Do All Paths Converge?


Mountain Top Baal
Engulf and Devour Circle of Equals
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach A Plague on Your House
Universal Longing Pearl of Great Price


Mountain Top

Huston Smith, writing about Hinduism, set forth the concept that, at the mountain-top, all paths converge:




  • “Many Paths to the Same Summit
  • “That Hinduism has shared her land for centuries with Jains, Buddhists, Parsees, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians may help explain a final idea that comes out more clearly through her than through the other great religions; namely, her conviction that the various major religions are alternate paths to the same goal. To claim salvation as the monopoly of any one religion is like claiming that God can be found in this room but not the next, in this attire but not another. Normally, people will follow the path that rises from the plains of their own civilization; those who circle the mountain, trying to bring others around to their paths, are not climbing. . .
  • “It is possible to climb life's mountain from any side, but when the top is reached the trails converge. At base, in the foothills of theology, ritual, and organizational structure, the religions are distinct. . .But beyond these differences, the same goal beckons.”


  • (The World's Religions, by Huston Smith, pp. 72-73).




It's hard to think of any concept which is more widely and fervently believed by so many people which is simply and demonstrably not so. The "great religions" of the world are not in any sense aiming at the same goal. Christianity seeks to mend the rift between God and man opened by sin, whereas Buddhism knows nothing of God. Buddhism aims at a psychological goal, the cessation of suffering, which it hopes to achieve through psychic numbing. These two goals are not the same, nor is there any convergence, except only incidentally insofar as sin leads indirectly to mental distress. Buddhism does not aspire to swallow up suffering in joy, but to extinguish consciousness into the vacuity of 'no-mind.'  Buddhism has not failed nor misrepresented itself; it never claimed any revelation or special knowledge of God, nor has it claimed to have found the bridge across the estrangement between mankind and God. Since Buddhism in no way aspires to reconciliation with God, then how it is a path to the same destination as Christianity?

It would be accurate to note that, if the problem is as Christianity diagnoses it, then Buddhism is altogether beside the point. The Stoics of the classical world also noticed that psychic deadening can reduce suffering; indeed there is a natural mechanism that comes into play with traumatic stress disorder that achieves the same goal. If you can make yourself feel nothing, then you feel no pain. People seek healing from this syndrome once they understand it has taken their joy from them along with their sorrows.

Why do so many people repeat a mantra: 'all religions teach the same thing,'— that is demonstrably untrue? As P. T. Barnum used to say, there is a sucker born every minute, and this 'foot in the door' becomes a bedrock foundation for many of the Eastern gurus who have peddled their wares in the land of opportunity. Not only is it not true, for example, that Islam and Christianity teach the same thing,— one religion intentionally denies that Jesus is God, while the other embraces His deity,— but even on the founding sub-continent on which this concept arose, it is not even necessarily true that the various religions which have sheltered under the umbrella of 'Hinduism' respect one another: "As a consequence, in some regions of southern India, for example, Vishnuites never enter the temples of Shiva or Shatki, and in fact they are afraid of polluting themselves merely by looking at them, so they pass them by with averted eyes." (Heinrich von Stietencron, Christianity and the World Religions, edited by Hans Kung, p. 253). It may be that if your knowledge of Christianity could fit within a thimble, if you know, for example, that the Bible teaches the Golden Rule, you might surmise the good book could fit in with lots of other things, though further knowledge would correct that assumption.

Folly becomes tragedy when the adherents of this view find employment as school-teachers, who would, if they could, mold a whole 'lost' generation of American youngsters who can only conceptualize the religious toleration upon which this country is founded on the basis of a demonstrably false fact about the world. These ill-taught youngsters can only imagine that government must stay out of the religious arena, as the U.S. Constitution requires, because it is in the end a matter of indifference which of the many almost identical religions one follows. Once these young people pick up a smattering of information on the subject and realize the 'fact' upon which their adherence to religious toleration was based is not factual, will they not end up like atheist Sam Harris, discarding religious toleration altogether? How much more solid would be their commitment to this core American value had they been taught religious toleration on a rational and defensible basis, as Baptists and other non-conformists always held: that government must stay out of religion because it has neither competence nor calling in this area:





