William Cwirla (LCMS): When people say things like that, I always like to ask, “On what basis do you think that? What evidence can you put forward that this statement is true?”
It is true that all religious paths, save one, lead to the same place, but that place isn’t God. All religions, save one, hold that you must work your way to God, whether by your creeds, your conduct, or your worship. This is essentially the religion of the Law, something that all religions, save one, have in common.
The statement presupposes that we are on a search for God, much like a hiking trip through the mountains, and whether we take the high road or the low, we will all ultimately wind up in the same place. Buddhism essentially works this way, and even a surprising number of Christians have been caught up into believing this notion that all paths lead to God as long as you sincerely follow your chosen path.
The path is not ours to define but God’s. Jesus pointed out that the way to destruction is broad, and no one has trouble finding that road, while the way to life is exceedingly narrow, and those who find it are few (Matt. 7:13-14). Christianity is the only religion that is really a non-religion, in the sense that we don’t work to God but God comes all the way to us. “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 2:4-6). God in Christ does it all.
The narrow door Jesus was speaking of is the narrow door of his own death. We would not seek this door on our own, much less find it. Who in their right minds would construct a religion out of an all-sufficient, all-atoning sacrificial death of the Son of God in which the sinner is justified before God? To the wisdom of the world, this is utter nonsense, not to mention bad for morality in general. That’s why from start to finish, God must do the work of salvation for us. We would not have it this way on our own.
As with everything else in Christianity, it all hangs on the death and resurrection of Jesus. While it is theoretically possible that there are other ways for a sinner to stand justified before God, God has not revealed any. Instead, he sent his only begotten Son who claimed to be the only way to the Father (John 14:6). On its own, that might be an outrageous example of hubris on the part of Jesus. But then, he’s the only One who died and rose bodily from the dead. We’re going to have to take his word on that one.
Jason Stellman (PCA): Well, in a certain sense it is true that all paths lead to God. The Bible teaches that all people, great and small, rich and poor, will stand before their Maker. The problem isn’t getting to God, it’s being accepted by him.
Many today feel that God will happily receive all who stand before him with a smile and a warm hug (R. C. Sproul jokingly calls this view “Justification by Death”). But if we take a few moments to consider who this God is, it becomes necessary to reevaluate our position and question our confidence.
Let’s use the realm of civic justice as an illustration. Suppose there were a judge in a certain town who was known for being an accepting, gregarious fellow in private, and his magnanimous personality spilled over into his work. So when thieves, murderers, and kidnappers stand before him, he just can’t help but love them and let them off with a small slap on the wrist. If this were to happen over and over, the town would rise up and demand justice, wouldn’t they? And rightly so. We all have an inherent sense of right and wrong (which really flares up when we’re the ones wronged!) which tells us that criminals should be punished.
But whatever sense of justice and fairness we share as humans beings is there because we have been made in God’s image. If we think evil should be punished, how much more true is this when we consider God and his standards, his holiness, and his judgment? God is infinitely more pure, just, and offended at sin than we, and therefore his very nature demands that sinners be punished for their actions.
The good news, of course, is that God is also infinitely more gracious and merciful than we, and for this reason he has sent his Son into the world to walk in our shoes, live the life we have failed to live, and die the death that our sins demand. So though it is true that “all paths lead to God,” it is also true that only one of those paths leads to forgiveness and blessing. All others lead to eternal destruction.