May 3, 2017 - I Am the Way

Jesus said to Thomas, "I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 14:6

This passage has been used for centuries as an excuse for Christian exceptionalism.  Jesus, it is argued, is saying that you must be a Christian in order to be saved.  I argue in my book that, if we do not have free will as science suggests, then what we believe or don’t believe is purely the product of our nature and nurture, and a just God would not reward or punish us according to what we cannot control. Christian exceptionalism is therefore not possible.

Two other possibilities present themselves:

The first is that Jesus is saying that his birth, death and resurrection accomplished something necessary to fulfill God’s covenant.  Without him, the promise made to all of humanity at Mount Sinai does not come to full fruition.  But then the benefits of incarnation are universal.  We don’t have to inclined to choose the way; the way has been opened whether we believe it or not and we are all happily compelled to walk it.

The second is that Jesus offers some information about God without which it is impossible to understand our relationship to Him. Jesus’s principal message was one of forgiveness.  We typically interpret that to mean sin avoidance, but Jesus really didn’t seem nearly as interested in avoiding sin as forgiving it.  It would have been nice, for instance, if Jesus told Judas not to betray him, or to tell Peter precisely the circumstances under which Peter could avoid betraying him.  It would have been nice if God didn’t harden Pharaoh’s heart multiple times in Exodus, essentially leading him into villainy.  We also interpret Jesus’s focus on forgiveness to mean an imperative that we forgive.  In fact, it appears Jesus was most often describing God’s decision to forgive (grace).  I believe it is God’s radical forgiveness and grace that is the necessary piece to complete the puzzle and understand our relationship to God. That insight is the only way to the Father.