What is the Only Remedy for Sin? – Part 1
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg / Dr. John Weldon; ©2005|
|According to a poll conducted by the Barna Research Group, even 43% of “born again Christians” would say, “It does not matter what religious faith you follow because all faiths teach similar lessons about life.” Is it true that Christianity is not unique in the lessons it teaches about life? Is it true that no religion has an absolute claim to religious truth? Is it true that God has not provided the only effective remedy for sin?|
What is the Only Remedy for Sin? Part One
- “Everyone shall consider the main End of his life and studies, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life.” (John 17:3)—Harvard University’s First College Laws, (1646, p. 41)
- “Our repugnance to death increases in proportion to our consciousness of having lived in vain.”—William Hazlett, The Round Table (1817)
A poll conducted by the Barna Research Group allegedly revealed that 43 percent of “born again Christians” agreed with the following statement: “It does not matter what religious faith you follow because all faiths teach similar lessons about life.”
If these poll results are valid, this indicates that millions of those claiming to be “born again” agree with most of the rest of the world on the subject of religion. Christianity is not unique in the lessons it teaches about life, and apparently no religion has an absolute claim to religious truth. But no viewpoint could be more wrong.
What these poll results really indicate is that a lot of people, Christians and non-Christians included, are uninformed on the subject of comparative religion. Yet critical thinking in this area is vital—critical thinking is the reasoning we do in order to determine whether or not a claim is true. These results also betray a remarkable and appalling lack of emphasis on teaching apologetics and logical thinking in the church.
The distinguished Christian philosopher Mortimer J. Adler is unfortunately correct when he said,
“I suspect that most of the individuals who have religious faith are content with blind faith. They feel no obligation to understand what they believe. They may even wish not to have their beliefs disturbed by thought. But if the God in whom they believe created them with intellectual and rational powers, that imposes upon them the duty to try to understand the creed of their religion. Not to do so is to verge on superstition.
In light of Adler’s comment, consider the statements of Dr. William Lane Craig, who has two earned Ph.D.’s and is the author of many fine books on Christian evidences. He writes the following important comments about the extended implications of Adler’s remark, first quoting theologian J. Gresham Machen:
- False ideas are the greatest obstacles to the reception of the gospel…. Our churches are filled with Christians who are idling in intellectual neutral. As Christians, their minds are going to waste. One result of this is an immature, superficial faith…. Intellectual impoverishment with respect to one’s faith can thus lead to spiritual impoverishment as well. But the results of being in intellectual neutral extend far beyond one’s self. If Christian laymen don’t become intellectually engaged, then we are in serious danger of losing our children. In high school and college Christian teenagers are intellectually assaulted on every hand by a barrage of anti-Christian philosophies and attitudes. As I speak in churches around the country, I continually meet parents whose children have left the faith because there was no one in the church to answer their questions. For the sake of our youth, we desperately need informed parents who are equipped to wrestle with the issues at an intellectual level.
- Machen, like Malik, believed that “The chief obstacle to the Christian religion today lies in the sphere of the intellect,” and that it is in that sphere that the issues must be addressed. “The Church is perishing today through the lack of thinking, not through an excess of it.”
Are there Christian parents anywhere who do not care deeply about the spiritual welfare of their own children? Then why does the current situation exist? In part it is because in its pluralism, subjectivisms and relativism, our culture finds it easy to replace truth with certainty. And this attitude has influenced the church. But truth is not the same thing as certainty. The people in the above poll may have been certain of their beliefs, but this does not make them true.
Truth is something that is in accordance with fact. Certainty refers to a person having no doubt or being fully convinced about something. However, if we examine the overall religious and philosophical landscape, we find that most people are certain about things that are not true and can rationally be proven false. Philosophers may be certain of their existentialism, relativism, Secular Humanism or atheism. Members of religious cults like Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the “Hare Krishnas,” and followers of Eastern gurus are certain they are on the right spiritual path. Practitioners of New Age medicine are certain that iridology, homeopathy and reflexology really work. Astrologers are certain that astrology can reveal personality traits and accurately predict the future. Most scientists are certain of the logically impossible theory of evolution, and mainstream theologians are certain of the so-called “findings” of higher criticism and that the Bible is not inerrant. And on it goes.
