Can There Be One Right Religion?

Recently I was in a conversation with a friend, and he asked how I could say that Jesus is the only way. I simply responded, “I’m not saying it. Jesus said it. Take it up with him.”

One Right Religion

He certainly didn’t expect that response. And I didn’t mean to be rude or abrupt. My point was that Jesus was the one who first made the claim, and he has the credentials to back it up. If Jesus is really divine, then he has more credentials to speak on eternal life than anyone. He is the only virgin-born, miracle- working, sinless, resurrected Son of God! You may not like the idea of Jesus being the only way (and there being one right religion), but if he truly is the Son of God and said he was the only way to salvation—can you afford to ignore his claim?

It would be nice if everybody could be right, but as simple reason and basic common sense tell us, all religions cannot be true in their core beliefs. By its very nature, truth is exclusive. If 1 + 1 = 2, then it doesn’t equal 3, 4, 5, and every other number. While all religions could possibly be wrong, it is not logically possible for all of them to be right when their claims differ so radically. Either they are all wrong or only one is right.

The chart below shows that all religions, even by their own claims, differ from one another substantively, having their own specific ideas of who God is (or is not) and how salvation may be attained.

Religion Beliefs about God Beliefs about Salvation Beliefs about other Religions
Buddhism No God Enlightenment False
Hinduism Many Gods Reincarnation All True
Islam Unitarian (Allah) The Five Pillars False
Judaism Unitarian (YHWH) The Law False
Christianity Trinitarian (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) Grace False

Many criticize Christianity for its exclusivity, but Christians are not the only group claiming to have the truth. Notice in the chart above that four of the five religions claimexclusivity. They believe that all other religions are false. Hindus often do not claim exclusivity. In fact, many are happy to say that Christianity is true. But the key is what they mean by it. Hindus believe all religions are true when they are subsumed within the Hindu system. In other words, according to Hinduism, Christianity is one medium by which people can experience reincarnation.

But what Hindus don’t mean is that Christianity is true on its own terms. So, like adherents of all other religions, Hindus actually believe Christianity is false, thereby joining every other religious group (including atheists and agnostics) in the belief that only their own worldview is true.

And yet, in another sense, Christianity is not exclusive at all, but is the most inclusive religion. Christ invites all unto himself. Christianity excludes no one who will believe, even though Christ himself offers the only way to be reconciled with God.

If Jesus rose from the dead, then Christianity is the one right religion. If Jesus did not rise, then Christianity is false, and possibly some other religion is true (see 1 Cor. 15:14-17).

This is why the resurrection of Jesus is the most important historical event for consideration. If you haven’t examined the evidence yet, such as my father and I lay out in the updated Evidence that Demands a Verdictnow may be the time.



Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, best-selling author, popular speaker, part-time high school teacher, and the Resident Scholar for Summit Ministries, California. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog:



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14 replies
  1. Andy Ryan says:

    It’s possible that most of Christianity is true but a few details got changed over time. Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet, they just don’t believe he was the son of God. So could more than one religion be 100% true? No. But that doesn’t mean more than one religion has many things right, just not all of it. All the quotes we have from Jesus are other people’s memories and summaries. I don’t see how you can say with any confidence “take it up with Jesus, it was his claim”.

    • Brian says:

      Andy, it seems by that reasoning, we need to dismiss believing in things like the Gettysburg Address, since the original does not exist, and there are only a few copies from people who claimed to be there (but this cannot be verified) who recalled the short speech by memory – and these result is a few different versions. Moreover, we can’t be sure Lincoln himself was there, as the photographic evidence is poor, and thus we only have the eyewitness testimony. These cannot be well trusted because the eyewitness’s were Lincoln supporters, and thus likely bias is what they remember – and may even change things to suit their personal agenda.

      I believe that Lincoln was at Gettysburg and gave the speech. Was it exactly what we now have as the address? I don’t know, but I believe, given what we do know, that the speech was very very close to what history remembered. This is the same reasoning I use to believe that Jesus actually said “I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

      • Andy Ryan says:

        Indeed: Despite the speech’s prominent place in history and popular culture, the exact wording and location of the Gettysburg Address are disputed. The five known manuscripts of the Gettysburg Address in Lincoln’s hand differ in a number of details, and also differ from contemporary newspaper reprints of the speech. Note that even CONTEMPORARY reprints of the speech disagreed on the exact wording. But dismiss believing in the Address itself? We know the date it happened, we have handwritten notes from Lincoln himself, and we have many contemporaneous accounts from people about whom we know much.
        Compare that to New Testament accounts of Jesus’ words. We don’t know when they were said, the accounts didn’t appear until decades after the words were spoken, and we have no idea who wrote these accounts.

        • Paul Giles says:

          Yes all good points but they are leaving out one all important particular aspect. Believers in Jesus accept with out question that he is the Son of God, being one third of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To short cut the explanation….if Christianity’s claims are true, then the Holy Spirit could divinely influence the eye witness accounts and therefore ensure their “recollection “ to be absolutely ACCURATE, whether the events were recorded the day after, week after or many years later. Also if God wishes to have a record of His Word recorded for the benefit of His created people, I doubt he will allow Himself to be misquoted! If people can’t get past the first sentence of the bible, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”…they will clearly struggle with many other points. If he did in fact create everything, nothing else should be problem!!!

