Monday, September 20, 2010

Do All Roads Lead to God and Heaven?

Recently someone in conversation with me raised the question if it wasn't possible that there could be more than one way to find God. Since God is a God of love and wants everyone to be in heaven with Him why could He not accept people who take a different religious path than the Christian one?

I lay awake that night thinking about it and I realized that the pat answer of "Jesus said there is only one way - a narrow one" answers the question for most Christians but everyone considers their religion to be the true path to God. Also over recent years, the teaching of Universalism is being considered by more and more people.. even evangelical Christians.

As I thought about the question, I wondered if thinking outside the 'religious box' would give me an interesting perspective. It did... and I would share my night time reasonings here.

If all roads lead to heaven …. Then …
1. there can be no absolute truth about God - Every ‘path’, every religion has its own definition of God and if all paths are valid then so also are each of their defining boundaries and statements of belief. If what each path says about ‘God’ is valid then the only authority is self-authority -- God’s ‘truth’ is moulded to fit the image of what is acceptable to the adherents of each path or religion.

If all roads lead to heaven … Then…
2. there are can be no definition of sin. A definition of ‘sin’ is based on an accepted or commonly recognized standard of right and wrong. If there are many paths to God, then there can not be a determined set of rules that govern right and wrong definitions because each ‘path’ will develop or evolve its own standard of what would, within that path, be considered ‘sin’. To have an objective and conclusively authoritative law governing what is ‘sin’ , all paths would have to hold to the same standard, which removes the freedom to determine one’s own path to heaven.

If all roads lead to heaven …. Then…
3. there can be no One Person in authority - Without doubt, the stability or worth of a company will be judged by how well that company operates according to the vision or authority of the owner/President of the company. If the owner is either an absentee boss or one who is easily swayed by the opinions or inclinations of his workers the company will soon be in chaos. For the company to be successful and respected there must be a good strong ‘leader’. And a good strong leader will uphold and insist on things being done according to his vision and purpose for the company, as well as his own benefit! If a company for any length of time leaves its employees to their own inclinations and self-employment , the ‘owner’ will soon be completely out of the picture as the recognized President of the company and probably the company itself will ultimately self-destruct.

If all roads lead to heaven …. Then
4. There can be no utopia of peace and harmony – i.e. no ‘heaven” . There is a basic misconception that lies at the bottom of the opinion that there could be many ways to heaven. The underlying belief is that ‘heaven’ is simply a destination and just like any earthly destination can have many roads leading to the same place, so also heaven. It is simply the destination that is important. But an earthly destination, such as the city of Vancouver might be, is ever changing based on the desires and inclinations and personalities and beliefs of the people who arrive there and make it their home. Vancouver today is very different than it was 50 years ago… and is filled with the varied kinds of people who make it their destination. When they arrive in Vancouver they bring to the city their own flavour of personality and beliefs and they work toward having their own goals realized. If they were a criminal entering the city, they continue to be a criminal and influence the city’s standard of life. If there is not a strong leader with high ideals for the city that are consistently enforced then the city will go down to the standard of its lowest citizens. So if ‘heaven’ is simply a destination to which all roads are equal , then heaven cannot be the utopia that the word ‘heaven’ brings to mind. For heaven to be an eternal utopia, there must be strict rules of entry and obedience to the conditions set by the King of that Kingdom, otherwise its utopia will be a myth.

If all roads lead to heaven … Then …
5. there is no inspired writing - no communication directly from God If we consider all roads and all religions being valid paths then the conflicting writings of the different paths cannot all come from One Person or One God - unless He was being purposefully confusing. We would find it hard to conceive of a country or company’s President who sent out totally conflicting memoirs or instructions or directives. He would never have the people’s confidence nor their respect.

So if we are willing to follow the above reasoning logic and realize that to believe many paths lead to ‘heaven’ is self-defeating then we have one more question to settle.

If there is indeed only one way to heaven, then how do we know which path is the right one?
While each person will have to determine their own choice…. Here are several reasons why I believe that the Bible is indeed God’s inspired truth and that it alone reveals the one path that leads to eternal life in ‘heaven’ !

1. Of all the books in the world the Bible is the oldest, containing the earliest written records of history. Even though it is thousands of years old, it is still the number one best seller in the world.. In fact, it has for so long been the best seller of all books that you no longer see it topping the best sellers lists. It is simply a given!
2. The Bible contains the historical path of the oldest religion. All other paths came later.
3. No other ancient book of religion contains so much historical and scientific and medical information , none of which has ever been proven to be false.
4. Even though the Bible has been translated and passed on from generation to generation, when the Dead Sea scrolls were found in 1948 with original manuscripts they proved to be virtually identical to the modern translations of the bible.
5. The Bible is the only religious book that is filled with prophetic predictions of what was to come many years.. sometimes thousands, in the future. Every prophecy is perfectly fulfilled … except for the few that are yet future.
6. The Bible is the only book written by about 40 men over a period of 4000 years, most of whom never met each other and yet none of their words conflict or contradict each other… but all hold to a consistent message. Ask any judge to see how hard it it to get three people who witnessed the same accident to agree on the details. And yet the bible writers agree in all details. That can only prove that they were inspired by One Divine Author.
7. Only the Bible correctly predicts a Savior, the Messiah who would come… and only the Bible tells the story of a ‘God-man’ that conquered death and was resurrected -- with historical proof.

If we settle once and for all in our mind that there is indeed only one way to God and one path that leads to heaven, would we not then , with utmost diligence, strive to make sure that we are on that path and make the Bible the most read/studied book in our hand ?