Certainty does not make the above beliefs true: only evidence does, and in each case it is sorely lacking. It’s the same for traditional world religions. Roman Catholicism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Confucianism, Sufism, The Baha’i Faith, etc.—committed followers are all certain about their beliefs. But this alone cannot prove their basic beliefs true because all these religions conflict with one another and no real evidence supports any of these religions.
So, even if 100 percent of all “born again” Christians were certain that “it does not matter what religious faith you follow,” that wouldn’t make it true.
The issue is whether or not real evidence supports the claims of any particular religion. And is it really possible to find absolute truth in one religion—is one religion fully true? Or are all religions false? Or does it really matter? One could assume that if there is only one true God, there would be only one true religion.
Is there only one true God?
In Eternity in Their Hearts, Don Richardson provides many examples showing how the concept of one true supreme God has existed throughout history in hundreds of cultures around the world. For example, concerning the “Sky-god” he writes:
- In hundreds of instances attested to by literally millions of folk religionists worldwide, the Sky-god does exactly what El Elyon [the biblical God] did through Melchizedek [to Abraham, Gen. 14]. He cheerfully acknowledges the approaching messengers of Yahweh as His messengers! He takes pains to make it very clear—He Himself is none other than the very God those particular foreigners proclaim!… This is surely a powerful extra-biblical evidence for the authenticity of the Bible as revelation from the one true and universal God! It is also,… the prime reason on the human level for the phenomenal acceptance Christianity has found among people of so many folk religions on this planet. In addition, Scripture after Scripture has testified down through the centuries that our God has not left Himself without witness—even apart from the preaching of the gospel (see Acts 14:16, 17). That witness—though different in kind and quality from the biblical witness itself—is still a witness to Him!… If you belong to a tradition which has been teaching Christians for centuries that the rest of the world sits in total darkness and knows zilch about God, it becomes a little embarrassing to have to say, “We have been wrong. In actual fact, more than 90 percent of this world’s folk religions acknowledge at least the existence of God. Some even anticipate His redeeming concern for mankind.”
- The Apostle John’s statement that the world lies in spiritual wickedness (see 1 John 5:19) needs to be coupled with the Apostle Paul’s acknowledgment that God has not left Himself without witness. For that witness has penetrated the wickedness to some degree almost everywhere!
- As the Apostle John put it, “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overpowered it” (John 1:5, footnote). John further specified the “light” he describes is the “true light that gives light to every man” (1:9).
If all this is true, then everyone does know there is a God and they also know certain things about Him. Since God Himself has been their teacher, there is no possibility of failure. There are no atheists finally, in foxholes, operating rooms, or anywhere else.
Indeed, to suppress the truth that God has placed within each man only leads to varying degrees of neurosis. As the noted psychologist Rollo May wrote in The Art of Counseling, “I have been startled by the fact that practically every genuine atheist with whom I have dealt has exhibited unmistakable neurotic tendencies. How [do we] account for this curious fact?” And, perhaps even more suggestive, according to Senior Pastor Jess Moody of the First Baptist Church of Van Nuys, California, “Lie detector tests were administered to more than 25,000 people. One of the questions was, ‘Do you believe in God?’ In every case, when a person answered no, the lie detector said he was lying.”
Man’s biggest folly is to ignore the God who is there, the God who we all know is there and to live our life as if He were irrelevant. It is folly because it is a kind of intuitive and intellectual madness, not to mention something dangerous. It’s like a man in a boat in the middle of the ocean saying, “There are no sharks” when he sees fins all around him. Because he is lost at sea, he has radioed for help and he sees a rescue boat on the horizon. His salvation is only a few hours away and yet he decides to go swimming.
But if God exists and there is only one true God, then how do we find Him?
Finding the One True God
In evaluating this topic, we will examine four issues: 1) What may be termed a distillation approach to the uniqueness of Christianity, 2) Why Christianity? isn’t intolerant or narrow-minded for teaching there is only one way to God, 3) The quality of the evidence for the truth of Christianity, 4) The Christian claim and the incarnation.
We will examine these in turn.
1. The distillation approach
In order to begin to answer a question as controversial to the pluralistic or secular mind-set as this one, sometimes it is easier to boil things down to their lowest common denominator to help us see how unique Christianity really is. One way is to examine salvation concepts. Martin Luther was right when he said that, in the end, there were only two religions in the world, the religion of works and the religion of grace.
