I have written this brief article for Christians to share with other Christians or with skeptical friends when faced with the question of why evangelicals speak as though their own world view represents the only true religion. If you are reading this then perhaps it is because some believer passed it along. I simply ask you to consider these thoughts in an openminded way. In fact, I'm not even presenting an argument for the truth of the Christian message. For that, check out our podcast here or read the rest of the blog here. This is simply an explanation of why your believing friends cannot allow the claims that all religions are valid, or that religious beliefs are personal and beyond criticism to go unchallenged.
1. OBJECTIVE RELIGIOUS PROPOSITIONS ARE EITHER TRUE OR FALSE
One of the major problems with the idea that Christians are just being narrow-minded, elitist and bigoted is that faith should not be an issue of personal preference or cultural heredity. Thinking Christians believe the message because they think it happens to be true. There is an unconscious belief, in the western world, that religious or spiritual claims are not true or false in the same sense that other things are true or false. The undeniable implication of this mistaken idea is that religious beliefs are not as real, important or urgent as others.
2. IF CHRISTIANITY IS TRUE THEN WORLD VIEWS THAT OPPOSE ITS CLAIMS ARE FALSE
For example, unless one is a cognitive relativist, they will not quibble with the claim that Barack Obama was president of the United States of America in 2014. The statement can be accepted as true. Likewise, the statement that Lady GaGa was president of the US in 2014 can be deemed false. What thinking people should recognize is that the claim, Jesus rose bodily from the dead as Scripture claims, or that He truly said (and was correct) that "No man can come to the Father but by . . ." Jesus, is also true or false in the same way. In other words objective religious propositions are either true or false just like any other objective truth claim. Thus, if Jesus is truly God incarnate, then Islam's claim that he was one of the greatest prophets, but not God incarnate - is false. If it is true that Jesus died by Roman crucifixion (as even skeptical historians accept) then Islam's claim that "he did not die, they did not crucify him" is false. This holds true for any opposing world view, and it should be said that any world view that is not an orthodox Christian world view is an opposing worldview to Christianity. In short, Christianity is either false and some other world view true, or Christianity is true and all opposing world views false, but they are not all true - nor are they beyond being true or false.
3. THE TRUTH OF CHRISTIANITY IS TOO IMPORTANT TO WATER DOWN FOR THE SAKE OF UNITY WITH OPPOSING WORLD VIEWS
Because religious propositions are either true or false, if Christianity has true propositions about the nature of the afterlife, a God who loves and wants to commune with His creation or the means by which one can attain everlasting life and avoid everlasting separation from God then it is urgent. It is not merely too important to water down. It is more important than any other issue one will consider in reality. While not wishing to sound cold to anyone suffering in these areas, it is more important than financial difficulty, medical concerns, political movements, war or anything else. If this sounds controversial to you, it shouldn't. You can disagree with whether or not Christianity's claims are true in fact, but you cannot rationally argue with the statement that if they are true they speak to the most central and urgent problems man will ever face. This becomes all the more potent when we consider that the central message cannot be knitted together with the views of other religions. As Oxford and Regent College Professor, Alister McGrath explains, "Christianity has a particular understanding of the nature, grounds, and means of obtaining salvation." He further explains, "The Christian tradition bears witness to a particular understanding of God and cannot be merged into the various concepts of divinity found in other religions." This is why your Christian friends treat the issue as vital. It is also the reason why, though they shouldn't, they may even go too far and speak in hurtful or forceful ways about your unbelief. It's not that they think they are better or brighter, but because they know that you undervalue the importance of this urgent matter.
4. RELIGIOUS VIEWS ARE NOT VALID SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY ARE PERSONAL OR REPRESENT A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE
I agree with the world's most famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, on at least one thing. Religion is not immune to criticism just because it is personal. In his famous book, The God Delusion, Dawkins explains,
As long as we accept the principle that religious faith must be respected simply because it is religious faith, it is hard to withhold respect from the faith of Osama bin Laden and the suicide bombers. The alternative, one so transparent that it should need no urging, is to abandon the principle of automatic respect for religious faith.
A religion or world view is valid if it is true. If it is not true then it should not be believed. If Christianity is true and Hinduism, Islam, the message of the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormonism, Scientology, atheism and all other world views are false, then people should be Christians. They shouldn't be Christians only because they were raised that way or it makes them feel good about themselves. Nor should anyone believe anything else for such trivial reasons. We should believe what happens to be true.
5. MOST WORLD VIEWS CONTAIN TRUTHS ABOUT THE NATURE OF REALITY AND THEOLOGY, BUT THIS DOES NOT MEAN THAT THE RELIGION ITSELF IS TRUE
I accept the methodological naturalism that atheists and Christians share when doing science - I reject the metaphysical naturalism which says the physical universe is all there is, was or ever will be. I accept the Mormon belief that we should trust inspired Scripture - I reject the documents they consider inspired Scripture aside from the Bible (and I reject how they understand the Bible itself). I accept the Muslim belief that there is one God - I reject their understanding of what God is like. I accept the Muslim belief that Jesus is a prophet - I reject the notion that He is not also priest and king. The point is that while I cannot say that these or other religions are "entirely" false (they do have some truth in them), I can say that if Christianity is true those world views themselves are false.
The bottom line is that Christians think religions and world views actually matter because they are making claims about reality. Most reasonable non-Christians will agree that we should believe things not because we like them, but because they are true. We are seekers of truth and want to share that truth with others.
1. Hick, John, Dennis L. Okholm, and Timothy R. Phillips. Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Pub. House, 1996. Print. Pg. 174.
2. Ibid. Pg. 165.
3. Dawkins, Richard. The God Delusion. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006. Print. Pg. 345.