TRUTH MATTERS is one of the departments we are introducing. Not so much a series, when there is opportunity we will look into apologetic issues involving the veracity of the Judeo-Christian Worldview.
DO ALL RELIGIONS LEAD TO THE SAME PLACE ?
Q: So there’s this email in my inbox. “Why are you Christians so narrow minded. And trying to force your values on the rest of the world. It seems obvious that no one religion has a monopoly on truth. All religions have a piece of the truth – if TRUTH even exists – and so all religions lead to the same place. No offense intended, but how can you be so arrogant to think you have the only way.”
A: Did you catch that beginning? Quite the challenge. Let me rephrase the writer’s question. How can Christianity claim to be exclusive? Since all human knowledge is imperfect, wouldn’t it follow that all ways lead to God? The writer is basically accusing Christians of being intolerant. That is the great sin of our age. And Jesus said: “I am the way and the truth and the life,” “No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) So I get why people would take offence to that. That statement seems to challenge the limits of arrogance. How could anyone claim that He is the only path to God? That’s the very definition of intolerance. In our post-modern world, reality is relative to the way one perceives it. So we have the crazy situation where all opinions are supposed to be granted the same weight, regardless of whether or not they reflect reality. And if there is no objective truth, then any opinion that claims to speak authoritatively and exclusively on any subject, is by definition not true. That’s the twisted logic that’s employed here. This way of thinking suggests that only sincerity is needed – all paths will get you to God It has been argued that underneath this all is a similar morality system that shows up in every religion. Even the pope gave this some credence when he said that all are children of God. By the way – that’s not a biblical position…..All are made in God’s image ….only those that accept Jesus are children of God.
So let’s start with the nature of Truth. Philosophers tell us that truth cannot violate the basic laws of logic. It is absolute and it is unchanging. By definition it is exclusive. Two contradictory propositions cannot be true. Jesus cannot both be God, (the Christian position), and not be God, (the position of Islam). There is no way to reconcile these two claims. They are mutually exclusive. As Ravi Zacharias puts it, “Everything cannot be true. If everything is true, then nothing is false.” And the tenets of the competing worldviews reflect not just a difference in approach but an outright contradiction of the other positions. These differences extend right down to the most basic level, that of defining the nature of God.
To the monotheistic religions, i.e. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, God is an all-powerful personal creator. Each of these believes in the one-ness of God. So Christians and Muslims agree in their belief in one all-powerful God. However Christians hold that God manifests himself in three persons. Muslims see this as metaphysical sleight of hand and claim Christians are closet polytheists. Some Hindus hold to the idea of an impersonal reality which is found in all things. Other Hindus believe in as many as 330 million less than all-powerful gods. They think that Muslims and Christians are about 300 million gods short of a full deck. Holders of the New Age philosophies find god in themselves….as do some Hindus. Buddhists don’t concern themselves with God at all. New Age adherents think they are probably god. They just haven’t realized it yet. Or maybe it’s the universe that’s their extended body. It is an insoluble problem. The contradictions are very real. By the very fact that each claims exclusive knowledge, all religions are bound to contradict each other. How are these competing concepts to be reconciled? According to the laws of logic they can’t all be right.
Now let’s consider the claims of the Bible and the sacred writings of the other religions. These are not intended to be subjective. They are intended to reflect the realities of the mysteries of existence. We must take them at their word in so far as they are making claims about truth, claims about the nature of existence. If this language is dealing with issues of reality it is subject to the tests of logic, to contradiction. Take the Shema for instance. “Hear O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Deuteronomy 6) Either the ‘Lord is one’, or He is not. This statement does not leave room for the subjective opinion of the reader. Religious language expresses propositional truth. It is true or false. And if it contradicts the claims of a polytheistic Hindu, by definition, at least one of them is wrong. The worldviews presented by the various religions present sometimes totally unique and contradictory notions of the nature of God….and salvation…..and destiny.
Their inherent contradictions on basic principles make it impossible that they each provide a viable, workable path to Paradise. If Jesus is the only way, as the Bible claims, then pagans have made the wrong choice. If Allah is the way, everyone else is out of luck.
So ok, here’s the bottom line. Yes the Gospel is exclusive. [By the way, so are all the other religions…they all claim Truth.] The claims of Christ are exclusive and unique because the message is Jesus Christ Himself. Among all the founders of the world’s major religions, Jesus is the only one to have claimed divine status. He says, “I am the way, and the truth.” Peter said of him, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) The claim is exclusive. It must be. Truth is exclusive. It was, as we have seen, a claim backed up by the fulfillment of prophecy. It was a title asserted through public miracles and healings. It was a truth ultimately affirmed by his own resurrection from the dead. The message is this. Man is lost and in need of salvation. All other religions can offer only the route of personal responsibility, self-effort and personal will as the means of that salvation. The message of Christ is much bigger than that. He offers the love of God. We are human and fatally flawed. Our efforts to reconcile with God can only fail. We know the truth. We know the law. But we cannot, and do not follow it. So God sent his only Son to pay the price we could not pay for our sins. He is the only way. And, “whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16) Whoever believes! The offer is open to all. That is the intolerance of the Gospel.
So we stand convicted ….The Gospel is exclusive! Yet open to all! It says there is only one way…..[Some say: Why didn’t God provide more ways…..I think it’s a wonder he provided any way at all.] You cannot come by sincerity. You cannot come by good works. You cannot find God through religion, not even some form of the Christian religion. You can only come through the person of Jesus Christ. He is the expression of the Father’s love. He is the truth. And the truth demands a response. It demands more than just intellectual assent. The Bible tells us that even the demons give intellectual assent to the person of Jesus. They know He is God. The truth demands more than that. It demands action. It demands belief. It calls us to a radical, life transforming commitment to Christ. It offers eternity with God to all that accept Him. That is the intolerance of the Gospel.