“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6).
“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son” (Hebrews 1:1-2a).
“No one comes to the Father except through me.” For the longest time, I understood this verse as a statement about the exclusive truth of Christianity. I thought that Jesus was making a claim about the superiority of the Christian religion over every other religion. To be perfectly honest, although I may not have realized it at the time, I probably understood it as the superiority of my Christianity over every other religion, including other forms of Christianity—whether they be Catholic or Orthodox or whatever didn’t quite align with the particular version of Christianity that had been handed down to me. By saying that no one comes to the Father except through himself, what Jesus obviously meant was that the specific doctrines I held to be Christianity were the only way to get to heaven. I essentially substituted a set of ideas for Jesus in my reading of this verse—the set of beliefs known to me as Christianity is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through it.
You may have noticed that this is not at all what the Gospel of John actually says here. This statement is about the exclusive truth of Jesus. “No one comes to the Father except through me,” Jesus says. Jesus himself is the way, the truth, and the life. John’s Gospel drives this point home a few verses later, when Jesus responds to Philip: “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (14:9b). The Gospel of John might very well push one to consider truth in a manner that is distinct from the way I had understood it; truth is not primarily a statement or a book or a doctrine, but a person—namely, the person of Jesus Christ.
After all, when John’s Gospel begins, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (1:1), the “Word” about which it speaks is not the Bible or a set of beliefs, but Jesus. Jesus is the one the Gospel of John offers as the ultimate revelation of the truth, and this is a perspective apparently shared by a number of other New Testament authors. Colossians 1:15, for example, declares Jesus “the image of the invisible God” and the Epistle to the Hebrews begins with the claim “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son” (1:1-2a).
Clement of Alexandria, a theologian of the late second century, found this verse from Hebrews to be particularly illuminating. He quoted Hebrews 1:1-2 nine different times in his writings, frequently highlighting the idea that God had been revealed in “many and various ways.” In one such instance, he cites this phrase from Hebrews along with an allusion to Ephesians 3:10 as a way of discussing the many different places in which the wisdom of God may be found:
The Apostle had good reason to call God’s wisdom “variegated,” “working in many forms and many ways” through technical skill, scientific knowledge, faith, prophecy; it shows us its power to our benefit, because “all wisdom comes from the Lord and is with him to all eternity,” as the wisdom of Jesus puts it.
Clement believed that God had been and continued to be revealed through many sources. He also believed that Jesus was the most definitive revelation of God. Like the Gospel of John, Clement liked to use the term Logos, which is the Greek term in John 1:1 that we translate as “the Word.” But the song of the Logos, claimed Clement, could be heard in many other sources. “There is only one way of truth,” Clement declared, “but different paths from different places join it.” For Clement, Jesus is the ultimate truth, and the Christian Scriptures are one of the most reliable ways to come to know that truth, but they are not the only way.
It seems to me that if we proclaim Jesus as the truth, then any discipline that pursues truth offers us an avenue by which we might see Jesus more clearly.
As a pastor and a biblical scholar, the study of Scripture has been one of the most meaningful and deeply enriching practices of my life. I am constantly seeking to know Jesus more closely, and the study of Scripture continues to be the single most important practice for me in that endeavor. However, my study of the Bible has also led me to recognize the “many and various” other ways that God has been revealed and continues to be revealed to us—that science, philosophy, literature, and any number of other disciplines can also offer us valuable insight into the character of God. All of these disciplines are, at their best, dedicated to the pursuit of truth. It seems to me that if we proclaim Jesus as the truth, then any discipline that pursues truth offers us an avenue by which we might see Jesus more clearly. That is not to say that all those who engage in these disciplines understand themselves to be seeking Jesus, nor should we expect that to be the case. But if Jesus is the object of my faith and Jesus himself is the truth, doesn’t that mean that truth, whatever its source, will always lead me to him? Is not the search for truth then, whatever paths it might follow, an inherently spiritual act?
Some might hear this as a path toward relativity—an argument that all claims on truth are equally valid. I intend it as precisely the opposite. The idea that no truth claim is superior to any other can only exist in an environment where evidence and the arguments of those with whom we disagree are ignored. Engaging new ideas and perspectives different from our own with humility and sincerity is an opportunity to grow in our faith, not a threat to it. Christians, I would argue, should be people who are known for their rigorous pursuit of truth by every means available to them precisely because they believe that Jesus is the truth. The pursuit of truth—whether through science, literature, philosophy, or Scripture—is the pursuit of Jesus and an opportunity to draw closer to the God who is the source of all wisdom.
 Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. All rights reserved worldwide.
 Strom. 1.4. Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis, trans. John Ferguson (Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1991), 41.
 Strom. 1.5. Ferguson, 42.