Christianity is the only to reach God, certain Christians argue, because the Bible says so. It tells us that Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."...
...but I don't believe it can be used to argue that Christianity is the only true religion. First, Christianity as a religion did not exist when Jesus spoke those words...
Burke and Taylor, A Heretic's Guide to Eternity, p. 107
Is this a true statement?
We know that it wasn't until a few years after Pentacost that the people in Antioch first started calling them Christians, or that language's equivalent. I'm unsure of what they were called before then, and to an extent, it doens't matter--things changed with Jesus, no matter what name you put on those changes.
As such, then, I think that his argument that Christianity as a religion did not exist when Jesus was on earth is a matter of symantecs, and not of fact. Already with Him, things were changing--He called the people to believe in Him, and accepted their worship of Him. He called people to follow Him. His death was the sacrifice for their sins.
So, Burke argument is irrelevant--the statement Jesus made then is just as true now.
Compounding this point are two additional facts: no one actually recorded Jesus' words at the time he spoke them, so we have no proof that they are indeed his words, and what he did say, he said in Aramaic, which means that nothing in the Bible as translated into any other language can be taken literally anyway.
If you're puzzled by that last statement, no matter the language you may have read it in, I don't blame you.
First, if Burke wants to claim that it's may be possible that what Jesus said here is something that He may not have said, then how far is he willing to take that line of thought. It's obvious Burke doesn't like what is being said by Jesus (far to exclusionary for his taste, no doubt--God in the flesh should have known better). But is Burke willing to say that he doubts any of the statement recorded of Jesus that he likes? Is he going to doubt that, for example, Jesus may not have told any of the parables that it was recorded that He told? Or maybe Jesus didn't say anything about the peacemakers being blessed?
That's the thing--he can't cast doubt on the authenticity of statements he doesn't like, without casting that same doubt on ones he does.
Which isn't even bringing up what he's doing to Scripture in the first place. His argument reminds me of what 'progressives' like the Jesus Seminar do, claiming Jesus said this but not that, or did this but not that, based mostly on their on materialistic worldview and philosophy., along with an unhealthy dose of political and social liberalism.
Second, his claim that we can't take a translated statement literally is nonsense. He can translate that any way he wishes, as can anyone who wishes to say his statement is profound and not abject nonsense.
But more important, to read this as a literal statement requires that I take the other statements he makes about himself as literal. For example, Jesus declares that he is the bread and the vine and the Good Shepherd. Does that mean that he is literally a loaf of bread or a plant? Of course not! These are metaphors, clues to something about his character and person.
Now for the kicker...
In his book Living Buddha, Living Christ, Thich Nhat Hanh forever changed my understanding of the Christian life when he spoke of Jesus as the Tao, the way.
So, Christians take Jesus' statement literally about Himself being "the way" (which the context of the verse supports), that needs to be destroyed (or, as pomos say, deconstructed; or, as I say, spun). But when someone from outside of Christians uses the same word in a different way, well, that's just...profound!!!
And his attempt to weasel out of the words reminds me of something Lewis said about the Bible being a book for grown-ups. When Jesus said He was the way, a grown-up knows what that means. The disciples certainly knew it.
To say that Jesus is the Tao is to acknowledge that the way he walked in the world is the path to follow. It is not about competing with other faith traditions. It's about living out a way of grace, love, forgiveness, and peace.
This is simply salvation by works, a heresy which is the farthest thing from anything in the Bible.
The message of the New Testament is consistent--repentence and forgiveness of sin, and belief in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. None of it involves works. Burke and Taylor make it only about works, even belief in Christ is optional in their opinions.