Tag Archives: pluralism

“And what if we picked the wrong religion? Every week we’re just making God madder and madder.”

Someone Tweeted this today so I thought I’d rerun it with some bonus features.

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The title is from the episode of The Simpsons where Homer decides to stop attending church.

Marge: I can’t believe you’re giving up church, Homer.

Homer: Hey, what’s the big deal about going to some building every Sunday?  I mean, isn’t God everywhere?  And don’t you think that the Almighty has better things to worry about than where one little guy spends one measly hour of his week? And what if we picked the wrong religion?  Every week we’re just making God madder and madder.

Bart: Testify!

Marge: [Groans]

In one of those odd ways where someone speaks some truth without knowing it, it reminds me of this important passage:

1 Corinthians 15:12–18 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

So the Apostle Paul seems to agree with Homer, at least in one sense: If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, we are misrepresenting God – and that’s never a good place to be.   And the writers even have Homer realizing that not all religions are the same.  How do you discern which is right?  Look at the facts.

But the evidence points to the fact that He did rise from the dead, and that changes everything.

—–

As I noted in a recent post, Christianity is unique in that it is testable and falsifiable.  You can research the truth claims yourself.  Christianity involves knowledge, truth claims and faith in evidence.  Many people think religions are just a matter of opinion or are the result of “blind faith,” but that is the opposite of Christianity.

There are all sorts of apologetics resources (see the links to the right of this blog) or even simple things like the minimal facts approach, where nearly 100% of historical scholars from 1975 – present agree with the following statements and 75% of the same scholars agree that the tomb was empty:

  • Jesus really lived and was killed on a Roman cross.
  • Jesus’ disciples believed He appeared to them.
  • Jesus’ brother, James, went from being a pre-crucifixion skeptic to a post-crucifixion church leader.
  • The Apostle Paul believed Jesus appeared to him and he wrote most of the books attributed to him, including Romans, I & II Corinthians, Philemon and others.  He converted from persecuting Christians to being the greatest evangelist ever, despite nearly constant challenges, persecution and ultimately dying for his faith.

The Christian view that the physical resurrection of Jesus best accounts for these facts is highly supportable and logical.

This explains those who reject God.

Romans 1:18–20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

Romans 2:15-16 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

This sums it up as well:

To defy the Creator’s commands, you must ignore His exclusive right to rule His own creation as He wishes. You have to exalt yourself to a level of imaginary importance that would make Him at least second in command–if you are that generous–and place yourself first in command over the part of His creation you want to control–in this case, yourself. The arrogance of such a feat is astounding…No wonder there is a Hell! — Jim Berg

It is foolish and rebellious to think that you get to define whether God exists and what He must be like. Repent and believe while you still have time. Eternity is a mighty long time to suffer for your pride.

The incoherence of the “Christian” Left

Even if you just refer to the Tiny Bible of the Theological Left as common ground, it is easy to show how the Christian Left doesn’t understand or believe the few parts of Bible they claim to like.

False teachers from the “Christian” Left typically deny that Jesus is the only way to salvation, even though there are well over 100 passages teaching the opposite.  Here is another example of their incoherence.  They try to dismiss Paul and the Old Testament (as if that is something a real Christian would ever do!) yet claim to hold to the Gospels.

But consider what Jesus taught about parents in Matthew:

  1. He is obviously in agreement to honor your parents.  Matthew 15:4 “For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.'”
  2. But you must always put Jesus over any other person, including the parents you are commanded to honor.  Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. 37 Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
  3. Those who do his will are really his family. Matthew 12: 46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

There is no way to reconcile those passages from the Gospel of Matthew with the teaching that other religions can lead you to salvation.  The theological Left (read: wolves in sheep’s clothing) would have you believe that Jesus taught that you must love him more than anyone else, including the parents you are commanded to honor, and be willing to give up your life for him, yet you could still worship in another religion.  You must love him much more than your parents and other loved ones, but you could love Buddha, Allah, etc. more than Jesus.

That is ridiculous, as are most things they teach.  Run, don’t walk, from any “Christian” leader who denies that Jesus is the only way to salvation.  If they can’t get the simplest essential of the faith right, then they shouldn’t be trusted on anything.  Pick almost any passage that they claim to agree with and see what I mean.  There is almost always something there that they hate but can’t see — as if their eyes hadn’t been opened to it.