We could examine all religions that exist today and then go back through history and examine all religions that have ever existed and we would find that there is no exception—all religions teach salvation by works. Christianity is the only religion that teaches salvation solely by grace. This simple fact makes it stand entirely apart from other religions. It also necessitates an answer to the question, “Why, out of thousands of religions, is there only one that teaches salvation by grace?” How do we logically explain the origin of only one religion that teaches grace? In other words, how did mankind ever acquire a religion of pure grace with salvation as a free gift when the natural, unyielding bent of the human heart is one of self-justifying works and earning one’s own salvation? Why does one religion stand out like a floodlight in a group of candles?
The most reasonable answer is divine revelation. The one true God has revealed the one true way of salvation in the Bible. Obviously, He didn’t reveal it in the scriptures of other religions since they contradict the Bible’s most basic teachings and God does not contradict Himself nor is He a God of confusion (Titus 1:2; 1 Cor. 14:43).
In essence, observers of religion and critics of Christianity must explain why there is one religion of grace amidst universal religions of works. It can only be because the one true God who exists is a God of grace (Eph. 1:7; 2:8) that we find a single religion of grace among the many that oppose it.
A related distillation approach would be to evaluate different concept of origins. In philosophical apologetics this approach is taken by Christian philosopher Dr. Francis Schaeffer in He Is There and He Is Not Silent.
How do we attempt to explain our existence? In terms of concepts of origins or explanations of reality, though there are hundreds of religions and philosophies, when reduced to their most common elements, there are only a relatively few options:
- The finite personal—e.g., creation by the gods.
- The infinite personal—e.g., creation by a God such as the Muslim Allah.
- The infinite impersonal monistic—e.g., creation (self-emanation) by the Brahman of Hinduism.
- The materialistic impersonal—e.g., creation by chance, i.e., the theory of evolution. (Matter is eternal; the “big bang,” etc.)
- The infinite personal Triune—creation by the God of the Bible.
Schaeffer’s whole point is that only when you begin with the Christian view of origins can you adequately explain the universe as we know it in terms of metaphysics, epistemology and morality. Metaphysics deals with the nature of existence, truth and knowledge, epistemology with how we know; and morality with how we should live.
The problem with options 1 through 4 is that they cannot fully or adequately explain and/or logically support these key philosophical doctrines. For example, in point number 1, the mythical and bickering, capricious and copulating finite gods (whether of the ancient Greeks and Romans or the modern Hindus and Buddhists) aren’t big enough to create the world, let alone provide us with the infinite reference point we need in order to have an absolute truth or to justify meaning in life. Sartre was correct in stating man required an infinite reference point for life to have any meaning. Since he “didn’t” believe there was one, that’s why he stated, “Man is absurd, but he must grimly act as if he were not”, and “Man is a useless passion.” On the other hand, the infinite personal triune God of the Bible is big enough to create the universe and big enough to provide man with an infinite reference point.
The problem with number 2 is that such a God seems ultimately dependent upon his creation in order to express the attributes of his own personality. In other words, for all eternity this god would be alone with himself. With whom does God communicate? Whom does he love? Such a God is “forced” to create and is subsequently dependent upon his creation for expressing the attributes of his own personality—and is, therefore, not a truly independent or free divine Being. A concept of a god who is dependent on something else is hardly an adequate concept of God. The Christian view of origins solves this problem because the triune God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit had no need to create in order to express His attributes of personality. The members of the Godhead communicated together, loved one another, etc., for all eternity and are never dependent upon their creation for anything.
The problem with number 3 is that, although God is infinite, God is impersonal and therefore there is no basis for explaining the origin of personality or any logical reason for personhood to have absolute meaning. This explains why, in both Hinduism and Buddhism, the personality is seen as an “enemy” and is finally destroyed by absorption into Brahman or Nirvana. Not only the material creation but human existence per se, body and personality, are either an illusion, as in Hinduism (maya) or so empty and impermanent, as in Buddhism (sunyata), that they are ultimately meaningless. In the end, man per se is a hindrance to spiritual enlightenment and must be “destroyed” to find “liberation.” As Dr. Frits Staal comments in “Indian Concepts of the Body,” “Whatever the alleged differences between Hindu and Buddhist doctrines, one conclusion follows from the preceding analysis…. No features of the individual personality survive death in either state.” But is an impersonal “immortality” truly relevant when it extinguishes our existence forever? Is it even desirable?
