Many Paths to the Same God


December 2, 2009

By Kevin M

We often hear people recite words to the effect of ?I believe there are many paths to the same God.? Are you among them?

In the post-Christian era in which we now live, it?s become politically correct?even considered somehow socially responsible?to frame a discussion of the Creator in this manner. The presumption is that all faiths, all beliefs, what ever they may be, inevitably lead the believer to the One True God.

Some people hide in the apparent confusion of the many world faiths, hoping that truth can be had by staying somewhere in the middle of them all. But while this is a common practice in politics and social situations, is it the proper way to approach the God of the Universe?

Among the monotheistic faiths, consider that true Christianity holds that Jesus Christ is The Messiah, the human incarnation of God himself and the only path to salvation. But Judaism specifically rejects Jesus as The Messiah, and Islam considers him to be a prophet later overshadowed by an even greater emissary of God in the person of Muhammad. While we can (and must) live in peace with people of all faiths, the core beliefs of the worlds three major monotheistic faiths are mutually exclusive; one can?t believe in one without rejecting the others.

Apart from the dividing lines between the monotheistic faiths, Eastern religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and others) don?t even hold to the belief in a single god, let alone his manifestation in Jesus.

Then there?s pantheism, the belief that ?God is in all things, and all things are in God?. At some level this sounds logical, but we need to ask if the Holocaust or other tragedies were somehow ?of God?. Does the same God to whom we ascribe love and mercy, also act as the force behind wanton evil and rampant destruction? The flaw in pantheism is that it essentially reduces God to meaninglessness by putting him in opposition to himself.

Finally, there?s the Personal God?the God we seek on our own terms. This is the God who fits neatly into our lifestyles, the God who doesn?t tick us off. We can discard any religious teaching that offends us, to bring it right down to our own comfort levels. A Religion of One, you might say, with us at the center.

What?s wrong with any of that?

The problem with all these assumptions is that none of them involve actually seeking the true God of the Universe, not nearly as much as they attempt to keep our options open. We can pray to ?God? for deliverance from an affliction or crisis one day, then return to a completely secular and irreverent life the next. We can pray to the God of Israel in the morning, then practice Zen the rest of the day. In our own minds there?s no conflict. But if there is a God?and if there isn?t then to whom is it that we direct our prayers in those dark moments?the more relevant question centers on how he sees this arrangement.

In Part 1 of this series, But I Think God Is?, we established that if there is a God, then he has absolute power over us–if he has anything less then why even bother to pray? Would such a limited god be even remotely capable of answering our prayers? If we can pray for his help in a time of need, but ignore him at all other times, then what we?re really meaning when we say ?God? is a genie in a lamp, or even Santa Claus?both are with us on an as-needed-only basis and are entirely the stuff of fantasy. Is that the God to whom we pray?

Consider this concept against the introductory language of the Ten Commandments:

??for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand {generations} of those who love me and keep my commandments.??Exodus 20:5-6 (NIV)

Now if God is real, and he said something this strong, it seems to me that he takes this ?One God? policy thing pretty serious. And though I don?t profess to speak for God, I?m guessing that he takes our pronouncements like ?many paths to the same God? in about the same way that we view flies at a picnic. Is it any wonder that at times it seems as if God IS angry, something that even those with the most indefinite views of faith find conceivable.

Like it or not, the Kingdom of God is NOT a democracy!

This gets to the heart of the entire ?God discussion??most people approach their beliefs in a manner consistent with a human political system, where we have choices on who to vote for, or what referendums to approve. Further, if we don?t like what our politicians do once in office, we can call and complain to them, get petitions going or even vote them out of office.

Is that how faith functions, like a democracy? God, subject to the whim of Man? Isn?t that a reversal of the order?

The idea of some sort of democratic Eternal Kingdom is strictly a concept in the human mind. A God with absolute power over us does not need to seek our approval or even our opinions. This is a difficult concept for us to grasp in our human weakness, but logically, it is the only rational conclusion.

Ultimately, it is God himself who determines what truth is and how it is that he wishes to be approached (what we would call faith or religion). We can consider as many ways to approach this as humanity can dream up, but only one of them is the right one, and this is the challenge to us all.

If we believe in God in any way, we need to pick ONE path and seek him. Hiding in confusion isn?t seeking God, it?s running away. Seeking a religion that doesn?t offend us, or one that ?fits? neatly either with our personal lifestyles or with the prevailing ways of the world isn?t seeking God either, but more a search for justification of some sort.

If we truly desire to seek God, then we need to be serious about it, and willing to commit to the true path, even if we find that path to be uncomfortable or even offensive.

The True Path

In the book of Genesis, God gave to Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit of all of the trees in the Garden of Eden?except one. From the multitudes of trees they were permitted to eat from, they could have sustenance; but by eating the fruit of just one tree they faced expulsion from the garden.

In an almost mirror image, God now allows us many choices as to what to believe, but salvation comes from only one of those choices. If we truly desire to know God, our job is to earnestly seek him, even if that journey takes us to a place we never imagined going.

One of the ?choices? God has given us is recorded to have said the following:

?I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.?–John 14:6

Most people make assumptions about Jesus Christ without fully investigating the available facts, as though the question of his messiah-ship is just another issue to be debated on daytime talk shows.

But if we believe that there is an all powerful God, then there have to be parameters, rules he (not us) sets for us to seek him. Our faith job is to purposefully seek to know if that apparently absurd claim by a man named Jesus is true. In fact a statement so sweeping demands that we investigate it fully, to decide for ourselves if there?s any validity to it.

