The stacks of books was teetering as they were stacked one upon the other.
It was this past Sunday morning in my adult Sunday school class. I had begun a short series comparing and contrasting different world religions. The books were from many of those religions, and my Bible was, as always, on the pulpit in front of me.
In previous years it had begun to be somewhat popular for preachers to say or infer that all religions are equally valid and beneficial. In our day, the line has been moved even further into error; preachers now often give the message that all religions are actually they same, their adherents just do not realize it.
All gods by all names are viewed as merely different manifestations of the same God, and all books revered as holy are merely different ways that God has manifested himself. It is the old wagon wheel illustration; different spokes, but all leading to the same place — the center.
Truth, by its very nature, is exclusionary. When one finds what is true, that which is contradictory is thereby easily identifiable as false. Since two plus two equals four, we know that two plus two does not equal seven or three or five. Since I am Bo Wagner, I know that I am not Barack Obama or Rush Limbaugh or Little Orphan Annie. Since my mother is a woman, I know that she is not a man.
And it is this very nature of truth which tells us one thing very clearly about all of the world religions: they cannot possibly all lead to heaven. They most certainly can all have positive qualities about them; many of the world’s religions espouse acts of charity, and clean living, things that would do everyone good to observe. But they also disagree, not on the minor issues, but on the major ones. This is not an issue of whether or not to sweep the floor of the nuclear power plant on Tuesday or on Friday; it is an issue of whether or not you should keep the reactor cool and safe or allow it to overheat and blow up and kill tens of thousands of people.
The Bible says there is one God. Many other religions are polytheistic, believing that there are millions of gods. The Bible says that God is the author of creation, and far above that which he has created. Other books and religions are pantheistic, believing that creation itself is God.
The Bible says that Jesus is the very Son of God. Some of the books of other religions say that God never had a son. Some go so far as to say that it is the highest order of blasphemy to say that he does, and makes a person worthy of death.
The Bible says that Jesus died on the cross for our sin. The books of some other religions say that he did not die on the cross. The Bible says that He rose from the dead. Many other authoritative books of other religions deny the resurrection entirely.
The Bible teaches salvation by grace through faith; other religions lay out a list of works we must do to earn salvation. The Bible says that those who hold other religious beliefs or none at all are to be witnessed to, loved, prayed for, and offered the chance to freely receive or reject the message. Other religions go so far as to say that those who reject their message are to be forced to convert, and killed if they apostatize.
The totality of world religions is therefore not at all like a wagon wheel. They all start at different points, take radically different paths, and end at different destinations. Our question then becomes, which one is correct? The God who made us has clearly made us to seek him out, and therefore has surely left us a revelation of himself for us to follow.
We live in a free country, and everyone is welcome to peacefully and respectfully speak up as to why they believe their religion is the correct one. What one cannot logically do is claim that things which are in diametrical opposition to each other in so many essential aspects are all correct or even somehow the same thing.
Having read many, many books from religions ranging from popular to obscure, and having studied their founders and history, I have concluded that what Jesus said of himself in John 14:6 is utterly, thoroughly true, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
Bo Wagner is pastor of the Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, N.C., a widely traveled evangelist, and the author of several books. Dr. Wagner can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.