Parts of the Pachyderm

A favorite updated for your reading pleasure.  If you haven’t encountered the “parts of the elephant” argument yet, you probably will.  Even some people who claim the name of Christ use it to bolster their “all paths lead to God” mistake.

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Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason has an excellent piece called the Trouble with the Elephant.

The ancient fable of the blind men and the elephant is often used to illustrate the fact that every faith represents just one part of the larger truth about God. However, the attempt is doomed before it gets started.

In the story, multiple blind men feel different parts of an elephant and describe it in different ways.  Someone who is not blind then points out the truth to them.

The typical application of the story is that religious pluralism is true – i.e., we’re worshiping the same God in different ways.

A good question to ask anyone who repeats this parable is, “Where do you fit into the story?”  If he is one of the blind men, then why would he have anything to offer you?  If he claims to be the person with sight, then what are his qualifications that he understands this world and you don’t?

Note that the blind men are describing different parts of the elephant, but it is still an elephant.  But if one religion says God is personal and another says He is impersonal, then they can’t both be right.  You can’t be an elephant and not an elephant.  I wrote more on the irreconcilable differences in the essential truth claims of religions in Religious Pluralism is Intellectually Bankrupt.

In a sense, the whole story is self refuting.  While the principle message is that we can only know a certain piece about God, the message itself claims to have the big picture.

It also has a rather odd premise: The “real” religion would be to follow every religion.  That way you’d have the whole elephant.

The only way the parable would work is if the elephant described itself to the blind people – sort of the way the God reveals himself to us in the Bible.  As Koukl says:

If everyone truly is blind, then no one can know if he or anyone else is mistaken.  Only someone who knows the whole truth can identify another on the fringes of it.  In this story, only the king can do that–no one else.

The most ironic turn of all is that the parable of the six blind men and the elephant, to a great degree, is an accurate picture of reality.  It’s just been misapplied.

We are like blind men, fumbling around in the world searching for answers to life’s deepest questions.  From time to time, we seem to stumble upon some things that are true, but we’re often confused and mistaken, just as the blind men were.

How do I know this?  Because the King has spoken.  He is above, instructing us, advising us of our mistakes, and correcting our error.  The real question is:  Will we listen?

Remember that if the elephant illustration is true, then Christianity is false.  The Bible teaches 100+ times that Jesus is the only way to salvation.  This is an argument that no Christian should use.

Religious pluralism is intellectually bankrupt

pluralism.jpg

There are two main kinds of religious pluralism.  One is good and one is intellectually bankrupt.

Good pluralism: Numerous distinct ethnic, religious, or cultural groups are present and tolerated within a society.

Bad pluralism: All religions are true and equally valid paths to God.

Pluralism can be a good thing if it means we should tolerate the beliefs of others.  Jesus, who was God in flesh, didn’t force anyone to convert.  So why should we think that we can?

Christianity should flourish in a society with good pluralism, as the Gospel can be shared freely and there isn’t pressure to fake one’s beliefs.  Sadly, we often get complacent in such atmospheres and Christianity spreads just as well or better in times of persecution.  It tends to weed out false believers and teachers more effectively.

Of course, there are some truths in each religion, but there are irreconcilable differences in their essential truth claims regarding the nature of God, the path to salvation, their view of Jesus, etc.

Here are some examples:

One of the following is possible when we die, but under no circumstance could more than one be possible:

  1. Reincarnation (Hinduism, New Age)
  2. Complete nothingness (Atheism)
  3. One death then judgment by God (Christianity, Islam, others)

Jesus was either the Messiah (Christianity) or He was not the Messiah (Judaism and others), but He cannot be both the Messiah and not the Messiah.

God either doesn’t exist (Atheism), He exists and is personal (Christianity) or He exists and is impersonal (Hinduism).

Jesus either died on the cross (Christianity) or He didn’t (Islam).  The Koran repeatedly claims that Jesus did not die on the cross (Sura 4:157-158). What evidence does Islam offer? One guy with a vision over 500 years after the fact. That is not what we base history upon, especially when scholars of the first century — whether Christians or not — agree that a real person named Jesus died on a Roman cross.

God either revealed himself to us (many religions) or he didn’t (Atheism, Agnosticism).

Jesus is the eternally existent God (Christianity) or He isn’t (everything else, including the Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness). In fact, in Islam it is an unforgivable sin to claim that Jesus is God, so there is no way to reconcile Christianity and Islam.

