Only One Way (Excerpt of Chapter 16)

[Excerpt from Chapter Sixteen of Buddha and Jesus: Could Solomon Be the Missing Link?]

By R. E. Sherman

Christianity is well known for its claims that Jesus is the only way to God. This claim is based on numerous biblical passages, including John 14:6b, where Jesus is quoted as saying:

"I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."[i]

What is less known is that one of Buddha's own proverbs makes a similar assertion:

    The best of ways is the eightfold; the best of truths the four words; the best of virtues passionlessness; the best of men he who has eyes to see. This is the way, there is no other that leads to the purifying of intelligence. Go on this way! Everything else is the deceit of Mara (the tempter). If you go on this way, you will make an end of pain! The way was preached by me, when I had understood the removal of the thorns (in the flesh).[ii]
In Buddhism, if you don't have purity of intelligence, then you are deluded and lost; so, in essence, Buddha was saying that his way was the only way.

Most people intuitively disagree with the notion that there is only one true way to God. Implicit in their thinking is the assumption that "good" people will go to heaven, regardless of their particular religion. That assumption feels logical and fair and helps to motivate good behavior. Yet this sensible notion is not without problems:

  • First, there is no clear standard as to what is good behavior. Many wars have been fought where both sides claimed God was with them. Killing was viewed as being "good" by both sides. Standards of what is good change over time and between different nations and cultures. People in the American South used to think it was good to put down blacks and discriminate against them harshly. No more.
  • Second, there is no clear cutoff as to how good one has to be to get into heaven. If you are 51 percent good and 49 percent bad, is that good enough? Wouldn't you have to be at least 90 percent good? Who knows, and who decides?
  • Third, this notion is not supported by the Bible. For example, the following verses contradict this notion: (1) "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins";[iii] and (2) "All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags."[iv]
  • Fourth, it makes Jesus out to be a liar. He claimed to be the only way to God, and if people can get into heaven simply by being good, Jesus wasn't telling the truth.
There are two types of religion that include belief in some kind of heaven:

  1. Those that claim that each person must earn his or her way to heaven by being a good person; and
  2. Christianity, which claims that no person, except Jesus, has ever been good enough to go to heaven. The Christian path is to admit that we are incapable of being good enough, and that, to be saved, we must put our faith in Jesus, his divinity and perfect goodness, and his sacrifice on the cross as the basis for entrance into heaven.
If it is true that no person can be good enough to go to heaven on their own merits, then none of the religions in the first category provide a way to God. This then leaves Christianity as the only way to God, and its claim makes clear sense.

[i] John 14:6b (NKJV).

[ii] Dhammapada 273-275 (emphasis added).

[iii] Ecclesiastes7:20 (NIV).

[iv] Isaiah 64:6a (NIV).
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