“There are many paths to heaven”

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Well, which is it?

Norman Geisler and Peter Bocchino, in their book Unshakable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions about the Christian Faith, (Bethany House Publishers © 2001) present the first principle of knowledge, the law of non-contradiction.

In other words, both statements cannot be true and both cannot be false. Either there is only one path to heaven or there are many.

To illustrate this conflict, I wrote a parable I originally called “The Building,” and later changed to “Narrow is the Way.” Here it is.

Narrow is the Way

The hawk glided on the thermal, gracefully veering left then right. Below in the valley sat a red three-story building — a long rectangle with large ells jutting here and there from its four sides. The structure stretched for a mile. A plume of smoke wafted from the far end of the building. The raptor zoomed down for a closer look.

Inside, thousands of men, women and children of all ages and nationalities, slept, dined, played, loved and fought.

“Look Uncle Dan, I found a map!” In the building, the eight-year-old boy held up a parchment with lines and notations for his uncle’s scrutiny.

“That’s not a real map, Roger. It’s just a drawing. Why don’t you go off and color it for me.”

Dan eyed the room where his friends were gathering for their weekly poker game.

“No! No! It’s a real map. See, it shows the way to a door. I found lots of maps just exactly like this. There’s a door, Uncle Dan. We can go outside!”

The hawk, having returned to his perch atop a fir tree, noticed more smoke billowing from the building.

The fire grew.

“Why would I want to go outside?” He patted Roger on the head and sauntered off to his game.

As if in answer to his uncle’s question, a young man careened around the corner. “The building’s on fire!” he shouted. People looked at him as if he were crazy. They neither saw nor smelled smoke.

What an irresponsible thing to do – to yell fire in a crowded building. People told him to be quiet. Only a few thought perhaps they should look for an exit. It was so pleasant in the building, no one wanted to leave. But if there were a fire, they would need to get out. There must be exit doors no one bothered to discover before.

Roger followed the map that proved to be so clear a child could navigate the route drawn on the parchment.

“Here it is.” the boy jumped up and down with excitement.  “I followed the map and I found the door. We can go out!”

He would not stop shouting and soon more people gathered around him. Indeed, there was a door. It was a small door.  It had no doorknob. Several burley men crashed their weight against it but it would not budge.

“Stand aside,” said an old man. People immediately obeyed his senatorial command. The man leaned on his cane and inched his way to stand before the door. He waited. The door opened and he walked through to the outside. People looked at each other. After a moment, another man stood before the door and waited. The door opened and he walked out. Clearly, people could not open the door themselves; the door itself opened for only one person at a time, as if it had a mind of its own.

And the fire grew.

More people arrived from the far end the building, crying that indeed there was a fire. The people who saw the little door opening and closing fanned out to tell others about the way to safety and to follow them. They tugged at people who resisted and clung to pillars and posts, while kicking at the “door fanatics.”

Others looked askance at the little door. Surely, there were many wider doors around. They had never wanted to look for them before because it was so pleasant in the building. Clearly, building codes would require several wider exits. What kind of architect would plan a building with only one small door? No indeed; these people yelling that there was only one way out were simplistic fools. They were ignorant of draftsmanship and building codes. Ignoring the people trying to usher everyone to the small door, they set out to find wider doors.

“Will you stop shouting?” The woman sounded furious as she brought her face close to another who was screaming that the exit was through the little door. “I can’t hear myself think with all your blathering. Maybe you believe this is the only way out, but not everyone believes there’s really a fire or that there aren’t other exits. You are the most irritating person I ever met. You should be made to shut up!”

And the fire grew.

Hundreds of people walked up to the little door and stood for a moment. Quietly, without rushing or fear, one after the other approached the door and the door opened.

The hawk watched a steady line of people leaving the building as the fire eventually consumed it.