          • Andy Ryan says:

            This argument seems backwards, Paul. The belief that Jesus is the son of God is supposedly based on the evidence of the Bible. You seem to be saying we should accept the Bible’s claims that Jesus is the Son of God because… Jesus is the Son of God. In fact, I guess this is as much a circular argument as it is a backwards one.
            Why should we accept Jesus is divine? Because the Bible says so.
            How do we know the Bible is accurate? Because God wouldn’t let the Bible be inaccurate.

  2. bob says:

    “…if he truly is the Son of God and said he was the only way to salvation—can you afford to ignore his claim?”
    If the claim is false, can you afford to accept it as true?
    1 – time spent propagating a lie
    2 – $ spent supporting “ministries” that propagate lies
    3 – time spent with head bowed, praying in vain
    4 – time spent reading “literature” that bolsters your delusion
    5 – etc.
    6 – etc.

  3. Paul Giles says:

    Andy Ryan… I’m not saying that at all. I and many accept that Jesus is the son of God due to what I consider overwhelming evidence, prophetic, historic, scientific and mathematical evidence, combined with having a real relationship with Jesus. I don’t have space here to explain all the reasons I believe. My point was where people doubt the accuracy of eye witnesses accounts, they fail to understand the existence of the Holy Spirits and His ability to divinely inspire accurate recollection.

    • Andy Ryan says:

      “they fail to understand the existence of the Holy Spirits”
      I don’t see evidence for their existence. You can call that ‘failure to understand’ if you wish. I guess you could equally say I ‘fail to understand’ the existence of Allah and Ganesh too.
      IF a God exists/existed then He could make sure the Bible is accurate, sure. But you’re making the ‘IF’ do a huge amount of heavy lifting in that sentence. I was addressing Brian’s question of why I would doubt the accounts in the Bible of Jesus’ divinity. If you’re already accepting Jesus’ divinity for extra-Biblical reasons (that you don’t have space to explain), then that’s fine.

    • bob says:

      “I and many accept that Jesus is the son of God due to what I consider overwhelming evidence, prophetic, historic, scientific and mathematical evidence, combined with having a real relationship with Jesus.”
      Did you become a believer AFTER you researched all this evidence – which would mean that you were convinced by the evidence…or…did you become a believer BEFORE you researched all this evidence, and all this evidence helps maintain your faith?
      In other words – DID EVIDENCE convince you to become a Christian, or DOES EVIDENCE convince you to stay a Christian.
      As for “…having a real relationship with Jesus”, I have yet to, in all my almost 60 years of life (25 of which were as a bible believer), ever met a Christian who could demonstrate that they actually have such a claimed relationship.

      • Paul says:

        I became a believer after beginning to search and found the evidence more than convincing, in each of those areas, and this evidence has continued to strengthen my conviction and faith in the last 18 years.
        In your 25 years you say you’ve never met a Christian who ‘demonstrates’ they have a claimed relationship!?
        What do you mean by ‘demonstrate’? What are your expectations? …… relationship to Jesus is private and personal! I try and reflect that in who I am and how I treat others. I am not always successful but we are all works in progress.
        There are plenty of people who attend churches, claim the title of Christian, who don’t understand it’s not about ‘religion’ ie. going along on ritually on Sunday and then forgetting Jesus Monday to Saturday.
        Are you no longer a bible believer? If not what caused to stop believing?

        • bob says:

          Paul, you are a true rarity – for the vast majority of believers did absolutely no research of the evidence and their conversion was the result of the emotional appeals from those they respected.
          As for demonstrating their relationship with Jesus – that should be an easy one – I have a relationship with my girlfriend – we can be observed talking TO EACH OTHER, spending time WITH EACH OTHER…etc, etc. That’s is an actual relationship. My expectations are pretty much the same – claiming to have a “real relationship with Jesus” is easy. Actually demonstrating such a relationship must be near impossible because I have never, ever seen any evidence of such. And saying that’s because it is “private and personal”…how convenient. I can flap my arms and fly, but I only do it when no one is around.
          “There are plenty of people who attend churches, claim the title of Christian, who don’t understand it’s not about ‘religion’ ie. going along on ritually on Sunday and then forgetting Jesus Monday to Saturday.”
          That’s Jesus’s problem, not mine.
          “Are you no longer a bible believer? If not what caused to stop believing?”
          After 25 years of being a bible believer I became an atheist 17 years ago. The cause…many things I guess, but in short – the internet.

          • toby says:

            The cause…many things I guess, but in short – the internet.
            Thought, basically. Information and critical examination.

  4. Darrel Dunson says:

    There are two churches, one that Jesus Christ accepts and is well pleased with, the other – – ‘ALL’ others no matter what they are called belong to Lucifer. Most religions are called ‘protestant’ Someone wasn’t happy with something and moved down the road and started another one that suited them. When Jesus found the ‘money changers’ defiling the temple he didn’t move over and start a new one, he literally took a wooden club and used it to run the offenders out. If he did that would he be happy about others doing the opposite? I think not! So which one is the true church Jesus claims as his own? They can not all be right, having such different beliefs.Can you find the right one? Can you justify your choice?

    • Andy Ryan says:

      People using a church to make money isn’t the same as just having a interpretation of the Bible to you. Your post reminded me of the Emo Philips joke:
      Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!”
      He said, “Nobody loves me.”
      I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”
      He said, “Yes.”
      I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?”
      He said, “A Christian.”
      I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?”
      He said, “Protestant.”
      I said, “Me, too! What franchise?”
      He said, “Baptist.”
      I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?”
      He said, “Northern Baptist.”
      I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”
      He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.”
      I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?”
      He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.”
      I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?”
      He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.”
      I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.


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