). Times such as these will require an apologetic that says more than ‘the Bible says so.” With that in mind, how do we engage the atheist / pluralist in conversation? Tune in to part 2 and 3.

  4. Janice says:

    I am with Carol and Birdie on this one that Jesus is the only way. Every day it seems that we are asked to compromise with what others believe that are not scripture based. I say, “no”. Paul said in Romans 12:2, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think………” This is a scary world we live in today because it looks like people just believe in whatever they want, when they want. Some religions do believe in God, but don’t believe in Jesus. I am not smart enough to change their thinking, but God can do it in his time.

  5. Ann Denbow Simmons says:

    Good evening:
    I have studied Islam and Islamic law in both English and Arabic and both in the US and in Muslim Countries. I have studied under the direction of Islamic Scholars and Imams. In fact by studding Islam and being able to study the Bible beside the Qur’an has helped my become even stronger in my Christian faith and my walk with God.
    Through my studies and my openness to Islam and my desire to have an understanding of Islam and its principles and laws I also was able to reveal to my Muslim teachers and fellow students and my students (I am a Prof in Islam and Islamic law and also in Extremist groups and terrorism) my Christian beliefs and to help them understand Christianity and the Bible.

    I believe that Jesus ask us to also reveal our faith in Him and His Father by our actions as well as our words. Jesus left us with the Holy Spirit which acts as our counselor and guide in our walk with Him. I believe that God gave us the Word! Jesus spoke the Word! and the Holy Spirit guides and counsels me on the Word.

    Some Christians believe that Muslims do not believe in Jesus but this is not true. Islam advocates the holiness of Jesus. It is an essential part of the Islamic teaching to revere Jesus and to believe in his holiness, and that Jesus lived in this world as a pure person free of any sin. The Qur’an states 824 When the angles said: “Oh Mary! Surely God gives the good news of a word from Him whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, Son of Mary, worthy of regard in this world and the Hereafter,and by those who are highly accepted by God.”

    I sincerely hope and have prayed that by and through this area of concentration that God has lead me and guided me and that I can open a door in an understanding between our two faiths. I believe as do Muslims that God has preplanned my life and brought people and studies into my life that have been set by God. I can be a witness for God and Jesus Christ in every aspect of my life.
    Every message posted by my fellow Christians in this blog have witnessed to me and to each of us who read thier message. I have prayed for sometime that I would find such a blog of communication that would place me in the lives of other fellow Christians who can strengthen my Faith and allow me the opportunity to grow in my faith and wisdom..
    I thank each of you for sharing your beliefs and wisdom with me. I hope one day to have the opportunity to meet you personally. Janice I have known for years as a member of Chapel but through the past few weeks of sharring her beliefs with me I have come to know who she really is and to know her inner thoughts. Thank you Janice! God always opens new doors for us and what we do depends on how willing we are to trust and obey Him. Jesus is one of those open doors!!
    Good night and God Bless Each of You!!

  6. Carol Childers says:

    Ann, thank you for sharing your insights with us through this blog. And, yes, I look forward
    to meeting all of the bloggers in person. I hope that we can do that. Each one has broadened my thinking.
    One big point here that I would make after reading :

    “Some Christians believe that Muslims do not believe in Jesus but this is not true. Islam advocates the holiness of Jesus. It is an essential part of the Islamic teaching to revere Jesus and to believe in his holiness, and that Jesus lived in this world as a pure person free of any sin. The Qur’an states 824 When the angels said: ‘Oh Mary! Surely God gives the good news of a word from Him whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, Son of Mary, worthy of regard in this world and the Hereafter,and by those who are highly accepted by God.’ ”

    Muslims do not yet believe nor accept Jesus as their Messiah. Many, many people can tell us that they can believe Jesus was a good man, even perhaps a prophet, but the sticking point is in the question “Who do you say that I Am?” It is not possible for me to elevate anyone to Jesus’ level, to revere or admire him in any way, much less to place him above our Lord! Notice also that the Jesus of Islam is not recognized as the Son of God, but the son of Mary. Muslims do not accept that Virgin Birth, either. We must conclude, then, that Christians and Muslims are not talking about the same Jesus.
    I do not have your expertise and background in the studies and, unfortunately, I have a short fuse, so my hat is off to you in your ability to witness in the Muslim community.
    My brother chided me many years ago for not ever reading the Koran and accepting it as a valid spiritual guide. No can do.

