“I think all religions are equally true and that there’s no right or wrong religion.”
“All religions really worship the same God.”
“All religions are just different paths to the same God.”
“Whatever you believe is right for you.”
“The basics of each religion are really the same, there’s a lot of similarities, so I think that’s what’s truly important.”
These are things you will hear from people all around the world today, especially here in Austin Texas (trust me, I’ve heard it all)! These opinions have gained popularity in the past 50 years with people who were either raised religious and left their formal beliefs or just enjoy the idea of a God/belief system. Yet they base their belief on one common opinion – all religions can be simultaneously true. Of course their are variations to this opinion but I want to address in this blog the problem of pluralism.
“Religious pluralism” – A term used to describe the acceptance of all religious paths as equally valid, promoting coexistence. A loosely defined expression concerning acceptance of various religions, and is used in a number of related ways. (wikipedia)
“Religious exclusivism” – The doctrine that only one particular religion is true. In its normative form it is simply, the belief in ones own religion and non-belief in religions other than ones own. (wikipedia)
Exclusivism is the opposite of Pluralism, if you are a believer in Religious exclusivism you believe that all other religions are wrong and that your religion is true. Exclusivism excludes all other religions from truth, it’s exclusive. This subject really ticks some people off because they see it as arrogant, prideful, self righteous and even hateful! However truth is something that is independent of ones pride, opinion, or location. Truth is always true.
It’s hard to escape the exclusive claims about faith in Christ that the Bible states, here are some to not forget:
- “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16
- “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’ “. John 14:6
- “Then they said to Him, “Where is Your Father?” Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.” John 8:19
- “If we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:8
- “This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.” Act 4:11
- “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
- “He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” Luke 10:16
- “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” John 12:48
So it is apparent that if you are a Christian that you must recognize the importance of Christ – that you cannot be with God in heaven without knowing Christ here. The message of the Gospel and the Words of Christ carry exclusive claims and exclusive truths, Jesus is the only way to God, heaven, and forgiveness.
“That’s Not Fair of God!”
Many state that this exclusive view of truth cannot be true simply because it’s not fair or loving of God to let people go to hell simply because they didn’t believe in Christ His Son! As said earlier truth is true regardless if it makes sense, is politically correct, or agrees with your opinions. The other problem with this argument is that it has a self centered view of what’s fair and what’s not.
People often think it’s unfair of God to be so picky, however they imply by this that it is fair for God to allow in to heaven the person that does terrible evils along side the faithful monk who gave up everything for God and obeyed God. God would actually be unfair if he allowed everyone in, since He has but a responsibility on us to accept Christ. For God to allow anyone and everyone in to heaven would be unfair to those who actually obeyed. If everyone got in, why should we obey at all? Why should we acknowledge God at all? The problem here is that God wants a intimate relationship with us. The inescapable problem is that in the Bible, God does require that we obey the Gospel. And because God is just and perfect He will not go back on His promise or His requirements for salvation.
Malachi 3:6 For I am the LORD, I do not change…
In the end who are we to tell God what’s fair or unfair of God?
You have no right to enter heaven unless His blood has atoned for your sin. Now you may ask “That just isn’t loving of God, what about isolated tribes or cultures that never had exposure to Christ? What about those who died before Christ?” At this point the discussion turns to an entirely different blog but I will say: I don’t know fully. However, based on the entire Bible which says God is merciful and just at all times in all instances we can assume that God will still be merciful and just. He is fully capable of providing the truth to that person upon death or after death so that they can make an informed decision concerning His Son. Recently, Christ has been revealing Himself to committed Muslims and we are seeing their radical transformation in to a born again believer. Why would He not do this for another one of His creations?
So for those who reject Christ and will go to hell, God is fair to them because they knew what would happen, they were warned by that tele-evangelist, by their grandma, by that pastor, or by that Christian on the streets that tried to bring them to Christ etc. They knew better and yet rejected Christ and most didn’t bother to research it further if skeptical. The other side of it is God’s fairness to those who walked faithfully in Christ and did what God asked them to do, He rewards those who make themselves eligible. God rewards obedience and punishes disobedience, that’s just the laws of God’s character, it’s what the idea of justice is built on. It would be unfair for God to say on judgment day to faithful Christians “Oh, never mind about all those hard things I asked you to do and all those sacrifices and all the years of commitment. I’m allowing in those who openly rejected me and knew better”.
Numbers 23:19 – “God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?
Malachi 3:6 – “For I am the LORD, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.
Tolerance vs. Intolerance
I see this bumper sticker a lot, and I agree with the idea of coexisting and loving tolerance of other individuals that have different religions and beliefs. I agree that we should not treat other religious followers (or the lack there of) differently than we do those of your own belief or family, we should love all people and not play favorites. However, being tolerant of others beliefs is not the same as accepting them as true or effective, but it is loving them as equal to yourself because they are.
