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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: When the God of the Bible Is Rejected

Don Stewart :: Does Any One Religion Have "The" Answer about God?

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Does Any One Religion Have “The” Answer about God? (Religious Pluralism or Religious Tolerance)

When the God of the Bible Is Rejected – Question 1

In modern times, it is quite popular to believe that no one particular religion can have “the” answer when it comes of the question of the existence of God or gods. This viewpoint, that it is not possible for any one group to have exclusive claim to truth in the area of religion, is known as “religious pluralism” or “religious tolerance.”

The Beliefs of Religious Pluralism

We can simply state the beliefs of religious pluralism as follows:

1. It Is Not Possible for Humans to Have Infallible Knowledge about God

Religious pluralists believe that the existence of God is a mystery. They do not think that it is possible for any human being to know infallible truths about God, even if He does exist. This belief is foundational for all religious pluralists.

2. Therefore No One Religion Has the Truth about God

Since exact truth about God cannot be known by humans, no one religious system can claim to be superior to another system. Consequently, no religion or religious teacher can maintain to have “the” truth in this area. It is simply not possible for humans to have such knowledge.

3. All Religions Have Some Truth in Them

Religious pluralists argue that every religion has some truth in them. While some religions may have a better understanding of truth than others, all of them, with a few exceptions, have something to contribute to our knowledge about God or ultimate reality. Religious pluralists think that religions are more often right than wrong in the things that they teach. Each of them has something truthful to say to humanity but none of them has the complete truth.

4. All Religions, Therefore, Are Valid to Some Degree

Because no one system of religion has absolute truth about God, and since all religions have some truth in their teachings, then all religions should be seen as more or less equally valid. Ultimately, there is no real difference between them no matter what they may claim for themselves.

5. Consequently, There Is the Need to Accept All Faiths

This leads to the next point. People need to be tolerant or accepting of all faiths or all points of view when it comes to understanding God. Since no one has the truth, we can learn from all faiths because each of them has discovered some partial truth about God. We should not be so arrogant to think that our way is the only way.

6. Historic Christianity with Its Claims of One Way to Reach God Must Be Restated

Therefore, religious pluralism believes that the historic Christian faith is wrong in asserting that only one God exists, and there is only one way to reach the one God. It is contended that Christians must restate their beliefs in such a way as to accept other faiths as being truthful. Since there is some truth in all religions, it is arrogant and intolerant for Christians to claim that their religion is somehow better. Consequently, any type of missionary activity or attempting to make converts to Christianity is wrong. There is no need to do this because all religions are more or less equal.

Result: The God of Religious Pluralism Ends up Being Some Vague Concept

The natural result of saying that all religions contain some truth about God, and all are equally valid, is that God ends up being whatever someone wants him, or it, to be. God becomes some vague concept where people project their own hopes and ideals. Rather than God creating humanity in His image, God is now created in our image. God becomes either totally unknowable by humanity, or if he is knowable, he is a God who is our friend, one who is vitally interested in our well-being. He is never our judge.

These points briefly sum up the main ideas of religious pluralists. As mentioned, it is a very popular viewpoint today. Multitudes of people accept this idea of religious pluralism either knowingly or unknowingly. Often, the belief in religious pluralism is accepted as a fact in the same sense that the earth revolves around the sun Indeed, it is something which everyone knows to be true and therefore, it cannot be questioned.

Response to Religious Pluralism

While religious pluralism is certainly a popular idea with many people in our modern age, there are a number of fatal problems with it. They are as follows:

1. They Assume, Not Prove, That God Cannot Be Known by Humans

To begin with, religious pluralism assumes, not proves, that God cannot be known through any one religion. The assumption is that God, if He exists, cannot be personally known by human beings. They start with the idea that true knowledge about God is beyond the reach of human beings. In other words, they are assuming as fact what they should be proving. This is not the way to prove your point.

2. If God Exists, Why Can’t He Make Himself Known to Humans through One Religion and One Holy Book?

While religious pluralists contend that God is cannot be known through any one religion, they have no way of proving or demonstrating this claim. In fact, they cannot offer any proof since no proof is possible. They merely assume that God, if He exists, is unknown and unknowable. They do not allow for the possibility of God taking the initiative and revealing Himself to humanity in a sacred book.