Some people hold the view that God will be whatever you conceive him to be in this life.  That is one of the most bizarre religious views I have heard.  I’m not sure how they came to the conclusion that every human gets a designer god and that at death it would be just as one wished.

Consider the view of Mahatma Gandhi and Hinduism in general:

After long study and experience, I have come to the conclusion that [1] all religions are true; [2] all religions have some error in them; [3] all religions are almost as dear to me as my own Hinduism, in as much as all human beings should be as dear to one as one’s own close relatives. My own veneration for other faiths is the same as that for my own faith; therefore no thought of conversion is possible. (Mahatma Gandhi, All Men Are Brothers: Life and Thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi as told in his own words, Paris, UNESCO 1958, p 60.)

Yet the exclusive claims of Christianity prove Gandhi’s worldview (that of Hinduism) to be false.  Among other things, the Bible claims at least one hundred times that Jesus is the only way to salvation.  It also commands us not to worship idols and that we die once and then face judgment (it does not hold to reincarnation).  Those are key elements of the Hindu faith.  So if Hinduism is true then Christianity cannot be true.  But if Hinduism is correct in stating that all religions are true, then Christianity must be true.  But Christianity claims to be the one true path, so if it is true then Hinduism is not.

Also, Hinduism claims that Christianity is true, so if Christianity is false then so is Hinduism.  Either way, the logic of Gandhi and Hinduism collapses on itself.

When I share the Gospel with people I do so as respectfully as possible.  But I always try to work in examples like the above to highlight that under no circumstances can we both be right about the nature of God and salvation.

I used to hold the position of religious pluralism.  We studied world religions about 15 years ago in an Adult Sunday School class and, sadly, didn’t dig very deep (I was attending church but not really a believer . . . at best I was “saved and confused”).  Most of us walked away thinking the religions were “all pretty much the same” and with no incentive to go out and make a case for Christianity. 

So why did I – and so many people today, including Christians – embrace bad pluralism? I think it is typically out of a lack of clear thinking on the topic.  When you examine the essentials of these faiths it is not that hard to show how they are irreconcilable.

Political correctness and fear contribute as well.  It is easy to deny the exclusivity of Jesus (or the truth claims of whatever faith one follows) if one wants to avoid controversy.  But as unpopular as it is to make truth claims, it is really a rather logical thing to do.  The one claiming all religions are true needs to back up that claim with their evidence and logic.  Just rattle off a list of religions, sects and cults and ask why they are all true.  Just be careful saying things like, “Hinduism has a lot of sects.”  If you say it too quickly people will have surprised looks on their faces.

Sheer laziness is another factor.  Knowing enough about one’s faith to defend it in the marketplace of ideas is hard work.  Religious pluralism is a great excuse not to evangelize.

I expect many non-Christians to say that all paths lead to God, but it really bothers me when Christians do so.  They should meditate on this passage, among others:

Galatians 1:8-9 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

 

Roundup

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“And what if we picked the wrong religion? Every week we’re just making God madder and madder.”

The title is from the episode of The Simpsons where Homer decides to stop attending church.

Marge: I can’t believe you’re giving up church, Homer.

Homer: Hey, what’s the big deal about going to some building every Sunday?  I mean, isn’t God everywhere?  And don’t you think that the Almighty has better things to worry about than where one little guy spends one measly hour of his week? And what if we picked the wrong religion?  Every week we’re just making God madder and madder.

Bart: Testify!

Marge: [Groans]

In one of those odd ways where someone speaks some truth without knowing it, it reminds me of this important passage:

1 Corinthians 15:12–18 Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.

So the Apostle Paul seems to agree with Homer, at least in one sense: If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, we are misrepresenting God – and that’s never a good place to be.   And the writers even have Homer realizing that not all religions are the same.  How do you discern which is right?  Look at the facts.

But the evidence points to the fact that He did rise from the dead, and that changes everything.

—–

As I noted in a recent post, Christianity is unique in that it is testable and falsifiable.  You can research the truth claims yourself.  Christianity involves knowledge, truth claims and faith in evidence.  Many people think religions are just a matter of opinion or are the result of “blind faith,” but that is the opposite of Christianity.

There are all sorts of apologetics resources (see the links to the right of this blog) or even simple things like the minimal facts approach, where nearly 100% of historical scholars from 1975 – present agree with the following statements and 75% of the same scholars agree that the tomb was empty:

  • Jesus really lived and was killed on a Roman cross.
  • Jesus’ disciples believed He appeared to them.
  • Jesus’ brother, James, went from being a pre-crucifixion skeptic to a post-crucifixion church leader.
  • The Apostle Paul believed Jesus appeared to him and he wrote most of the books attributed to him, including Romans, I & II Corinthians, Philemon and others.  He converted from persecuting Christians to being the greatest evangelist ever, despite nearly constant challenges, persecution and ultimately dying for his faith.

