Two roads diverged in the yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth . . .
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I -
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
As I reflect on this classic poem by Robert Frost, I can’t help but remember a recent conversation I had with a good friend and fellow Michigan State University Spartan. It was one of those fun times where the hours flew by like minutes, where disagreement was serious and sincere, yet cordial and honest. Where confidence was tempered with compassion, and where both parties likely shared the proverbial hope that “as iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another.” The bottom line was this: we each held views – strong views – that were essentially opposite. I believed and expressed one idea with great conviction. He did likewise, but to the converse effect. He advocated one ideological course. I espoused yet another. We disagreed. This was the kind of wrestling that good education is made of.
In our debate both my friend and I moved from one idea to another, sparring and jockeying for position. But, in the end, all of our arguments basically came down to one key question. Is the truth of God real and if so, how can we know it?
After way too much time elapsed, both of us realized that we had to move on to other things. My friend, thereby, concluded by calling for a truce. He said “I think there are many paths up the mountain, but the beauty is that they all lead to the summit. Perhaps we shouldn’t argue so much about which road we choose, but agree that it isn’t the specific path that’s important, but rather the journey.”
Now on the surface this argument seems quite attractive. Surely the path isn’t nearly as important as the destination is it? If we go to the left or to the right we will end up in the same place. Won’t we? Clearly the winding road is just as good as the straight one; the broad gate just as worthy as that which is narrow. And doesn’t respect for tolerance and diversity require us to embrace all ideas, all values, all lifestyles, all worldviews, and all paths, as essentially equal?
These same questions were addressed recently in a Q and A session of the Veritas forum at Harvard University by the Indian-born philosopher Ravi Zacharias (who argues for the knowable and singular nature of God’s revelatory truth). After his presentation Dr. Zacharias was confronted by a student who contended that all religions are the same. All lead to the same place. All have equal theological, ontological, and epistemological veracity. There are many paths up the mountain.
Zacharias’ response was pointed as he paraphrased the poet Stephen Turner. "[Indeed] all religions are the same except for their understanding about the character of God, of the cosmology and meaning of the universe, of human nature, of human value, of the nature of reality, of ethics, the good life, charity and kindness, sexuality, suffering, joy, hope, salvation, and our eternal destination of either heaven or hell." Yes, indeed, all worldviews are the same, except in matters critical to life and death, social and physical health, temporal and eternal existence, etc. Hmm - I guess if you set these minor issues aside then all roads do lead to the same place.
In, Finding God Beyond Harvard, Kelly Monroe Kullberg builds upon the truth implied in the sarcasm of Zacharias and Turner. She says “[Yes] there are many paths up the mountain the saying goes. But we find that only one person made a path down the mountain from the top, to love us [and show us the way]"
Do we really believe that all paths lead to the same destination or does common sense and basic logic tell us that if you want to get from point A to point B that it is wise to get a map and follow a guide? Maybe choosing to follow the one who shows the way, who knows the right path, and exemplifies the right ideas will help us avoid getting lost.
Perhaps we would all do well to reflect on the words of Robert Frost and remember that as we approach the diverging cultural roads before us, that choosing the one less traveled does make all the difference.