The exclusivity of Christ, or the belief that Jesus Christ is the only way to be reconciled to God, is probably one of the Christian doctrines that makes non-Christians the most uncomfortable. In fact, it makes many Christians uncomfortable, too! When pressed, many who call themselves Christians will hesitate to say that Jesus is the only way to God, instead saying that He is a way to God, though one they sincerely embrace.
I certainly understand the discomfort! I mean, who wants to be the person who looks at all other religious systems or sets of personal spiritual beliefs—many held by genuine, well-meaning people—and says, "I think this is the only right way to approach God."
My goal in this blog entry is not to try to prove to you that Jesus is the only way to God, but rather to explain where this belief comes from. Hopefully this will give Christians and non-Christians a starting place for discussing this sensitive, yet important Christian belief.
First, the Scriptures teach that people cannot reestablish a relationship with God on their own. Notice I said "reestablish," not "establish." This is a crucial distinction in the Christian worldview. Throughout the Bible is the assumption that the relationship between God and people has been broken, and that there is nothing people can do to restore it. Many systems of spirituality treat approaching God as a journey of discovery. But the Bible speaks about spirituality in terms not of discovery, but of reconciliation. In the Christian worldview the problem is not that God remains undiscovered by humanity, but that humanity has rejected Him.
Why is this point important? Because it keeps us from talking about spirituality or religious beliefs in terms of personal preference. If there is nothing we can do to be reconciled to God, then there is no real point in defending our beliefs or convictions as ones that just happen to work for us, give us comfort, or that we find some sort of beauty in. In other words, if there is nothing we can do to reestablish the relationship, it doesn't matter much how we feel like trying to go about doing it. To put it more bluntly, it doesn't matter how we want to approach God, how we want to relate to Him, how we want to worship Him, etc., if all of these decisions on our part are pointless.
What all this means is that any reconciliation between God and humanity is going to have to come from His end. If it's true that there is nothing we can do about the brokenness of our relationship with God (and Scripture is very adamant on this point), then it follows that any hope of reconciliation rests upon God doing something about it.
Scripture teaches, then, that Jesus Christ is God's chosen means for reconciling humanity—actually, all of creation—back to Himself. According to the Biblical record, God revealed to humanity very soon after the relationship was broken that He fully intended to restore it. Through an individual named Abraham, then eventually through the Jewish people, God revealed more and more of His reconciliation plan to humanity. Finally, Jesus came and claimed to the One through whom this reconciliation would ultimately take place. In other words Jesus claimed to be the fulfillment of every promise of blessing, cursing, reconciliation, justice, and judgment that God had made since the relationship between God and humanity was broken. Jesus didn't claim to have a way back to God. He claimed to be THE way to God -- the means through which the reconciliation that God had promised for so long would be offered.
This is why Christians say -- or ought to say -- that Jesus Christ is the only means for salvation. Humanity cannot approach God through any means on its own merit. God has provided a means through Jesus Christ. It would seem best, then, to take advantage of the means that God Himself provided instead of looking for or legitimizing other means. The claim of Christianity is not that Jesus is a merely a better or a preferable path, but that He is the God-given path. And it is not a claim that we were clever enough to discover or believe what others weren't clever enough to do so, but that God graciously revealed reconciliation through Jesus.
Now, again, this explanation proves nothing. But it was meant only as an explanation. And of course it still leaves lots of questions like: what about those who were born before Jesus? What about those who are living today but never get a chance to hear about Him? Do you only have a chance to be saved in this life? Christians throughout the ages have answered these questions in a variety of ways.
What is clear, though, is this: those who purposely reject Jesus Christ as God's provided means of reconciliation are to be pitied indeed. This is why as a Christian I insist on saying that Jesus Christ is the only way to be reconciled to God because I believe all of our attempts to be reconciled are pointless, and that Jesus is the only means God Himself has provided.
Now you are more than free to say that I am wrong. But what I hope I have made clear is that it is not arrogant or intolerant of Christians to say this. When you ask me to say that other means of reaching God are valid, what you are asking me to do in my understanding of things is to look at God and say, "Yeah, thanks for Jesus, but we got this" or worse yet, suggest that God is somehow obligated to let people approach Him through different means because they prefer those means to the One He has provided. That I will not do.