The Old Testament promised a messiah, a deliverer, would be sent from God to the people. Was Jesus–the man quoted in John 14;6–that messiah?

The answer to that question is a test for our eternal destinies, and it isn?t multiple choice.


7 Responses to Many Paths to the Same God

  1. Great post. Jesus wasn’t just a good guy who had some great moral principles. When you actually study what he said and did, you find a highly controversial figure who wasn’t afraid to buck the religious system of his day.

    He challenged peoples thoughts and heart attitudes and had a disdain for religious piety, which led to an utter hatred of him by many high profile leaders – and ultimately his death!

    He, as you said, claimed he was the ONLY way! Wow! What type of guy would say something like that and then back up his claims with supernatural powers and ultimately rising from the dead? A man worth investigating that is for sure!

  2. Pantheism does not render God meaningless, it just makes God a hypocrite if there is to be one god. That aside, it seems religions essentially have adopted the structure of the political or government system at the time they were “frozen” (as in stopped to develop) in time. The concept of a singular god is adopted on the authoritarian approach of might makes right. In many cases where religions have several gods, they are organized in a feudal manner with a king or queen god and an aristocracy of lesser gods. In the modern case, this authority have either been delegated to the afterlife (state and church separation), to a theocracy, or been rendered irrelevant by the less personalized form of spiritualism which in more of a postmodern buffet style faith.

  3. ERE – I agree on the pagan/feudal connection. This is an example of Man making God in his own image. One of the reasons I think that there is only One True God, is that within the human context, we have no equivalent to this, there is no one force within the human system than can come close to having absolute authority, and for the most part, we fear the concept above nearly all else in life.

    In fact, monotheism doesn’t at all fit within the framework of democracy, especially in Christianty. God is absolute and jealous–if we would have a god of any sort, he would have to be acquiescent to the will of man. An all powerful, unaccountable God serves no purpose in humanity. In fact the God of the Bible is almost completely beyond human definition.

    A God who would love and forgive even murderers, rapists, terrorists–that’s beyond any God we could ever create. We are at the heart, a species of judgement and vengeance. The idea that God is some sort of cosmic pinspotter, judging us on our deeds as a measure of our eternal worth, is more human than biblical.

  4. @Kevin M – The concept of one god fits the supreme ruler/chief/emperor model which was dominant 1500-5000 years ago. It could also be thought of as an intermediate abstraction in the animism/animal gods->human gods->king god->god (more as a concept/image) -> all pervading god (even less of a human-like being) -> pantheism -> spiritualism. Buddhism and taoism are in the last stage—or perhaps more accurately representative of civilizations that have survived thousands of years. We don’t have anything of the kind in the Western world, but we do in East Asia. Shintoism is in the first stage (which makes Japan very interesting because it has pursued both simultaneously). “Democratic religion” is closest to the “human gods” (or pantheon) model. In the western world, this went away with the fall of the Roman empire and was followed by the dark ages. The surviving religions of “the area” (eastern and western empire) were monotheistic. During the period of enlightenment the human spirit was put in center, but that was only 300 years ago. We do see comparably more “spiritualism” or effective state/church separation in Europe. The US is much more religious, I think, primarily because that’s were the religious minorities that were persecuted in Europe fled to. Those who stayed in Europe weren’t as religious, their children less so, and so on; and this has been going on for 300 years now. This is also why there are so many different kinds of churces in the US. In a given European country, there will only be 1 or 2 different kinds in any given country.

  5. ERE – In a way monarchies actually pointed us toward God, while ironically, democracy has had the opposite affect. While I personally prefer democracy as a form of government, it’s had the effect of fostering a certain widespread “spoiled child” mentality in which we collectively have less respect for authority.

    When all is said and done, life can be good under a good monarch, and lousy in a poor democracy. In democracy we’ve seen the spread of spirituality, which is kind of like a democratic view of faith based on personal preference. In the midst of that thinking, we come to declare that “there are no absolutes”. I could never be so certain of that.
    I submit however, that if there is One True God, our personal preferences are absolutely meaningless!

    That being said, we won’t find God in debate or in the study of either history or world “religions”–the pursuit of God is an individual venture in which we seek faith, not religion. Religion is Man’s collective attempt to define God and to create a path to Him. But faith comes by listening to that “still, small voice” within. God, and the evidence of Him are all around us, if we can step outside our human indoctrination and be willing to accept that there are forces that are very real, very much beyond our control and well outside our full comprehension.

    When I was 13 I faced the “God question” upon the death of my grandfather–the first person close to me to die. All matters of faith come under the spot light at such a moment. I turned to encyclopedias and history books, even spoke with people who I thought “knew”. But the answer wasn’t to be found in any of that.

    You have impressive knowledge of history and faith, which makes me think that you’re searching at some deep level. Can I suggest that you close the books, turn off the TV, and spend some quiet time in some peaceful places and contemplate what’s in your heart? Open yourself to the possibility that there is a Supreme Being, as in one, and offer some prayers requesting nothing more than the gift of faith? The pursuit of God requires not an open mind, but an open heart.

    And I’ll leave you with the following verse:

    “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

  6. There is only one way to God and that is through jesus christ,he said he is the way,the truth and the life and no man comes to the father except through him…One faith,One lord,One baptism…Jesus Christ is the only way to God. Not buddah,not muhammad. Not the pope,just Jesus Christ…thanks; )

  7. Hi Chuck–I’m with you. But for many it’s an open question. Unfortunately, it’s not a question enough people ask themselves seriously. But it’s actually the most important question we can ask ourselves, and so many treat it as if it’s just another “issue” that will never be decided, and probably doesn’t need to.

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