Tag Archives: pluralism

“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.

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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.

Witnessing to the Witnesses

I was working from home today and took a break to talk with a sweet old lady from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Please pray that a seed was planted and that she rethinks her beliefs.

My strategy was to stay focused on the JW’s mistranslation of John 1:1, where their Bible says the Word (Jesus) “was a God” instead of the accurate translation of “was God.” There are many other passages I could have referenced, but they know that and just bounce around with non sequitors.

I walked her through the simple evidence that we know what the original writings of the Bible said and how we know that it should be translated “was God.” Then she would change the subject to their standard challenges of the Trinity.

Instead of following her trail, I gently pointed out how she had changed the subject. We were both claiming to believe that the Bible was the inspired word of God, but the question is, “What did it really say?”

She would change the subject, then I’d bring it back. I encouraged her to research the translation process and come back if she could demonstrate that I was mistaken.

As they always do, she offered me reading materials about her religion. I told her I’d be glad to take them if she would take some materials from me. I know they aren’t allowed to take anything from the people they visit, so I gently pointed out how it seems odd that if they are the sole possessors of eternal truths that they wouldn’t be willing to consider arguments against their beliefs.

I also pointed out to her how my religion encourages me to read things in light of Scripture (e.g., 1 Thessalonians 5:21 Test everything. Hold on to the good and Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.).

The whole conversation was very friendly and low key.

Please note how simple that conversation was. I stuck to a couple key points: The facts demonstrate that their Bible is mistranslated and that unlike Christianity, their religion won’t permit you to consider critiques of it.

I told her that I respected her for taking the time and energy to share what she believed to be true, but I made it clear that we both can’t be right. To her credit, she agreed. I emphasized that we agree on most of what the Bible says, but that her religion’s founders had deliberately modified several passages in a vain attempt to change doctrines such as Jesus’ deity and the reality of Hell.

You don’t have to be an expert on the JW’s to point out some serious flaws and give them something to think about. Just don’t let them take the conversation all over the place. Politely point out to them how they haven’t addressed your fact-based objections and note how peculiar it is for them to give you materials when they won’t take any in return.

Then pray for them.

Saved and confused

contradiction.jpgCue the Led Zeppelin soundtrack . . .

The mark of a Christian is faith in Jesus Christ.  See the criminal on the cross for exhibit A.  He never tithed, read the Bible, took communion, spoke in tongues, got baptized, did good works, wore the right clothes, sang the right songs, etc. but he was saved by faith in Christ. 

Of course, for those of us who aren’t put to death shortly after making an authentic confession then one would expect to see the sanctification process at work, resulting in transformed though still imperfect lives.

All Christians are saved and at least a little confused in the sense of not having 100.000% perfect theology. But the focus should be on the essentials, such as the divinity, humanity and exclusivity of Jesus (e.g., He is the only way to salvation), the authority of the Bible, etc.

Romans 14 and other passages address how we are to handle disputed matters. From this we can immediately infer two things (more here):

1. God knew we’d have disputed matters.
2. He gave guidance on how to handle them.

Real salvation will lead to transformed lives.  But ultimately only God knows the true state of someone’s faith in Christ. It is possible to fake it to the world.

We all have more to learn, so even if we are saved we should seek to become less confused through Bible study.  We should be like the Bereans and test things in light of scripture, and we should heed Paul’s command to the Thessalonians:

Acts 17:11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

1 Thessalonians 5:21 Test everything. Hold on to the good.

But what of those who teach against the essentials?  Are they saved and confused, or fakes?  Do some fruit inspection.  If people consistently line up against the Bible and don’t seem interested in being corrected, I’d move on.

2 Timothy 4:3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve. 

Also see In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity and the importance of sound doctrine.

Another fan!

Be sure to read the whole post to understand how Chuck Currie is a serial, unrepentant liar.  He falsely accused me of writing things on his blog that I did not write and despite many requests he has never provided documentation.  Why?  Because he lied.

circle-slash.jpgThis is interesting!  I was mentioned (though not by name) in a recent sermon by Chuck Currie titled Who is a Christian?  He actually quoted this post of mine where I pointed out how odd it was for a “Christian” pastor to do a whole sermon on John 14:6 and to conclude that Jesus is not the only way to salvation and that we should find truth in other religions as well. 

John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Chuck didn’t even realize that there are 99 other verses supporting that view and that to teach otherwise was profoundly un-Christian.  He considers the Gospel of John to be unreliable but thinks the Gospel of Thomas is authoritative.  And so on.

True to form, though, he mischaracterized my piece and made it sound like I opposed being tolerant to other religions and that I said he was a non-Christian because he was tolerant.  That is a lie, and it is easily demonstrated by reading my post and listening to the audio of Chuck’s sermon.  I am all for tolerance of other religions and other people in general.  Chuck repeated his claim that God speaks to Buddhists and Muslims in their religions, which is false and profoundly un-Biblical.  My original post was spectacularly clear but Chuck took it out of context and played the martyr role.  Maybe I could conference call in to his service some time and clear things up.

Chuck disagrees with Jesus and his word, a lot.  That is why I question his authenticity.

According to his sermon, Chuck’s definition of a Christian is:

A Christian is a person who hears the Sermon on the Mount and says, “Amen.”

That’s it.  Really?  I thought it was more about repenting & believing and trusting in Jesus as your Lord and Savior.

I need to do a whole series on this, but Chuck and those like him can’t really like the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).  It portrays Jesus as being very intolerant.  He tells the Pharisees how they are doing everything wrong – worship, giving, praying, fasting, etc.  He upholds every letter and penstroke of the Old Testament.  He spoke of judgment.  He emphatically shows that there are false religions – the very thing that Chuck teaches the opposite of.  He warns strongly against false teachers – people like Chuck Currie!

