Upon seeing this article: Is Jesus Really the Only Way? by Dane Davis, we thought it merited a blog post, which you can read below. But first, here's the heart of the question as presented by the author of the article:
"As you probably know, by many measures Christianity is on a decline in America. Fifty years ago, the overwhelming majority of Americans identified as "Christian" and considered the United States to be a Christian nation. But as much as I hate to admit it, America is a Christian nation no longer. Each year hundreds of churches close their doors. More than ever before, Christians are marginalized and criticized. A large percentage of Americans don't believe the Bible to be God's word. And millions of Americans — even many professed "Christians" — proclaim, "If there is a heaven, Jesus is certainly not the only way to get there."
"In this age of inclusivity and tolerance, many Christians are hesitant or embarrassed to affirm the exclusivity of the gospel. They deem it to be a huge cultural blunder to declare Christianity to be true and every other religion to be wrong. Let's face it: We don't like to be labeled "intolerant," "narrow-minded" or "bigoted" by our culture. Therefore, we find ourselves second-guessing what the New Testament teaches about heaven. We think: Perhaps Christians have been too narrow-minded with their doctrine of salvation. Maybe we have misunderstood what Jesus and Scripture teach about salvation. Could it be that our belief in "Christ alone" is illogical and doesn't stand up to intellectual scrutiny?"
"Jesus couldn't have been more clear than he is in John 14:6: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." So, is Jesus the only way to heaven? Yes! Jesus revealed it."
Click to read the entire article here.
Questions that arise as we read this snippet from the article are: why are Christian churches closing their doors? Why are some Christians thought of as bigoted, intolerant and narrow-minded? Could it be that their insistence of accepting Jesus as the imperative for salvation is at fault? Could it be that they have mis-understood Jesus' teachings, thereby driving people away from Jesus, rather than to him? There's no blame intended here; after all, believers have only had the scanty accounts of Jesus' life and his teachings for two centuries. But now, we have The Urantia Book, which clarifies and completes these teachings in a way that is truly accessible to all seekers.
Anyone who is a serious student/reader of The Urantia Book will have no trouble whatsoever accepting Jesus; they know that Jesus and his teachings ARE the way to God … the way, the truth, and the life. At the same time, Urantia Book readers know that finding and knowing God is the mortal's primary purpose in life. This is what Jesus taught.
What did Jesus Say?
Context is everything. In The Urantia Book, we see these sayings of Jesus in a different light than those who see the acceptance of Jesus as a Biblically-mandated imperative for salvation. The Urantia Book reveals to us the true nature and purposes of the Master; it reaveals Jesus as Sovereign of a vast universe of his making; a universe teeming with planets and personalities who have benefitted from his bestowal on Urantia; beings who will all eventually meet Jesus before meeting the Father. Following is the discussion between Jesus and his apostles that contains the "No one comes to the Father except through me" statement. (The bolding of passages are added by ed.)
180:3.4 “Let not your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; continue to believe also in me. Even though I must leave you, I will not be far from you. I have already told you that in my Father's universe there are many tarrying-places. If this were not true, I would not have repeatedly told you about them. I am going to return to these worlds of light, stations in the Father's heaven to which you shall sometime ascend. From these places I came into this world, and the hour is now at hand when I must return to my Father's work in the spheres on high.
“If I thus go before you into the Father's heavenly kingdom, so will I surely send for you that you may be with me in the places that were prepared for the mortal sons of God before this world was. Even though I must leave you, I will be present with you in spirit, and eventually you shall be with me in person when you have ascended to me in my universe even as I am about to ascend to my Father in his greater universe. And what I have told you is true and everlasting, even though you may not fully comprehend it. I go to the Father, and though you cannot now follow me, you shall certainly follow me in the ages to come.”
When Jesus sat down, Thomas arose and said: “Master, we do not know where you are going; so of course we do not know the way. But we will follow you this very night if you will show us the way.”
When Jesus heard Thomas he answered: “Thomas, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man goes to the Father except through me. All who find the Father, first find me. If you know me, you know the way to the Father. And you do know me, for you have lived with me and you now see me.”
But this teaching was too deep for many of the apostles, especially for Philip, who, after speaking a few words with Nathaniel, arose and said: “Master, show us the Father, and everything you have said will be made plain.”
And when Philip had spoken, Jesus said: “Philip, have I been so long with you and yet you do not even now know me? Again do I declare: He who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you then say, Show us the Father? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? Have I not taught you that the words which I speak are not my words but the words of the Father? I speak for the Father and not of myself. I am in this world to do the Father's will, and that I have done. My Father abides in me and works through me. Believe me when I say that the Father is in me, and that I am in the Father, or else believe me for the sake of the very life I have lived—for the work's sake.”
Elsewhere, we have the beautiful "I AM" statements that identify Jesus as the Father incarnate. Anyone reading these beautiful statement might turn wholeheartedly to Jesus and his teachings!
What’s More Important…Knowing Jesus or Knowing God?
