Father Michael Azkoul
There is a great deal of talk nowadays about the importance of religion, any religion. Any religion, whether Christian or not, is considered good and necessary so long as it brings men to realize their duty to mankind and God. It is generally believed that such is the purpose of religion and that a religion is good and necessary to the degree that it accomplishes its purpose. If we are Christians, we think that the Church has fulfilled the task to the greatest degree.
But there are two things wrong with this idea:
1) Christianity is thereby made one of many religions, albeit the best (by Christians), whereas She is the only (unique) religion; and 2) such an idea destroys the uniqueness of Christ/Church, a quality which places Her above every religion — to their exclusion. In other words, the Church of Christ refuses to accept not only the equality of other religions with Herself in any sense, but categorically denies the right for them to exist. The Church of Jesus Christ is the only religion intended for humanity by God. Jesus Christ is universal Savior, only Savior of the world and all other religions are wicked and futile attempts to do what only He can.
Jesus Christ is God (and man), the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, thus, belief in Christ is obligatory. He said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life” . . . “I am the resurrection and the life” . . . “No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” There is no other Name by which a man may be saved, except Christ Jesus. It is precisely because He is God that Christ can make such a claim; and since He is God and Christianity is His religion, She is unique (only). Salvation is to be found only in Christ, only in His Church with Whom He is “one flesh.” Hence, all other religions are utterly superfluous, even bad, because they challenge His claim by their very existence.
Now, someone will surely ask: Are all non-Christians evil? How can we account for the good that they do? No, all non-Christians are not evil, but that has nothing to do with their religion. What good they do is the result of God’s abundant Grace which flows into the Church as water into a glass and overflows to saturate the ground around it. And we should not speak of “good” as if it came from ourselves. Of ourselves we are capable of no good. The Holy Scriptures tell us that even our best deeds are as “filthy rags.” Whatever good one may do is God in us “both to will and to do.” Lastly, it is necessary to define what is meant by “good”— to God and not to men.
We can be certain of only one thing in any case: God, the Son, came to earth “and became man.” He is a unique Person with a unique message, a unique Kingdom and all men, if they wish to please God and be saved, must be joined to Him. To be “joined to Him” means to be a member of His unique Church, His Body, His Bride, the unique organ of salvation. All men must become branches in the Vine, limbs of the Body. To be in the Church is to be in Christ, mysteriously united to God and to become “sons of God,” “elect,” “saints.”
Anyone, therefore, who thinks that before God “one religion is as good as another” either does not believe Christ or is very ignorant. Anyone who thinks that there is more than one (unique) road to God, Jesus Christ, is either a skeptic or a fool. We who understand God’s ultimatum: Christ/or! We know, not only because we believe, but more: a living experience with the Lord, in the Lord, a unique experience, unattainable to those who do not pay Him allegiance, unequivocal allegiance.
In order to understand the Church and Her uniqueness, it is first necessary to grasp the cosmic purport of the God-man, Jesus. He is the Unique One, the One Who has revealed to His creatures the Will of the Father. That Will is given, It can not be made or discovered by man. It can only be accepted. It is a gift, a favor, undeserved and unwarranted. We must not think that we can earn it. It is most certainly unique. It is Christ Jesus, eternal Life.