I’d love for one of these religious pluralists to answer this: If they really believe that all these religions lead to God, shouldn’t they send out reverse missionaries to convert Christians back to their local religions?  Why should Christians in India be suffering so if Hinduism is an equally valid path to God? 

Chuck also played the “we just don’t take the Bible literally” game.  I don’t take it literally, either.  I read it in context.

Here’s another post where I analyzed Chuck’s games, such as using the guilt by association logical fallacy.  And another where he spread lies about Sarah Palin.

He is also pro-gay marriage and pro-legalized abortion.  Shocking.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.

Lesson learned: False teachers don’t like to be called false teachers.  Maybe next time he’ll quote me in context.  At least he is reading. 

I will give him credit for one thing: His sermon was only 13:22 minutes long.  It was mainly about my comments and those of someone criticizing the UCC (the United Church of Christ, or as Marie would say, Unitarians Considering Christ).  So much for exegesis.

UPDATE: Now the “Reverend” is doubling down.  He deleted at least one of my comments on his blog.  That is no problem, since it is his blog.  I’ve deleted many comments here (though none of his) for what I consider to be good reasons.  If he considered them off topic, or just didn’t like them, I wouldn’t even mention anything. 

But when I pointed out the deletions to him he said it was because they were “racist, sexist, homophobic” and “more.”  That is a another lie.  The total number of examples he offered was zero.  I pressed him to back up his accusations, and I’m saving copies of all my comments now.  It will be interesting to see if he tries to back up his words or even posts my request.

Here is what he wrote on his blog:

The only comments that I block are those that are racist, sexist or homophobic. I also ban some comments because of offensive language. Sorry to say that you’ve done all that and more and I just won’t allow those kinds of remarks on my site.

Here is my response:

I think you are mistaken. How about proving me wrong by posting the comments that you say had all these offensive things in them? You know you have them in your email.

Be a man and prove me wrong and let me respond, or don’t libel me that way.

You have now accused me of the following comments, so if you are an honest man you’ll provide at least one example of each.

– Racist
– Sexist
– Homophobe (An irrational fear of gays? Right.)
– Offensive language
– “More” (whatever that means)

I know you are probably mad because I did the post about how you quoted me out of context in your sermon. An apology would have been nice but I didn’t expect that. But you could at least not dig a deeper hole for yourself.

I’ll be saving copies of all my comments from here on out.

I’m still waiting for him to post my comment.  Is the false teacher lying and libeling again?  Will he back up his claims?

Update: As of Dec. 31, 2008, Chuck has still not apologized for his lies.  Worse yet, when another commenter reminded him of our discussions Chuck deliberately repeated the lies.  Hopefully one of the “Reverend’s” New Year’s resolutions is to stop libeling people and to repent of his lies. 

Reverse missionaries

u-turn.jpgTypical evangelism for any religion involves someone going out at some degree of expense and risk to share what one believes to be true.  It is a pretty simple and logical concept: If you think you know the true path to forgiveness, joy, peace and eternal life and you truly care about others, then of course you’ll want to share the Good News (regardless of how you define it).

However, some people hold the view that all religions are equally valid paths to God.  As I was reflecting on the discussions on the Jesus is still the only way thread, I was reminded that people who hold that view should have a completely different model of evangelism.  Wouldn’t it be most loving for them to send “reverse missionaries” to encourage everyone to follow their local religions?  After all, consider the persecuted people around the world who could avoid pain, suffering, economic loss, prison and even death if they just held beliefs more palatable to their culture.

For example, you’d want to send people to Christians in India, N. Korea, China, all Arab countries and more to explain to them that Hinduism/Islam/Buddhism/etc. are just as good and that they should leave Christianity to maximize their comfort and happiness.  If you follow any organizations like Voice of the Martyrs you are probably familiar with how much Christians suffer for their faith in many parts of the world.  Why suffer like that if other religions are just as good? 

And loving universalists (those who believe everyone is going to Heaven, regardless of what they believe) should go to China to encourage people to be atheists.

What a tragedy that hundreds of thousands or even millions of Christians died unnecessarily for their faith over the centuries.  They should have just recanted and gone with the local religion, right?

What I’ve found is that religious pluralists and universalists do no such thing. They typically think their “home religion” is correct (why else would they belong to those denominations?) but are afraid to offend someone or risk rejection for sharing their view, or perhaps are unwilling to work to learn their beliefs well enough to defend them.

Shouldn’t false teachers who insist that all religions lead to God lend their time and money to being reverse missionaries?  Yet I never hear of them undertaking such efforts to reduce the “needless” suffering of Christians around the world.  Real faith is behaving as if what you say you believe is true.  Yet these folks don’t follow through to the logical consequences of their worldview.

Of course, since I hold the view that Jesus is the one way to salvation then it is on my heart to share that with people.

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!

Must-see videos

stand-to-reason.gifThese Stand to Reason videos are simply outstanding.  Greg Koukl is the most well-reasoned, winsome, articulate and effective apologist and teacher I’ve come across. 

The videos are just a couple minutes long.  I highly encourage Christians and non-Christians to watch at least a couple of them.  They will educate you and help you think more clearly.

Their Podcastwebsite (including their training MP3s) and blog are also invaluable. 

Stand to Reason trains Christians to think more clearly about their faith and to make an even-handed, incisive, yet gracious defense for classical Christianity and classical Christian values in the public square.

Check ’em out!