As the finale to this mini-series on the question If Jesus is the only way, what about people of other faiths and those who never hear the gospel? I’m going to look at some common objections to the idea that any one path to God is the “true” or “only” one.
Let me say first of all that I sympathize with anyone who takes seriously the challenge that multi-cultural awareness poses to our beliefs. The answers I offer below may come across dry and uncaring (especially to those of you who don’t know me), but please know that’s not my heart. These questions represent for many a complex journey of learning how to believe in Jesus without appearing hateful towards large groups of people. Nevertheless, we must think clearly and that’s what I’m trying to do here.
1. But this is arrogant and exclusive and no longer works in our diverse world.
(1) Religious diversity and pluralism are not new. Globalization and consumerism have changed things, but this question has always been around. (2) All truth claims are equally “arrogant” and “exclusive.” We make truth claims. So do they: the idea that no religion is 100% right and true is a truth claim. Neither belief system is obvious; both require faith. Both are equally arrogant (I’m right, you’re wrong) and exclusive (I’m right, you’re wrong). (3) Technically, I’d say arrogance is a characteristic of people – even and perhaps especially religious people – but it is not a property of belief systems. I suppose if less people were arrogant (intellectually and otherwise), this would be easier to see. (4) We are conditioned to remove “religion” from the realm of “truth.” Our world is divided into the public realm of (scientific) facts and the private world of personal beliefs/opinions/values. We think religion is a private matter, but this idea of “religion” is unbiblical and intolerant toward most world religions. It is itself based in another “religion.”
2. But all religions are basically the same.
We’ve heard the line in its various forms: All religions lead to “god” – there are many paths up the same mountain, and all are culturally limited; they’re all concerned with making us into good people, and they all succeed at about the same rate. First, this is not true and the only way to make it true is to strip away much of what makes each religion what it is and to stand above with them with another “religion” altogether. Second, this ignores our actual claim: that Jesus has revealed what we could not discover on our own. If this is true, then whether or not Christianity “works” like we think it should is not the issue; the issue is whether Jesus really is who we say he is.
3. But you’re only a Christian because you were raised to be one.
While this is simply untrue (every day people leave behind the “faith” they were raised in), where we grow up obviously is significant for some of this. However, if we’re dealing with truth and not just personal preference, this just doesn’t make a real difference. Either Christianity is true – God most clearly revealed his character, mission, and will in Jesus – or it is not. Where we grow up and whether we believe this has no bearing on its actual truthfulness. If you had grown up in the South, you might think whites are superior to blacks, but that doesn’t make your belief any more true or less blameworthy. Lastly, most of us are only pluralists because we’ve been raised to be one (if not by our parents, at least by our culture).