In monistic systems there is also no way to explain the diversity within the creation. If “God is one,” then diversity—all creation—is by definition part of the illusion of duality. That includes all moral views, all human hopes and aspirations, and all else that matters.
The infinite triune God of the Bible addresses this issue as well. Because God is personal, human personality has genuine and eternal significance. The only kind of eternity that has any meaning, or gives this life any meaning, is an eternity of personal immortality. And because Christianity involves a philosophy of religious dualism, God is the creator of a real creation. The creation is not simply the illusory emanation of an impersonal divine substance. As result, there is no necessity with facing the very destructive consequences of nihilism.
The problem with number 4 is that we have very similar problems to point number 3. Ultimate reality is still impersonal, although not a divine substance. Ultimate reality is dead matter. Where does anyone find any dignity when our own self-portrait is the cold atoms of deep space? In the end, after a single life, we die forever. Although such a fate is infinitely more merciful than the endless reincarnations and final dissolutions of Hinduism and Buddhism, it is still far too nihilistic and despairing for most people to live out practically.
Famous philosophers and social commentators have stated the logical results. For example, Albert Camus said, “I proclaim that I believe in nothing and that everything is absurd.” Andy Warhol declared of his six-hour film showing a man sleeping, “It keeps you from thinking. I wish I were a machine.” Nietzsche informs us that the inhumane aspects of man “are perhaps the fertile soil out of which alone all humanity…can grow” and then proceeds to destroy everything by having the Madman state:
- Whither is God? I shall tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night and more night coming on all the while?… What was holiest and most powerful of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives.
- Who will wipe this blood off us?
Walter Kaufman comments that “Nietzsche prophetically envisages himself as a madman: to have lost God means madness; and when mankind will discover that it has lost God, universal madness will break out.” As Leslie Paul observed, in the end, evolutionarily speaking, “All life is no more than a match struck in the dark and blown out again. The final result… is to deprive it completely of meaning.”
Only when we begin with the Christian religion—an infinite and personal triune concept of origins—do we logically have an explanation for things—human personality, the desire for meaning in life, personal immortality, a real creation having both unity and diversity, a transcendent basis for absolute morality, etc.
For example, just as there is unity and diversity in the Godhead—three centers of consciousness in one divine essence—so there is unity and diversity in the creation. Whether we speak of men, trees, butterflies or snowflakes, every category of life is “the same but different.” All men, trees, butterflies or snowflakes are alike but no two are identical. In one sense, God has not only made man, but the creation itself “after His image.”
In conclusion, the fact that Christianity logically and adequately explains more about the facts of our existence than any other religion argues, in part, for biblical Christianity being the true religion.
For the moment let’s assume that the Bible really is the only revelation of God, that biblical Christianity is the one fully true religion and that, as the Bible teaches, Jesus Christ is the only way to God. Jesus clearly claimed that He was the only way to God because He alone was the atoning sacrifice for the world’s sin, “…the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28); “This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
Did Buddha die for our sins? Did Muhammad die for our sins? Did Lao Tze, the founder of Taoism? Did Moses? Did Zoroaster, the founder of Parsism? Or Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism? None of these men ever claimed to do this.
Put another way, isn’t it rather startling that not one of the founders of a religion ever claimed that he solved the problem of human sin and death, the most fundamental human problems of all? J. I. Packer once noted, “No philosophy that will not teach us how to master death is worth two pence to us,” and L. P. Jacks wrote in The Inner Sentinel, “No religion is worth its name unless it can prove itself more than a match for death.” Only Jesus solved the sin problem and conquered death, so logically, only Jesus is the way of salvation and the way to God and eternal life.
We reiterate: because Jesus is the only incarnation of God, and God’s only begotten Son (John 3:16,18), when He died on the cross for human sin, and rose from the dead, He became the only possible way of salvation for all men and women. This is why the Bible teaches, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Further, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time” (1 Tim. 2:3-6). All this is why Jesus Himself warned, “if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins” (John 8:24).
But if Jesus really is the only way to God does this make the Christian faith “narrow-minded” or “intolerant” as so many people think?
2. Why isn’t Christianity intolerant or narrow-minded for teaching there is only one way to God?
Creation parallels the nature of its Creator through its unity and diversity. So we might just expect the same for the Creator’s approach to salvation. In other words, that salvation itself would, in ways, parallel the nature of the Creator and the nature of the creation.
