Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Are other religions valid?

“Fifty-seven percent of evangelicals said they believed many religions can lead to eternal life.”1 So says David Jeremiah, in quoting a poll of some sort. Frankly, it does not surprise me, though it disappoints me much. I would that people who are Christians, called saints in the Bible, would take time to study the Bible and see what it says about salvation. According to this poll, many do not.

As I look at the question, I do realize that it can be taken in one of two ways. It is quite one thing to say that most religions have some validity; it is quite a different thing to insist that other religions are valid. In the one case, we are simply stating that man may happen across some “truths” when developing a religious code, but in the other case, it seems to me, that we are attempting to make Christianity and at least some other religions to be equivalent. I would not argue against the idea that religions can contain some measure of truth in them, but the Bible itself is quite insistent on this point: there is only one way to get to heaven, and therefore, any religion which teaches of another way cannot be valid, in any sense of being complete.

I do think however, that many Christians—whether fifty-seven percent or not—do indeed think that other religions are valid, in the complete sense—that there are other ways to get to heaven. For the rest of this paper, I will be speaking of validity in this sense—the idea that there is more than one way to get to heaven.

I suppose that it is our mistaken definition of tolerance which has led to the terrible state of affairs. Americans, long priding themselves of being the most tolerant people on earth, have gradually redefined tolerance to mean something altogether different from what our forefathers intended. Originally, tolerance simply meant allowing others, with whom you may vehemently disagree, to live and work in your world along with you. The progressives have successfully redefined tolerance to include an “embracing” of every other belief system, whether or not you agree with it. In fact, the default belief system that the state would have us adopt today is that every belief system is okay, or even good, for those who believe it. Accompany this pushed state belief is the idea that there really is not a “right” way to do anything. Hence, all religions have validity, an idea, on the face of it, that is preposterous.

The problem with the Christian who reads his Bible, as opposed to the other one, is that the Bible does not allow for this idea of tolerance at all. Tolerance as our forefathers taught it is embraced in the tenets of Christianity; Paul the apostle makes some of the greatest equalizing statements that have ever been made. Slaves and free men, men and women, Greeks and Jews, have all been made to drink from one Spirit. It is that “one Spirit” where tolerance in the modern sense finds its doom.

Succinctly, the exclusivity of Christians is found in the gospel of John: “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) When I was a new Christian finding this verse, I found myself starting to be outraged with the idea that this verse is intolerant. And it is. And we must be also. There is no arguing with the Bible, for it must be the critic of all our creeds, whatever they may want to say. C. S. Lewis puts it this way: “But there is a difficulty about disagreeing with God. He is the source from which all your reasoning power comes: you could not be right and He wrong any more than a stream can rise higher than its own source. When you are arguing against Him you are arguing against the very power that makes you able to argue at all: it is like cutting off the branch you are sitting on.”2

So let us not make the mistake of arguing with God. Christianity is exclusive! However, the invitation is open to all, slave and free, male and female, Greek and Jew alike. All have sinned, declares the Word, and have come short. The Savior is offered to all, that all might have the opportunity and the invitation to know God. But there is only one way to come to God, and that is through His Son. No other religion reaches all across mankind, and declares them all bankrupt, without any righteousness before God at all. No other religion declares that all must find peace with God only through the mediator between God and man, Jesus the messiah.

The signal for the Christian that this is true ought to be in the change that takes place when we first convert to Christianity. R. C. Sproul has this to say about his wife’s experience, when she first converted: “When she came out of the meeting, she was so excited. She was like Archimedes leaping out of the bathtub screaming, "Eureka, I have found it!" She knew what every Christian knows—the joy of her redemption. But when she went to bed, all night long she kept waking up and pinching herself, saying: "Is it still there? Do I still have it?" Then she would check her internal feelings and say, "Yes, it's still there."”3

Then Sproul discusses his wife’s conversion, and has deep insight into the reason why we have so much difficulty explaining our new life: “Then she made this comment to me, which I'll never forget: "Now I know who the Holy Spirit is." I had been trying to explain to her what had happened to me, but it was like trying to explain a rainbow to a blind man.”4 Like trying to explain a rainbow to a blind man. I like that metaphor. We have been born again and it is a unique experience, to be shared clearly only with those who have already seen the rainbow. Christianity is the only valid religion. But it is offered to all.

1. Jeremiah, David (2009-09-24). Living with Confidence in a Chaotic World: What on Earth Should We Do Now? (p. 16). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

2. Lewis, C. S. (2009-05-28). Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis Signature Classics) (p. 48). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

3. R.C. Sproul. What Does It Mean to Be Born Again? (Crucial Questions Series) (Kindle Locations 126-128). Kindle Edition.

4. R.C. Sproul. What Does It Mean to Be Born Again? (Crucial Questions Series) (Kindle Locations 129-131). Kindle Edition.