The Christian view that the physical resurrection of Jesus best accounts for these facts is highly supportable and logical.

Bible overview notes

I typed this up as a quick recap for a series I just taught for an adult Sunday School Class and figured it might make a useful blog post.  These are mainly the conclusions, not the supporting points.  The PowerPoint slides are here.  I thoroughly enjoyed teaching the class.  Everyone was very engaged and eager to learn. 

Bible Overview

Always remember the big picture: We all rebel against God and are enemies of him and heading towards an eternity in Hell.  But God adopts, completely forgives and lavishes eternal riches on everyone who repents and trusts in Jesus (justification).  He makes us more like him over time (sanctification).  We do good works out of freedom and as a response to him, not to earn our salvation. 

As Christians, we should read the Bible often to better know God and what He wants us to know, but we aren’t saved by Bible trivia. 

The primary way we speak to God is through prayer.  The primary way He speaks to us is through the Bible.

Some of the many claims of the Bible:

  • Speaks for God ~ 3,000 times.
  • He will accomplish what He desires.
  • It is living and active.
  • It transforms us.
  • All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  (2 Timothy 2:16-17)

Christianity has grace; all other faiths are works-based.

Truth is that which corresponds to reality.  The #1 reason to be a Christian is that Christianity is true.

In essentials, unity; In non-essentials, liberty; In all things, charity — Augustine of Hippo

The original writings of the Bible are the inspired words of God – turning out exactly as He wanted it to.

We’ve got lots of thorough answers to common objections about the Bible and Christianity – 2,000 years of answers by great minds.  Other worldviews have to answer their objections as well and are not as well grounded as Christianity. 

The Bible is not a science textbook but is accurate in many scientific facts (ex., the vast number of stars).

You can’t coerce faith, but we should share the truth of Jesus whenever we can.

If you get stumped: “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

Historical facts — Christianity is founded upon evidence and reason

  • Jesus was a real person who died on a cross
  • The disciples really believed He rose physically
  • The Apostle Paul . . .
    • persecuted Christians then converted after claiming to see the risen Christ.
    • wrote at least Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Galatians and Philemon — key doctrines and traditions at early dates. 
    • Was hostile to the faith and had no reason to believe.
  • We know what the original writings of the Bible said to 100% accuracy on major doctrines and 99.5% on the words, and the 0.5% are basically the equivalent of typos.  Even many skeptics will concede that.
  • More!

Old Testament – countless commands not to worship other Gods.  New Testament – Jesus is the only way to salvation (100+ passages).  If Christianity is true then all other religions are false.

“Archeology is the Bible’s best friend” – Dr. Paul Maier

Be very wary of anyone who claims that parts of the Bible are wrong.  The Bible has many warnings of false teachers and wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Jesus agreed with all of the Old Testament.

Bible prophecies are accurate.  Example: Daniel’s prediction of the rise and fall of the Greek empire.  Even critics of the Bible agree that the description is accurate.  They just try (and fail) to rationalize that it was written after the fact.

If you read one chapter per day (less than 10 minutes even with reading the study notes), five days a week then you can read the New Testament in a year.

If you are an auditory learner, try the Audio Bible.  You can download the New Testament free here .

Try reading it as a family.  Just read a chapter then discuss.  Compare study Bible notes. 

How to read the Bible

  • Always in context – read what came before and after.
  • Use a study Bible or other tools.  Or just read it “unplugged.”
  • Find a good translation that you can and will read.
  • Read it the way the authors intended it – i.e., history, doctrine, parables, poetry

Sample reading approach

  • Read it – 1-3 chapters
  • Question it
    • What portion stands out to me?  Why? 
    • Is there an example for me to follow?
    • Is there an error for me to avoid?
    • Is there a duty for me to perform?
    • Is there a promise for me to claim?
    • Is there a sin for me to confess?
    • Plan it – make a plan for how you will use it
    • Pray it – pray scripture back to God
    • Share it – helps others and helps you to remember it

Just read it.

Highly recommended Christian web sites

Stand to Reason – clear thinking, accurate, understandable reasoning about Christianity and more

Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry – don’t be put off by the title.  This site has tons of information that is easy to navigate.

