by Evi Rodemann
“All roads lead to Rome” is a well-known proverb which can be found translated into many languages across the world.
The original meaning of the proverb seems to come from medieval times when it had several meanings: (1) many routes can lead to a given result, (2) all ways lead to the Catholic Church, or (3) when the Pope declares that he is the only one who can represent the whole of Christianity.
The proverb would be used not only as a political statement (“Rome is the place you need to reach”), but also as a religious statement (“Eventually, you will reach Rome through the one faith, the Catholic Church”).
In our postmodern times, where pluralism is strongly practised (multiple truths next to each other, even when they are not in agreement with each other), this statement is used in believing that all faiths ultimately lead to God, however God might be perceived, whatever name God is given.
But could this be true of our faith in the one God? Would all the different religious roads lead to the one and only God—the God of the Bible? Poet Steve Turner once wrote, “They (all religions) all believe in love and goodness, they only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.”
In our secular, pluralistic society, it is easier to trust that all beliefs eventually lead to the same God because it would serve and please our Western mind set. After all, this belief causes less stress with missions and is more acceptable overall.
While I believe that all religions have some things in common—namely, a hunger after a power outside of us, an Almighty Being more powerful than us, and an awakening for more than our mind can fathom—there is indeed clarity on who the God of the Bible is.
All religions do not lead to the God of Moses, Abraham, and David, but all of the religions highlight the need for a saviour outside of ourselves.
Christianity may be perceived as inconvenient and intolerant, but is Jesus inconvenient and intolerant? If all religions lead to God, then is Jesus really the only way to God?
We recently celebrated Easter. We celebrated that Jesus, God´s one and only son, died on the cross for our sin, shame, and guilt. It is the only faith in which God looked for a way to reach out to people.
This makes all the difference in the world! First Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men.”
His is the only sacrifice acceptable to God! Someone had to die so that we can be reconciled with God.
The different religions expect different outcomes in the way they perceive salvation and eternity. Saying that they all lead to the same God would be challenged by serious followers of most of the world’s religions.
Jesus says in John 14:5, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father except through me.” This was meant as a single truth, not one of several options.
While culture around us says that all truths are equally valid, we believe that the Bible teaches differently.
We struggle with the question of exclusion because we feel that we become intolerant if we exclude others. We need to think carefully about this, because the reality is that whatever position we hold to will inevitably exclude something. Even the person who believes that all ways lead to God excludes the view that only some ways lead to God or that only one way leads to God.
The issue is not about exclusion as such; the issue is about what is actually true and real.
If Jesus is who He says He is, then there is only one question left: Will we accept this truth for our own salvation, or not?
Questions to ponder:
- Have you taken the time to learn about other religions to understand the people who follow them? Don´t go into religious bashing if you know nothing of what is important to the followers.
- What gives you / does not give you the conviction that the God of the Bible is the one and only God to be worshipped?
- Where have you become exclusive?
- Have you become too intolerant regarding truth?
Evi Rodemann (@erodemann) is part of the Lausanne European steering team and a member of the Lausanne YLGen Development team, living out her passion of reaching young people and developing younger leaders, especially with a focus on Europe. In 2016, she completed her MA on European Mission with Redcliffe College, UK.