First, we noted earlier that if there is only one true God, then there should be only one true way of salvation because the way of salvation must be consistent with the nature of the one true God,—His grace, love, mercy, truth, etc. As Dr. Robert Morey comments, “Logically, since all religions contradict each other, there are only two options open to us. Either they are all false, or there is only one true religion. If there is only one God, there will be only one religion.” Perhaps it is really the person who objects to this who is being “too narrow” to accept the truth?
Second, what we find is true in the creation that God has made also parallels the nature of salvation. Like everything else in the world, salvation must be done correctly to be successful. Consider some examples of how life works, or doesn’t work:
What happens if you’re driving your car in reverse? Or stopping in the middle of a busy freeway? What happens if you let your dog drive your car? Or if you drive on the wrong side of the road—or drive drunk?
What happens if you don’t drive correctly is that you injure or kill yourself and others. Driving the wrong way sooner or later has consequences, even if you’re only a bad driver.
When you build a house, what happens if you place the glass where wood should be and wood where the glass should be? Or build in a flood zone? Or use highly flammable materials? What happens is that your house is not functional, or you risk losing your home.
Consider playing tennis. What if you try to play tennis with a broken arm? Or use your hand as a racket? Or play with your side of the court under water? What happens is you will lose the game.
Consider learning math or being in surgery. What if you try to learn math by reading comic books? What if you’re scheduled for a routine appendectomy and the surgeon takes out your brain instead? In either case, you’re brain dead.
If everything in the world must be done correctly to be successful, and if our lives are literally filled with examples of the problems caused for us when we do things incorrectly, why should we conclude that salvation is any different? Why should we conclude there won’t be consequences for doing salvation wrong?
Do we say it is being narrow-minded, intolerant or bigoted when the law requires us to drive sober and expect surgeons to operate on us properly? Indeed, our very lives may be at stake. And if our lives are already at stake in worldly things, isn’t it also possible that our souls may be at stake in spiritual things? But a life is only for a period of time; a soul is forever.
Then how much more vital is it that we be certain that salvation be done correctly if our very souls are at stake? The point is that the Christian claim to exclusivity is not something that is out of harmony with the manner in which all people experience life and with how the world itself functions. God made the world this way because He had to. Given His character, He also had to make the way of salvation through Christ and Christ alone. A fascinating and detailed study of this can be found in the late Canadian Scholar Arthur C. Custance’s The Seed of the Woman (1980).
Christianity is indeed exclusive—it claims that only those who believe in Christ will find salvation—but it is not narrow-minded, intolerant or bigoted. People can be broad-minded or narrow-minded but not ideas. Ideas are neither broad or narrow—they are true or false. The claim that Christ is the only way of salvation is either true or false. This can be determined only on the basis of the evidence which we briefly address in section 3 below.
Before we do so, we need to examine a side issue. Those who think Christianity is intolerant should ask whether or not other religions and philosophies are really as tolerant as they claim. In fact, they usually aren’t. So why should only Christianity be singled out for criticism? Merely because Christianity is the most honest about its beliefs?
For example, a literal reading of the Qur’an causes one to conclude that Islam consigns all infidels (non Muslims) to an eternal hell on the basis of the arbitrary decrees of Allah. Is this tolerant? What about jihad, the Muslim concept of holy war?
Even religions which claim to accept other religions—but usually don’t— characteristically assert that their path is far superior to all other paths. (If a given religion isn’t superior or unique in important ways, then of what value is it for a prospective convert?) To illustrate, in Eastern religions, whether Hindu or Buddhist, the claim is usually made that by following the particular group’s program, that one will merely have a “few” incarnations to undergo to work off one’s “karma” (bad deeds) rather than the dreary prospect of thousands, millions or billions of lifetimes.
In fact, religions generally, as well as philosophies with a metaphysical bias to uphold, are actually quite intolerant—especially of Christianity. How tolerant have atheists, materialists, secular humanists, most committed evolutionists and skeptics in general been toward conservative Christianity? Collectively, aren’t their attacks almost unrelenting? And few religions are as antagonistic to Christianity as Islam, but Islam is hardly unique.
In any religion, the cases of bias against or spiritual intimidation exercised toward Christians, or against members who might think of converting to Christianity is legion. They may be threatened with divorce, expulsion, or reincarnation as a bug. They may be told how spiritually unenlightened or useless Christianity is. They characteristically twist and redefine the teachings of Jesus so that He becomes a Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Mormon, Baha’i, etc. (Is that being tolerant, open-minded or fair?)
