The God Squad: Many responses to whether there are many paths up the same mountain to God

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

Q: Many years ago my oldest son was attending confirmation class at our local Lutheran church in Seaford. Someone told him that Jews weren’t allowed in Heaven. This made him both very angry and very sad as his grandfather (my father) was Jewish. He went to the pastor’s office to ask if this was true. The Reverend had a very simple answer. He looked at my son, smiled and said, “In my father’s mansion there are many rooms. And there are many ways to reach them.” – (From T, Seaford, Long Island

A. Thank God you have a pastor with spiritual generosity. The passage in the Christian Testament that he was quoting to your son is John 14:2. This is most significant because that verse in John that clearly affirms a variety of ways to salvation precedes the famous verse in John (14:6) where Jesus speaks of himself as the way, the truth and the light which conveys a much more exclusivist teaching.

What we learn from this is that the sacred scriptures we have inherited contain verses that expand and verses that constrict the paths to salvation. It is impossible to resolve this conflict of texts since they are both holy and they contain very different beliefs.

My solution as I have tried to teach it to you, dear readers, over many years is two fold: first we should follow our heart and ask “Which texts are more inclusive and more loving?” and then secondly we should not quote the texts which are more exclusive and more limiting. Both texts speak to the truth of scripture in very different ways. I hope all of us believe that our path up the mountain is the best path, the truest path, the most reliable path, but we also acknowledge in humility and love that other paths are also informed by the truth of salvation and others paths get to the top of the mountain along with ours.

If some climbers are prevented from entering heaven. If some are kept from the summit then it will be God’s choice, not our choice and the God who would make such a limiting choice to bar righteous non-Christians from Heaven is not the God I worship. Count me as one of the climbers who is always encouraging other climbers and always appreciating their spiritual gifts. A poem from W.H. Auden:

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well


That, for all they care, I can go to hell.

But on earth indifference is the least

We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn


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