By J.R. Ensey
Jesus: “I am the way, the truth and the life...But strait is the gate and narrow is the way the leadeth unto life and few there be that find it...” (John
14:5,6; Matthew 7:13,14).
Early Christianity was called “that way” (Acts 19:9) or “the
way” (Acts 18:26; 24:14). They knew that Jesus had called it “the” way,
not “a” way, so they were comfortable using the definite article:
the or that. They knew Jesus was the way to God, to redemption,
to salvation, to heaven.
We used to sing an old song that
went something like this: “I’m in the way, the bright and shining
way, I’m in the glory-land way; Heaven is nearer and the way
groweth clearer for I’m in the gloryland way.”
In those days there seemed to be no question about “the way.” It was Jesus.
He was the only way to salvation. He was the only way to heaven. “I am the way,” He
And there was only one way. Nowhere does the Scripture suggest any
other way, nor does it describe Jesus as “a” way.
The Age of Tolerance
But today we are in an age of “tolerance,” and the term has been redefined by intellectual sociologists and even men of the cloth to affirm that there is no single way to God. Tolerance to the literati means that Christians must acknowledge the redeeming value of other religions—not
just other faiths, but other religions.
It is interesting that the Constitution
of the U.S. avoided making a particular denomination a national church to
which everyone had to belong. No “official” church could ever be established. It guaranteed freedom of choice—and no one argued with that. There was tolerance. Even though most early Americans were believers in Christ, Christians could tolerate non-Christians and non-Christians could tolerate Christians. Christians could even tolerate minor distinctions in one another as long as the fundamentals were embraced and protected.
America was founded by Christian believers and they wrote our laws based on biblical principles and an enlightened concepts of freedom from the tyranny of a state controlled by a religious hierarchy. Our founding fathers cast off that mantle of egregious concoction of religion and government. They didn’t relegate God to the ethereal hinterlands but did not allow for a national religion to be established like they had known in Europe and the Middle East. The American experiment worked and our tolerance for each other gave us room to be creative and the American genius was loosed to to ultimately become the mightiest nation on the earth.
Alexis de Tocqueville, a French aristocrat and philosopher, came to America in the mid-1800s to see what had made it climb so suddenly to the lofty heights it had achieved. After examining the country and feeling the heartbeat of its citizens, he wrote: “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”
That perceived “goodness” didn’t mean that every citizen was an angel in that period of time, but our national attitude was one of tolerance and individualism. Men’s minds were loosed to build, to create, to meet the challenges of nation-building like not other country before it. And tolerance for the religious preferences of others was built into the system. Our laws reflected the input of Christian concepts and our national leaders were men of conviction and most of them were men of prayer. A few relics of our past still linger—“In God we trust” is still on our coins. “One nation, under God” is still in our Pledge of Allegiance. We still have chaplains in Congress.
But suddenly we find our postmodern minds being squeezed by social pressures to change the meaning of tolerance to acceptance—even involvement. And not just by secular liberals; the hue and cry is for us to mesh our religions to create a smorgasbord of “spiritualities” from which to choose.
Today, the word “tolerant” has morphed into another word: pluralism. Under this heading, the social gurus have poured it into our collective minds that all uniquely “Christian” thought should be removed from our schools, our textbooks, our government, our laws, and ultimately from our minds. Equal time must be awarded to the Muslims, the Hindus, the Buddhists, New Agers and “spiritual” folk of every stripe. Accommodation of all views as “equal” is the new tolerance.
Laws are being passed to force upon us what we traditionally freely gave to each other. Legislators are prying the Bible from our hands and blasting its principles from the minds of our school children. And we have to helplessly sit by and watch it happen with acceptance or be labeled as “intolerant.” Sweeping into this vacuum created by pluralism is horrific violence, murders and massacres, gross licentiousness, rape and child abuse, and every form of low living that can be imagined—all for the sake of tolerance.
Other new definitions are thrust upon us. Sodomy is a word no longer used; now it’s just an “alternative lifestyle” equally as legitimate. “Husband and wife” are gradually being replaced by “partners” (of either gender, or no gender, or transgender, or...). Sin and Hell are words that are virtually outlawed. Salvation is not a spiritual rescue from debauchery, unbelief and ultimate damnation but merely a state of mind, personal fulfillment or an acceptance of divinity inherent in one’s
All of these forces are at work on those
who are called Christian ministers. Sadly, many of them are succumbing to
the spirit of the age and are refusing to continue to speak of “the way” and now referring to Christianity as “one of the ways to God” (whoever you might think him to be...even yourself). We are urged not to think of Christ as the only way, just one of a number of ways. The Bible is merely one of a number of holy books, along with the Q’uran, the Zend Avesta and Bhagavad Gita, et al.
