Christ’s Exclusive Truth-Claims Make Believing “All Religions Are Basically the Same” Impossible
A Barna survey found that 59% of American adults believe that “Christians and Muslims worship the same God even though they have different names and beliefs regarding God.” And it’s not just secular people who believe that “all religions are basically the same”:
One-quarter of born again Christians said that all people are eventually saved or accepted by God (25%) and that it doesn’t matter what religious faith you follow because they all teach the same lessons (26%). An even larger percentage of born again Christians (40%) indicated that they believe Christians and Muslims worship the same God.
A 2017 Barna Poll found that “almost three in 10 (28%) practicing Christians strongly agree that ‘all people pray to the same god or spirit, no matter what name they use for that spiritual being.’” (I’ve written more about the question “Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?” in an earlier blog post.)
But truth-claims in all religions—including Christianity—are by nature exclusive. Jesus didn’t say, “I am a way and a truth and a life; I’m one way to come to the Father.” He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, emphasis added). If someone says Jesus isn’t the primary truth, then either he’s wrong or Jesus is.
How many routes can take us to the Father in Heaven? Peter preached, “Salvation is found in no one else [but Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Yet many continue to insist that Christ was merely a good teacher, and just one of many ways to God—perhaps because if the Bible is true and we’ll be held accountable to God, then we realize we’re in trouble. Many people don’t want to hear there’s a God who created us, says we are sinners, makes demands on our lives, and claims to be our Judge that we must answer to. (The flip side of that bad news about our sin and accountability is the very Good News that Jesus, God’s own Son, came to earth as a man, suffered and died in our place, rose again, and freely offers us forgiveness and eternal life!)
In his book Encounters with Jesus, Tim Keller writes:
Some years ago I was on a panel with a Muslim cleric, talking about our differences in front of a group of college students. And one college student kept insisting, “Well, I listened to you both for twenty minutes, and I want you to know that I just don’t see any real difference between you. I just don’t see any difference between the religions. It seems like you’re basically saying God is love and we should love God and love one another.” In our responses to the student the cleric and I were in complete agreement. At first glance it looks tolerant to say “you are both alike,” but each of us argued gently that the student was not showing enough respect to listen to each religion’s distinctive voice. Each faith had made unique claims that contradicted the deepest teachings of other faiths. And so, we concluded, while each faith could certainly appreciate wisdom in the other, we couldn’t both be right at the deepest level. The student maintained his position, saying that all religions are fundamentally alike.
Ironically, the young man was being every bit as dogmatic, superior, and ideological as any traditional religion adherent can be. He was saying, in essence, “I have the true view of religion, and you don’t. I can see that you are alike, but you can’t. I am spiritually enlightened, and you aren’t.” But as I spoke to him a bit afterward I concluded that he was motivated by an underlying fear. If he granted that any religion made unique claims, then he would have to decide whether or not those claims were true. He did not want the responsibility of having to ponder, weigh it all, and choose. Among young secular adults it is common to adopt this belief that all religions are roughly the same. Dare I say this is a form of emotional immaturity? Life is filled with hard choices, and it is childish to think you can avoid them. It may seem to get you out of a lot of hard work, but the idea of the equivalence of religions is simply a falsehood. Every religion, even those that appear more inclusive, makes its own unique claim. But Jesus’ claims are particularly unnerving, because if they are true, there is no alternative but to bow the knee to him.
Tim Keller, Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life's Biggest Questions, (New York: Penguin Books, 2013), 195–196.
Christianity rises or falls on the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. If this event is historically true, it makes all other religions false, because Jesus Christ claimed to be the one and only way to God the Father. To prove this, He predicted He would come out of the grave alive three days after He was executed. And He did.
The resurrection of Christ is provable by overwhelming evidence (read Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell or The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel). What does the resurrection mean? It means Christ is God and since He said He is the only way to forgiveness of sins and the only way to Heaven—all other religions are false.
Jesus asked His disciples the most important question: “Who do you say I am?” (Matthew 16:16). If we get it right about Jesus, we can afford to get some minor things wrong. But if we get it wrong about Jesus, it won’t matter in the end what else we get right.