  7. Pastor Corey says:

    I do recommend, as much as possible, the scriptures of other religions – I have a copy of the Koran on my shelf, and books written by Jewish scholars. As people called to bear witness to others, we have an obligation to learn their beliefs. When we show interest in their beliefs and how it enriches their lives, they were willing to listen to us. This is more than an evangelism technique to we can sell them Jesus — this is showing the love of Christ. This may not mean reading the Koran, but it should mean learning about a religion – from a representative of that community.

  8. Ann Denbow Simmons says:

    Good morning:
    Carol I can truly appreciate and do understand your feelings. You cannot live and work within the Islamic and/or Arab world with a short fuse God has blessed me with the ability to be understanding without loosing my own beliefs and trust in Him.

    No, Muslims do not belief that Jesus is the Messiah but then neither do the Jews and yet we often refer to ourselves as Judo-Christians. Jews do not even believe that Jesus was a great prophet as the Muslims do. In the Islamic faith and teachings Jesus is the prophet above all prophets and he sits at the right hand of God. They also believe that in the end of the world it will be Jesus who returns to earth to select Gods chosen people. Muhammad was the last prophet chosen by God but not the superior prophet of God. That is why in the Islamic faith you cannot pray to Muhammad nor seek redemption from him – for their is only one God and no one can take his place nor intercede for Him.

    When I studied Islam and had the opportunity to study it using both the Bible and the Qur’an
    I came to understand not only more deeply my own faith and religion but also how important it is to understand others. By the way the proper spelling is Qur’an there is no “K” in the Arabic language. If you have the Qur’an that is not written in Arabic and issued by the Kind of Saudi Arabia and published in Mecca, according to Islam, you do not have the true and honest revelations of God. (Printed translations of the Qur’an are not acceptable) The Qur’an was written 150 years after Muhammad’s death by individuals who were with Muhammad while and when he received the revelations. The Qur’an has verses found in both the Torah and the Bible. the history of Muhammad reveals how he sought counseling from both Jews and Christians. It was the Jews in Medina who invited him to come and live with them. The Jews and the Muslims fought side by side during several of the Crusades.

    As to your statement that Muslims do not believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. Yes they do, for Islam declares in Qur’an 10:16-26 that Jesus was miraculacy born from a virgin mother with no father who’s name was Mary. The Qur’an also states in these verses that “this son of hers will be called Jesus and that God will make him a sign to man and a mercy from us, and it is a matter decreed by God.” The miracles of Jesus are recorded also in the Qur’an plus others not found within the Bible. You are right Carol in saying that the Muslims do not view the divinity of Jesus as we Christians do but they do view His holiness.

    The Islamic faith is uncompromising in their monotheism belief. For the Muslim God/s message, ‘I am’ . For the Muslim there is no confusion between the human mind stating that ‘God is One’ and that He at the same time, is more than one but three persons. I will admit I was never able to fully explain to my Islamic teachers colleagues and students the Trinity. I have prayed and prayed about this and asked God constantly to help me say the right words to help them understand the Trinity. I failed in my ability to make them understand the importance and logic of knowing and understanding the Trinity. Yes, for 25 plus years I have studied, taught, consulted and lectured within the Arab/Islamic world!. My whole career and abilities are all gifts from God and I consider myself to be very blessed with the opportunities and parts of the world and the things I have done and seen to be fully under His direction. My choices to study and grow within this culture and believers all started in 1964 when I was granted the opportunity to study at Christ Church at Oxford University in England as a Student Ambassador for the United States. This was the turning point in not only my quest to learn more about Islam and the Arab culture but also the beginning of the in depth study into my own faith and beliefs and my commitment to God and to myself. I prayed that if this was truly the way that God wanted me to go in my life than He would open doors and make it right for me and counsel and guide me through it all – and He has. It has been a journey that has provided me such personal growth and an in depth understanding of who I am and who I am in God and where Jesus is in my life.
    I know that this was the direction God had planned for me when I was invited to return to Oxford during the month of July in 2007 to lecture at Queen Ann’s college at Oxford University. I lectured on my manuscript which was published by Oxford. This would have been impossible if it had not been by and through God’s intervention.

