Why Christianity is Both Less and More Narrow Than you Think
I had an atheist friend ask me how I could live with the narrow claims of Christianity. “How do you feel about being so narrow minded?” he asked me. I was a bit amused by the irony of his question.
So, I responded to my friend: I am a Christian. Christianity is still the world’s largest religion, so that means I’m in agreement with a lot of religious people. Second, I believe there is only one God, and on that point I share agreement with even religions like Judaism and Islam that teach there is only one God. Third, I believe there is something outside of nature, some greater power, which according to international surveys, shows I agree with the vast majority of people breathing air on this planet right now.
“You, on the other hand,” I told my friend, “think they’re all wrong. Every religion. Every person who believes there is some kind of higher power or purpose. You believe every last one of them is wrong. Doesn’t that make you extremely narrow-minded?”
Now, my playful dialogue with my friend doesn’t prove Christianity. It proves my friend is far more narrow in his outlook than he realizes. But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who is more inclusive or the least exclusive, what matters is truth. And the fourteenth chapter of John’s gospel we see Jesus claims to be truth itself. He tells Thomas he is the way, the truth, and the life.
Don’t miss the humor in Jesus’s exchange with his disciples. Jesus tells them he has to go away, but it’s okay, he reassures them. After all, he tells them, they know the way. Thomas is standing there with his hand high in the air, at least that’s how I envision it when I read the text. Jesus is like, “O, y’all know the way.” Thomas is like, “O, no, I don’t.” It’s at that point we get this precious summary statement of Jesus saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
There is a God, and there is a way to him. His name is Jesus. That’s why Christianity is both less and more narrow than most realize. Unlike atheism, Christianity affirms the fundamental belief that here’s something more than nature. Christianity affirms the common claim many make from various religions that they have a tangible connection to God. It shares in common with all the great monotheistic religions the belief in one God.
Christianity is more narrow than many realize because it doesn’t end there. Jesus himself claimed to be the one way to the Father. While every way of seeing the world is at bottom exclusive to some or many others ways of seeing the world, Christianity puts its claims in historical cement. Either Jesus came, lived, died, and rose again, or he did not. If he did, that validates his claim to be the only way to God.
It’s not unloving, if you were trapped in a burning building, to point people inside to the way of escape. If there’s only one way out, every other way is blocked and burning, then you are being loving when you point them to the way out. To hem and haw, and get distracted, or mumble, or give several options for people to explore, would be careless and cruel.
Sometimes we feel embarrassed sharing our faith because we feel like it’s wrong to tell people the way to the truth. But if the gospel is true, the most unloving thing we could do would be to hide it. If there is a way out of the burning building, to get back to the illustration, then there is nothing more important than pointing people to the way of life.