We have this course going at the mo called ‘Big Buts.’ Tonight I’m speaking on “But what about all the other religions?”
Jesus said, “I am the way the truth and the life, nobody comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6). Isn’t that very exclusive and intolerant? How can Christians believe that in a world where their adherents make up at best a third of the population (most of them nominal, see the pie up above? I’d slice it a lot thinner)?
Some thoughts on that then. Firstly, Christianity is not the only religion that makes claims which are exclusive. 1.5 billion Muslims claim exclusivity, in a linguistic fashion for starters – the means of salvation is available through study of the Qur’an, for which you’d need a sophisticated understanding of Arabic.
Buddhism was borne out of a rejection of the truth claims of Hinduism. Sikhism came as a challenge to both Hinduism and Buddhism.
Of course there are atheists who believe (sic) there is no God, some of whom are keen to exclude the truth claims of everybody who doesn’t believe the same. The great and wise Richard Dawkin’s recent comment on Nadia Eweida, the lady who wore her cross to work at BA and caused a storm as a result?
“I saw a picture of this woman. She had one of the most stupid faces I’ve ever seen.” Oh, to be intelligent like him. No wonder he’s worshipped.
As for tolerance, I know of no Christianised country where your life is in danger because you are from another faith, but today there are many countries in the world such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran and many parts of India including parts I have visited where to become a follower of Christ is to put your neck on the line. Look at the Barnabas Fund’s ‘The Other Nine’ campaign for details on that.
The fact is, truth is exclusive. If truth does not exclude untruths then it’s not true – just an opinion. Any time you make a truth claim it’s putting something true next to what is false, and calling for a choice. Truth excludes its opposite.
I’ve been told things like, “I think all religions will get there in the end – God would not reject anybody if they were sincere about what they believed.“ At face value that seems like a perfectly reasonable statement. It’s attractive to us because it credits God with being generous and tolerant, and at the same time it means people don’t have to work hard themselves to discover any evidence or discover any truth. You don’t have to commit, accept or reject. You don’t need a ticket to get on board this plane, dress how you like for this party…, “People can believe whatever they want – as long as they are sincere.“
Sorry, but sincerity is not enough. There is right and wrong in the area of beliefs. Hitler was completely sincere when he wanted to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth and create a super-race. Having visited Auschwitz twice, I’m forever reminded that he was wrong. Years ago people sincerely believed the world was flat, you might sincerely believe that the moon is made of green cheese. The White Star Company who owned the Titanic sincerely believed it was unsinkable. What about those like the Heaven’s Gate cult who believed they had to commit suicide when teh comet flew over? They were sincere.
It’s really important when it comes to matters of religious belief whether you believe rightly or wrongly, because like it or not Jesus Christ says your personal destiny is at stake. You could miss out on real fulfilment now and life with God forever after when you die. What we want desperately is not a sincere view of God, but an accurate one.
One thought on “Exclusive Christianity?”
I agree with you that truth claims are sometimes just reduced to being seen as choices someone makes. They therefore don’t have to exclude other things in order to be true. For example, I can choose to believe that a car is a car and you could call it a bus and it wouldn’t matter. It’s what the philosophers call relativism. Truth becomes relative – it’s what I think is true but you don’t have to. It’s just a preference – in the same way if I were to say you like chocolate ice-cream, I prefer strawberry, it doesn’t matter at the end of the day who likes what.
When we start to see truth like this, we can see where some people get ideas of Holocaust denial from, where history becomes subjective (it’s true for you but not for me) and the belief that reality is an illusion. We lose the basic framework of what our lives are based upon. Life becomes meaningless unless we can establish what is true and what is false.
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