    Mary, the mother of Jesus is considered within the Islamic faith to be the epitome of what all woman are to be. In fact the largest book in the Qur’an is on Mary.

    I had the extreme honor of being invited to speak at Chapel several years ago comparing Christianity and Islam. I have lectured and taught on the three faiths and One God – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. I also have designed and taught a course on International Law and Human Rights.

    Unfortunately terrorist and terrorism has been strong in all three monotheism religions. In fact the oldest terrorist group in the world, the KKK, was founded by Deacons, and clergy within the Christian faith and justified their cruelty to the Bible and the wishes of God. The Crusades were formed and claimed to be Holy Wars by Pope Urban and that they were ordained by God. I find it had to understand when you realize how much cruelty and evilness is found throughout this world using God’s name to justify their evilness.
    I am presently working on my second book for publication. God has blessed me so much that I could never honestly put into words my full admiration and faith in Him.

    • Carol Childers says:

      Ann, I know now who you are because I was there the night you spoke at Chapel. Much too short a time to get the topic covered, wasn’t it? We all wish you could have come back again. For Part II, perhaps?
      Might that be possible?

  9. Carol Childers says:

    Jesus did not instruct his own disciples to gather and study other religions of the day, did
    He? He himself studied the Law and the Prophets, the Jewish writings. I do not read of His conducting classes on the heathen religions of the time. But He spent His time revealing His Father to them. Over and over and over He did this.The disciples knew of Jewish history and for sure they observed the wickedness around them in Judea and in areas they traveled into outside of Judea to spread the message of the need to repent and later, after the Resurrection, the Gospel. But they did not spend precious time bulking up on the knowledge of hopeless paths. Jesus did not try to convince the adulterous woman at the well that the religion of the Samaritans was sullied, like herself, but He showed her that she could be forgiven if she repented and chose to sin no more. She eagerly accepted the gift that Jesus gave her.
    It seems to me that the world today (just about all of it) has received (been exposed to) the Gospel, and so it remains for the present unbelievers to be convicted by the Holy Spirit.
    And Jesus was clear to His disciples about shaking the dust from their feet and getting outta Dodge after the disciples went into a place to preach and were not welcomed. I remember my father saying that there were Biblical prohibitions about taking the Gospel into certain places, i.e. areas of the Middle East today. Were there?
    I am not trying to be contrary, I am just saying….
    I would be italicizing and underlining and making words appear in bold print but don’t know how to on my blog page!
    I still hold that Islam does not believe in THAT Virgin Birth. THAT Virgin Birth we believe in is very, very different from the Muslim view because we believe the Bible account that Jesus did indeed have a father, God. And God recognized and elevated His only begotten Son to Himself for eternity.
    And Jesus does not presume to take the place of God. Indeed, He demured to do so and humbled Himself throughout His life on earth. Jesus does not intercede for God; He intercedes for US.
    Christians recognize that the Bible must be translated into many languages to be distributed around the globe. Why, if we are to put any credence at all in Islam, must we accept that that Arabic, hand-written, Saudi Arabian issue book is so wonderful? If it were truly so, why are Muslims keeping the teachings so close to their chests? And wouldn’t Corey’s copy be unacceptable?
    I am just saying….

    • Pastor Corey says:

      Carol,
      Jesus was sent to “the lost sheep of Israel,” so of course he didn’t study other religions. Consider 2,000 years of Christian missions. Why did the Apostle Paul quote a Greek Philosopher when preaching at Athens? Acts tells us he spent time observing the culture. Why did the Church Fathers study Platonism when proclaiming Christ in a pagan world? Why did Hudson Taylor study Chinese ancestor worship before going to China? Did they all refuse to follow Christ’s example, or were they following Paul’s example to “become all things to all people, that by all means (we) might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22)?