Got Questions? — countless questions about Christianity and the Bible

Recommended Podcasts (search for these on iTunes)

Stand to Reason Weekly

Grace to You

Walk in the Word with James MacDonald

Family Life Today

Focus on the Family

“Christian pluralism” – self-refuting, oxymoronic and arrogant

I was searching for the quote at the bottom about Islam and came across this post.  I decided that since I’d been analyzing the many problems with false teachers in the church that this would be good to re-post with a brief update.  This is more subtle than usual for me (heh) but I think it is still meaningful. 

Be sure to read the comment thread if you have time.  It is a classic.  Though you may want to take your Dramamine first as you watch the theological Liberals spin around.

—–

pluralism.jpgThere is good pluralism (“Numerous distinct ethnic, religious, or cultural groups are present and tolerated within a society”) and bad pluralism (“All religions are true and equally valid paths to God”).  I have already written on the bad kind in Religious pluralism is intellectually bankrupt

Erudite Redneck did a piece on the bad kind of pluralism that led to an interesting comment thread (by “interesting” I mean pointless and bizarre).  I think he was quoting some group but it wasn’t clear.  Here are selected portions:

While we have accepted the Path of Jesus as our Path, we do not deny the legitimacy of other paths God may provide humanity.

We affirm that the Path of Jesus is found wherever love of God, neighbor, and self are practiced together. Whether or not the path bears the name of Jesus, such paths bear the identity of Christ.

We confess that we have stepped away from Christ’s Path whenever we . . . have claimed Christianity is the only way, even as we claim it to be our way.

I knew these views self-refuting and oxymoronic, but the more I thought about it I realized they were arrogant as well.  Here’s why:

Self-refuting: They claim that other paths to God are valid, but they specifically exclude Christians who think Jesus is the only way.  But if all these paths are valid, why isn’t orthodox Christianity?  And if orthodox Christianity is valid, then these other paths are not.  Also, the definitions of “God” in these religions are mutually exclusive. 

Pluralists simply don’t understand or apply the logical law of non-contradiction: You can’t have a personal God (Christianity) and an impersonal God (Islam) at the same time, or be saved by faith in Christ alone (Christianity) and by good deeds (everybody else), die once and face judgment (Christianity and Islam) and be reincarnated (Hinduism), Jesus dies on a cross (Christianity) and Jesus does not die on a cross (Islam), etc.

Oxymoronic: The Bible claims at least 100 times that Jesus is the only way to salvation.  It only needs to say it once for it to be true, of course, but the theme is so strong that you have to work mighty hard to miss it.  Pluralistic Christianity is an oxymoron.  Christians originally called themselves The Way (see the Book of Acts), not A Way

Have these people even read the Bible, and especially the Old Testament?  With their reasoning you could cut out a couple Commandments (“You shall have no other gods before me” and “You shall not make for yourself an idol”).

Arrogant: While couched in inclusive language, it is actually a rather prideful position.  They say that regardless of whom other religions say they are worshiping (say, Allah) that they are really worshiping Jesus.  But do pluralistic Muslims pat us on the head and say, “Go ahead and worship Jesus.  That’s OK, because we know you are really following Allah.”  Of course not. 

Ergun Mehmet Caner, a Christian scholar (and former Muslim) claims it is blasphemy to say Jehovah and Allah are the same God, and also said:

I have never met one intelligent Muslim who ever said that Allah of the Koran and Jehovah of the Bible are the same God.

One commenter thought it was haughty to claim that Jesus was the only way and that it denied others their humanity and religious beliefs.  Those claims have it backwards, of course.  It isn’t haughty to properly quote the Bible.  And I respect people’s religious beliefs even if I disagree with them.  And I appreciate their humanity enough to say that we can’t both be right.  But the theological Liberals patronize people of other faiths and pretend that they are really worshiping the same God.  How completely arrogant.

In addition to being self-refuting, oxymoronic and arrogant, Christian pluralism is also hypocritical.  If they really believed what they taught they would send out Reverse Missionaries on the Great De-Commission.  If all these religions are equally valid paths to Jesus then missionary efforts should encourage people to avoid persecution and just worship according to local customs (Islam, Hinduism, Baal, etc.).

The pluralists’ inconsistency betrays the fact they probably don’t believe what they are saying.  It is just an easy way for them to stay popular with the world and avoid the hard and risky work of evangelism.