The person who thinks of accepting traditional Christianity is made to believe he is accepting a corrupt and dangerous view of religion. To illustrate, the New Age movement everywhere claims it is tolerant of all beliefs, but it is often not tolerant of Christianity. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh called Jesus “a mental case” and a fascist with a mind like Adolph Hitler’s; Christians are fools for believing in Him. Da Free John calls biblical Christianity “a perversion of the truth” and Jesus a cultic “false idol.”
Even religions and groups which boldly proclaim their acceptance of all other religions are characteristically syncretistic, finally remolding all other religions into their own preferred beliefs. The Baha’i Faith and the Masonic Lodge are examples. In such groups, it is only at “lower” levels of belief that other religions are accepted. In other words, despite the claim for religious acceptance, at the ultimate level of reality, all other religions are rejected as false, as “corruptions” of the one true religion that these groups alone have preserved and protected.
Characteristically, those who claim such tolerance, especially among liberal so-called “Christian” theologians, are only engaging in a self-serving religious invention. “They insist upon tolerance for all but always end up by grossly misrepresenting what religious believers actually believe.” Such people may claim all religions are the same and all religions lead to the same God. But all religions are not the same nor do they lead to the same God. In Hinduism the world is an illusion; in Christianity it is real. The Hindu Brahman is anything but the biblical Yahweh. In Islam the incarnation is blasphemy; in Christianity it is central, while Allah and Jehovah are literally worlds apart. Buddhism is founded upon the denial of personality while Christianity is founded upon the assertion of personality— and on it goes. In the end, to tolerantly “unite” all religions, all religious doctrine must be thrown out and mystical experience exalted.
Those who think they sit in an elevated position criticizing biblical revelation while speaking hypocrisy or nonsense seem unable to comprehend the consequences of their positions. They do just as much injustice to other devout religious beliefs as they think Christianity does and therefore can hardly be considered morally superior. To tell the Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu that their faith is the same as an emaciated version of Christianity (as in liberal theology) can hardly be considered honoring or tolerant of the Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu. It is far more tolerant and respectful to the members of these religions to accept their beliefs as they are than to attempt a false syncretism that destroys each believer’s religion. In essence, when claims of tolerance are not viewed critically, truth itself is the victim.
In conclusion, when people claim to be tolerant, open-minded, objective, and fair, they often aren’t. Biblically speaking, if people in their natural state, prior to regeneration, are said to be God’s enemies (Rom. 5:10) who suppress the truth by unrighteousness (Rom. 1:18) and who actually hate God (Rom. 1:30) where is their tolerance, neutrality, or objectivity?
Of course, most people think they are open-minded, but a critical self-exam will show this to be false. The truth is that neutrality and objectivity are myths. “Religion is rooted deep in the heart of any living person. Therefore, neutrality is a self-deception.”
Again, it is frequently those people who claim to be accepting and tolerant of almost anything who are almost never tolerant of one thing—Christian faith. Literally thousands of examples could be cited of bigotry, hypocrisy, narrow-mindedness and intolerance expressed towards Christians for doing no more than living out the logical, benevolent consequences of their own religious faith—something that those who malign Christian faith claim to defend in all religions. We challenge our readers to find a single religion anywhere that accepts Christianity as being fully true. Obviously, there are none, because all religions claim they are fully true. As we said, Christianity is exclusive, but it is not intolerant. While it seeks to convert others to faith in Christ, it respects the right of all men to choose their own destinies.
3. The quality of evidence for the truth of Christianity
When one examines all the attacks made against Christianity for 2,000 years, by literally some of the greatest minds the world has produced, guess what one finds? Not one is valid. And not one, individually or collectively, disproves Christianity. Even with the most difficult problems, such as the problem of evil, Christianity has the best answer of any found in other religions or philosophies and the best solution to the problem.
If the leading minds of the world have been unable to disprove Christianity, this may explain why many of the other leading minds in the world have accepted it. As James Sire correctly points out in Why Should Anyone Believe Anything At All?, an argument for belief, religious or other, must be secured on the best evidence, validly argued, and able to refute the strongest objections that can be mustered against it.
If the God of the Bible has revealed Himself and if He is the only God—and if Christ is the only way of salvation—then we would expect convincing evidence in substantiation. Not just some evidence, or inferior evidence—so that a person has a dozen equally valid options—but superior evidence.
