For centuries, Christians have not only believed but vigorously defended the view that Jesus is the one and only way to God. As a Christian myself, I was one of these who not only believed this but was ready to argue and debate with anyone who questioned what I thought was an unquestionable claim made by none other than Jesus himself. That claim is recorded in John 14:6. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except by me." To me, for someone to question this bold assertion was tantamount to heresy. In fact, I mistakenly thought that, if a person did not believe that Jesus was the one and only the way to God, he or she could not be a Christian at all.
Admittedly, I no longer believe any of this. In fact, now that I know myself a little better, I realize I only vigorously argued this erroneous belief regarding Jesus because I secretly feared Jesus might not be only way to God. Further, I quietly reasoned, and feared, if Jesus wasn't what he claimed to be then that made him nothing less than a raving lunatic. This still is the primary argument many Christian apologists make for arguing that Jesus is the only way to God (see the writings of Josh McDowell, as an example). The real truth, however, is this: "You only believe the things you're not certain about," as a wise spiritual teacher once put it. For example, you do not believe in the sun, do you? Of course not! What is there to believe in? That it exists? But, you know that it does because you can see it, feel its warmth, as well as observe its effects. It makes no sense to say, therefore,, "I believe in the sun." Or, "I believe, as scientists tell us, that the sun is very, very, hot place and that it provides us light." We know all of these things to be true without having to believe they are. So, there's nothing to believe in. It is only ever what you believe in, but cannot know for certain, that typically morphs into a "belief" and so needs defending. What you really know never needs defending. To put it in a more familiar way, "Truth needs no defense."
Deepak Chopra once said, "Beliefs are a cover-up for insecurity." This means that louder and more definitive a person argues his or her point of view is often an indicator of the depth of insecurity he or she feels with their arguments. You have likely heard preachers shout as they were preaching. They do this because many of them are not only insecure with who they are but they are equally insecure about what they're saying. I know this because I was one of them for more than two decades. It took me a long time to realize this very simple truth. We often get our little egos wrapped around even smaller belief systems and then feel, whenever someone questions those beliefs, that we are being personally attacked. So, after all these years, here's what I can say with certainty. Here is what I know, not just a belief.
First, I know that no one knows it there is a God, much less a way (or, the way) to know God, whether by Jesus or any other means. For myself, the most I can say with certainty is that I have had some kind of inexplicable experience that continues to transform how I look at myself, how I feel about the world, how I view others, and the way I live my life. This experience of inner transformation has been so profoundly life-altering that I know of no other way to explain it but to point to the possibility that what I've experienced is God, or Transcendence, or Universal Intelligence, or Consciousness itself. The name, as well as the sex, matters not to me. Further, I feel no need to argue and defend whether what is happening to me is God or that the effects are transformational. I can see the results in my own life. So can others.
Second, I also know that, the more I give my attention (and for me that's through meditation) to this "Holy Other," as Rudolph Otto called it, the more at peace I am, the happier I feel, and the more completely satisfied with everything, including my own life, that I am. I find all of this amazing indeed. When people press me for proof or wish to argue with me about my beliefs, I find myself saying only what the blind man said when Jesus healed him. His accusers demanded an explanation. His was, "I was blind, now I see." I have learned, for those who really see, that explanation is enough. For those who don't, it's never enough.
What does any of this have to do with Jesus and whether he's the only way to know God? Everything indeed. Although I grew up in a Christian home, followed in my father's footsteps and became a minister, went to college, then to eight years of theological training, earning a doctoral degree in theology, I cannot say that I really knew this Transcendence. I knew about God, but I cannot say I knew God. I believed many things about God but, in terms of knowing an inner, Eternal and transformative Presence, I did not. Although I said I believed in Jesus and so vigorously preached that he was the only way to salvation and eternal life, I cannot say it made much difference in how I felt about myself, treated others, or viewed the world. Salvation was little more than a ticket to some make believe world in the future after death. As far as Jesus' teaching as a way to live my life here and now...as a way to know and enjoy spiritual enlightenment in the present moment was inconceivable. Eckhart Tolle said, "Even belief in God is only a poor substitute for the living reality of God manifesting every moment of your life."
There are scores of "Christian" people today who maintain that Jesus is the Savior of the world but, for most of them, Jesus is a Savior from this world instead of a Savior for this world. That is to say, they mistakenly think, just as I did, that Jesus came to save them from this world instead of show them how to live in this world and so be at peace with themselves and with others. Therefore, I now know that when Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth...no one comes to the Father but by me," he was not saying, as Christian history has mistakenly thought, "There is no other way to God but by me." He was simply saying instead, "The way I live is the way to know God--it's also the way to live happily in this world. If you want to know God, follow my way...emulate how I live, how I think, the way I treat myself, others, and the world."
This truth, this knowing, has radically altered how I read and interpret all the words attributed to Jesus in the New Testament. For example, throughout most of my life, I read Jesus' words, "Have no enemies," as something humanly impossible, except for someone Divine like Jesus. I dismissed these words, as do most Christians, as an ideal that was wonderful to imagine but too lofty to attain. I now realize Jesus meant exactly what he said. Furthermore, you're just playing games to say you believe in Jesus but dismiss his way of life and teachings. Only real followers, serious about living a transformed, enlightened human existence as he did, will take serious these words and so live by them.
The Christian church today is full of believers but few people who know Jesus, the God he knew so well that he called him Father, or the eternal, transformative Presence of Christ in themselves. If they did, for example, no longer would they view the Iraqis' and the Iranians the way virtually everyone else in America does - as the enemy. They would, as their leader, have no enemies. This, then, is what it means to be a follower of Jesus. This, then, is what Jesus meant by "I am the way...to God." What he was saying is this: "Unless you live as I live, you cannot know the God I know."
So, today this I can say that I know with certainty: I am coming to know this kind Christ-spirit within myself. It is enlightening. It is inexplicable. It is full of joy, peace, and tranquility. It is not a belief, but a knowing. An inner experience of the Divine that is, in-and-of-itself, divine. I want nothing nothing more. I need nothing less.
If you'd like to explore how to know God and a host of other questions related to the spiritual life, I'd like to invite you to read the book, The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God. In it, I share many of the things I've learned about this and other important matters pertaining to spirituality. In fact, I'd be happy to send you a complimentary chapter of the book in PDF format, for free. Just send me an email and I'll shoot you a chapter from The Enoch Factor. Email: email@example.com.