I’ve recently been in a debate on my city’s website over religious pluralism. After all, there are people in other religions who are very devout and good people. What kind of God would exclude them from salvation just because they don’t happen to believe in Jesus? Please note that when I address this, I am not speaking about the problem of the person who has never heard. I am speaking of the person who rejects the light that they have.
I also think of the bumper sticker that I saw today as I was driving with the word “Coexist” except each letter was being represented by a different religious symbol. Can’t all the religions just co-exist together? If you mean if they can all exist, well we’re showing that they can. If you mean can they all be true, that’s another issue. If it’s if they can all be true, then no.
I also happen to go to personals websites. I know some people might look down on that, but I am a single guy and I am open to most any option that I can to try to meet someone. As I’m checking recently, I see a girl who has something on her religious faith along the lines of “They all believe in God so they’re pretty much the same. That’s easy to see isn’t it?” There’s one way to see all religions aren’t the same easily.
Look at them.
To make this point clear, let’s list some contrasts.
In Christianity, God is essentially triune. The Trinity is essential to our faith. In Islam, this is the sin of shirk and it’s the worst blasphemy of all.
In Judaism, Jesus is not the Messiah. In Islam, he is. In Christianity, he is.
In Hinduism, the Vedas and the caste system have authority. Buddhism rejects both of these.
In Judaism, God exists. In the original form of Buddhism, the question of God doesn’t matter.
In Christianity, God created the world. In Hinduism, God is the world.
In Islam, the goal is paradise. In Hinduism, the goal is Nirvana.
In Judaism, God revealed himself in the law. In Buddhism, there is no one to do any revealing.
And these are just five major world religions. We could take more.
Every religion at its core has some fundamental claims that set it apart from every other religion. You will not be a Christian if you deny that Jesus fully possesses the nature of God. You also will not be a Muslim if you affirm that he does. All Muslims affirm that there is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet. No other religion would affirm this.
This is why people should hold to a religion in fact. They should hold to it because they believe it does give an accurate description of the world and of God. If Hinduism isn’t true, there is no reason to be a Hindu. If Buddhism isn’t true, there’s no reason to be a Buddhist. If Christianity isn’t true, there’s no reason to be a Christian.
The idea of pluralism even assumes that these claims don’t matter. They somehow don’t apply to God in one case or that they are all basically the same and religion doesn’t make any claims of truth about the external world but is simply about how you live and what kind of person you are.
Now Christianity is concerned with how you live and what kind of person you are, but that isn’t all it deals with! Christianity believes in a triune God who revealed himself in space and time in Jesus of Nazareth and raised him from the dead after dying for our sins. It believes that this God has also revealed himself in the Bible. It believes that the universe was created at a point in time.
Those are not moral statements. They should effect how you live morally, but they are not moral statements themselves.
If someone wants to say all religions are the same, you can be sure of one thing. They haven’t read them. I would have no problem telling someone if they wanted to know if all religions were different to just read them. Read the Bible and the Qu’ran for instance. See if you notice any major differences.
An argument used to support pluralism though is the story of the blind man and the elephant. Each one grabs a different part of the elephant and says that the elephant is a different thing. They are each supposed to have a part of the truth. God is supposed to be the elephant and each blind man is a world religion.
A few problems.
First off, none of them had the truth. They had a part of the elephant, but they got that part wrong!
Secondly, there is an elephant there. The only way you can know that all religions have a piece of the truth is if you know what that great truth is. The only way you could know that no one has the truth is to know what that truth is that no one has and what everyone else knows so that you know they don’t know what it is they should know.
Hope no one got lost there.
Thirdly, while there is some truth in each world religion, the question is not if there is some truth, but if there is the truth.
Religious pluralism is becoming more and more common today as we are to be accepting and tolerant of each religion. (Excluding evangelical Christianity. Funny how it’s okay to always pick on that one.) There is just one problem with this pluralism. It isn’t true. As said earlier, if it isn’t true, there’s no sense in holding to it.