What is Truth: Part 1 image. One Way.

One God, One Way

In Tough Questions by Antwuan Malone14 Comments

One God, One Way

Part Two: Is There Only One Way to God?

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh to the Father, but by me” — John 14:6 (KJV)

There’s this intense scene in the Bible where Jesus is brought before Pilate by the Jews. He’s being charged for his illegal claim as “King of the Jews.” The Roman rulers didn’t like people gallivanting around calling themselves kings.

The exchange found in John 18:28-40 always amuses me. Every time, I read like Jesus and Pilate are trading sarcastic riddles and jabs at each other until Pilate is finally left wondering, emphatically, “What is truth!?”

Don’t we all want to know.

In part one, we discussed how postmodernism is the response from an emerging generation this very question. We said that postmodernism seeks to shed traditional constructs and ideals of what truth is by suggesting that, because we don’t know what is absolutely true, we must leave ourselves open to all reasonable possibilities. Further, it suggests that truth can be determined by individual perception of the world, and individual experiences in life.

When I was growing up, my dad used to say, “Everyone’s got to look at life through their own bifocals.” Indeed, postmodernism allows your truths to be determined by what you see out of your own bifocals.

But as we discussed, relativism is not realism. The Truth does not rely on our senses. It doesn’t fade into the land of falsehood because we aren’t aware of its existence. The Truth exists whether we acknowledge it or not. Our awareness has nothing to do with it.

The Truth is.

I’m reminded of the conversation God had with Moses through the bush that wasn’t really burning in Exodus 3. Moses, after catching his breath a little at the idea of confronting the greatest nation of the land, asks “Who should I say sent me?” God answers, “Tell them I AM has sent me to you.”

I AM?

God is?

Let me be clear. When I say “the truth is,” I mean that the Truth is reality. The Truth is what actually exists. I think that’s exactly what God was telling Moses to tell Egypt about Him. “Tell them that I AM (the true God, the real God, the actually existing God) sent you.” In other words, tell them The Truth, sent you. The Reality.

Perhaps that is a stretch.

But when I see the plagues of the Old Testament, I see God systematically attacking all notions of gods in Egypt. Each plague is an affront on one or more of the Egyptian so-called deities.

  • Water to Blood — attacks Hapi, Egyptian god of the Nile.
  • Frogs — attacks Heqt, the Egyptian goddess of birth (who was characterized as a frog, and a protector of females in birth)
  • Lice — attacks Geb, the Egyptian god of Earth (whose priest took care to shave daily to prevent lice as a symbol for their worship)
  • Swarms — attacks the Amon-Ra. Swarms of beetles, one of the symbols of Ra himself.
  • Livestock — attacked Apis, (whose symbol was a bull) and Hathor the cow-headed god of the desert.
  • Boils — attacks Egyptian god Imhotep, the god of medicine.
  • Hail — attacks Nut, the Egyptian sky goddess. Also, with crops destroyed, it attacks Isis and Seth — gods of crops.
  • Locusts — attacks Nepri, Egyptian goddess of grain, Ermutet, Egyptian goddess of childbirth and crops, and Thermuthis, goddess of fertility and harvest.
  • Darkness — attacks Amon-Ra, the Egyptian god of the sun, and the moon (whom Egypt worshipped as a God)
  • Death of Firstborn — attacks nearly every God of Egypt, but most notably the “deity” of the Pharoah, and the gods which protected them (Selket, guardian of life and Renenutet, cobra-goddess and guardian of Pharoah).

I AM is staking his claim. There is only one true god, and He is it. In essence, the Yahweh God of Moses is The Truth.

Moses with the Egyptians is just one of many places in scripture where God sets out to make Himself known to the world as The One God. Here again, we find echoes of the exclusivity we mentioned last week.

Jesus Is

Like Egypt, we too have set up gods. One of which is the god is ego. And the last of the deities God has attacked, through Jesus, is this god of “self.” Sin leads us to rely on ourselves, convinces us we don’t really need Him, that we can save ourselves through the powerfully positive notions of anthropology and morality. The further down the Ego rabbit hole we go, the more subtly we position ourselves as center of our universe.

God, again, has to battle these idols to reveal to us The Truth, the reality that who and what we are meant to be begins with Jesus.

If Jesus is The Truth, then He is the key to our awareness of The Reality? That is, if Jesus is The Truth, then we don’t know who (and why) we are until we know Him.

Otherwise, we are living our lives in the margins of imagination and creativity, instead of on the solid ground of reality. And what is reality? Simply, that there is one God and He desires relationship with all of us. He created us for that relationship, but sin blocked it. Jesus’ defeat of sin clears the path again to that relationship and thus to knowing who we are and what our purpose is.

This is The Truth to which Jesus speaks. This is the “way” and “life” Jesus embodies. Jesus brings an awareness of The Reality of our purpose and place with the one true God, and at the same time, offers the fix for our very real situation. In Jesus, they are all connected. This makes acceptance of Jesus the exclusive entry point to God, without whom we would remain separated from God forever.

