A Christian Response: All Paths Lead to God

Apologetics is defined as reasoned arguments or writings in justification of something, typically a theory or religious doctrine.  In this series, we want to look at the reasons we believe but also look at some main arguments against faith in Jesus and in God.  By looking at these arguments, we want to also discuss what a Christian response could look like by using evidence and reason.

This is the first part in a four-part series.


A Christian Response
When I tell someone that I am a Christian, they usually reply with something like this:

  1. “I’m glad you found something that works for you. I think that all paths lead to God.”
  2. “I’m happy for you, I think the only thing that matters is that you are happy.”
  3. “I think that it doesn’t matter what you believe, the important thing is that you are a good person.”

I suspect that you also have heard remarks like these when you talk about your faith. In this blog series, I am going to explore these claims in light of ideas from Dr. Vince Vitale and Dr. Ravi Zacharias’ book, Jesus Among Secular Gods,[1] and from Bishop Robert Barron’s ministry, “Word on Fire.”[2]

Now, let us consider the first statement:

All paths lead to God.

I can say, “all paths lead to God” only because I am a Christian. If I were a Buddhist, a Muslim, or an Atheist, I could not say that all paths lead to God. To say that these paths lead to God is a distinctly Christian idea. In Christianity, ultimate destiny is a relationship with God—one of self-giving love and union of persons that mirror the love of persons found in the Trinity. In Buddhism, the ultimate destiny is Nirvana, which requires the elimination of self and detachment of personal relationship. In Islam, the reward is paradise, not Allah himself. In Atheism, there is no God—which would make union with God rather difficult. In fact, for most religions, it is difficult to claim all the paths lead to the Absolute because God is not the end towards which the path is leading. If I want to say that the paths are leading towards God, I might have to be a Christian to say it.

Nonetheless, there is another sense in which I cannot say all paths lead to God. None of them do. Not even Christianity. And again, this is a distinctly Christian idea. In most religions, everything starts with you. You become good, you make yourself righteous, you do what you were commanded, and then you are given God’s favor, reward, enlightenment, or good karma etc. In Christianity, everything starts with God. It is not a matter of man seeking God, but God seeking man. He breaks in and loves us and gives grace before we even begin to love him. All paths do not lead to God—God breaks into to all paths. I can say this is because I am a Christian.

There are three good desires behind the idea that “all paths lead to God.” But, as a Christian, we can fulfill those desires, without subscribing to this idea.

  1. First good desire: Each person has equal value, regardless of what they believe.

As a Christian, I affirm this. Christ so valued those who disagreed with him that he counted them worth dying for. To disagree with someone is not to call into question their worth — especially when that person is a creature made in the image and likeness of God.

  1. Second good desire: Everyone should have an opportunity to know the truth.

As a Christian, I affirm this. I believe Truth is a person. I also believe in a God who is both loving and just and gives everyone an opportunity to know him (implicitly or explicitly) regardless of when or where they were born. In contrast, if religious pluralism (the idea that “all religions are basically the same”) is true, then only a select number of individuals in the history of the world have had access to this idea— mainly some Mediterranean, European, and American countries in recent centuries.

  1. Third good desire: We should be united.

As a Christian, I affirm this. Unity is the very heart of what it means to be human because our final calling is to be united in relationship as the Trinity is in relationship. We are distinct beings fulfilled in unity and we are meant to love one another with such self-giving love that we become as one.

So, how can we respond when someone says that all paths lead to God? I affirm the good desires underlying the idea and say, “I don’t think all paths lead to God, but I believe that God breaks into all paths.”

It doesn’t matter what you believe, the important thing is that you are a good person.

Let us begin by noting this claim assumes the divorce of true doctrine and right ethics. Such falling apart of orthodoxy and morality (by favoring humanitarian ethics over doctrine) is a relatively recent phenomenon and trickles down into popular thought down from philosophers such as Immanuel Kant.

