What Do I Say Now?

Responding to the slogans of critics.
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Religious Pluralism

Christians today, especially on college campuses, are free to believe as they please and practice their Christianity as they wish—as long as they aren't foolish enough to actually say out loud that they believe that Jesus is the only way to God. Nothing brings on the wrath of non-believers and invites insults and name-calling like claims for the exclusivity of Christ.

Religious pluralism is in vogue today. Many people believe either that religions are truly different but equally valid since no one really knows the truth about ultimate realities. Others believe that the adherents of at least all the major religions are really worshipping the same "Higher Being;" they just call him (or it) by different names. Religions are superficially different, they believe, but essentially the same.

Let's look at a couple of objections stemming from a pluralistic mindset.

One objection is that "Christianity is arrogant and imperialistic" for presenting itself as the only way. Of course, Christians can act in an arrogant and imperialistic manner, and in such cases they deserve to be called down. But this objection often arises simply as a response to the claim of exclusivity regardless of the Christian's manner. The only way this claim could be arrogant, however, is if there are indeed competing religions or philosophies which are equally valid. So, to make a valid point, the critic needs to prove that Christianity isn't what it claims to be.

As Copan notes, it can just as easily be the critic who is arrogant. Pluralists who reinterpret religious beliefs to suit their pluralism are in effect telling Christians, Muslims, Hindus, etc., what it is they really believe. Like the king of Benares who knows that the blind men are really touching an elephant when they think they are touching a wall or a rope or something else, the pluralist believes he or she knows what all the adherents of the major world religions don't. The pluralist must have a view of truth that others don't. That is arrogance.

The Uniqueness of Christ

The idea that Jesus is the only way to God has always been a stumbling block for non-Christians. Even people who have made no commitment to Christ as Lord hold him in very high regard. Jesus is usually at or near the top of lists of the greatest people who ever lived. But as odd as it seems, people find a way to categorize Jesus so that they can regard him as one of the greatest humans ever to have lived while rejecting his central teachings! Thus, one way to deflect the Christian message isn't so much an outright rejection of the faith as it is a reduction of it. Thus, a slogan often heard is "Jesus is just like any other great religious leader."

One has to wonder, however, how a man can be considered only a great religious teacher (or to have a high level of "God-consciousness", as some say) who made the kinds of claims Jesus did, or who did the works that he did. Consider the claims he made for himself: that he could forgive sins, that he would judge the world, that he and the Father are one. None of the other great religious teachers made such claims. Furthermore, none of the others rose from the dead to give credence to what he taught.

Although Christians can't be expected to have satisfactory answers to all the possible objections people can throw our way, with a little study we can learn some sound responses to some of the clichéd objections of our day. Phrases little understood and tossed out in a knee-jerk fashion can still have a profound influence upon us. We need to recognize them and defuse them.

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