Let me give you some examples. The book “The Purpose Driven Church” and “The Purpose Driven Life” are all time best sellers and are authored by Rick Warren who pastors a megachurch in the L.A. area. Pastors who ache for big churches travel to sit at his feet to learn his secrets, and they come away with their minds warped with pluralism and compromise.
“We must CHANGE!” he cries and preachers pick up the chant, parrot his phrases and adopt his concepts. Then they go home to put his plan into action—toss the hymnals, up with the “worship choruses,” lose the suit and opt for tee shirt and bluejeans, burn the pulpit go with stool and mike, arrange for choreographed jukers—and anyone who doesn’t like it, especially if you are over 50, there’s the door. The starry-eyed pastors have “big church” in their minds but truly have no idea where he is going to lead them. Tens of thousands of preachers attend his leadership conferences. His praise of the “emerging church” movement links him with Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, et al. (To see what goes on at the National Pastor’s Conference in San Diego check out truediscernment.wordpress.com. Have a barf bag handy.
Warren was mentored by men like Henri Nouwen, a Catholic mystic, who says, “I personally believed that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not....My call is to help every person claim his or her own way to God.”1 Another buddy of his, Leonard Sweet, pontificates that “one can be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ without deny the flickers of the sacred in followers of Yahweh, or Kali, or Krishna.”2 Wow...a wide gate and broad way, fashioned by our own imaginations. Contemplative prayer guru, Thomas Merton, said, “I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity.”3
Warren appreciates the works of Erwin McManus, Steve Chalke, Joel Osteen and other revolutionaries. Such men dare not inveigh against sin, for then they would have to speak of salvation, and that might get messy with concepts like redemption, the cross, and maybe even heaven and hell. And that might make Jesus the only way of salvation. Because he is involved in interfaith activities, even T. D. Jakes refuses to take a stand when asked if Muslims will be saved.4 Is universalism the next step?
Just add Jesus
The trend of these megachurch pastors is to just add Jesus to whatever “spirituality” you choose. Whatever religion you choose is OK, just include Jesus in it somewhere and you are fine. Rick Warren was speaking at a U.N. Prayer Breakfast when he said, “God doesn’t care what religion [you] are; just add Jesus to it.”5 He further claims to “know people who are followers of Christ in other religions.”6
Emergent church leader Irwin McManus who heads the Mosaic Church in Southern California, has said his goal is to “destroy Christianity as a world religion and be a recatalyst for the movement of Jesus Christ.”7 Others like Brian McLaren and Steve Chalke are committed to “saving Jesus from Christianity.” They want to remove Jesus from Christianity so they can tack Him onto Islam, or Buddhism or Hinduism or some other ism, so He is relegated to “a way” or part of a way but certainly not the only way. The sad thing is...Warren and those of his ilk have the ears of some Apostolic preachers. We can hear him through them.
Where is all this leading? These pied pipers are leading us to a godless society and where faith in Jesus as the only way is non-existent, where pluralism reigns, where Apostolic Christians like you and me are classed as “intolerant” and narrow minded.
Yes, call us narrow minded. That’s a phrase that Jesus used. It puts us in a class with Paul and Peter, with John and James and Jude. I personally am comfortable there.
There is only one Bible, only one God, only one plan of salvation, only one way to heaven, only one Christ whose blood will take away sin. There is only one church that we are translated into when we are redeemed. “Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it...” (Matthew 16:18).
My friend, it is time that we turn away from the false concepts of the new spirituality and get our heads back into the old black-backed Book that says “strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads unto life....”
How does one get into “the Way”? The same way Peter and Paul and the early disciples got into it: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”
Like Jesus said (in so many words): “It’s tight but it’s right!”
1. Henri Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey, 1998, p. 51
2. Idolatry In Their Hearts, Oppenheimer/Simpson; Aploogetics Cooordination Team, 2007
3. David Steindl-Rast, “Recollections of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West,” Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969
6. Idolatry In Their Hearts, Oppenheimer/Simpson; Aploogetics Cooordination Team, 2007