Are There Many Paths to God?

Quite a few people to whom I have corresponded recently have told me that they believe that there are "many paths" to God. They believe that each of these paths is equally true.

For example, I may say that Christ is the Son of God. My friend says that Allah is God and Mohammed is his Prophet. My other friend believes that Joseph Smith was visited by the angel Mormoni who gave additional instructions for the church. Another believes that living a good life will get him into Heaven, while another believes that this is not sufficient - only a confirmed belief in Jesus is adequate to get to Heaven.

How do we choose? There are many who believe that we cannot and should not choose. They believe that all of these paths are equally valid ways to "know God". Well, folks, that concept doesn't pass muster with me. It is a lazy man's way out. You see, it appears to me that most people who espouse this concept haven't examined it in much detail. Because "many paths" is cotton candy theology -- it looks and tastes great at first bite but dissolves pretty quickly to almost nothing when you chew it around a bit.

The Logical Problem

According to the "many paths" concept, there exist dozens or hundreds or thousands of "paths to God". One "path" is Catholic Christianity. Another path is Southern Baptist. A third is Islam. Another is yoga. The Krishnas have another and the American Indians have their ways. It's all very tolerant, very easy. No one should judge another's "path", because by definition, it must work for them. If you can't find a way to God from the list that you like -- create your own religion! After all, if there are so many different paths, then who's to say that your new way isn't just as valid as Buddhism or Islam or Methodist Christianity?

A path to know God is actually a claim of ultimate Truth. Each of those many paths claims to be a True description of the Universe and God. After all, a religion that didn't claim to be True wouldn't be much of a religion, would it?

So what we are really discussing is the question of Truth. The concept of "many paths" to God is actually a statement that there are many different, co-existing Truths. Co-existing Truths? Isn't "many paths" the statement of Truth?

No. Let's look at those "many paths". Several of them claim that they are the only way. Judaism, Catholic Christians, and many Protestant denominations claim that their path is the only path. Now follow me logically.

If there are several paths that go opposite ways and claim as a vital part of their path to be the only way, how can they both be True at once? Especially if they offer contradictory ways.

In the Christian Bible, Jesus says plainly "I am the way, the Truth, and the life: No man comes to the Father, except through Me." (John 14:6)

That is a rather bold, straight-forward statement. It says very plainly that there is only One Path.

Now the "many paths" concept says that the Christian Bible is one of many equally true paths. Yet Christianity says that there is only One Path. So the "many paths" concept, by embracing Christianity as well as the other "paths", concludes that both

  1. The only way to God is through Christ.
  2. There are many ways to God.
How's that again? We have two contradictory "Truths". That is logically impossible. Both statements can not be true. And therefore the "many paths" concept can not be true. One of the "paths" must be Truth. And we have just shown that the "many paths" statement can not be True.

Now, this does not prove that Christianity is True. Real Truth might be any one of the hundreds of other paths. But it does prove that the "many paths" concept is not Truth.

This creates quite a problem for the believer in "many paths". The appeal of this concept is largely because it requires such little work. It is a great theology for the lazy. After all, if you have a pet sin that that you enjoy, it is easy enough to look around and find a "path" that will accept your sin. And if you can't find an existing path that will take you, simply create one.

Now, the "many paths" believer will actually have to consider trying to determine which of the many paths is actually Truth. And once you find out which path is True, change your lifestyle to fit that Truth.

The Existential Problem

Now some more "advanced" thinkers will have spotted that there is a logical way to continue to support the "many paths" concept. That way is to say something like:
I have learned that many things require us to hold contradictory views of reality in our minds at the same time. For example, physicists found out that light behaves as both particle and as waves. And Christians claim that Jesus was both God and Man. So I can see how Christianity can be true and the "many paths" concept can be true at the same time.

Well. I can't. You see, I've received a degree in Physics, and I've studied the Dualism/Trinity question in some depth. In both of those cases, we don't have two contradictory truths. In both cases, a perfectly sound explanation can be made. Light acts just like a wave that is very bunched up so that it hits as hard as a particle. See my explanation of the Trinity using an analogy to modern software to understand this concept.

But the contradiction inherent in the "many paths" concept requires a believer to believe in two or more Truths (actually hundreds of Truths). Now most believers in this concept don't think about this much because it is very disturbing. (Doug Macintosh call this the "Scarlett O'hara School of Theology". "I'll worry about that tomorrow.")

To believe in many different Truths is the same as believing in many different Realities. Now it is nice and philosophical to talk about alternative Realities and many different Realities existing at the same time, but this is the One Reality in which we live. Can you really live in several different Realities at once?

It is necessary to be very careful at this point. Outside of philosophical discussions, psychologists have a name for people who attempt to live in multiple Realities or different Realities from the True Reality. These people are called "psychotics" and are usually treated with medication.

So touch base with Reality and look at the question from where you are in this Universe. Can you really live in several different Realities at once? I don't think so. Not and remain sane.

There is a philosphy called "Existentialism" which is closely related to the "many paths" concept. Existentialists believe that Reality is the way we see it because we have created Reality in our own mind. (Many true-believing Existentialists are found in mental institutions.) The "many paths" concept is closely related since both concepts ultimately state that you can have your Truth any way you like it. You don't need to change to get close to God -- You simply create God the way you like Him. And by creating God, you create Reality and Truth.

While Existentialism is a nice concept to kick about, it will ultimately lead you back to Christianity -- or to insanity. What better proof of your own depravity and need for improvement. After all, if you are an Existentialist, you must take full responsibility for your Universe. And while God understands why He created the Universe as He did, do you understand why you created Hitler, Stalin, ethnic cleansing, AIDS, and the Black Death?

Copyright 2001 by Brian L. Boley. All Rights Reserved.