Some people inherit consistent and rational religious traditions incorporating respect for religious liberty, indeed even soul liberty. Others, like the Irish Catholic John Dominic Crossan, observe vaguely that the rising tide in the world runs for religious toleration, but cannot imagine any basis on which such a policy would rest other than indifferentism. They are sure there is an ethical mandate for toleration, as indeed there is, and thus they are sure there is an ethical mandate for indifferentism. This is carried to such a pitch that, noting that historical figures other than Jesus, such as Alexander the Great, were also rumored to be sons of God, he demands that we must accept all such stories, or none of them:

"That divergence raises an ethical problem for me. Either all such divine conceptions, from Alexander to Augustus and from the Christ to the Buddha, should be accepted literally and miraculously or all of them should be accepted metaphorically and theologically. It is not morally acceptable to say directly and openly that our story is truth but yours is myth, ours is history but yours is lie." (John Dominic Crossan, The Birth of Christianity, p. 28).

In what field of endeavor is that the methodology? Either all scientific theories are true or all are false? Either all political ideologies are benign or all are oppressive? Nowhere, of course; what could be more  irrational than to demand that all claims of a similar type must be true, or all false? What commitment to batch processing demands such a procedure?

Yet we see that procedure commended all the time in the study of religion. The various religions present mutually contradictory views of life. So we are exhorted to search out the common nucleus contained in them all: "On which account I pray you now to bear this point in mind, that in the present part of it I am expressly trying to reduce religion to its lowest admissible terms, to that minimum, free from individualistic excrescences, which all religions contain as their nucleus, and on which it may be hoped that all religious persons may agree. . .First, is there, under all the discrepancies of the creeds, a common nucleus to which they bear their testimony unanimously?" (William James, Varieties of Religious Experience, Lecture XX, Kindle location 6947-7000). Does anyone follow this protocol in the study of any other thing under the sun? Having heard two competing theories of fire, one that it is rapid oxidation and the other than it is the liberation of phlogiston, do we seek to elucidate the "common nucleus" of these two mutually contradictory theories? Realizing that they cancel each other out, could there be such a thing? Do we not rather seek to discover which, if either, is correct? Having heard competing political claims, from the Marxists, from Bakhunin's Anarchists, and from the rock-ribbed Republicans, do we then strive to distill the common nucleus of these three competing political theories? Could there possibly be any such thing, given their wide variation? Why would this quest for a non-entity self-evidently be the right way to proceed? What is patently true is that these things cannot all be correct. What does not then follow is that they must share a "common nucleus" which is itself correct. Why on earth would it be assumed there is any such thing? What follows is that, given that not all these divergent viewpoints can simultaneously be true, therefore we should strive to ascertain which, if any of them, is true.

We know that, a.) b.) and c.) cannot simultaneously be true, because they are mutually contradictory. What we do not know is Crossan's thesis, that therefore they are all false, nor William James' thesis, that a.) b.) and c.) must contain in common some nuclear germ of truth. We do know that all three cannot simultaneously be true. Go with logic as it works, not in some unheard-of form which no one ever has or ever would employ in any other field of inquiry.

Up

Baal

Is there any indication in the Bible that God will willingly dwell in temples built for others, that 'Baal' and 'Jehovah' are just names, and that worshipping either one indifferently leads in the end to the same destination?:



  • “And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim. Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table. So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel.


  • “And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken. And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.


  • “And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded. And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. . . And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.


  • “Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God. And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.”


  • (1 Kings 18:17-40).




Ancient Israel was a theocracy, the government belonged to God. So will be heaven. But in the interim,

"Finally, there is this essential difference between the Old and the New Testament dispensation - that under the latter, religion is of personal choice, heart-willingness being secured by the persuasion of the Holy Ghost; while under the Old Testament (from its nature) religion was of Law. Religious liberty is a principle which necessarily follows from a religion of free choice, where God no longer addresses Himself to man merely, or mainly, with the authority of a general Law, but appeals to the individual conscience with the persuasion of a special invitation. Under the Old Testament, of which the fundamental principle was the sole Divine authority of Jehovah (Exo. 20: 2-3), idolatry was not only a crime, but a revolt against the Majesty of heaven, Israel's King, which involved the most fatal consequences to the nation."

(Edersheim, Alfred. Bible History: Old Testament: Books One Through Four (The Works of Alfred Edersheim Book 4) (Kindle Locations 14590-14595). www.DelmarvaPublications.com.)

So we don't do it that way. But can anyone imagine the Bible intends to communicate that Baal-worship is a stop on the way to heaven?

