Yesterday, I pointed out that exclusivity was a secondary question. I still think it is. However, it does need to be an answer. Even doubts over secondary issues can cause some people to wonder about the primary issues. Perchance if the question is addressed, they will be more willing to listen to the primary issue. Fair enough indeed.
In our world today, it seems odd to think that a religion is exclusive. However, let us be clear on this. All religions are making truth claims. Insofar as anyone makes a claim to truth, they are making an exclusive claim. They are claiming that what they believe is true and all that which is contrary to it is false.
I believe one of the reasons we don’t understand it is there is a hidden assumption that religion is not talking about truth about God. It’s simply telling us how we are supposed to get along with our fellow man. Religion has no vertical aspect to it but only a horizontal one. If that’s the case, I’d agree. We can get morality from most any religion. If we are making claims about God though, that is not the case.
Let’s consider other religions though. Buddha broke away from Hinduism thus saying it was wrong. Jews have a hard time today with Messianic Jews who believe in Jesus Christ. Islam is so exclusive that you can be killed in a Muslim nation for converting to Christianity. Only Christianity seems to get this complaint though.
Of course, I still need to answer why Christianity is exclusive.
For that, we are going to assume the Christian system. Why? Because we need to see if Christianity is consistent with this belief. For the sake of argument then, I ask readers to grant me that Jesus is who he said he was and the New Testament is an accurate record of what he said and did.
The reason he came then was to pay the price for sin. Why? We had a debt that we could not pay and only the sacrifice of Christ could set us free from sin and death. God made his standard clear. It is absolute perfection. In the atonement of Christ, he is taken as our substitute. He takes our place and gives us his righteousness.
Now we see an important piece of information. Christianity is dealing with a problem, the problem of sin. Let us keep granting then that Jesus is the source of justification whereby we are forgiven of our sins. What does it say then to have the one sacrifice given for your sins and reject it? There is no sacrifice left at that point.
Greg Koukl makes a great point about Revelation 20. He tells us that you don’t go to Hell for not believing in Jesus. It isn’t a theological exam. Those who make it in are those whose names are found in the book of life. If your name is there, you are in. No questions asked.
What about everyone else? They are judged by their works. What other grounds does God have to judge you on? Your works either measure up or they don’t. Rest assured, the judgment will be fair, but God does accept only absolute perfection. If you want to bypass that judgment, then the cross of Christ is the way to go.
As for intolerance, tolerance requires a disagreement on an issue of importance. I can respect the Muslim without believing in Islam. I have an atheist friend who I greatly respect yet I will not budge for a second in stating that my view is right and his is wrong. He knows this well and says the same for me. I wouldn’t expect anything less. This is truth we’re talking about after all.
No. Christianity is quite tolerant really. We see the other person regardless of their worldview as holding the image of God. While we don’t agree with them, we see them as people Jesus Christ loves and died for and thus, we do what we can to give them the gospel. If it is true, it is the most loving thing we can do.
So am I exclusive? As far as the truth claim goes, it is exclusive. The religion though is inclusive in the important way though. All are invited to come. What’s holding you back? The cross is very inclusive and any who want to come are invited.