Why Oprah’s wrong: More than one path to Heaven is logically impossible

You’ve probably seen this, since it’s been bouncing around for years, but just for context let’s start with it:

This is typical of Oprah’s new-agey nonsense, of course, and it’s easy to just dismiss it as such. But that would be a mistake. A lot of people have a hard time accepting the doctrine that you can only get to Heaven through faith in Jesus Christ. They grapple with the thought that “good people” they know (or know of) might end up in Hell – in spite of having been good to their families and kind to others – all because of what they see as a legal technicality that unfairly disqualified them.

Apparently even the leader of the Catholic Church has a hard time with this teaching.

So it’s really not so hard or surprising to imagine that people would want an alternative to the idea that there is only one way to Heaven. And the obvious alternative is that there are “many ways,” or that God would be willing to customize an unlimited number of ways to fit an unlimited number of people who would seek to craft their own.

Some even make what sounds like kind of a compelling argument, which goes like this:

If God is infinite and unlimited, why would He be limited to only one way of accepting people? Wouldn’t it make sense that God would give different people different paths, based on who they are, how they live and what might draw them to him? Can’t Christianity be God’s provision for people in the West, while Islam is His provision for those in the Middle East and Hindu is for those from India? God’s unlimited! Why couldn’t they all be from Him?

Yep, it sure sounds compelling. But logically it falls apart quickly when you give it some thought (which most of its advocates do not do). First of all, if Christianity, Islam, Hindu, Buddhism and all the rest had all come from God, they could have had differing distinctions (like the various Christian denominations do), but they would not fundamentally contradict one another – certainly not on their core tenets. Yet they do, most prominently on the question of Jesus’s divinity. Islam may regard Jesus as a prophet, but that’s very different from seeing Him as God incarnate, and as having authority over sin and death.

If Christianity was only one way to get to Heaven, and there were others, then the Christian Bible would offer Jesus as an option for salvation. It would not say, as John 14:6 does, that “no one comes to the Father except through the son.” It would say, “Here’s one way you can do it.”

Also, if all of these faith concepts were from God, then they would each offer a path to the same place. Yet the Muslim version of Heaven is very different from the Christian version, although there are similarities. The Muslim version has “seven layers” and a lot of other distinctive complexities, while the Christian version of Heaven involves the coming of a new Jerusalem and God living and dwelling among His people – and of course, all of this comes after the thousand-year reign of Christ that’s mentioned nowhere in the Koran.

Buddhism offers a whole different concept involving multiple heavens, none of which are more than illusion anyway, since the real ultimate destination is a state of perfect peace known as Nirvana.

So if they’re all from God, and they’re all legitimate paths to Him, the first problem you have is that they can’t logically all be true. Is there one Heaven or seven? Is Heaven a real place or a state of mind? Is Jesus the Lord or a mere prophet? Is He necessary or just an option?

There’s no way to square all these things. I realize there are people who think the Bible contradicts itself, which I would tell you is not the case because real study of the Bible irons out those apparent contradictions. But putting that aside, the Bible is unquestionably consistent on the big teachings – that man fell through sin, that redemption was required, that God rose up Israel as His chosen people, that Jesus came as the Savior and was crucified and rose again . . . these are clear as day.

If all these religions were different ways to the same God, and they all originated with God, then they would also be consistent on the big things even as they offered different options and details. Yet none of that is true. They’re all over the place and they agree with each other on almost nothing – neither how you get there or where you’re even going, or even if it’s a place at all.

This is where some claim the problem is that various Scriptures “have been manipulated and distorted by men.” According to this thinking, you can’t regard any text as sacred or authoritative because you have no idea if it’s anything like God originally gave it. I’ve dealt with this before: If God gave His Word through prophets, it makes no sense to think He’d sit by and allow mortal men to distort it beyond all recognition. And we know that even the most modern Bible translations are taken largely from the original texts in the original language, with considerable peer review and accountability, so it’s not hard at all to imagine that the Bible remains exactly as God intended it.

But let’s say the cynics are right about men distorting sacred texts. If that’s the case, then why would you believe any of them? Rather than saying Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and all the rest are just different paths to God, you’d have to regard all of them as frauds.

The “many paths” argument falls completely apart when you really consider what it implies. And to take the thought to its logical extension, if we are not limited to one way, then why should there be any limit at all? Any path to God could be acceptable as long as someone dreams it up, because God is unlimited and can work with anything you do, according to this theory. Sitting on your couch drinking beer could be a way to Heaven, because hey, God’s not limited to working with non-couch/beer systems of faith!

In fact, the “unlimited God” concept argues for the one-way doctrine. Why? Because a perfect God would come up with a perfect plan to redeem mankind. He would only need one. He wouldn’t need a Plan B in case Plan A didn’t work. God knows exactly what He’s doing, and that includes His plan for revealing it to us so we’ll understand what’s expected of us.

But wait, you say! It’s not working! Because people don’t agree on what to do and that would mean some of them would be lost!

But that doesn’t mean the plan isn’t working. God’s plan is perfect and works every time for everyone who accepts and follows it. That’s like saying sexual abstinence doesn’t work in preventing pregnancy. Of course it works. It works every time it’s tried. People who try other methods and get mixed results are not proving the flaws in abstinence. They’re proving the flaws in their own thinking and behavior.

And so it is with God’s plan for the redemption of man. It’s working perfectly. Everyone who follows it will get the reward promised. Everyone who rejects it will experience the consequences foretold. And if you don’t like God’s plan and you think you can come up with a better one, good luck with that. Because where you’re going, you’re going to need it.

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