Since ancient times, philosophers such as Plato have noted the union among wisdom, virtue, and happiness. It is difficult (if not impossible) to place a wedge between principle and practice because answers to how we ought to live are grounded in assumptions about human flourishing. For example: When someone says, “all that matters is that you are a good person,” it begs the question, what is meant by “good person?” Many would describe a good person as someone who is loving. But, let us press it further, when did love become a virtue? Aristotle listed justice, courage, practical wisdom, and self-control as cardinal virtues, but never listed love. As surprising as it may sound, for much of history love was not the highest virtue—other values such as honor were higher. Indeed, as a culture, we inherited the idea of the supremacy of love from Christianity.

Furthermore, what do we mean by love? Is love a feeling that I experience or combination of chemicals in my brain? Is it something I do for someone else that makes me happy? Christian doctrine puts a distinctive content into the word “love.” Love is fundamentally a participation in God’s way of being. When Christians say, that God is love, we are talking about the Trinity – God is the lover, the Son is the beloved, and the Holy Ghost is the love that flows between them. Like the Trinity, love is self-giving, self-sacrificial, and wills the good of the other as other. Christ is the incarnation of love, and thus, love is freely given, forgiving and extends even to the people who are our enemies. As Christ-bearers, we can love our neighbor in the same way that God loves us, gratuitously—not because of anything the neighbor has done for us, or because of anything that we get from him, but simply because love has been freely given to us and to the world.

The love that we admire is, at its foundation, a theological, doctrinal reality. Ethics and doctrine cannot be divorced. Yes, it is important to be a good person, but what being a “good person” looks like is dependent on what you believe.

The only thing that matters is that you are happy:

Let us do the thought experiment proposed by Dr. Vitale: Imagine an “experience machine” that could give you any experience you desire. “You could choose the feeling of winning an Olympic gold medal, or falling in love, or making a great scientific discovery, and the neurons in your brain would be stimulated such that you would experience a perfect simulation of actually doing these things. But, in reality, you would be floating in a tank of goo with electrodes hooked up to your brain. Given the choice, should you preprogram your experiences and plug into this machine for the rest of your life?”

This question raises another: Is the point of life a feeling—to feel happy, to feel loved, to feel appreciated for making a difference? Or, is it more important to be loving or to be making a difference? To be happy in giving happiness to others, and to become good by giving?

If “all that matters is that you are happy,” then Jesus did something very, very wrong. As God, he could have chosen the life of supreme happiness and pleasure but instead, he chose one of poverty and ultimately, supreme suffering. Why would he do that? Jesus did not live each day asking, “what will make me happiest,” rather, he asked, “what is the will of my Father?”

So, is the Christian God against happiness? No! Turn to what the Westminster Catechism says about the meaning of life: “The meaning of life, is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” According to Christianity, God does want us to be happy but He doesn’t just want us to be happy. His call on our lives is much grander and nobler. He wants us to live a life of sacrificial love that unites us with the suffering of others. (And to do so, not for our own self-satisfying pleasure of being a good person.) Following God brings us supreme happiness but it also brings suffering, forgiveness, struggle, peace, trial, purpose, and hope—the very fullness of life. A life centered around happiness is too boring for the Christian life.


I share these thoughts with hopes that they may inspire some of your own. Maybe spend some time reflecting and ask yourself what you might say the next time you hear:

  1. “I’m glad you found something that works for you. I think that all paths lead to God.”
  2. “I’m happy for you, I think the only thing that matters is that you are happy.”
  3. “I think that it doesn’t matter what you believe, the important thing is that you are a good person.”


[1] Zacharias, Ravi; Vitale, Vince. Jesus Among Secular Gods: The Countercultural Claims of Christ. Faithwords, 2018.

[2] WordonFire, https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/video/, accessed October 2017.


This series was written by Ariel Dempsey, who is currently pursuing her Masters of Science & Religion at Oxford University.  She has also a degree in medicine and studied apologetics at Oxford.

© 2017, Never The Same