However, this idea of God revealing Himself is neither rational nor logical. If an all-powerful God does exist, then what would stop Him from communicating with the human race should He decide to do so? The answer, of course, is “nothing.”

3. Religious Pluralists Are Inconsistent: They Are Intolerant of the Systems They Attack

The irony is that religious pluralists are just as intolerant as those they accuse of intolerance. They cannot live consistently with their own system. They claim, without proof, that accurate knowledge about God is impossible. However, when they assume this, they put themselves in the same position as people of various faiths who believe that their faith is “the” only way to the truth. No human being is in a position to rule out the possibility that God could make Himself known through a religious system of His choice. Yet religious pluralists do this.

4. Christianity Claims to Have the Answer and Backs up Its Claims with Convincing Evidence

The final point concerns the claims of the Christian faith. Christianity believes and teaches that there is such a thing as objective truth. Furthermore, it makes certain claims about God which, by definition, exclude other beliefs systems to be true.

In addition, the Christian faith backs up these claims with convincing evidence. There are a number of points we should make about this.

5. The Bible Says That There Is Objective Truth

Contrary to religious pluralism, or those who believe we should be tolerant of all other religions and their beliefs, the Christian faith says that there is such a thing as objective truth. Indeed, there is truth which exists outside of ourselves and our own beliefs. Truth is not relative rather it is absolute. There are things which are true and there are things which are not true. According to Scripture, there is no such idea as “something may be true for you but not for me.” Truth is absolute. It does not depend upon how what we believe or how we feel about it. This truth is determined by the God of the Bible and by Him alone.

Therefore, certain beliefs are incompatible with the truth. John wrote about the possibility of humans knowing the truth:

I have not written to you because you don’t know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie comes from the truth (1 John 2:21 HCSB).

According to this statement of John it is possible to know the truth and it is possible not to know the truth. In other words, there is such a thing as truth.

Jesus made the claim for Himself that He was “the truth.” We read this in the Gospel of John:

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6 HCSB)

Jesus said that He is “the truth.”

Again, Scripture emphasizes that there are things true, and things false. Consequently, we are not to be tolerant of all of the beliefs of others in the sense that we accept them as being true. While people have a right to hold these beliefs, we have the right to say that these beliefs are incorrect because God’s Word says so!

6. The Bible Makes Exclusive Claims about God: He Is the Only God Who Exists

It is still the claim of historic Christianity that it does have “the” answer with respect to God’s existence. From beginning to end, the Bible makes it clear that the God of Scripture is the only God who exists. For example, we read the following words of the Lord in the Book of Isaiah:

I am the LORD All-Powerful, the first and the last, the one and only God. (Isaiah 44:6a CEV)

The God revealed in the Bible is the one and only God.

This truth is emphasized in another statement found in Isaiah. It says,

“You are My witnesses”—the LORD’s declaration—“and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. No god was formed before Me, and there will be none after Me.” (Isaiah 43:10 HCSB)

The Lord, the God of the Bible is the only God who exists. Indeed, He declared that no god was formed before Him and there will never be any god formed after Him. Indeed, there is no other God. This is claim. It is either true or it is false.

7. The God of the Bible Is Knowable

There is something else which must be appreciated. According to Scripture, the God of the Bible, the only God who exists, is knowable. Humans can indeed know certain truths about Him, as well as know Him personally through God the Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus acknowledged this when He prayed to God the Father on the night of His betrayal. He said,

“And this is the way to have eternal life—to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.” (John 17:3 NLT)

There is only one true God and this God is knowable.

The disciples of Jesus came to know God the Father through God the Son, Jesus Christ. They gave this testimony.

“We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:69 NASB)

This is one of the main points of the Christian message; the God of the Bible exists and He can be known.

8. Christianity Offers Sufficient Evidence to Back Up Its Claims

Therefore, it is the claim of the Christians faith that the God of the Bible, the only God who exists, is knowable. Christianity not only makes these claims, it offers sufficient evidence to back up the claims. It challenges those who doubt these claims to investigate them to see if they are true. The apostle Peter wrote,

...but set apart the Messiah as Lord in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect... (1 Peter 3:15, 16a HCSB)

The reason Peter could tell the believers to give a defense for their faith is because they were eyewitnesses to the miracles of Jesus Christ. These knew these things to be true. They were not following after myths or fables. He also wrote,

For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the power of our Lord Jesus Christ and his coming again. We have seen his majestic splendor with our own eyes. And he received honor and glory from God the Father when God’s glorious, majestic voice called down from heaven, “This is my beloved Son; I am fully pleased with him.” We ourselves heard the voice when we were there with him on the holy mountain. (2 Peter 1:16-18 NLT)

Christians are not afraid of the truth because Jesus claimed to be “the truth” and knowledge of this truth will set us free. We read in John’s gospel these words of Jesus:

“You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32 God’s Word)

It is the truth about Jesus Christ which sets sinful human beings free. There is truth and can indeed be known!

