Contrary Beliefs can Exist, but Contrary Truths cannot–A Refutation of Religious Pluralism

When addressing religious pluralism, Dr. Frank Turek offered this succinct refutation: “Contrary beliefs can exist, but contrary truths cannot.” [1] To set the stage for the rest of this article, let’s first listen to Bobby Conway as he defines religious pluralism and what our responsibility is as Christian case-makers and truth bearers in the pluralistic milieu in which we now live.

What is religious pluralism?-Bobby

Living here in Canada, where religious pluralism flourishes in an extreme form, I often hear, as I’m sure you have, the following sound bites masquerading as truth claims: “All paths lead to God” [Question: What God is this claim referring to?], “all religions are the same,” “all religions are fundamentally the same and only superficially different,” etc. This pluralistic view of religion thrives in places like Canada or Europe where the reinvented definition of tolerance is valued above everything else. With the redefining of tolerance, it’s very easy to slip from the truth claim, ”all people have equal value”, to the false claim that “all ideas/beliefs have equal merit/value.” These are two very different claims entirely, and it is vital for us, as adherents of “the way, the truth and the life,” (John 14:6) to help others to understand the difference.

Philosopher and author Mortimer J. Adler once stated, “In the sphere of matters subject to individual thought and decision, pluralism is desirable and tolerable only in those areas that are matters of taste rather than matters of truth.”

As ambassadors for Christ, and as such, ambassadors for the truth, what should our response to religious pluralism be? When our friends or colleagues inject a truth claim into the conversation such as, “I believe that all religions are basically the same, each providing a different path to God. As the saying goes, ‘different strokes for different folks’,” how should we respond?

The following is one of my “real-life” experiences in which I was able to deconstruct religious pluralism and bring the person I was conversing with to understand the difference between a belief and that which is true:

While taking an Uber, I opened a conversation with the driver, asking him where he was from, did he have a family, etc. I found out that Ali was from Pakistan and he and his family now resided in Canada. After a bit more conversation, I asked if he was a Muslim, to which he responded yes. I then told him that I was a Christian to which he responded, “Oh, we both worship the same God, we both love the same Jesus.” Well, considering how wide Ali opened the door, I simply couldn’t help walking through it.

I first asked Ali a question as to who Jesus was. Letting him know that Jesus once asked this question of His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” Ali responded that Jesus was a great prophet. I then affirmed Ali’s answer by stating that Jesus was a great prophet, but that He was much more than that. I then brought it back to Ali’s original statement of Muslims and Christians loving the same Jesus. I said, “Ali, you said that we love the same Jesus, but I don’t see how that could be true considering that the Jesus that you love is only a prophet, whereas the Jesus that I love is the Word of God who took on human form, the Son of God who gave His life as a ransom for you and me so that our sins could be forgiven.” I then pointed out that the Qur’an states that Jesus was never crucified, but that the Bible, as well as many extra-biblical sources, affirm that He was. I then asked Ali if Jesus could be both crucified and not-crucified, to which he answered no. I could see from the change in his expression that Ali had just come to a stark realization–he and I didn’t love the same Jesus, and if that was the case, which Jesus was the true Jesus? Was it the Jesus of the Qur’an or the Jesus of the Bible?Image result for jesus of the bible jesus of the Qur'an"

At this point we came to the end of my ride. I left Ali with a tract, Jesus & the Qur’an,[2] and a Gospel of John. I asked him to please read both of these and to ask God to show him who Jesus truly is, and that I would also be praying for him and his family. Ali said he would read them both and thanked me for the conversation saying, “I have learned something new today.”

The above is one of many “all paths lead to God” conversations that I have had over the years. Some have been more lengthy and in depth than the one I shared here, but for those of us who are living in Western countries where relativism is rife and the driving force behind religious pluralism, it behooves us to embrace Paul’s instruction to Timothy: “The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness [that] God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Timothy 2:24–25-ESV)

When entering into a conversation where religious pluralism is the topic, we must always keep the person of Christ at the forefront of our minds. It is the Jesus of history, the Word made flesh, whose life, death and resurrection differentiate the Christian faith from all other religious worldviews. Author and apologist Dr. Kenneth Samples offers the following explanation on what makes the Christian faith stand out from all others:

Whether a person is inclined to accept them or not, the truth-claims of Christianity are historical and factual in nature…The historic Christian faith consistently resists and defies all attempts to homogenize and mythologize its central characters and truth-claims. The apostles had an empirical encounter with the resurrected Jesus and reported it as a historical-factual event (1 Cor. 15:3-8). The disciples consistently referred to themselves as “witnesses” or “eyewitnesses” of the great events of Jesus’ life (Acts 2:32; 3:15; 5:32; 10:39; 1 John 1:1-3) As the apostle Peter proclaimed, “We did not follow cleverly invented fables and myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Pet. 1:16).[3]

The following video clip by Andy Bannister, offers an in-depth insight into the issue of religious pluralism and tips on how we as Christian case-makers can address the topic when it comes up in conversation.

Aren’t all religions basically the same?-Andy Bannister

[1] Frank Turek-his site is an excellent resource–
[2] Jesus and the Qur’an-by Jospeh P. Gudel-Tract from Crossway publishers-it can be ordered online, here
[3] Kenneth R. Samples, Without a Doubt-Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions, Baker Books, 2004, pg. 169

More resources:
Christianity & Religious Pluralism-Are There Multiple Ways to Heaven?-by Rick Wade, article here
Aren’t All Religions Equally Valid? by Andy Bannister-article, here
True for you but not for me…but can that be true?-by Lane, here

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