There is a truth, an exclusive Truth. Jesus is that truth. But God seems to have allowed enough holes to appear that we cannot speak with full-on provable certainty. For some reason, faith is important to God. Believing without seeing, trusting without knowing. In the end, this conversation is about faith. Which, of course is another conversation altogether.

So let the conversations continue.  What is truth? For me, Jesus is.  What about you?

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Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry (elevateministry.net) where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.
14 comments
Jason North
Jason North

Right on. That gives me some good things to think about.

Jason North
Jason North

Crystal has a good point in examining 'the path' of Jesus. What, essentially, happens when one accepts Christ? A shedding of what's old into what's new. A breaking of ego and selfishness into selflessness. If we look at the metaphysical aspects of Buddhism, Islam, or many other faiths/religions, the imperative of 're-birth' is the common denominator between them all. I follow Christ. Im still struggling with how exclusive He must be to me [considering my familial & geographical biases], but it's hard not to see the similarities between the variations of mind-practice throughout the world. Perhaps Christ was the epitome of Gods nature, revealing the true process of re-birth to humanity, which would then go back to Jesus' claim as the 'way, truth, & life', but then that scripture is open to the many varying hermeneutics going around. In summary, I believe it most healthy that we are honest to realize the subjectiveness of our belief [like cushamnschronicles mentioned above]. If we begin a dialogue with with an Islamic Sufist, for example, Id imagine our conversations would contain similar vocabularies, and we had both attained salvation.

@antwuanmalone
@antwuanmalone

Which brings me to the next thing. With regard to the Exodus passage… God owns all the “earth.” We are His from a possession standpoint. But God chose Abraham to begin a relationship with them, and that they would make his name famous to the rest of the world. The covenant was with Israel alone, despite how covenants were done. “You will be my people, and I will be your God.” That said, I’ve already mentioned that countless non-Jews were also proselytized as Jews, even in the old testament The example of the old testament is what you say. God chose few (Israel) and exercised judgment on many. The ”New Israel” is the same spiritual sons of Abraham that the Israelites were physically. As such, the “New Israel” has the same covenant… that he will be “Our God” and that we should to out to make famous his name in order to draw them to Him. The type here is clear. Finally, as for your stats. I’d first like to know where they came from. But assuming they are correct, I would say I’m not happy with them at all. Apparently, if that is the case, Christians have MUCH work to do as far as spreading the gospel is concerned. But because many, or even most, have not accepted Christ and his sacrificial death on the cross as the only way to God, doesn’t make it less true. I am very comfortable with the claim of exclusivity because it does not cast a negative light of the love of God. The cross of Christ is meant to give us a choice. A real choice. Without the cross, we deserve Hell. No questions asked. But with the cross, we can choose to love God or not. Because that choice is what leads to true love, which is what God wants from us in the first place You should see the first part of this two part series http://bit.ly/dIaE7T It’s called “How Many Truths are There?” (I can’t believe I didn’t link it here).

@antwuanmalone
@antwuanmalone

Cool. Glad to hear that about John. It’s one of my favorites as well. You keep bring up “logos” and I think I would like you to tell me a little more about that. What is this “logos” universal claim you are speaking of? As for my comment, ‘If those following X religion wer to see Christ for the sole way to God that He is, then they doo could have the proper relationship with God,” aside from the arrogant sound of the statement (I think I could have put it differently), the point is that anyone can switch to believe Jesus, the Son of Yahweh God, as the doorway to proper relationship with God. It really goes with the other quote you wanted me to touch on “My interpretation does not exclude anyone. It does, however, exclude nearly every other religious idea…” I would begin to explain what I mean by offering may definition of religion. I do not, as you say, think religions are “made of their followers.” Religions are ideas and doctrines. People follow those doctrines and center their lives on them. You can reject the religion and not reject the people. In fact, Paul did this consistently in scripture. The people are not the religion. The people follow the religion. If the religion is false, and no one follows it, then the religion dies (not the people). So my point is that, as Christians, we do not need to give up on the followers of other religions. Jesus died for all, but the Bible requires us have faith in that fact to receive the grace it offers. (continue)