Religious Pluralism and Religious Tolerance Is to Be Rejected by Bible-Believing Christians

Consequently, religious pluralism, the idea that God, if He does exist, cannot be personally known by human beings, and that no one religion has the answer, is to be rejected by Bible-believing Christians. God does exist and He can be known through the Person of Jesus Christ. This remains the claim of the Christian faith.

In addition, Scripture knows no such idea as being tolerant of other beliefs about God. God has revealed His truth to the world and people are held responsible to believe it.

Therefore, Christians must take a stand for the truth which has been once-and-for-all revealed to humanity through God’s written Word and through the Person of Jesus Christ. Religious pluralism, in all its forms, needs to be soundly rejected.

Summary – Question 1
Does Any One Religion Have “The” Answer about God? (Religious Pluralism or Religious Tolerance)

Religious pluralism is the idea that no one system of religious belief has the answers when it comes to God, or ultimate reality. They assume that it is not even possible for this to occur since humans cannot know anything for certain about God. Therefore, no one religion can claim to have “the” truth. It cannot be contained in any one faith or any one Holy Book.

Consequently all religions ought to be respected for their attempt to understand ultimate truth. Religions, such as Christianity, that claim there is only one way to reach God, should be rejected. Any view of God must, by definition, be some vague concept. This assumption of religious pluralism is held by many people today.

Christians need to respond to such claims. When we examine the evidence, we find that religious pluralism is inadequate for a number of reasons.

First, it assumes that God, if He exists, cannot reveal Himself exclusively through one religion. Of course, this is a claim that has no way of being proved or disproved. It is merely assumed by faith. Why should the religious pluralist assume that if there is a God that He cannot choose to reveal Himself in any manner in which He pleases. What is stopping Him from revealing Himself through one particular faith or Holy Book? The answer, of course, is nothing.

In addition, religious pluralists cannot live consistent with their beliefs. They are as intolerant as others they accuse. While they chide people who claim there is a right way and a wrong way to believe they assume that these people must be wrong. Yet they provide no evidence whatsoever for their belief.

Finally, the Christian faith has a clear response to the idea of religious pluralism and religious tolerance for all beliefs.

To begin with, the Bible claims that there is such thing as objective truth. These truths are universal. Humanity is to be held responsible as to how they respond to these truths. Scripture knows nothing of the idea that truth is relative or that something is true for one person or may not be true for someone else. According to Scripture, there is absolute truth.

Furthermore, Christianity does claim to have “the” answer to the spiritual needs of humanity. It claims that there is only one true God who exists. This God has revealed Himself to the human race. Among other things, He has told us who He is, who we are, and what our responsibilities are toward Him. The Bible says that there is only one way to approach the one God; through Jesus Christ.

These claims are exclusive; they rule out other religions as being true at this point. There is no middle ground. Either the claims are true or they are not true.

In addition, Christianity teaches that this God is also knowable. It is possible that we can know certain things about Him as well as know Him personally. He is not some unknown God.

Moreover, He has confirmed the truth of Scripture with overwhelming evidence. We do not have to believe in Him by blind faith. To the contrary, He has provided us with sufficient facts to believe in Him.

Therefore, the idea of religious pluralism or religious tolerance is contrary to the teachings of Scripture. God does exist and He had made Himself known to humanity through His written Word and through the Person of Jesus Christ. Certain things are true while other things are not true. These are the exclusive claims of the Christian faith.

While people have the right to believe whatever they wish to believe about God and His existence ultimately the way each of us responds to the claims of the God of Scripture will determine where we will spend eternity. This indeed is the truth!

What Non-Christians Believe about God (Introduction) ← Prior Section
Don't All Religions Ultimately Teach the Same Thing? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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