Seventy percent of Americans who are affiliated with a religious tradition say that many religions can lead to eternal life. Even more frightening, 57 percent of evangelical Protestants agree. Only among Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons do a majority believe that their own religion is the one true faith.
This reader’s question is therefore very relevant today: “I would like to see a detailed discussion on ‘pluralism.’ What, in our current culture, has caused us to get to this ‘political correctness’ point of view in light of the New Testament teachings that there is only one way to heaven, not several? What is the best way to respond to people who claim to be Christians, but believe the popular belief that ‘all roads lead to the same place’?”
Jesus very plainly claimed to be the only way to the Father. His Greek was emphatic: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Peter made the same announcement: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
However, three “isms” have blunted the edge of such truth. The first is relativism, the idea that all truth is relative and subjective. We’re taught that language is only a convention of human power; words do not describe reality, but only our version of it. There can be no objective truth claims, only subjective experiences. It’s fine if Christianity is how you experience God, but don’t insist that it is the only way.
Our second “ism” is pluralism: different religions are roads up the same mountain. They’re all worshipping the same God, just by different names. It’s fine if Jesus is your road to heaven, but don’t insist that he is the only road. Our third “ism” is universalism, the idea that everyone is going to heaven, no matter what they believe. Only two percent of Americans are afraid that they might go to hell. We’re all on the road to God, whatever we might believe about him.
We can respond to relativism with the fact that objective truth is an intellectual and practical necessity in life. To deny absolutes is to affirm them. If I say, “There is no such thing as absolute truth,” haven’t I made a claim to absolute truth? We can respond to pluralism with the fact that the world’s religions teach radically different truth, as we’ll see in our next Cultural Commentary. If one is right, the others are wrong. These cannot be different roads up the same mountain—they are different mountains.
Finally, we can respond to universalism with the fact that Jesus is the only way to God we need, or can trust. It doesn’t bother me that only one key in my pocket will start my car, so long as it works.
As we saw in our last Cultural Commentary, “Get Ready for Christmas attacks on Christ“, our basic problem with God is called “sin.” We have all made mistakes and committed sins in our lives. These failures have separated us from a righteous and pure God. The only way to heaven which works is the way which deals with these sins. And only Christianity does. No other religion offers forgiveness for sins, grace for sinners, and the security of salvation. Only Jesus.
Have you experienced his grace? With whom will you share it today?