Sunday, September 19, 2010

How Will You Be Remembered? - book review for "Out Live Your Life"

Max Lucado begins his book with a fable.
The story takes place in a little village that is thriving in ways that are astonishing. A guest asks how all this has been accomplished and the response is that it is all Father Abraham’s doing. When the guest asks to see where Father Abraham lives , he is taken to the wonderfully stocked and staffed medical clinic and to the fishponds to see the extensive canals that connect the ponds to the ocean bringing the fish in through the gates at high tide for harvest. The guest is taken to a chapel high on the mountain and told that Father Abraham has taught them about God.
When the guest asks if Father Abraham lives in the chapel and can he see him , he is told that is not possible since he died many years ago. The confused guest is told that he had not asked to see Father Abraham but had asked to see where he lived and they had showed him.

The theme of Out Live Your Life seems to be a popular one in today’s literary world… -that we CAN make a difference in our world, a difference that will outlive us and continue to bless others even after we are gone.

Each of us is given a life that has never nor ever will be ever given to anyone else. It is our life alone. Do we do our part to make a difference in our world or do we simply turn away from opportunities or challenges, pretending not to see.

The author takes the reader through the chapters that each deal with a different aspect of changing your world , such as how a simple act can have far reaching effects, finding the work that you feel most comfortable doing , the importance of teamwork, seeing the need- then doing our small part and God doing the big part, doing good quietly – not with ulterior motives or self-glory, staying humble - “we can rise too high but can never stoop too low” , the importance of prayer. He addresses the fact that often we feel we are not qualified but he gives examples of how the least qualified have often made the biggest differences in their world – differences that long outlived their physical lives.

At the end of the book is a discussion guide making this book applicable for a group study.

I always enjoy Max Lucado’s gift with words, using them in his unique picturesque style which makes reading his books a pleasure.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Living the Butterfly Effect

The gift book “The Butterfly Effect” is just that .. a gift book. It is beautifully and artistically put together – the kind of book that is visually appealing.

The word content left me somewhat disappointed. It left me wishing the author had fleshed out his good ideas into a fuller text where the thoughts and stories were more developed. Perhaps that was not the intent of the book.

The Butterfly Effect is based on Edward Lorenz’s hypothesis that if a butterfly flaps his wings, setting molecules of air in motion, it would eventually result in a hurricane on the other side of the earth.
Andrews takes this idea and applies it to the idea that each of our actions have that kind of effect. None of us can say that we are not important or that our life does not matter. We affect others by our words and actions in ways we cannot see.

In the book, the author uses real life stories to demonstrate how a seemingly isolated or simple act/decision of one person changed the course of history.

Not one of us is created without purpose, not one of us is expendable in the eyes of God and we have within us the potential to make a difference in the world in which we live.

This book, like all of Andy Andrews books, is thought provoking in its unique presentation.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Long Tailed Black Bear

Last week my husband and I went for a Sunday drive. Not far from our home we came across this bear beside the road snooping around a farmer's corn field.
We of course stopped and got out of the car for some photos.
It was not until we downloaded our photos that my husband called me to show me this shot of the black bear from behind that revealed a long tail !
Impossible we declared ! but there it was, the photo had captured it .
We showed my daughter who exclaimed her surprise, my neighbour lady was also impressed and asked for the photo to show her husband.
Then we showed it our son-in-law who looked and asked "Is it photo shopped?"
We told him not at all, that was how we took the photo.
"Weird!" he exclaimed. He stared at the photo, handed it back and then asked for it again. Looking more intently, he suddenly started to laugh and pointed out that it was simply a green plant that divided his hind leg in two and made it appear like a tail.

We had all been fooled !
While we laughed in embarressment, it made me realize the power of suggestion and the ease with which the eye was tricked into seeing something that wasn't there.

The bible warns us not to be deceived and of course none of us want to be or intend to let ourselves be drawn into deception. But it happens easier than we care to admit.
How do we guard ourselves from deception ?

My husband and I knew that black bears do not have long tails. But we allowed our eyes to convince us to over rule what we knew to be true and find reason to believe something contrary. Maybe this was a strange freak of nature !

Satan is on the prowl tricking us to see things contrary to what we know to be true from God's Word.
We know God's commandments but how easy is it to justify the reasons the commandments don't apply in our situation.
We know God's Word but often science offering contrary evidence is easier to believe - even though we know that science is constantly updating its discoveries while the bible has remained unchanged for thousands of years and has yet to be proven to be in error.
Sometimes it is easier to trust someone else's research/opinions than to do our own homework and find the truth for ourselves.

Do we think that we can play with sin and escape the consequences?
Gal 6:7 "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap."

Do we think we can fill our minds with the images/thinking/language of the world and keep company with those who delight in the things done in darkness and not be affected ?
1Co 15:33 "Do not be deceived: "Evil company corrupts good habits."

Do we think that men wise in the eyes of the world have advice superior to God's words?
2Co 11:3 "But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. "

Do we think we can live according to our fleshly pleasures or weaknesses and keep our place in God's Kingdom ?
1Co 6:9 "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived."

Do we believe that there are many ways and paths to God rather than only one way of truth?
Luk 21:8 "And He said: "Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am He,' and, 'The time has drawn near.' Therefore do not go after them."

Do we believe that in our enlightened society deception is less prevelent ?
2Ti 3:13 "But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived."

In the end it will be God who is right and every contrary opinion found to be a lie.
Jas 1:16 "Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren."

"Let us watch and be on guard... keeping ourselves in the light of God's Word where we are safe from deception !"