We live in an age of a prevailing belief known as “Religious Pluralism”, which says no one religion (especially Christianity) holds the exclusive title to “absolute truth.” Religious pluralism says all religions ultimately lead to one nebulous God, the Creator and Savior of us all.
A Way or The Way?
Unfortunately today, those who believe in a first-century Jewish Rabbi as “THE way” are seen as harsh, mean-spirited, arrogant and backward. And who wants to be like that? However, simply swap that definite article (‘the’) for an ‘a’ and instantly Jesus (and His followers) become a lot more palatable to modern tastes. The Gospel aroma magically becomes more pleasant to millions in an all-inclusive world. One little word makes all the difference in a person’s beliefs about salvation, life and the life to come. It reveals whether you’re an exclusivist (a belief that only one religion is true) or a pluralist (all religions lead to God). Pluralism is prevalent in our culture and sounds like this:
“It doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere.”
“As long as it works for you and makes you happy.”
“There is no such thing as ultimate (or absolute) truth.”
“I believe there are many ways to God.”
“It’s rude to say one person’s religion is better than another’s.”
“It takes everyone’s truth to equal the truth.”
“What makes you think your religion is right and everyone else is wrong?
It is now socially unacceptable to criticize another person’s religious beliefs (unless of course you’re slamming Christianity!). But keep in mind that, historically, ours has always been a creedal faith, meaning our beliefs direct and influence our attitudes and actions. As Christ-followers, we believe God has made Himself known through creation, our conscience and special revelation in Scripture. And He has never stuttered when He spoke, making His character crystal clear so that we wouldn’t mistake Him for any other so-called “gods”. And 2000 years later, in the midst of our culture’s buffet-style theology, Christianity still maintains that God’s identity isn’t optional (or even open to a face-lift).
Nothing New Under the Sun
The idea of pluralism is also nothing new. Way back in the Old Testament era, a diverse range of religious beliefs co-existed alongside ancient, monotheistic Judaism. Baal worship and various forms of Canaanite deities are systemic throughout the Jewish record. And it was in this world-view context that God spoke, clearly setting Himself apart from other deities and distinguishing Israel from other nations. A simple read of the Old Testament and one can see that God isn’t hip on sharing His glory with other belief systems or so-called gods.
“I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols” (Isaiah 42:8).
“…My glory I will not give to another” (Isaiah 48:11b).
And though Scripture claims the Lord does all things well, sharing His glory apparently isn’t one of them. He is decidedly intolerant on that particular issue. Interestingly, when the ancient Assyrians and Babylonians took Israel into captivity it was largely due to the Jewish nation’s worship of multiple gods, abandoning their allegiance to the one true God. Over time, it had become very fashionable to mix the worship of Yahweh with Ashtoreth and Molech, the cultural gods of Baal.
God isn’t a Middle School Girl
But God’s intolerance of rivals isn’t because He’s “insecure” or jealous like some middle school girl. God’s jealousy for His glory goes much deeper than mere human emotion or understanding. This guarding of His glory and an unwillingness to share the spotlight of praise is rooted in the essence of God Himself. The very nature – even the idea of God – demands that he has no peers. No equals. If the Bible is true, then Yahweh stands alone as God. By direct inference, this would logically mean there is no such thing as Allah. No Molech. No Baal. No Krishna.
So, do the logic. Either Yahweh is God or He isn’t. And if He isn’t, then every other religion or belief system on planet earth is equally valid – or at least on the same level as Jesus. Like your choice of music, food, clothing or lifestyle – it’s whatever works best for you. Personal preference and experience then become the path to paradise, not some irrefutable absolute truth about an invisible Supreme Being. Unfortunately, this preference for pluralism didn’t work out so well for the Jewish nation, resulting in painful and prolonged consequences – displacement, subjugation and slavery. And in time, they realized God was not the syncretistic, eclectic Deity who is one of many faith options.
No Matter the Fashion Truth Excludes Falsity
Fast-forward to today. What are people really saying when they affirm, “It doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as you are sincere and treat others fairly.” Does this make sense? Is it even rational? With a myriad of belief systems available today, it can be both confusing and difficult as Christians paddle their way upstream against the flow. As some postmodern theologians suggest, time and history has changed God’s character and what ancient Scripture says is true of Him. But the author of Hebrews (who claimed the Word of God was living) maintained, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 4:12; 13:8). The prophet Malachi wrote, “For I the LORD do not change” (Mal 3:6). Since God exists outside of time, centuries of history and the advance of civilizations cannot alter His character. . . or caused Him to warm up to the idea of pluralism. According to Scripture, there is still only room for One on Heaven’s throne.
*This post is adapted from my book, The Fifth Gospel, Harvest House, 2014.
Recommended resources related to the topic:
Another Gospel? by Alisa Childers (book)
Can All Religions Be True? mp3 by Frank Turek
Bobby serves as lead pastor of Image Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is well known for his YouTube ministry called, One Minute Apologist, which now goes by the name Christianity Still Makes Sense. He also serves as the Co-Host of Pastors’ Perspective, a nationally syndicated call-in radio show on KWVE in Southern California. Bobby earned his Master of Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, his Doctor of Ministry in Apologetics from Southern Evangelical Seminary, and his Ph.D. in Philosophy of Religion from the University of Birmingham (England), where he was supervised under David Cheetham and Yujin Nagasawa. Bobby’s also written several books, including The Fifth Gospel, Doubting Toward Faith, Does God Exist, and Fifty-One Other Questions About God and the Bible, and the forthcoming Christianity Still Makes Sense, to be published by Tyndale in April 2024. He’s married to his lovely wife Heather, and together they have two grown kids: Haley and Dawson.