Up


Elijah in the Desert, Russian Icon


Engulf and Devour

Hinduism, like the monster in the clunky old horror movie 'The Blob,' envelops and incorporates everything it finds in its path, including Christianity. When missionaries travel to India preaching Jesus, they find a ready reception; their hearers happily add a plastic 'Jesus' to their row of religious statuettes. But adding Him to the pantheon is not to serve Him; the living God will not play happily with the other gods, He is "jealous." The monotheistic religions which look back to Abraham as founder do not incorporate foreign matter in this way, rather they spit it out.



Worship One
Unfaithful Wife
Open Marriage
Abusive Boyfriends
Latter Day Saints




One of the early challenges Christianity faced was with the pagans of the world into which the gospel proclamation went out, who were attracted to the figure of Jesus of Nazareth, but did not see any reason why they should disarrange their existing polytheistic pantheons in order to find room for Him:




Those who aspire to true toleration should understand that, while the multitude of Hindu gods can always shoulder over and make room for one more, monotheism is not nor can ever be similarly accommodating. The idea that 'all religions say the same thing' is foundational to certain modern faiths:

"The true philosopher, the student of the Esoteric Wisdom, entirely loses sight of personalities, dogmatic beliefs and special religions. Moreover, Esoteric philosophy reconciles all religions, strips every one of its outward, human garments, and shows the root of each to be identical with that of every other great religion." (Madame Helena P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine, Complete Illustrated Edition, Kindle location 21672).

To 'show' any such thing, one needs a tank and willingness to crush all obstacles beneath its treads; but some people come so equipped. Just drop that nasty monotheism, and we'll get along fine: "It denies Deity no more than it does the Sun. Esoteric philosophy has never rejected God in Nature, nor Deity as the absolute and abstract Ens. It only refuses to accept any of the gods of the so-called monotheistic religions, gods created by man in his own image and likeness, a blasphemous and sorry caricature of the Every Unknowable." (Madame Helena P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled and the Secret Doctrine, Complete Illustrated Edition, Kindle location 21680). So: all religions say the same thing, but those which are monotheistic will require liberal application of the editor's red pencil before this great truth can be discovered:

Up



Circle of Equals

Though he does not believe any of the things that Christians believe, Bishop John Shelby Spong is an idealist after his own fashion. He looks forward to a day when Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists will all sit in a circle and offer each other their treasures:



  • “I envision the adherents of these various faith traditions of the world all sitting in a circle of equals addressing one another. I, as a Christian, would say to the others, 'This is the essence of Christianity that I have discovered on my journey; this is my "pearl of great price," and I want to offer it to you.' Then the Jew would say,' This is the essence of Judaism, my "pearl of great price," and I want to offer it to you.' In turn, the Muslim, the Buddhist, the Hindu and any other would do the same. No one sacrifices his or her own tradition. Each person is enriched by the gifts of others. Competition fades into complementarity. Each of us becomes richer and more full. . .
  • “We join hands in our common humanity and rejoice in the journey that each of us has taken. A new day dawns. . .”


  • (Bishop John Shelby Spong, The Sins of Scripture, pp. 243-244).




The scary thing is, none of these people would perceive the slightest grounds to endorse religious liberty unless it were true that the various faiths of the world were 'complementary.' Since it is not true, we Baptists will just have to hope they don't catch on!

It is not true so long as the law of contradiction holds: 'a' is not not-'a.' The pagan philosopher Aristotle formulated this law, and it is right on the money. If the Muslims and Bishop John Shelby Spong say, 'Jesus was just a man,' and the Christians say, 'He is God incarnate,' these are not 'complementary' truths but mutually contradictory assertions. You cannot affirm both at the same time.

Bishop Spong volunteers himself as the Christian representative in the panel, grandly promising "I, as a Christian, must plumb the depths and scale the heights of my own faith system." (Bishop John Shelby Spong, The Sins of Scripture, p. 243.) No doubt he will stand vigilant at the door, to keep out all those homophobic fundamentalists, because no tolerance can be extended in that direction. Indeed everything can be tolerated by Bishop Spong, except difference of opinion. Nevertheless Bishop Spong must give us all lessons in tolerance, although he cannot get along even with the other members of his own denomination, to say nothing of strangers.

