Monday, January 28, 2013

Bridge Out

I like traveling. It's fun to pick out new destinations to visit and lay out a plan on a map to see how many interesting historical or scenic sights can be visited on the way. Yet gasoline and money are not usually in endless supply, so often the most economical route is chosen. Most people, too, do not have the time or patience to drive down every possible route to their destination.

Why, then, is there this tendency in culture to do the such a thing with spirituality? It is not difficult to find widespread examples of different spiritual beliefs in the news, movies, books, and even in music. Choice is good, but are all choices equal?

It has been said by some that there are many ways to God. Others suggest that all religions are valid and that all roads lead to the same destination.

Do they?

Consider Jesus' words in Matthew 7:13 (NKJV), "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it."

I've heard it said that maybe Jesus is just being too strict for our times nowadays. After all, the culture was different back then and look at all the world has to offer now in terms of religion. In Matthew 24:35, however, Jesus states, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away." (NKJV)

Here is an exercise. Try lining up the world's varied religions next to one other sometime. Compare their core beliefs. Do they really mesh together? Are they really all paths to the same destination?

Christianity is unique in many ways, but perhaps the most prominent way is that salvation is not dependent on the efforts of the believer...unlike the rest of the world's religions. In fact, in Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul writes, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."

Let's take another example: Hinduism relies on millions of gods. Yet in Isaiah 45:20-21, it states, "Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you who have escaped from the nations. They have no knowledge, who carry the wood of their carved image, and pray to a god that cannot save. Tell and bring forth your case; yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior; there is none besides Me." (NKJV)

Those don't sound like roads leading to the same destination.

Yet it is not hard to find the mixing of these belief systems today. Some have labeled this as merely an "Eastern way of thought", in that a person can hold two very contradictory beliefs at once. After all, you can readily find "Christian yoga" and prayer "labyrinths" on some church properties. It is one thing to hold contradictory beliefs. It's another when those beliefs are lived out and there are real-world consequences to holding on to them.

Case in point: believing in eternal life (via Christianity) and the achievement of nirvana in Buddhism. One relies on God, the other relies on human works. One results in eternity with God while the other essentially leads to "nothingness". To quote Gautama Buddha, "Where there is nothing; where naught is grasped, there is the Isle of No-Beyond. Nirvana do I call it—the utter extinction of aging and dying."

In short, there are two destinations in this example: somewhere and nowhere. One destination is brought on by an act of God while the other is brought on by an act of self-will. One destination results in ultimate fufillment while the other results in ultimate annihilation. One road leads to streets paved in gold while the other leads to a bridge that is out.

How can one be on the road to somewhere and nowhere at the same time?

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