Christianity and Religious Diversity Part 5: Christianity’s Exclusive Claim
Christopher J Wiles
writer | speaker | servant
It may come as no surprise that I will argue that Christianity is an exclusive faith system, and here I use the term “exclusive” in the sense I alluded to in Part 2: referring to a faith system that excludes non-adherents from salvation.
I have never sought to openly defend Brit Hume, although I have sought to defend against the faulty reasoning of his objectors.
The question still stands as to how to “speak the truth in love” to a world that is such a swirling mix of faiths and cultures.
CHRISTIANS DO NOT EXCLUDE ANYONE
Jesus tells His disciples that “no one comes to the Father” except through faith in Him (cf. Jn 14:6). In the Book of Acts, the disciples claim that “there is no other name…by which [man] may be saved” (Acts 4:10-12). At the same time, God is “not willing that any shall perish” (2 Peter 3:9).
As I search scripture I find two things to be true with regard to this subject:
- there is only one way to God
- God’s desire is for humanity to know Him
The accusation often leveled at Christians is that they are actively trying to exclude people of other faiths and cultures. But this is simply not true. I will make two additional points:
- Christians do not say that Jesus is the only way to God. Jesus said this. We merely affirm His statements.
- Exclusion is purely on the basis of unbelief. Never on the basis of cultural difference.
Thus, the real issue is the issue of unbelief. My concern is not that people not follow Islam or that they not be a Hindu. My concern is that they come to knowledge of Jesus. Dallas Willard makes this point when discussing what he refers to as “sin management:”
“When I go to New York City, I do not have to think about not going to London or Atlanta. People do not meet me at the airport or station and exclaim over what a great thing I did in not going somewhere else. I took the steps to go to New York City, and that took care of everything. Likewise, when I treasure those around me and see them as God’s creatures designed for His eternal purposes, I do not make an additional point of not hating them or calling them twerps or fools. Not doing those things is simply a part of the package. ‘He that loves has fulfilled the law,’ Paul said. Really. On the other hand, not going to London or Atlanta is a poor plan for going to New York. And not being wrongly angry and so on is a poor plan for treating people with love. It will not work.” (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy)
SO WHY JESUS?
People occasionally will ask me why I am a Christian. I offer three reasons:
- Christianity is an intellectually viable worldview. By this I refer most specifically to the historical reality of the resurrection, apart from which our faith, as Paul said, is devoid of meaning. Apart from the resurrection of Christ, I can find no satisfying answer for the validity of the Christian worldview over another.
- Christianity is an intellectually satisfying worldview. I affirm the words of C.S. Lewis: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” Christianity is not only intellectually viable; it is satisfying. Christianity offers a means of understanding and interpreting the world that other worldviews do not.
- The Christian experience. While I do not wish to appeal too greatly to experience, which can prove deceptive, no defense of Christianity could ever be complete without affirming the transformative power of the gospel itself, a transformation seen in the lives of countless men and women throughout history, and a transformation that has been personally experienced in my own life as well.
ONLY CHRISTIANITY CAN AFFIRM DIVERSITY
In our pluralistic world, a firm stand for our faith need not occur at the expense of religious tolerance. True, we are not called to accept or affirm the beliefs of rival faiths, but we are called to reach “all nations,” panta ta ethne, all people groups with the gospel.
And in so doing we affirm that only Christianity can affirm diversity. Pluralism takes a Stalinist approach in attempting to normalize and control religious belief. Pluralism, ultimately, is a form of bigotry in its neglect of cultural and religious diversity.
Christianity, by contrast, takes seriously the diversity of religious differences, mainly because throughout history it has been the task of apologetics to answer these differences. Christianity affirms diversity because there has never been a concerted effort to equivocate all religions.
Further, only Christianity has a unique category for understanding the coexistence of unity and diversity, for only Christianity embraces a God who Himself exists in a state of unity (there is one God….) and diversity (…eternally existing as three persons). The Trinity gives us a better category than any other system for understanding diversity.
I realize that this is a larger subject than I am prepared to address in a blog post, but I will exhort all of you to pursue a greater understanding of the world’s religions (I will post some resources on this later).
In our pluralistic world, we must gain an understanding of what our neighbors and coworkers believe in order to build bridges with them.
Rather than say more, as I had originally intended, I will leave you on that subject until tomorrow’s post, in which I may provide an example of such bridge-building.
So stay tuned.
Christopher J Wiles
writer | speaker | servant
Chris is a writer and speaker from the Charlottesville area. He regularly serves as a research writer for Docent Research Group in addition to doing some guest speaking.