A greater handicap: he has appointed himself the Christian representative, though he believes almost nothing of what Christians believe. Let's take an example of what he does believe. In discussing the person and work of Jesus, the Jewish representative, the Muslim, and this 'Christian' would have no reason for dispute, because none of them believes Jesus was any more than a mere man. But the conversation turns to Mary. Bishop Spong enjoys repeating the old slanders of the Talmud against Mary. He offers this "pearl of great price" to the assembled faith representatives. Unfortunately, the Muslim delegate grows red in the face and hollers 'Mary was a virgin!' Either she was a virgin (Muslims, fundamentalist Christians) or she was not not (Talmud, liberal Christians). You cannot both be and not be a virgin. How are these 'truths' 'complementary,' when only one can be true? Mystification cannot resolve this controversy and so, alas, the delegates must go home without holding hands, or perhaps the "new day" will find them still arguing.

It is strange but true that Muslims believe a lot more of the Bible truths about Mary than do nominally Christian liberals like Bishop Spong. Substantial areas of agreement between the two faiths did not prevent the Muslims from aspiring to imperial expansion. The conflict between Christendom and Islam begins with the Near East predominantly Christian; countries like the current Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Tunisia were majority Christian. The tale of how these countries ended up overwhelmingly Muslim is a tale of blood and terror. Bishop Spong, however, is only dimly aware of any of this; in his mind, the dust-up between Christendom and Islam (which was of course Christian aggression since Christianity is evil) was "minor in the scheme of things:"

"This did not constitute a critical issue for anyone but the Jews through most of the centuries of Christianity simply because the world was so large and communications were so slow that generally we lived in great ignorance of other people and other religions. . .The rest of the religions of the world were simply not on our radar screen for most of Christian history. . .So all of our grand religious claims to be the true faith, to have a corner on the market of salvation, never really got tested. . .We assumed the truth of our claims without fear of being contradicted by reality. That luxury lasted until airplanes, radio, television, the Internet and the World Wide Web came along and changed the world." (Bishop John Shelby Spong, The Sins of Scripture, pp. 240-241).

Actually domestication of the camel was sufficient technology. Naivety like this would be charming in a child.

Up



Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Given the contradictions between the three faiths which claim origin from Abraham, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, subscribing to all three of them demands a proficiency in pretzel logic: that greatly prized ability simultaneously to believe a and not-a. Some people can do it, or so they boast:

"God is the one great truth. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are paths that bring us to Him. One finds God through personal discovery usually directed by the faith in which one is reared, practiced by one's ancestors." (Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, 'The Kosher Jesus,' p. 149).

But the God who made us made also logic, or to speak more precisely, He is the Word. It is best to avoid contradiction. Paths leading off in different directions do not bring the traveller to same destination. And as it turns out, surprise, surprise, Rabbi Boteach's 'Kosher' Jesus will require just a nip and tuck here and there to bring Him into conformity with the good Rabbi's predilections: ". . .worship of a man as deity, or belief in a messiah who did not fulfill the messianic prophecies, is anathema to us Jews, a fact that will never change." (Boteach, Shmuley (2011-12-07). Kosher Jesus (p. 150). Gefen Publishing House. Kindle Edition.). And so the 'Kosher' Jesus, you see, must be scaled down just a bit, to roughly the same contours as the Muslim Jesus, or indeed a bit slimmer. If only we Christians would stop believing what we believe and believe what he tells us, what a world of peace and harmony would be ours.

Funny, Mohammed ibn Abdallah took the same tack. And oddly enough, it did not spontaneously lead to peace, harmony, and universal agreement; rather, only after conquering Muslim armies had swept through town, were dissenting tongues silenced. How many times must this same 'discovery' be made?




This unific impulse is a very productive route for the creation of new religions: some well-meaning soul seeks to unite existing religions A and B, but in the process of so doing, creates religion C, an amalgam or compromise. Existing adherents of religions A and B mostly remain as such, but some are drawn to newly created religion C; so now, where were two faiths previously, there are three. Thus this endlessly repeated endeavor to unite all religions issues mainly in the multiplication of new sects, for instance Sikhism:

"A spiritualized form of monotheism had spread in India in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Guru ('teacher') Nanak (1469-1539), founder of the religion of the Sikhs (Hindi 'disciples'), came from these circles. His great vision was the union of Hindus and Muslims on the basis of an aniconic monotheism — God beyond all forms — combined with a doctrine of reincarnation but he succeeded only in certain regions. Under his nine successors, the 'gurus,' Sikhism spread in the Punjab." (Hans Kung, Islam, Past, Present and Future, p. 398).
Up