Crystal
Crystal

Thanks for replying Antwuan. I would like to start my response by clarifying something... I am a HUGE fan of the book of John. In fact, it is my favorite book of the Bible. The goal of my response was not to "discredit" John. It was to call attention to Evangelical Christianity's fundamental misunderstanding of the original use of this text. We read John 14:6 as an exclusive claim when the first and second-century Christians read the concept of the "logos" as a universal claim. After reading your comments, I'm mostly wondering if you might be willing to clarify something for me. You wrote: "If those following X religion were to see Christ for the sole way to God that he is, then they too can have the proper relationship with God." By definition, "other religions" don't see Jesus as the "sole way" to God. If they did, they would be Evangelical Christians, not "other religions." Which means that, as I stated earlier, your understanding of what it means to be "God's people" excludes 92.5% of the rest of the world. I guess, since we've established that we obviously disagree on whether or not other religions can have valid standing with God, my only question is: does it bother you at all that we (through our reading of the Bible) have branded 92.5% of the world as illegitimate in their own creator's eyes? If nearly 100% of the world is separated from God, what does that say about the last 2000 years after the work of the cross? Could the picture be bigger than what we see in our generation? I guess I'm just interested in hearing more about what you think of this topic. Another piece that I was hoping you might clarify: "My interpretation does not exclude anyone. It does, however, exclude nearly every other religious idea..." This sounds to me like: "My diet does not exclude liquids. It does, however exclude all drinks that may include liquids." I was confused when I read this because religions (like the church) are made of their followers. To exclude or delegitimize a religious idea is to delegitimize the adherents of that idea. In other words, Your comment giveth, and your comment taketh away. As for Exodus 19:5-6, the point of presenting this verse was to show that the Israelites were "specially" God's, but not "exclusively" Gods. There's a book by Kenneth Cracknell called "In Good and Generous Faith" that talks about this... It blew me away when I read it and saw the religious baggage we bring to the idea of a "covenant"... baggage that would not fit the Israelite world. For instance, we talk about "covenant" as exclusive marriage to one person and believe that God's covenant would only include one nation, but this concept of covenantal relationship existed in an ancient world where polygamy (multiple covenants) was an active practice. Cracknell's exploration of this really called me on my assumptions. I'm not trying to start a battle with scripture because frankly, such a battle could go on forever. (And frankly, I hate scriptural battles. They only lead to a stalemate.) Instead, I'm just trying to understand if **you personally** are still comfortable maintaining an exclusivist claim to God in light of the overwhelming number of people who are not having the Evangelical religious experience. In light of the statistics, how do you **feel** about exclusivism? Looking forward to your answer. Crystal

Crystal
Crystal

Hi Antwuan. I would like to challenge what you've written here. What you've presented is an Evangelical understanding of what the Bible and John 14:6 mean, but only 7.5% of the world are Evangelical Christians. Your reading of the Bible excludes 92.5% of the world from having any viable or valid relationship with their Creator. The exclusivist Evangelical reading of the "I am the way" text has led us to believe and propagate the claim that God created humankind for the sole purpose of damning billions and billions and billions and billions and billions of people to condemnation in this life and the next. What most of us don't know is that the book of John was written between 60 and 100 years after the death of Jesus as a response to philosophical treatises concerning the "logos" or "the word." The word "logos" was a universal truth, not an exclusive one. This text is more than likely showing us that Jesus, as a lifestyle (also known as "The Way" in that day) is a universal "truth"... When Jesus said "I am the resurrection" he meant "my pattern leads to the resurrection"... In the same way "I am the way" speaks to a patterned way. The ancient understanding of the philosophical "logos" has been lost because we've shrouded it in a form of religious egoism that makes us the "only ones" with whom God is in relationship, yet we forget that when God made his covenant with the ancient Israelites, he said that the entire world (all nations/the whole earth) were his people. (Exodus 19:5-6) The "I am the way" message speaks to the common thread of compassion that exists in every religion. I can't expound fully on this in a comment, so I'd like to share a link to an excellently-written and historically-grounded understanding of this text that explains it further: http://socinian.blogspot.com/2005/09/reinterpreti... I'm open to any discussion you'd like to have. Crystal

cushmanschronicles
cushmanschronicles

Antwuan: Nice post. I too used to dislike the not-absolutely-clear nature of God revealing Himself to me. It oftentimes gets a little frustrating when, for some specific cases, we aren't left with a clear picture. But over the years of studying Scripture and reading books by men and women much smarter than myself, I've come to enjoy the ambiguity - to some degree - because it provokes me to dig deeper; beckons me to go that extra mile with God. He's good at keeping our curiosity fresh - that is, only if we're really paying attention. I, too, must agree that Jesus is the only way, but I must admit that it is a completely subjective belief. I didn't sit down one day, lay out all the "options," and then decide that Jesus was the best one. No, in fact, I ran away from all the religious beliefs. If anything, God - Jesus - came to me. He disrupted my life when I needed Him most. It's been an awesome ride ever since.

Martin B.
Martin B.

Nicely written, Antwuan. It's so easy to see a blur of "truth" on a daily basis. Your total is $50.00 for this item... unless you have a coupon or are a good negotiator. Some pay $50, others pay less. Still, some pay more if they don't pay attention. Traffic lights aren't even decisive. There's green (go), red (stop) and yellow (make your best call). It's reassuring, comforting, decisive, and dependable that there is ONLY one way and that's through Jesus Christ. It strips away so many other "options" that are offered. Still, for some, it's a debate, an argument, or a theoretical truth. For me - it's absolute. Martin B.