The end of the semester was finally in sight. During the last few months, about twenty students and I had journeyed with Mohammed though the Arabian desert, sat in silence with the meditating Buddha, swam in the polytheistic sea of Hinduism, and swept even the smallest of living creatures aside as the Jains walked along. We had seen it all. And all of it was rather fascinating. To think that on this single planet there are so many religions, so many deities, so many ways of connecting with a higher power.
One of the students, partly out of curiosity, partly out of sheer frustration with the volume of the subject matter, raised his hand and asked the question that many in the class had probably been asking themselves, “When it comes right down it, Professor, don’t most of these religions lead to the same God?”
Those who would answer “yes” to that question do so for different reasons. There are some who affirm that most (or even all) religions lead to the same God from sheer intellectual laziness. Rather than study various faiths, rather than read their scriptures, the lazy mind simply shrugs and says, “Oh, it doesn’t matter; they all basically believe the same thing and worship the same God.”
Others give an affirmative answer from a theological perspective. These are the folks who believe there’s only one God, but think that this one God manifests himself in a vast number of ways to different nations, cultures, and religions. He is the divine equivalent of the person in a one-actor play; he’s always running behind the curtain to change outfits, apply makeup, and reappear looking like a totally different deity on the world’s religious stage. To some he is Allah, to others Shiva, to others he is simply the Great Spirit or a higher power. But, according to this perspective, the same God is simply wearing a multitude of divine masks.
So what do you think? When it comes right down to it, don’t most of these religions lead to the same God? My answer—and I believe the answer of the Christian scriptures—is an emphatic YES. Most faiths in the world do worship the same deity; their religious paths lead to the same destination. Only it’s not the deity you might think, or the destination they have planned.
The Greatest Proponent of Religion
The deity behind most religions is, in fact, not a deity at all. He is indeed a great and mighty spirit, but he is not divine. Paul calls him “an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14) and the “god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4). Jesus calls him “the father of lies” (John 8:44) and “the deceiver of the whole world” (Rev 12:9). He is the created spirit who rebelled against heaven long ago, and was cast out (Rev 12:7-9). And ever since, this archenemy of the true God, who hates humanity with a passion, has made it his mission to get back at God by duping as many people as possible into lies that lead away from heaven.
He is cunning and calculating, this deceiver, so he puts his best foot forward. He realizes that the most effective way to achieve his goal is not through violence and abject evil, but through that which seems positive and pious. Better to coat poison with sugar. Moreover, he is well aware that people are by nature religious, so striving to make atheists of everyone would be a foolish battle plan. Therefore, instead of suppressing man’s religious nature, he heightens it, then redirects it toward the deity of his own devising.
@@The deceiver is the greatest proponent of religion that the world has ever seen.@@ He is a god-maker, a religion-manufacturer, a faith-founder. Some of these religions are closer to the truth than others, but each one is designed to deceive. And although the deceptions are numerous, they are all aimed at one main goal: to keep the worshiper from belief in and confession of Jesus Christ as the Savior whom the Father has sent. In short, in all religions founded by the deceiver, the Gospel is not found. And as long as that Gospel is not there, there is only death, only lies, only a divine mask behind which Satan hisses out his hatred of humanity.
What is Sacrificed to Idols is Actually Offered to Demons
The biblical writers acknowledged that the many gods and lords of the world were nothing but disguises for the deceiver. Paul writes to the church at Corinth, “What do I mean then? That a thing sacrificed to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but I say that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God,” (1 Cor 10:19-20). Note the italicized phrases; the false gods to whom the unbelievers sacrifice are not gods at all, but demons masquerading as divinities. In an OT hymn as well, the poet says of the earlier Israelites, “They even sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons, and shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and their daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan,” (Ps 106:37). The Canaanite idols to whom they thought they were giving up their children were nothing more than bloodthirsty demons. And earlier, Moses affirmed this same truth, “They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known, new gods who came lately, whom your fathers did not dread,” (Deut 32:17).
The biblical witness is clear: all the so-called gods and lords and idols who are the object of people’s devotion, to whom they offer their sacrifices, to whom they pray, whom they call God and Lord, are sadly nothing but a front for the father of lies. The deceiver of the whole world has, indeed, deceived much of the world by the establishment of religions, all of which, except one, lead to eternal ruin.
The Single Way that Leads to the One, True, Saving God of Love
Most religions do lead to the same god, the god of this world, but there is one that leads to the true God. That true God, Jesus Christ, is the God who has come down from heaven to defeat the work of the deceiver by bringing humanity into a saving communion with Himself. He is the way for all who have gone astray, He is the truth for all who have swallowed the lies of the evil one, He is the life for all who are caught in the grave of sin and death. He has not come to condemn the world, but to save the world—to save you.
In Jesus Christ, and in Him alone, the Father has manifested His heart to humanity. In that divine heart beats a love for you that knows no bounds. It is a love that is higher than heaven, deeper than hell, a love that is as big as God Himself, for He is love. And that love is all for you. It is a love that saves you from the lies of this world by uniting you to Jesus Christ—the friend of sinners, the Savior of the lost, the God of truth.