A Plague on All Your Houses

To the atheist, it is sufficient to point out that religions differ, to establish that they are all false:



  • “So much for the pre-history of the religious Weltanschauung. Let us now turn to consider what has happened since, and what is still going on under our own eyes. The scientific spirit, strengthened by the observation of natural processes, began in the course of time to treat religion as a human matter, and to subject it to a critical examination. This test it failed to pass. In the first place, the accounts of miracles roused a feeling of surprise and disbelief, since they contradicted everything that sober observation had taught, and betrayed all too clearly the influence of human imagination. In the next place, its account of the nature of the universe had to be rejected, because it showed evidence of a lack of knowledge which bore the stamp of earlier days, and because, owing to increasing familiarity with the laws of nature, it had lost its authority. . .Besides this, one must not overlook the influence of the comparative study of different religious systems, and the impression they give of mutual exclusiveness and intolerance.”


  • (Sigmund Freud, A Philosophy of Life, Lecture XXXV, New Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis).




Notice, please, that "the impression they [different religious systems] give of mutual exclusiveness and intolerance" itself discredits the entire enterprise of religion. It is certainly true that religions make mutually exclusive claims: for example, Christians adore Jesus Christ as God incarnate, whereas the Koran reports Jesus Himself as denying deity and abhorring such worship. Obviously, both claims cannot be correct. The proper analysis, however, is not:

  • These two religions make mutually contradictory claims, therefore, they are both false;

But, rather,

  • These two religions make mutually contradictory claims, therefore, either both are false, or one is false and the other true.

In what other field of endeavor is similar atheist 'logic' pursued? No one says, either all scientific theories must be true, including phlogiston and the luminiferous aether, or none of them can be true; no one says, either all political programs are equally valid, or none of them is. It is simply bad logic, and it's a shame so many people allow themselves to be flim-flammed by it. It is as often repeated as if it were a valid argument:

"And as the Pagan, Jewish, Christian and Mahometan countries of the world have been overwhelmed with a multiplicity of revelations diverse from each other, and which, by their respective promulgators, are said to have been immediately inspired into their souls by the spirit of God, or immediately communicated to them by the intervening agency of angels (as in the instance of the invisible Gabriel to Mahomet) and as those revelations have been received and credited, by afar the greater part of the inhabitants of the several countries of the world (on whom they have been obtruded) as super-naturally revealed by God or angels, and which, in doctrine and discipline, are in most respects repugnant to each other, it fully evinces their imposture, and authorizes us, without a lengthy course of arguing, to determine with certainty, that not one of them had their original from God; as they clash with each other, which is ground of high probability against the authenticity of each of them." (Ethan Allen, Reason the Only Oracle of Man, Chapter XIII, Section II.)

As seems a common theme with this crowd, the relation between the three Abrahamic religions is more complex than this Deist author realizes; all three expect to encounter Abraham in the world to come, the Muslims claiming to follow his religion, the Jews claiming to be his seed, the Christians claiming that Christ is his seed. Neither Christianity nor Islam denies the validity of the revelation to the Hebrew prophets, and Islam does not so much deny the validity of the gospel, as find it necessary to alter it. The testimony of each of these witnesses partially corroborates, partially contradicts that of the others.

Up


  • “'I readily concede I missed an opportunity at Bob Jones; I [could] have been a hero,' he said in March. 'If I had gone down there and said, "We're all God's children; we can receive redemption in all different kinds of ways; the Catholic religion is a great religion, Judaism is a great religion." It's all I would have needed to have said. One sentence.'”


  • (The Bush Dyslexicon, Mark Crispin Miller, p. 58).




Universal Longing

It is often notice by those who study the various tribes and nations of mankind that certain themes recur. For example, the idea that this life is an anteroom to eternity, a chapter not the entire book. The Greenlanders had such a conception, to judge from travelers' tales:

"Q: What becomes of it [the soul] after death?
"A: Then it goes to the happy place at the bottom of the sea. Torngarsuck and his mother live there. There it is always summer, bright sunshine, and no night; and there, too, is good water, with plenty of birds, fishes, seals, and reindeer, all of which may be caught without any trouble, or taken out of a great kettle ready boiled.
"Q: And do all men go thither?
"A: No, only good people who were useful workmen, have done great actions, caught many whales and seals, endured much, or been drowned at sea, died in the birth, etc."
(von Herder, Johann (2016-02-24). Outlines of a Philosophy of the History of Man (Kindle Locations 4193-4200). Random Shack.)

