Monday, April 21, 2008

The way the truth the life...

This past Sunday’s Gospel reading included the following text:
Joh 14:6 Jesus answered him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me”.

So what do I do with this verse?

1. Did Jesus mean to say that all other religious beliefs are false and that only Christians get to God? Some Christians think this is so, and have been known to say things like “Christians are saved and all other beliefs / lack of beliefs are not” or “Christians need to get the world saved because otherwise you will not know God, and then you go to hell”.
2. Did Jesus mean that while all people have some kind of understanding of God, Christian people have a unique understanding of God as Father.
3. Did Jesus ever say this at all? Is it not perhaps words attributed to Jesus by the writer of John’s Gospel at a time of vigorous religious debate and search for a Christian identity between Hellenistic Christians, Jewish Christians, Gnostics and other competing religious positions? These words are thus used to reassure the Johannine readers that they are on the right track.

Personally I believe that Jesus would never have said something that sounds like people can be “shut out” of God’s presence if they do not know the right formulas or observe the correct form of religion (in fact Jesus criticised the spiritual leaders of his day for doing such a thing). It is far more likely that this is a reminder of Jesus’ teaching that it is possible to discover a personal/ intimate relationship with our creator akin to a father-child relationship.

Sadly – many Christian people have not understood this and have used this text as a way of suggesting that only Christians are the beloved of God. I recently discovered a preacher by the name of Angus Buchan who gathered 40 000 Christian men on his farm this past weekend to reinforce the idea that they were right. In the words of Buchan : “I believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost: they that are saved - unto resurrection of life – and they that are lost - unto resurrection of damnation”. Pity about the homosexuals, and the Buddhists, the alternately religious.... and whoever else does not fit this White Anglo-Saxon Protestant brand of faith.

The loving Grace of God is not constrained to a particular brand or format. Let God be God. And let us be open to be led by God’s Spirit wherever the journey takes us.


Paddy said...

In my father's house there are many dwelling places. There is so much reassurance to be taken from this passage. Partly because it means being able to close the door on those 40,000 and seek solace elsewhere...

John van de Laar said...

I have, for the last decade or so, viewed these words of Jesus as some of his most inclusive, rather than exclusive.

What I mean is this: I believe Jesus is saying that if you seek God, you will find Jesus when you get there. So, however you choose to search for God, ultimately, you are journeying toward Jesus.

I realise that this may seem offensive to those who feel that to find Jesus at the end of their search would be to violate their own faith, which may reject Jesus's claims (or those made for him by Christians). It is not intended to be offensive in this way. It is simply meant to open the idea that ultimately any search for God, will lead us to the same God that Jesus taught, revealed and demonstrated - and this God is not exclusive, but inclusive.

C.S. Lewis says much the same thing in the metaphor at the end of "The Last Battle" (The final instalment of the Chronicles of Narnia). Here a Tash (the "other" god in Narnia) worshiper who has sought to follow Tash with compassion and kindness, is welcomed into heaven by Aslan, because he was searching for God, and found Aslan at the end of the search.

I'm not sure where Christianity ever got this idea that we were some exclusive spiritual club that were God's special favourites. Good Lord, please deliver us....

Sacredise- Seeking to be Fully Alive
Sacredise Blog

Wessel Bentley said...

Pete, in my understanding the three entrances in the temple (to the outer court where women worshiped, the holy court where men, priests and elders worshipped and the holy of holies where the high priest met God once a year on behalf of the nation) where called "the Way, the Truth and the Life". Jesus is hereby saying that people do not need to use religion or other people to gain access to God's presence. Through Jesus, the possibility is created for all to meet with God at any time. God therefore breaks free from religion and engages in relationship.

For what it's worth.

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