Where I draw the line is that I simply cannot agree that all Religions contain equal truth or point to the same deity. All religions cannot possibly serve the same God, be inspired by the same God and lead to heaven. This is not because I am narrow-minded, on the contrary it’s because I’ve been open minded enough to study the world religions and I’ve found that they clearly contradict each other. My thoughts on tolerance are: if I truly love those of other beliefs and take my Christianity seriously than I can’t stand the thought of them living in eternity away from God in hell. Because after all, that is what the Bible says, in case you believe otherwise or have heard differently.
Pluralists think it is intolerant to believe there is only one correct religion. This is because of their biased interpretation on the words “intolerant” and “tolerant”. I say true intolerance is the hate of others who have differing views, this should never be the case with a Christian. We love everyone no matter their beliefs. So if I were to bash in the windshield of my Hindu neighbors car, or bomb a Baptist Church because of my different religion than that would constitute as real intolerance. However, when people say that the exclusive truth in Christianity is intolerant I don’t believe they have a proper understanding of the word “tolerance” and “intolerance”. Christians should be concerned about the exclusivity of their religion because it means others are going to hell, out of love for them and their eternity Christians should care about this subject.
Christians are to show the world what love truly is and love people as God loves them. This is quite a tolerant lifestyle even though you believe that others may be following a false religion or heading to hell. How can you show someone that Christianity is good and real if you don’t love them? I’m sure that there are different interpretations of tolerance vs intolerance but as far as I’m concerned: I’m intolerant of people going to hell and not knowing my wonderful God. Love for a persons eternity is not going to always be politically correct.
1Corinthians 8:4 – Therefore concerning the eating of things offered to idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one.
1Corinthians 10:19 – What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything?
1Corinthians 10:20 – Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.
Act 19:26 – “Moreover you see and hear that not only at Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands.
Paul affirms here that the idols whom people offered food to were not true gods nor did they represent true gods elsewhere but rather they represented demons or the inspiration of demons. No other form of worship or religion in the entire Bible is ever seen as worshiping the same God as the Jews/Christians.
Other scriptures such as Exo 20:3-5, Isa 44:8-10, Act 17:16, Act 21:25, 1Cr 12:2, 2Cr 6:16, 1Th 1:9 refer to the worship of idols as something that is unacceptable for believers and does not glorify God. We know that these idols represent imagined gods that had some form of religion attached to them. In the King James Bible the word “gods” is used over 240 times and refer to the sinful practice of worshiping other imagined gods. With over 240 mentions, it is apparent that to God this false god business is a big problem!
The Law of Contradiction
A cannot be both B and not B at the same time.
- “It is impossible that the same thing belong and not belong to the same thing at the same time and in the same respect.”
- “No one can believe that the same thing can (at the same time) be and not be.”
- “The most certain of all basic principles is that contradictory propositions are not true simultaneously.”
The main weight behind the problem with pluralism is the blatant contradictions between the religions and deities therein. Pluralists and the like will quickly reply about the more generic similarities as being significant enough to prove their cause and back away from the more detailed problems (either because they don’t know them or they recognize that their argument falls apart). However, if you simply focus on the generic similarities you involuntarily separate from them the bulk of the said religion that makes it individual and significant to the followers of it. It is not enough to say “because all religions say there is some god figure, I believe in God, and because they all say to love one another, I love everyone”. This statement is saying all religions are wrong because it does not take in to account the different variations of God or the different instructions on loving people, it then stands out and makes itself a new religion in a sense and says I’m right. This however is the opposite of what pluralists intend to believe. The pluralist must do 1 of three things:
- Out of ignorance or error accept all religions as true and not believe anything religious
- Out of ignorance believe all religions to be true
- Out of dismissal of religious contradiction believe all religions to be true and only accept parts of each religion thus canceling out their pluralist stance
If someone presents a deity or god whose characteristics are contrary to God’s characteristics as revealed in His Word (or any other religious text) than that presented god is not the God of the Bible (or the said text). For example how can we say that Yahweh of the Bible and Allah of the Quran are the same God when each text portray a God character with very different characteristics, traits, methods of interaction, and revelation. Despite these contradictions pluralists see no problem with the fact that Allah can have no son (Sura 23:91), yet God called Christ His son (Matthew 17:5). Pluralists have no problem with the fact that Brahman is described as an impersonal force of the universe that takes many forms but God is a personal being that came in one form – Christ. Pluralists have no problem with the fact that Ahura Mazda of Zoroaster is the supreme God yet the child of another diety figure whereas Yahweh was uncreated.
All religions have known and observable contradictions that help define and uphold each religious system as an individual system. If this was not true each religion would be indistinguishable from the other, to be a Hindu would be the same as to be a Mulsim. However with these contradictions the general similarities between religions are greatly reduced and we cannot logically claim that all religions are true or valid. God of the Bible is one of order, absolutes, and truth. He may override nature to create miracles but He will not contradict Himself, He will not reveal Himself as one person to someone and then a different person to the next follower. He cannot lie or change. In an effort to find a safe middle grounds between religions we may not pick and choose what is comfortable, reasonable, and similar amongst the world religions and claim it to be the true way above all others for this contradicts the meaning of pluralism. There is only one God, and one savior Jesus Christ, and one Spirit of God.
Christians are to obey the Bible and share the Gospel with all people so that they can have a true relationship with God and not go to hell.
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