      The mission field has changed – America is a post-Christian world. A growing number of people have little or no knowledge of the Bible, much less the Gospel. We must think like missionaries if we are to obey the Great Commission. Come to Chapel on July 1, to hear a missionary to Muslims who is presently serving in Minnesota.

      • Carol Childers says:

        Corey, would those missionaries be Mike and Terri Blackburn? I have supported, and do currently, support their mission work. I am not called to be a foreign missionary; I am called to support them financially, as I choose. I trust that foreign missionaries are in the foreign missions field because they are called to share the Good News of Christ and they can compare and contrast The Way against the religion of the land as long as it takes,for whatever period of time they are granted, to plant the seed. Yes, language proficiency would be key for them.
        And will the Blackburns be speaking in the AM service or perhaps in the PM? Hope that by then I will be ambulatory and able to come.

        IF IF IF America is indeed a post-Christian world and a growing number of people have little or no knowledge of the BIBLE, much less the GOSPEL, is it not because knowledge of these is not deemed important enough or relevant any more? Often by the clergy, sad to say?
        Bible knowledge is core to all we undertake, at home in our communities or abroad in the foreign mission field.

  10. Ann Denbow Simmons says:

    Carol, I would be honored to return to do a Part II to my lecture and discussion on Islam and Christianity. You were right in noting that a one evening discussion was not honestly enough time to justify the topic. I am sorry to say that honestly I do not remember you from the meeting. Please make yourself known to me the next time we are in the same room and/or same locality..
    Have a fantastic evening and may God bless and be with you and your loved ones.

  11. Carol Childers says:

    Ann, of course you wouldn’t remember me. How could you? I was one face in the crowd! And it was awhile ago, as well.
    God bless you and yours real good, too.
    This blog is good for the “little gray cells”!
    Thanks, everyone!

  12. Ann Denbow Simmons says:

    Caro;, I fully understand your thinking. I remember in college my roommate 2ho was a Catholic as did her parents both informed me as did her priest when I visited mass with them that the only true Bible was that that was written and published through and by the Catholic Church. Time has changed this attitude but it was not done overnight. Also what is very important is that most of the Middle East region was not exposed to the rest of the world until the 1980’s. In many parts of the Middle East region people are still living and functioning as their ancestors did thousand of years ago. We in America have had the fortune of being a modern technology country eager and willing to venture into new areas of technology. however, in my travels and work I have been in areas not only in the Middle East but also in Africa and Asia who are very frightened and angry with new technology
    By keeping the citizens of a country closed in various world globalization and technology provides a tighter control over them. Look at how during the Cold War era how controlled and kept from learning the new technology the citizens behind the ‘iron curtion’ were. Things are not always fare but if we allow God to assist us in our quest He always seems to enjoy performing mircals that man cannot and has not been able to do.
    The Qur’an is very sacred to the Muslim followers, just as the Bible is to us, and that is their way of protecting their heritage and faith. I have been able to take my Bible into most of the countries within the Middle East that I have traveled and worked. Most countries have opened this policy since Desert Storm.
    Yes, Pastor Corey’s copy of the Qur’an would not be considered the true revelations of God, because the original revelations from God were given in Arabic and the Imam feel that translations will change the true words and meanings..
    My dear father use to tell me: “Ann you do not have to agree with me but you do need to respect what I have said to you” I have always applied this to my international studies and work. My parents also taught me that “I do not have to understand all that God directs me to do but that I must obey Him!”
    As a professor and lecturer I have always strongly believed that it was my responsibility to teach and offer the facts as known not my opinion of the facts. I do not and have not needed my students to agree with everything offered in my classes but they must be able to justify their thinking.
    Have a fantastic evening!

  13. Ann Denbow Simmons says:

    I apologize and wish to correct an era made in one of my previous postings. The Qur’an was written within 50 years of Muhammad death and by individuals who knew him and who had been with him during the period of the revaluations. The Islamic Law known as the ‘Shari” was written by men 150 years later based on the Qur’an, the Hadith and their own interpretations.
    Have a blessed day!

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