In another one of his cogent articles, the Slackivist (Fred Clark) addresses the question about whether “all paths lead to God.” His ultimate conclusion is that it is an underhanded question, indicative actually of a path away from God because its focus is not conducive to reaching God.
I get his point. The “path” toward an omnipresent being is only a “path” in sense of “direction” (trajectory) toward godliness by what one makes of the journey and the elements along the path: transformative progression. After all, how can there truly be a path (linear prescription) to a being that is everywhere? His reference to the story of the Good Samaritan was spot on as an illustration.
The Slackivist has thought a lot about paths, especially the “nature” of paths in both spiritual and physical senses, where unfortunately the spiritual sense is bound by the physical roots of the metaphor. The thing that strikes me most is that the paths referenced by his “catechizing inquisitors” (bloody awesome term!) and in his replies (being bound by the inquisitors’ frame) are all established paths. That is, the “paths” already exist by the time we get there, and that “following” any such path to God implies staying within the bounds of the pre-hewn trail.
So while I completely agree with the Slackivist that “Do all paths lead to God” is the wrong question, it really only goes wrong because of the physical referent (well, besides the pharisaical motivation). It actually could be a legitimate question — one that opens the door to exploring a walk or journey where a “path” has been already blazed or it is in progress of formation — if one can maintain “path” in the abstract and its destination as more about “heaven” as the resulting condition of knowing God rather than a fairy-tale happy place.
I think that even the teaching that “narrow is the way that leads to life” does not necessarily imply a given trail with prescribed rules for how one places his feet in order to constitute a valid step along a path. The destination is in the trajectory.
The trajectory of a path is really only its goal: to know God and, thereby, be Godly. And since God is infinite and omnipresent, that leaves a ton of knowing to do that we can never, ever exhaust. Every issue, every moment is a getting-to-know-god opportunity. As I wrote in my Letters to Laurel,
It’s like, getting to know God is progress toward knowing the details of Him. For instance, if I say I know someone, the first question one might ask is “How well?” “How well” you know a person is in the details!! The nuances. And in every single possible context. But if you’re concentrating on “knowing God” by how you deal with your own earthly concerns, you’re really only USING GOD to know yourself, not Him.
Yet, as with progression toward any goal, some general rules or basic things need to be part of each footfall that support the eventual fulfillment of the goal. There are general characteristics regarding path-walking, where a path is marked by some basic things you have to achieve in order that there be forward momentum (progress): loving & love, humility, honesty (especially the intellectual variety), sincerity, pureness of heart, to name a few.
These things are necessary because they are both evidence and manifestation of knowledge of God. Without these milestones (an important one articulated in 1 John 4:7-8), you are using yourself as the measure of your progress, which is a self-serving fantasy of your own making.
While it is true that we all share some fundamentally common obstructions to godliness at the atomic level, what composes the current obstructions each of us has is specific to our individual experiences and resulting perspectives. To address the commonalities, there can be general prescriptive recipes; but there can’t be a single, prescribed path because we each have different abilities, needs, and configurations of sin that compose our obstructions — as vast & varied as the infinite omnipresence of God.
So someone can refer to “paths,” but what they really should refer to is guidelines for path-walking. What amounts to the resulting path is only the consequence of the footfalls manifested by the tread of one’s choices.