Christianity and Religious Diversity Part 5: Christianity’s Exclusive Claim

Thanks for reading. If you are just joining this discussion, please follow the earlier posts:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

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:

  1. there is only one way to God
  2. 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:

  1. Christians do not say that Jesus is the only way to God. Jesus said this. We merely affirm His statements.
  2. 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

RELIGIOUS UNDERSTANING

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.

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5 thoughts on “Christianity and Religious Diversity Part 5: Christianity’s Exclusive Claim

    • Your point is well taken, though I would caution against viewing faith as wholly subjective. The reality, of course, is that religious pluralism is just as dogmatic (in some cases even more so), ethnocentric and intolerant and many of the world’s religions.

  1. He seems pretty abolute that exclusive claims about subjective (assumed) matters is ironc. Yet his own statement relies on an absolute position about subjective (assumed) matters. Doubly ironic? Irony ad nauseum? Hmmm……

  2. Pingback: How far is Heaven?: The Pluralistic Challenge to Jesus | …thorns compose…

  3. If you are interested in some new ideas on religious pluralism and the Trinity, please check out my website at http://www.religiouspluralism.ca, and give me your thoughts on improving content and presentation.

    My thesis is that an abstract version of the Trinity could be Christianity’s answer to the world need for a framework of pluralistic theology.

    In a constructive worldview: east, west, and far-east religions present a threefold understanding of One God manifest primarily in Muslim and Hebrew intuition of the Deity Absolute, Christian and Krishnan Hindu conception of the Universal Absolute Supreme Being; and Shaivite Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist apprehension of the Destroyer (meaning also Consummator), Unconditioned Absolute, or Spirit of All That Is and is not. Together with their variations and combinations in other major religions, these religious ideas reflect and express our collective understanding of God, in an expanded concept of the Holy Trinity.

    The Trinity Absolute is portrayed in the logic of world religions, as follows:

    1. Muslims and Jews may be said to worship only the first person of the Trinity, i.e. the existential Deity Absolute Creator, known as Allah or Yhwh, Abba or Father (as Jesus called him), Brahma, and other names; represented by Gabriel (Executive Archangel), Muhammad and Moses (mighty messenger prophets), and others.

    2. Christians and Krishnan Hindus may be said to worship the first person through a second person, i.e. the experiential Universe or “Universal” Absolute Supreme Being (Allsoul or Supersoul), called Son/Christ or Vishnu/Krishna; represented by Michael (Supreme Archangel), Jesus (teacher and savior of souls), and others. The Allsoul is that gestalt of personal human consciousness, which we expect will be the “body of Christ” (Mahdi, Messiah, Kalki or Maitreya) in the second coming – personified in history by Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Buddha (9th incarnation of Vishnu), and others.

    3. Shaivite Hindus, Buddhists, and Confucian-Taoists seem to venerate the synthesis of the first and second persons in a third person or appearance, ie. the Destiny Consummator of ultimate reality – unqualified Nirvana consciousness – associative Tao of All That Is – the absonite* Unconditioned Absolute Spirit “Synthesis of Source and Synthesis,”** who/which is logically expected to be Allah/Abba/Brahma glorified in and by union with the Supreme Being – represented in religions by Gabriel, Michael, and other Archangels, Mahadevas, Spiritpersons, etc., who may be included within the mysterious Holy Ghost.

    Other strains of religion seem to be psychological variations on the third person, or possibly combinations and permutations of the members of the Trinity – all just different personality perspectives on the Same God. Taken together, the world’s major religions give us at least two insights into the first person of this thrice-personal One God, two perceptions of the second person, and at least three glimpses of the third.

    * The ever-mysterious Holy Ghost or Unconditioned Spirit is neither absolutely infinite, nor absolutely finite, but absonite; meaning neither existential nor experiential, but their ultimate consummation; neither fully ideal nor totally real, but a middle path and grand synthesis of the superconscious and the conscious, in consciousness of the unconscious.

    ** This conception is so strong because somewhat as the Absonite Spirit is a synthesis of the spirit of the Absolute and the spirit of the Supreme, so it would seem that the evolving Supreme Being may himself also be a synthesis or “gestalt” of humanity with itself, in an Almighty Universe Allperson or Supersoul. Thus ultimately, the Absonite is their Unconditioned Absolute Coordinate Identity – the Spirit Synthesis of Source and Synthesis – the metaphysical Destiny Consummator of All That Is.

    After the Hindu and Buddhist conceptions, perhaps the most subtle expression and comprehensive symbol of the 3rd person of the Trinity is the Tao (see book cover); involving the harmonization of “yin and yang” (great opposing ideas indentified in positive and negative, or otherwise contrasting terms). In the Taoist icon of yin and yang, the s-shaped line separating the black and white spaces may be interpreted as the Unconditioned “Middle Path” between condition and conditioned opposites, while the circle that encompasses them both suggests their synthesis in the Spirit of the “Great Way” or Tao of All That Is.

    If the small black and white circles or “eyes” are taken to represent a nucleus of truth in both yin and yang, then the metaphysics of this symbolism fits nicely with the paradoxical mystery of the Christian Holy Ghost; who is neither the spirit of the one nor the spirit of the other, but the Glorified Spirit proceeding from both, taken altogether – as one entity – personally distinct from his co-equal, co-eternal and fully coordinate co-sponsors, who differentiate from him, as well as mingle and meld in him.

    For more details, please see: http://www.religiouspluralism.ca

    Samuel Stuart Maynes

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