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The God Squad: How many gates to God?

Rabbi Marc Gellman, Tribune Content Agency on

In this springtime of sacred days (Easter, Ramadan, Holi, Passover) when I try with extra effort to support my belief (and the belief of my dear departed friend Father Tom) that there are many paths up the same mountain to God, I still receive blowback from readers who cling to the belief that there is only one path and that this is the path they are on.

Q: The Bible says that Satan, that old serpent, is the "father of lies". The greatest lie, the greatest deception Satan has ever perpetrated on mankind is this notion, this false idea, that there are many ways to salvation. Note that in Exodus when God gave Moses the instructions for building the Tabernacle, it had only one gate. God was very specific on how worship was to be conducted and who was worthy to come into His presence. Christ's blood is the one and only sacrifice needed for the redemption of sins. The Tabernacle of the Old Testament is no longer necessary.

The Bible says that Jesus died once for mankind and that alone is sufficient. Jesus is that gate of the Tabernacle, He is the only way in. Matthew 7: 13-14 says "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go there in. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."

Anyone who sees this as being narrow-minded should take it up with God – He said it!

In Exodus 20:5, God declares that He is a jealous God and that we should worship only Him. Not because He is a harsh task-master, but because He loves us, Gave His Son for us and wants us to spend eternity with Him. Psalm 19:11 says that there is "great reward" for keeping God's statutes. To say that obtaining salvation is possible in any way except through the gift offered by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ goes against everything God says in the Bible. Jesus gives a chilling rebuke to those who sought to enter into God's presence by their own merits. You can read it in Matthew 7: 21-23. God bless you and thank you for this opportunity to respond. – (From J)

A: Let us begin, dear J, with a bit of history. The Temple in Jerusalem built by King Solomon in roughly 1000 BCE and rebuilt by Herod in 516 BCE did not just have one gate. According to Josephus, the Roman/Jewish historian who was a contemporary of the second temple, there were 10 gates. There were 10 entrances into the inner courts, four on the south, four on the north, one on the east and one leading east to west from the Court of Women to the court of the Israelites, named the Nicanor Gate. So, if we take your argument that the gates represent a valid path to God and salvation, we have to make room for at least eight other valid divinely approved religions in addition to Judaism and Christianity. However, I am fully willing to include many gates or paths to God.

My reasoning that interfaith dialogue is important for our spiritual growth begins with a very basic question rooted in common sense. Does it really make sense to you that a God who made all people in God’s image would give all the truth to just one group? This does not make sense to me and I believe that a more careful reading of our sacred texts supports this view.

 

The post biblical rabbis taught that, “The righteous of all nations will inherit a share in the world to come (Heaven).” Islam considers both Moses and Jesus to be valid prophets of God. Even Christianity, which has had the most difficult time affirming the salvation value of other faiths, has within it texts and traditions that are more spiritually generous than you might imagine.

We read in the New Testament itself in I Corinthians 12:4-11,“There are different gifts but the same Spirit. There are different ministries but the same Lord. There are different works but the same God who accomplishes all of them in everyone...it is one and the same Spirit who produces all these gifts, distributing them to each as He wills.” Even Matthew chapter 7 which you quote says this in verse 16,“Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?”

This seems to me to be a sound method in evaluating religious claims. Does the religion produce people who bear good spiritual fruit into our world? All the other questions about salvation I am happy to let The Boss work out when the time is right to make all things broken whole again.

(Send ALL QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS to The God Squad via email at godsquadquestion@aol.com. Rabbi Gellman is the author of several books, including “Religion for Dummies,” co-written with Fr. Tom Hartman. Also, the new God Squad podcast is now available.)

©2024 The God Squad. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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