This author is rather imaginative, and I'm not sure how credible his sources are, but certainly many people tell stories of an Isle of the Blessed, beyond the sunset. While immortality is not a universal human belief, it is very widespread. If we apply the atheist rubric, we discover, that since very many people believe in immortality, therefore it is false! One might wonder, why? If God has so programmed us that this need is felt in our hearts, "He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end." (Ecclesiastes 3:11), how does that in and of itself prove the need must ever be unmet? Certainly if people have nothing to do on but information extrapolated from the need itself plus their own active imaginations, their testimony may be futile and second-hand. If they have heard, "I am the resurrection and the life," they are getting down to the source, the same who implanted the longing in their heart in the first place.

Not all 'mythical' stories are false. Many people groups tell tales of a world-wide flood, which killed off humanity except for a few survivors left to re-people the world. For reasons beyond my ability to understand, detractors offer these stories as proof there was no flood bottleneck through which humanity passed. Of course stories told by pagan peoples will have pagan features and improvements. It's not clear why, if there really was a world flood, only one small group of people would be likely to recall it. While some of the tales told by the pagan seem to have been excerpted from a nightmare diary, others remind the reader of the Bible.

The stories are usually far from identical with their scriptural archetypes, but sometimes a real resemblance can be seen. Scripture teaches that paganism is, not the original religion of mankind, but a devolution from the original monotheistic worship of the true God. Some of these stories may be distant recollections of once-common doctrine:

"Here, moreover, we meet for the first time with that strange resemblance to revealed religion which makes heathenism so like and yet so unlike the religion of the Old Testament. As in the soul of man we see the ruins of what he had been before the fall, so in the legends and traditions of the various religions of antiquity we recognize the echoes of what men had originally heard from the mouth of God. Not only one race, but almost all nations, have in their traditions preserved some dim remembrance alike of an originally happy and holy state, - a so-called golden age - in which the intercourse between heaven and earth was unbroken, and of a subsequent sin and fall of mankind. And all nations also have cherished a faint belief in some future return of this happy state, that is, in some kind of coming redemption, just as in their inmost hearts all men have at least a faint longing for a Redeemer."
(Edersheim, Alfred (2014-06-29). Bible History: Old Testament: Books One Through Four (The Works of Alfred Edersheim Book 4) (Kindle Locations 869-875).

Or, stories may be elicited and produced by the longing itself. Some go so far as to look to these universal longings as proof they will ultimately be fulfilled. Has God implanted any need in the human heart that looks to nothing but futility and inutility? Certainly parents are justified in scolding their children for stuffing dirt and other inert objects into the mouths, which cannot nourish. But what would a world be like in which there was hunger, but no food? Why should there be such a world?:

"To my mind this is the great proof of immortality: the fact that it is written in human nature; written there so plain that the rudest nations have not failed to find it, to know it; written just as much as form is written on the circle, and extension on matter in general. It comes to our consciousness as naturally as the notions of time and space. We feel it as a desire; we feel it as a fact. What is thus in man is writ there of God who writes no lies. To suppose that this universal desire has no corresponding gratification, is to represent Him, not as the father of all but as only a deceiver."

(Parker, Theodore (2013-01-28). Works of Theodore Parker (Kindle Locations 5653-5657). The Perfect Library.)

It may be the atheists reply, not the non-existent God, but the selfish gene, has deceived them into accepting a belief that enhances social cooperation, while imparting no benefit to the individual believer, who is tricked into leading a life more pro-social than need be. Certainly it is true that, if God had created man, we would see just what we do see: that there is a key to fit the lock, the longed-for redeemer is not just a fable. He has pre-programmed us to hear His voice, so much so that we jump the gun and hear before He has spoken. How well competing theories work, I'll leave to the reader to judge.

Up

Pearl of Great Price

Christianity is a controversial religion with some people because it knows of only one way to heaven:

"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6).

There are not 'many paths;' that's it. Why should there be many paths? We should thank God for opening the one, knowing what it cost. If there are many paths that lead nowhere, the responsible thing would be to warn those embarked upon these nowhere journeys to turn around.

Up