Dr. Michael Layne
Greensburg Daily News
Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one can come to the Father except through me.” St. John 14:6
As our world’s population explodes, now having reached eight billion, it stands to reason that religions (or lack of them) and their various views will also grow. This alone thrusts us into the arena of needing to understand what is out there in the world of religion.
For humanity the question comes up often, “Do all roads lead to heaven?” or, “We are all working to get to the same place, we’re just doing it differently.” Really? How do we know everyone is striving for the same Heaven that we Christians believe in?
A Protestant minister has a daily radio program entitled, “Let My People Think!” I like that title. That is exactly what we need to do instead of taking my word or the word of any other pastor or theologian. Listen to what is being said, but allow yourself to do some critical thinking and pray that the Holy Spirit will give you clarity about your faith.
So, the question remains, “Do all roads lead to heaven?” Most people I have spoken with over the years will say no, but fail to give a good reason why they believe the way they do. From Christian to Christian, we may tend to say the catch phrases that sound good but, for the person who does not believe in Jesus Christ as the only Son of God, what do we say to that person? This is where we must put on our thinking caps, as my first grade teacher would tell us.
Maybe we should look at the differences in religion. First of all we must understand there is another force at work in this world. St. John 8:44 Jesus said, “When he (the Devil) lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar, and the father of lies.” There is a spirit of deception unleashed on this world and the enemy of our souls does not want us to worship the one true living God. Therefore, he will do all he can to make religion a pretty picture and lead us away from the One True Living God.
Let’s take a quick overview of the major world religions: Buddhist 6 percent, Hindu 14 percent, Islam 21 percent, Christianity 32 percent, Secular/non-religious 15 percent and Other 13 percent.
These are approximates percentages as the numbers will change on a regular basis. Again, there just isn’t enough space in this column to elaborate on the various religions and, Lord knows, we definitely would not have enough room to breakdown all of the doctrines in the Christian faith alone so, we will not visit that scene.
Each of the major religions I have mentioned above have a different view or kind of God with a different way of reaching him. Let’s compare the five major religions in our world.
Buddhism believes in an impersonal force. Their view of eternity is Nirvana and the way to God is through the Eightfold Path.
Hinduism believes in many gods. Their view of eternity is also Nirvana and their way to God is through multiple lives and death. The non-religious hold a view of God as none or unknown. Their view of eternity is that there is none and there is no God to be concerned about.
The Islamic view of God is Allah. Their view of eternity is Paradise and the way to God is through the Five Pillars.
The Christian view is that there is only One God. The view of eternity is Heaven and the way to God is through Grace.
Are you thinking yet? Have you made a choice? How do you defend your faith? If someone came to you and asked why you are a Christian, what is your answer? The question might be asked, “Isn’t the sincerity with which I seek God more important than the way I seek Him?”
Let me close with this thought: Suppose a skydiver mistakenly reaches for his backpack instead of the parachute just before jumping out of a perfectly good flying airplane. The skydiver is well-intentioned, but the backpack will not slow his descent as he approaches earth. It is possible to be sincere, but sincerely wrong.
As we approach Christmas we will, once again, hear the story of the Wise Men who came afar following the birth of our Lord.
They were guided by a star, yet during those times of cloudiness they continued their journey because they knew the direction in which they were headed was the correct one.
Do you have the assurance that you are going in the right direction? Do you continue your spiritual journey even when you seem hindered by the stuff of the world? As my Grandma would say, “You got to keep on keeping on!”
Michael Layne, PhD, ThD, is Bishop of the Diocese of East Indiana Lutheran Orthodox Church, author and can be reached at 812-662-5154 or firstname.lastname@example.org.