Is it a problem if Christianity is an exclusive belief system? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.
I just started pondering this question as I was reading “New Testament History: A Narrative Account” by Ben Witherington on how Luke wrote to show an inclusive faith and that today, we are told that Christianity is an exclusive faith.
This is often seen as a mark against Christianity. If Christianity is true, why is it so exclusive? Some could want to support universalism in this case. I don’t doubt that many of us would like it if universalism is true. We would love to empty out Hell. Wanting it to be true does not make it true and at the start, we need to realize that just because we want something, there is no requirement that we get what we want.
Let’s start by comparing Christianity at the start to other religions. What was required?
To be a good Jew, you needed to observe the Torah and you needed to be circumcised. I think most men today in considering whether to choose a religion would be quite thankful if they did not have to undergo something like that.
Paganism also had its requirements. You had to practice the rituals in order to learn the secrets of knowledge to keep going forward. You would often have to offer sacrifices. (Aren’t you glad you don’t have to sacrifice an animal regularly to please god? It’d sure change the pet industry) On the other hand, some might consider it a benefit that to be a pagan in some cases, you had to have ritual sex.
There is no doubt that Christianity called for a life of holiness, but at the same time, the initiation rite was quite simple. You simply had to believe in Jesus and get baptized. Baptism could even be put off.
Friends. I have been hydrophobic all my life and I had my baptism years after I had surgery, a surgery that involved putting a steel rod in my spine. Despite having dread about going underwater and despite having a steel rod, I was able to be bent long enough for a good traditional baptism. Don’t give me excuses about why it couldn’t be done. (And I do not doubt that in some cases it could not be done that are extreme, such as paralysis)
Did it matter if you were a Jew or a Gentile? Nope. Did circumcision matter? No. Did you have to keep the Law? Nope. Did you have to offer up sacrifices? Nope. Did you have to look after secret knowledge? Nope. Did it matter if you were male or female? Nope. Did it matter if you were free or slave? Nope. Did it matter if you were rich or poor? Nope. Your social status did not matter one iota.
But yet Christianity is still claimed to be exclusive because we believe we are right on religion and everyone else is wrong.
So does everyone else who has an opinion on religion!
Even if you are an inclusivist, you think that people are exclusivist are wrong! They’re just included in the blessings of your system as well. It will not do to say “Christians think other opinions are wrong!” It boils down to saying “Anyone who thinks a religious opinion is wrong is exclusive.” If that is the case, then to say that someone’s opinion on religion is wrong is also a religious opinion and that is exclusive!
This is just the way that truth is. If you believe something is true, you are automatically excluding all that disagrees with that opinion. If you think 64 times 64 = 4,096, you are automatically excluding all answers that are not 4,096. Saying that that equation is exclusive will not change reality.
This is problematic if you want to go after Christians for believing that their belief system is true. What other reason should they have for believing it? Now some Christians could have dumb reasons for thinking it is true, but that will not change the fact that if it is true, then it simply is true.
“But why should it be that only Christians get the benefits of being Christians?”
Now in our society, you can get some benefits you have not invested in, but those are benefits equally given to everyone and not specifically given to you because of who you are. In the Roman society, everyone was allowed to use the Roman roads, but everyone knew who paid for those roads and built them. Today, we can all use the road system or systems like a public library. However, if there are some systems that you have to pay into, then only paying members get those privileges because they are the ones making the commitment.
This is the case even with instances that we don’t necessarily pay for. For instance, if somebody decided they wanted my wife sexually, I would not allow that at all. Why? I’m the one who has made a lifelong commitment to her and I’m the only one who can have that privilege. No other person no matter how close they are can have that. The same for me. I do not give myself to any other woman. Only my wife can have me sexually.
Does that mean I hate other women? No more than it means that she hates other men. It means that we recognize the commitment and what benefits come with the commitment. It would be cheapening to our lifelong commitment to say that other people can enjoy the privileges of the commitment without the sacrifice.
For the person on the outside of Christianity looking in, what good does it do to say Christianity is exclusive? You are not going to get Christians to change their belief system or the Scriptures just because you don’t like it. Christianity will always teach that Jesus is the only way a man can be justified. That would be for us an insult to the sacrifice of Jesus if we said otherwise and to the dignity and honor of God.
So you complain that you do not get the blessings of Christianity? Bear with this thought. If Christianity is not true and the Christian deity does not exist, then you definitely don’t get the benefits because there is no one to give the benefits. I see Islam as an exclusive faith, but I do not complain about not getting my seventy virgins when I die, simply because I do not believe Allah really exists as thought in Muslim thought and therefore, there is no one to give me those seventy virgins.
Likewise, Christian revelation to be true must come from the Christian concept of God, but if that concept is not true, then there is no blessing that can truly be given. If they are not given, then you are missing out on the blessings of Christianity to begin with.
Do you think you should get the blessings of Christianity without being a Christian? Upon what basis? Should you get the benefits of exercise without exercising? Should you get the benefits of study without doing study? I could bring up the benefits of marriage but several already think they should get all the sex they want without commitment. Still, I hope most would agree at least with the first two.
Our entitlement society often says otherwise so much so that we think the laws of the universe ought to alter in order to make sure that we’re happy. If you are one who thinks that God owes you the benefits of being a Christian without having to be a Christian, then on what basis are these benefits owed to you? State your case! Why should God have to do this for you? What obligation to you is He under? (Keep in mind, it won’t do any good to say He doesn’t exist since you don’t get the benefits any way then.)
In all this complaining about Christianity being exclusive, sadly there is one question that is not asked and it seems that the question of exclusivity is often raised to avoid this question. That is the question of if Christianity is true. If it is true, then asking it to change will not have any effect. One must accept truth as it is. If it is not true, then what do you care? Why complain that a false system is not giving you any blessings? Just forget it and move on.
But if Christianity is true, it is your duty to believe in it. To not believe in it when it is shown to be true is to live in a denial of reality. It shows that you are definitely one who Christianity would say shows what the nature of Hell is, reshaping the world so that your will and desires are paramount. If you come to the belief that God has spoken, you will have to decide if His will and way are better or if yours are. If you think yours are and that you want to live a life without the way of God impacting it, then He will grant you your wish. If you want to live a life that thinks His way is most important, He will also grant your wish.
At any rate, let us cease talking about attitudes of a system and instead just discuss the fundamentals of the system. Is it true?