There are subtle differences between what traditional Christianity would have us believe and what Jesus actually taught. He was definitely declaring that he IS God, and that his teachings were to be considered as if God himself were teaching. But he never said we must first accept him as Savior before knowing God. He invited us to do so; he gave of himself in order to reveal God; he said that he was the way; but he never made knowing him as a requisite for salvation, as does modern-day Christianity.
Of course, once a seeker does know Jesus, they have found God; and conversely, when a seeker has found God, they can know him better by understanding Jesus, for Jesus has made the way to God plain; however, not all who find God find Jesus first. Does this make their experience invalid? Is their salvation in jeopardy?
On this troubled world, where even the very reality of God is in question with many, being told that you must receive Jesus before you can have salvation can be a real sticking point. Coming primarily from "churched" people, this imperative can have unwelcomed ramifications for the seeker who is only seeking assurance of salvation - life after death. Jesus can then become a hurdle - especially Jesus in the context of the numerous religions that exist in his name, but which are not always worthy representatives of his true teachings. Again, note the self-described adjectives in the article above: bigoted, intolerant and narrow-minded. These are not attractive qualities! Nor are they Jesusonian qualities.
The Transcendent Jesus
Many times in this blog, we have attempted to convey the idea that Jesus is not a Christian; he did not come to earth to establish a church, and in fact, Jesus transcends all church teachings of any evolutionary religion - Christianity included. He stands alone and above all of them.
Knowing Jesus as revealed in The Urantia Book may be a different experience than knowing Jesus as portrayed in the Bible, and by Bible-readers. Nonetheless, Jesus in The Urantia Book is a true revelation of his nature and mission, given to us by those who were witnesses to his life. This may be a jarring statement to some, but it may ring true for the sincere seeker as nothing else ever has.
It is certainly possible to know Jesus in our earthly life- we hold his Spirit of Truth in us, and through the ministry of that good spirit, we are equipped to fellowship with the Master; this good Spirit aids every seeker to find not only Jesus, but all truth, which always leads to God. But even if a believer fails to find Jesus on earth, that ascender WILL meet him in eternity.
How Will We Meet Jesus? And When?
In the ascension experience, there are many, many stops that the ascender will take before being ready to actually stand in the presence of God. And Jesus mentions this in the bolded passages above. Meeting God is not something that happens automatically, but is, instead, the culmination of a long series of transformations and spiritual advancements. And one of the steps that will take place is the actual meeting of the ascender with Jesus.
Jesus is the Creator Son - the Creator of this very universe in which we live. As such, we will all literally meet him before we have the opportunity to meet the Universal Father of all creation. That meeting is described here:
113:7.4 Before leaving the mansion worlds, all mortals will have permanent seraphic associates or guardians. And as you ascend the morontia spheres, eventually it is the seraphic guardians who witness and certify the decrees of your eternal union with the Thought Adjusters. Together they have established your personality identities as children of the flesh from the worlds of time. Then, with your attainment of the mature morontia estate, they accompany you through Jerusem and the associated worlds of system progress and culture. After that they go with you to Edentia and its seventy spheres of advanced socialization, and subsequently will they pilot you to the Melchizedeks and follow you through the superb career of the universe headquarters worlds. And when you have learned the wisdom and culture of the Melchizedeks, they will take you on to Salvington, where you will stand face to face with the Sovereign of all Nebadon [aka Jesus of Nazareth].
And the reason for this is simple: Christ Michael of Nebadon is the Sovereign of this universe; he is the representative of the Universal Father, and so, just as in an earthly kingdom, a subject may not be brought directly into the king's presence, but will first be received by those who are responsible for their particular part of the kingdom - we go up the chain of command, as it were.
Our particular part of the Father's creation is Nebadon, the universe that Michael (Jesus) created. And so, we will literally meet Jesus before we meet the Father, in his "greater universe"; this is the meaning of Jesus' statement: "No man goes to the Father except through me."
Creator Sons are the way-showers
The Urantia Book teaches that knowing God is of primary importance to a mortal being in order to secure salvation. The Paradise Sons - the Creator Sons, of whom Jesus is one, are the leaders, the divine-made-flesh who make it easier to find and know God because they are one of us – mortals such as was Jesus of Nazareth.
But is it possible to know God independent of these Creator Son bestowals? God has given a "spark" of himself - the Thought Adjuster - to each human in order to make that possible:
1:2.8 Those who know God have experienced the fact of his presence; such God-knowing mortals hold in their personal experience the only positive proof of the existence of the living God which one human being can offer to another. The existence of God is utterly beyond all possibility of demonstration except for the contact between the God-consciousness of the human mind and the God-presence of the Thought Adjuster that indwells the mortal intellect and is bestowed upon man as the free gift of the Universal Father.
5:1.7 Man is spiritually indwelt by a surviving Thought Adjuster. If such a human mind is sincerely and spiritually motivated, if such a human soul desires to know God and become like him, honestly wants to do the Father's will, there exists no negative influence of mortal deprivation nor positive power of possible interference which can prevent such a divinely motivated soul from securely ascending to the portals of Paradise.
