Thursday, December 20, 2007


Christian wrote: "You say my doctrines make me exclusive, restricting people from coming to God except by the Christian path; well then, please tell me what you would call someone who claims that He is the "ONLY WAY TO GOD" as Jesus did in John 14:6? Jesus was very exclusive.

Michael's response: There are several ways, other than your literal exclusivistic way, to look at the John 14:6 passage where John wrote that Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life." So I will play the Bible game with you, what Jesus and Paul did in the synagogues, resorting to the religious level of argumentation, requiring a cold, humanly collected set of books over the Living Spirit. And while I hold that the Bible is human document filled with valuable spiritual insights as well as glaring human ignorance, I will assume for the sake of argument that the John 14:6 passage is from Jesus, and to be taken literally:


What do we we do with those who were 'saved' before Jesus arrived with the 'only way?'

What about those pre-Christian biblical characters like Melchizedek, Abraham, Hagar, Jethro, David, Elijah and thousands of others right up to John the Baptist who knew nothing about Jesus Christ's atonement on the cross, or any of the other Christian doctrines developed between 30 AD – 400 AD. In other words, "How did those Old Testament folks 'get saved' if Jesus was the 'only way'; how did they know God before salvation was accomplished or understood?"

I'm not sure why so many Christians avoid this topic, or sweep it away by simply saying, "Well, Jesus' work was anticipated and applied backwards." That's convenient, but it begs the question – how much or little did these pre-Christian people know about 'Jesus?' If they knew nothing but simple faith, then any human can be saved by trusting the inner voice of God as Abraham did. You do recall that Abraham had simple faith when God told him to go to Palestine (Genesis 12-17); that is all Abraham knew and yet he was counted righteous before God. In fact, according to Paul in Romans and Galatians, Abraham is considered the epitome and father of faith. Logically then, any human being who, like Abraham, hears the internal voice of God and responds is 'saved.'

If that was the case, then it would have been better if Jesus had never come and made it harder by introducing more information and difficult doctrines. It is currently harder to 'get saved' than it was for Abraham! Please give me your answer to this question based on what I just said, "How much did the Old Testament characters know about Jesus being 'the only way?'


The 'way, the truth and the life' phrase was a common Mishanic saying Jewish teachers used often when referring to their teaching from the Torah, "Torah is the way, the truth and the life."

The author is contrasting Jesus' universal grace teachings to the narrow exclusivistic teachings of Torah. The Jews had claimed that their narrow, exclusive religious 'way, truth and life' through Torah was the only entrance into the coming kingdom. John's gospel, on the other hand, made it clear that Jesus came to 'enlighten every man,' (John 12:32) 'draw all men to himself,' (John 6:) including women, Samaritans, sinners, adulteresses and even thieves dying on Roman crosses. Jesus' teaching, which was called 'the way, the truth and the life' was all embracing, all encompassing and free without doctrinal hoops to jump through. This notion is reiterated in an ironical saying found in Matthew, "Strait is the gate and narrow is the way, few will find it." Most Christians interpret that to mean that very few humans will 'be saved.' Ironically, Jesus was again comparing the narrow, ethnically based, exclusivistic Jewish theological gate which allowed primarily Jewish males who knew and obeyed Torah to the new gate of openness which Jesus demonstrated everywhere in the gospels. The 'narrow gate' Jesus spoke of was the gate of universal inclusivity, while the broad gate was the gate of sectarian exclusivism.

In other words, the majority report (broad gate) was of human religious systems which typically think only a few of the select elect will make it, while the minority report (narrow gate) of humans like Jesus, Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., hold that God includes all people based on unconditional grace and acceptance. So the 'way, truth and life' spoken of in John refers to Jesus teachings and actions which bring light to all men and draw all men to himself.

This grace teaching flies in the face of human ego and all social theory which documents that humans and animals prefer to remain in their own comfortable tribe or herd. Evangelical Christians, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims and most religious and political systems all prefer to fraternize with those who agree with them, thinking they are the only, or the best, way, truth and life. Only a few mystics and radicals like Jesus open the door for all humans with no restrictions or conditions except acceptance of the inclusive gift of immediate God connection. This is a gift we all currently have, we need only receive it: "To as many as received him, to those he gave THE POWER to become the sons of God." All humans have direct access to God (Christ), they only have to flip the switch of faith to turn on the POWER that is already present. That is why some passages seem to imply exclusivism; but as Jesus said, "I didn't come to condemn you, you condemn yourselves." Just as some slaves condemned themselves by refusing to accept the universal Emancipation Proclamation of Lincoln, so also many people suffer spiritual enslavement by stubbornly remaining in ego after they see a way out.


John's gospel always focuses on adopting and adapting Jewish religious ideas and idioms, always expanding them beyond the LITERAL (Bookish) meaning.

John 1:1-3 is an example, stating that 'in the beginning was the Word' which is taken from Genesis 1. But in John it is used of the pre-existent Christ. Also in John chapter 1, Jesus' gift of universal grace is contrasted to Moses who brought the limited law to Israel.

The Samaritan woman was also corrected by Jesus about her literal view of 'living water' and her literalness of holy geography when Jesus said that God resides neither in Samaria nor in Jerusalem.

Jesus referenced the 'serpent on the pole' from the book of numbers.

The list could go on and on. An honest reading of John's gospel makes it patently clear that literalists are, well, childish simpletons. John never meant his gospel as an earthly, physical science of religion, a display case of finished dogma, or an objective journalistic study of spiritual facts – John never meant to imply that Jesus was a literal lamb, an actual door, a literal resurrection, or any of the metaphors found therein.

In another place, Nicodemus, a literalistic Jewish scholar of The Book was ridiculed by Jesus for taking his words factually around the theme of being 'born again.' One could just as easily imagine Jesus saying to Nicodemus, "I am the way, the truth and life, no man comes to the father but by me." Then Nicodemus responds, "How can a human being be the way, the truth and life?" Jesus says back, "You are Israel's teacher, and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people (book literalists) do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?"

Jesus was referring to heavenly things, metaphysical concepts, truths beyond literal facticity. The phrase 'way, truth and life' referred to his simple teachings, 'trust in God' (John 14:1). If they couldn't trust in an invisible God, then he said they could trust in him, follow his example and teachings.

Only a person reading this passage 2,000 years later can insert the convoluted set of Christian doctrines into that John 14 passage. If Jesus had meant that 'way, truth and life' referred to a substitutionary atonement, a tripartite God, the virgin birth, an inerrant Bible and all of the other fantastical manmade dogmas added later, Jesus would have done so at the time. If these issues were that critical for the troubled disciples, they would would have been added. Only humans can turn a mouse turd into a speed bump. Jesus' simple intention in John 14 was to help the poor concerned disciples know that his way and truth about all inclusive love and life was more representative of God than the complex religious dogmas, rituals and teachings of the Jewish sectarian Torah. Torah, Law, was a good start, but it found it's fulfillment in the deeper teachings of Christ and Paul. And Spirit is still guiding us into even deeper truths today as we see the radical application of Jesus' declaration of universal love which transcends morality, politics, creeds and all humanly invented obstacles.

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