Questions about The Mosaic Course
Is Jesus the Only Way ?
An Interview with Dr. Mathew P. John
What is the Mosaic course?
The Mosaic course is online learning module, exploring the foundational belief systems and practices of major ‘living’ religions in the world from a Christian perspective.
Why the Mosaic Course?
We live in a society where people of different colors, creeds and cultures come together to form diverse communities. Many in our culture believe that all religions are equal, simply providing different paths to the same spiritual destination. In such a context, Christians often struggle to share their faith with their neighbors of other faiths. On the one hand, they have strong convictions about Jesus and the salvation he offers. On the other hand, they want to be respectful and compassionate to their neighbors of other faiths—who have equally strong convictions of their own.
We have designed the Mosaic Course to empower Christians to effectively but respectfully share the uniqueness of their faith in such a multicultural context
Who is the course for?
The Mosaic course is developed primarily for Christians who are interested in learning about other religious beliefs and worldview assumptions. However we recommend it for anyone interested in gaining an introductory knowledge of the belief and practices of major living religions in the world.
What will I gain from the Mosaic Course?
- The Mosaic course will help you develop a better perspective on current events as it improves your general knowledge on world religions. Religion has become one of the most important topics of discussion in our society today as it plays a significant role in shaping people’s worldview and social behavior.
- The Mosaic course is designed to promote religious literacy and intercultural understanding.You will be able to better understand and appreciate your neighbors of other cultural and religious backgrounds, thus eliminating xenophobia and unintentional bigotry.
- You will gain confidence to share your faith with people of other religions with conviction and grace at the same time. You don’t have to prove everyone else to be wrong in order to claim that you are right. The Gospel is presented not merely as a truth-claim, but an invitation to commune with God in Jesus Christ.
Is this a tool for evangelism?
We would discourage terminologies such as ‘tool’ ‘method’ ‘strategy’ etc., which are very impersonal words with negative connotations. Let us say the Mosaic course presents an approach to missional outreach to our neighbors of other faiths.
How is the Mosaic Course different from other approaches to missional outreach?
The traditional Christian response to world religions comes from the area of apologetics. Unfortunately apologetic debates obsess with philosophical discourses and often turn into contentious arguments.
A second approach is interfaith dialogues, but they become preoccupied with the task of finding superficial similarities shared by different religions and fail to address the core theological themes of the Gospel.
The Mosaic Course attempts a ‘redemptive’ approach by helping us understand people of other religions, what they believe, and especially how they view Jesus and His gospel. It invites us to talk to others about the “Jesus they already know” before inviting them to know the “Jesus we know” from the Bible.
Is this a new approach to Missional outreach?
No. It is in fact one of the oldest approaches. Almost 2000 years ago in Athens, Paul discovered an altar marked to the ‘Unknown God.’ He said to the Athenians, “Let me talk to you about the god you worship (unknowingly)” before I talk to you about the God I worship (Acts 17:26). Paul understood and appreciated the “fragmented revelations” in their religion before he shared the historic revelation of God in Jesus Christ.
In the 1970s, a Canadian missionary named Don Richardson discovered what he called ‘redemptive analogies’ - hidden revelations of God, embedded in primitive cultures in symbolic forms (Peace Child, Eternity in Their Hearts). We believe such redemptive analogies are available in major world religions, which function as “silent pointers” to Jesus Christ. Following the method pioneered by Paul at Athens (Acts 17: 22-29), we explore the points of contact between Christianity and world religions, and use them to build missiological bridges across which the Gospel can travel.
Do you believe Jesus is the only way to God?
Absolutely! Jesus stated it unequivocally: “No one comes to the Father but through me.”[i] Peter reiterated it even more fiercely: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”[ii]
Isn’t this an intolerant belief?
Only if it stops you from respecting and appreciating other religions.
How can you appreciate other religions if Jesus is the only way?
It is true that the Bible claims there is only one way to God, and that way is Jesus, but it does not say that there is only one way to Jesus. There are over forty thousand Christian denominations in the world, all claiming to be different ways to approach the one Jesus.[iii] What if there is another way—or ways— to Jesus that we are unaware of?
Of course, I am not saying that there is more than one way to God. If I were, I would be directly contradicting the Bible. But if I say there could be more than one way to Jesus, I might only be challenging a loosely held Church dogma, not the Bible itself.
Religions of the world may not be capable of leading us to God, but what if they function as pointers to Jesus, the only way “from” Him?
How can non-Christian religions function as ways to Jesus?
It has been already established that God has implanted “redemptive analogies” in primitive cultures, which have the potential to lead people to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Don Richardson’s “Peace Child” is a classic example, and his book “Eternity in Their Hearts” articulates the implications of this theory in the mission field.
We believe there are mythical “Christ figures’ embedded in all major religions. In Hinduism there is the concept of avatar, an embodied god who comes in human flesh. In Buddhism we encounter the bodhisattva, an enlightened teacher who has taken a vow to rescue humanity from the suffering world. In Sikhism we witness God revealing Himself to the world through His Word. According to Islam, Jesus is the only human born of a virgin and the only prophet who is going to come back again. The Jewish texts struggle to reconcile the conflicting portrayals of the Messiah as a triumphant king and as a suffering servant.
I believe God can use these Christ-figures as a pathway to lead people of other religions to the historical Christ revealed in the Bible.
Is the Christ figure same as the Cosmic Christ of New Age religion?
The cosmic Christ is an abstract concept with no direct connection to history. It is derived from a mythical archetype that represents primordial truths.
A Christ figure, on the other hand, is nothing but the sublime picture of a redeeming savior in world religions, which seem to point people to the historical Christ (Like the Unknown God of the Athenians in Act 17) Perhaps the Spirit of God had implanted them in the sacred scriptures of all religions in order to prepare the whole world for Jesus’ arrival.
Does it mean that all religions possess God’s revelations?
In Christian theology, there are two streams of revelation: general and particular.
God’s “general revelation” is like a ray of light, filtered through multiple lenses of different focal lengths. It is reflected at various intensities—in nature, in human conscience, and even in world religions. But each religion frames God’s revelation through its own theological filter. In the “foolishness of their wisdom,” religions abrogate the infinite God into finite forms, thus becoming “futile in their speculations.” Therefore world religions are able to see the source of revelation only “through a glass dimly.”[iv]
What Christianity presents to the world is the ‘particular revelation,’ where we meet the ultimate “self-disclosure” of God - Jesus Christ, “the image of the invisible God.”[v]
Why should I share the gospel if all religions somehow lead us to Jesus?
I did not say all religions lead us to Jesus. All I said is that there are redeemable elements in all religions, which have the potential to direct people to Jesus.
People may have genuine spiritual experiences though other religions, but in Jesus Christ, God presents himself to us in the form of a person and invites us into a relationship. It is the good news that we share with people.
When I am sharing the gospel with my neighbors of other faiths, I am not selling them a new religion; I am only introducing them to a person who embodies the fullness of their own religious experiences. The gospel, therefore, is not merely a truth-claim; but an invitation to a relationship with God, which only Jesus can provide.
[ii] Acts 4:12
[iii] According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity (CSGC) at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, 2011
[iv] 1 Corinthians 13:12
[v] Colossians 1:15