I am stalled at the notion that there is but a single way 'up the mountain'. "No one gets there but by me." However, it seems as though 'me' could be 'any of me.' In the sense that Jesus was (a manifestation of) God, could not also, for example, Buddha, Lao Tzu, et al, also be (manifestations of) God?

I am not a Biblical scholar (obviously), but if Jesus is the only way, then those who have not been informed are at a serious loss. There are (methinks) passages that indicate that we all have a primordial (a priori?) sense of God and so that there is no excuse, but without the Jesus specifics, it wouldn't be enough.

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    It is not so much that there is one set of ideas that we need to embrace, but that there is a penalty for the sin each of us commits and only One who has the power and riches to pay our penalty on our behalf. That is why there is only one way. No one else can pay that penalty for us. The multi-instantiated idea is not a Christian idea at all. – Narnian Jan 15 '14 at 19:05
  • The multi-instantiated idea is embedded in the concept of the Trinity -- three instances of the same God. If there is only one way, then what of those who haven't (yet) been informed? – ifdef Jan 15 '14 at 19:16
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    A Google search for what of those who have never heard yields many, many hits, including not a few books. [The short answers are: We need to tell them; and, God will always act justly.] – Andrew Leach Jan 15 '14 at 19:20
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    @ifdef Jesus is eternally God the Son, and no Christian tradition that I know of accepts the idea that Buddha or anyone else was another incarnation or manifestation of God. God the Son took on flesh once. Neither the Father nor the Spirit ever as or ever will. – Narnian Jan 15 '14 at 19:33
  • To your other question, @AndrewLeach is correct. We are commanded to tell the world. – Narnian Jan 15 '14 at 19:33

Christianity holds that Jesus is unique in being the incarnation of God; there is no other occasion on which God himself became fully human, lived, died, and rose again in order to save us. (This is not to deny that there have been other occasions before and since when God has revealed himself to humans in some way.) This is clear from the New Testament witness, which uniformly presents Jesus as the one, not one of many. It is also consistent with the historical understanding of the church, as expressed in the great creeds and the surviving writings of significant early figures.

Let's suppose, however, regarding the problem of "what about those who have never heard of Jesus", that there are several historical figures who are as good as Jesus. But then we still have a problem: what about the people who've never heard of Jesus or Buddha or Lao Tzu? In order to achieve total coverage, we would have to posit a large number of divine manifestations, in every time period and every geographic area. The observed spatiotemporal distribution of Great Moral Teachers doesn't seem to match the theory. And even so, we have to answer "what about very young children?", "what about people with severe mental disabilities?", and so on.

The larger problem is clarity about just what these multiple instantiations of God are for - what are they there to do? The selection of Buddha and Lao Tzu as candidates suggests that some kind of moral instruction is the answer. However, Christian ideas about salvation are linked to the person and work of Jesus - not only his teaching, but his life, death, and resurrection. These events do not need to be repeated:

"For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself." (Hebrews 9:24-26, NRSV)

"We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God." (Romans 6:9-10, NRSV)

"Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God." (1 Peter 3:18, NRSV)

Moral behaviour is part of the story, but it is not the whole story. It is certainly not sufficient, on its own, to reconcile us to God and one another. It is God who redeems us.

Many people have had the idea that even though nobody comes to God except through Jesus, this may happen even when those people do not know about Jesus. Some related answers from this site:

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