Editor’s Note: In November’s Cross Examination column, we considered the question “Do all religions point to the same god?” That article closed by stating, “Ultimately, it’s not about whether we humans can take different paths to find our way to the same God, but about the one God taking a singular way in Jesus Christ to come and find us.” This month’s reflection continues that conversation.
Making the Unknowable Known
The book of Acts describes how the citizens of Athens built altars to many gods, including one “to the unknown God” (Acts 17:16-34). In response, the apostle Paul tells them about this unknown God—specifically, how God, the creator of heaven and earth, has reached out to save humanity in Jesus Christ.
One of the remarkable aspects of this story is how Paul describes the way the unknowable God became knowable in Jesus, particularly in his death and resurrection. We often call this act “God’s self-revelation.” God, who is far beyond human comprehension, chose to become known to humanity.
Here is where we encounter one of the central truth claims of Christianity: though all of humanity’s religious efforts to grab hold of God fall short, God drew near to us and actually became one with us in Jesus Christ.
Truthing: Embodying God’s Love
One of my university professors said, “The greatest truth is not something we hold onto, but that which holds onto us.” What we encounter in Jesus Christ is this truth in action: God grabbing hold of us in love to save us—and the whole cosmos—from our sin and all of its consequences.
Jesus Christ, then, is the living, active truth (John 14:6) that embodies God’s love. As such, Jesus is transforming our understanding of truth from a noun that describes an abstract, philosophical concept into a living verb that shows us what God looks like in action. And what we see in Jesus’ truthing is the embodiment—the flesh and blood expression—of God’s love.
Astoundingly, because humanity was created in God’s image, when we look at Jesus, we are not only seeing who God is, we are also seeing the fullest expression of what it means to be human. Jesus, as the singular in-the-flesh expression of God’s love, reveals the truth about God and about us.
So then is Christianity the only true religion? Inasmuch as Christianity calls us to recognize our dependence on God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ in order for us to know God, to follow in God’s ways, and to be saved, then yes, Christianity is the one true religion.
However, this reality is not for us to boast about, take pride in, or lord over others, including people who follow other religions. As with every human community and institution, Christianity is full of people like me and you who bring their brokenness with them everywhere they go. Yes, the Holy Spirit is in the process of transforming us. But, as we’ve seen so clearly over the past year alone, Christianity can be co-opted by political agendas, Christians can be enslaved to a love of money and power, and the church can be an incubator for all sorts of sinful behaviors that repeatedly harm others, including systemic racism and sexual abuse. To the extent that we abandon our call to love our neighbors as God in Jesus loves us, Christianity fails to be the true religion.
The truth of Christianity leads us not to a position of pride over other people or even other religions. Rather, we are called into a humble way of life that seeks to embody the love of Jesus through the Spirit so that the whole world might come to know God, the creator of heaven and earth, in and through Jesus Christ. For the truth of Christianity is not that we somehow found our way to God, but that God, in Jesus Christ, came and found us.