5:5.13 Eternal survival of personality is wholly dependent on the choosing of the mortal mind, whose decisions determine the survival potential of the immortal soul. When the mind believes God and the soul knows God, and when, with the fostering Adjuster, they all desire God, then is survival assured.
99:5.2 Always keep in mind: True religion is to know God as your Father and man as your brother. Religion is not a slavish belief in threats of punishment or magical promises of future mystical rewards.
In Jesus' ministry, he did not often speak of himself; but he did speak of "knowing God' many times. He did not speak of himself in terms that would create the error that in order to know God, one must first know Jesus.
True, any seeker will find it vastly easier to find and fellowship with God as revealed by Jesus. But if Jesus is used to frighten and coerce a believer, the whole point may be lost.
Jesus – like the God he revealed – is a kind, gentle, loving, forgiving Father. He never pointed anyone to himself, but only to God. God-consciousness is the goal of every mortal’s quest for truth.
Knowing God - What Jesus Taught
Jesus, throughout his ministry exhorted his followers to find GOD - he did not refer to himself, but to the Father. For example, we find these advices of the Master. And these are but a few:
130:8.2 At Syracuse they spent a full week. The notable event of their stop here was the rehabilitation of Ezra, the backslidden Jew, who kept the tavern where Jesus and his companions stopped. Ezra was charmed by Jesus' approach and asked him to help him come back to the faith of Israel. He expressed his hopelessness by saying, “I want to be a true son of Abraham, but I cannot find God.” Said Jesus: “If you truly want to find God, that desire is in itself evidence that you have already found him. Your trouble is not that you cannot find God, for the Father has already found you; your trouble is simply that you do not know God.
132:4.7 To the speaker at the forum he said: “Your eloquence is pleasing, your logic is admirable, your voice is pleasant, but your teaching is hardly true. If you could only enjoy the inspiring satisfaction of knowing God as your spiritual Father, then you might employ your powers of speech to liberate your fellows from the bondage of darkness and from the slavery of ignorance.”
132:7.2 “Man must become hungry for truth as a result of the experiences of living, or he must desire to know God as the result of contact with the lives of those who are acquainted with the divine Father before another human being can act as the means of leading such a fellow mortal to the Father in heaven. If we know God, our real business on earth is so to live as to permit the Father to reveal himself in our lives, and thus will all God-seeking persons see the Father and ask for our help in finding out more about the God who in this manner finds expression in our lives.”
133:0.3 Said Jesus: “Though human beings differ in many ways, the one from another, before God and in the spiritual world all mortals stand on an equal footing. There are only two groups of mortals in the eyes of God: those who desire to do his will and those who do not. As the universe looks upon an inhabited world, it likewise discerns two great classes: those who know God and those who do not. Those who cannot know God are reckoned among the animals of any given realm.
133:3.7 As they stood there in the moonlight, Jesus went on to say: “There lives within every human mind a divine spirit, the gift of the Father in heaven. This good spirit ever strives to lead us to God, to help us to find God and to know God.”
Jesus did say that we should follow him, but in the opinion of this writer, he meant that we should follow him because he was leading us to the Father - not himself. The Urantia Book exhorts us to follow Jesus by studying his life and how he lived it - and the way he lived his life was to reveal God the Father.
196:0.13 Jesus does not require his disciples to believe in him but rather to believe with him, believe in the reality of the love of God and in full confidence accept the security of the assurance of sonship with the heavenly Father. The Master desires that all his followers should fully share his transcendent faith. Jesus most touchingly challenged his followers, not only to believe what he believed, but also to believe as he believed. This is the full significance of his one supreme requirement, “Follow me.”
God Revealed to the Individual
In reality, the revelation of The Urantia Book teaches us that all ascenders WILL eventually come to Jesus before seeing God, but isn't it of primary importance that a truthseeker might find the one, true God in and of him/herself as Jesus taught us to do? Jesus was, and is, the way-shower, but the path he shows us leads to God. The life he lived here revealed the invisible God to our "creature eyes."
180:6.8“...the Father himself loves you and desires to be more fully revealed to you. Mortal man cannot see the spirit Father; therefore have I come into the world to show the Father to your creature eyes. But when you have become perfected in spirit growth, you shall then see the Father himself.”
So, if a sincere soul seeks God, s/he certainly may successfully grasp God, even if s/he may not know Jesus all that well as yet. The Father has given a spark of himself for that very purpose - the Thought Adjuster - which aids the sincere soul to do just that. And that spark of God is sufficient to guide the seeker to God, with all other spirit influences as complimentary to that purpose. Those influences include Jesus' good Spirit of Truth and the ministry of the Holy Spirit, all of which work together with the soul and mind of man to deliver him to the safe shores of fellowship with God, even while in the earthly estate.
Jesus came to fellowship us, to help us find God. He is God, true - and he is also our human brother whose life is a testimony to the love of God. We can follow him unreservedly; and in following Jesus, we do find God. Let’s not make Jesus a stumbling block, but a friend, an example, an inspiration who will lead us to our ultimate adventure – standing in the Presence of God.