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Thursday, March 24, 2011
Q&A: Is it being narrow-minded for Christians to say Christ is the only way?
Well, it certainly can be an expression of narrow-minded-ness for a Christian to say that Christ is the only way. I’ll never forget the first time somebody asked me that. I was in college, and my college professor looked me straight in the eye and said, “Mr. Sproul, do you believe that Jesus is the only way to God?” I wanted to jump out the window or find a hole to hide in because the question put me on the horns of a dilemma. It was a terribly embarrassing situation because I knew what the New Testament said. I knew that Jesus himself had said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father except by me.” And other passages in the New Testament say, “There’s no other name under heaven through which men may be saved.”
I was aware of those passages of exclusivity that we find in the New Testament and that focus on the uniqueness of Jesus. This professor pressed me on it and asked if I thought Jesus was the only way. If I said yes, then obviously I would be understood by everybody in the class to be an unspeakably arrogant person. I certainly didn’t want that kind of a label during my college career. But if I said no, then I would be guilty of denying that unique exclusiveness that Christ claimed for himself. So I kind of hedged a little bit and tried to whisper my answer and said, “Yes, I believe that Jesus is the only way.” Well, the wrath of that teacher came on my head, and the teacher just began to lay me out and said, “That’s the most bigoted, narrow-minded, arrogant statement I have ever heard.”
When the class was over, I went up to the professor and spoke privately to her. “I know you’re not enthusiastic about Christianity, but do you allow for the possibility that people who are not arrogant and people who are not narrow minded could for some reason or other actually be persuaded that Jesus Christ is at least one way to God?” The professor said, “Oh yes, I can certainly understand that intelligent people could believe that.” It was the nar-row-mindedness that was bothering the professor. I said, “Don’t you understand that I came to the conclusion that Jesus was a way to God, and then I discovered that Jesus was saying that he is the way?”
If I believed that Jesus were the only way to God just because it happened to be my way, then the unspoken assumption would be that whatever R. C. believes must be true. This would exclude anybody who’s not in touch with what R. C. Sproul believes, and this, of course, would be unspeakably arrogant. Why should there even be one way of redemption? Sometimes we act as if God hasn’t done enough.