As Dr. John Warwick Montgomery asks:
- What if a revelational truth-claim did not turn on questions of theology and religious philosophy—on any kind of esoteric, fideistic method available only to those who are already “true believers”—but on the very reasoning employed in the law to determine questions of fact?… Eastern faiths and Islam, to take familiar examples, ask the uncommitted seeker to discover their truth experientially: the faith-experience will be self-validating…. Christianity, on the other hand, declares that the truth of its absolute claims rests squarely on certain historical facts, open to ordinary investigation…. The advantage of a jurisprudential approach lies in the difficulty of jettisoning it: legal standards of evidence developed as essential means of resolving the most intractable disputes in society…. Thus one cannot very well throw out legal reasoning merely because its application to Christianity results in a verdict for the Christian faith.
If we assume that a God of truth is dedicated to truth and desires men find Him, then what is the most logical place to begin our search for the one true religion? And is there a religion God has made stand out? Logically, the best, and only practical, way to see if one religion is absolutely true is to start with the largest, most unique, influential, and evidentiary religion in the world. It is much more reasonable to determine whether or not this religion is true than to seek another approach to the issue. Experientially based religions, essentially all non-Christian religions, prove nothing because of their inherent subjectivism, so even having profound religious experiences alone cannot prove such a religion is true. And, obviously to attempt to examine all religions (whether the sequence is random, preferential, or alphabetical) would be a daunting and confusing, if not impossible, task.
Regardless, if there is only one God and if only one religion is fully true, then one should not expect to discover sustainable evidence in any other religion. And indeed, no other religion, anywhere, large or small, has sustainable evidence in its favor. If no credible evidence exists for any other religion and only Christianity has compelling evidence, why should any time at all be spent examining religions that have no basis to substantiate their claims? Especially if there may be significant consequences for trusting in false religion, whether in this life of the next?
Thus, it is much easier and more logical to start by examining probabilities of truth on the higher end of the scale.
- In Religious and Theological Studies Fellowship Bulletin, Nov./Dec., 1994, p. 22.
- Douglas Groothuis, “When the Salt Loses Its Savor,” CRI Journal, Winter, 1995, p. 50.
- Mortimer J. Adler, “A Philosopher’s Religious Faith,” in Kelly James Clark (ed.), Philosophers Who Believe: The Spiritual Journeys of Eleven Leading Thinkers (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993), p. 207.
- William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1994), pp. xiii-xv.
- The statement does not hold true where Roman Catholic beliefs are biblical. Nevertheless, the evidence upon which official, traditional Roman Catholic dogma and practice rests is unconvincing.
- Don Richardson, Eternity in Their Hearts (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 1981), pp. 53-54.
- Rollo May, The Art of Counseling (NY Abingdon 1967), p. 215.
- Cited in Los Angeles Times, June 28, 1986. We could not confirm this research. Convinced philosophical atheists clearly could pass lie detector tests since these measure conviction of belief. But such results, if valid, clearly show that the more garden-variety practical, as opposed to philosophical atheists really aren’t so sure of their views.
- Cited in Clark Pinnock, Set Forth Your Case (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971), p. 9.
- Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness (London: Methuen, 1957), p. 566.
- Frits Staal, “Indian Concepts of the Body,” Somatics, Autumn/Winter 1983-1984, p. 33.
- Albert Camus, The Rebel, A. Bower, trans. (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962), p. 16, from Os Guinness, The Dust of Death (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1973), p. 37.
- Cited in Clark Pinnock, Live Now Brother (Chicago: Moody Press, 1972), p. 18.
- Walter Kaufman, Nietzsche (NY: Vintage, 1968), p. 97 citing Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882), p. 125.
- Kaufman, Nietzsche, p. 97.
- Leslie Paul, The Annihilation of Man (NY: Harcourt Brace, 1945), p. 154 from Arthur Custance, A Framework of History (Doorway Paper, #29 Ottawa, 1968), p. III.
- Robert A. Morey, Introduction to Defending the Faith (Southbridge, MA: Crowne Publications, 1989), p. 38.
- For original documentation see John Ankerberg, John Weldon The Facts on Hinduism in America (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1991), pp. 21-22.
- See, e.g., John Ankerberg, John Weldon, The Secret Teachings of the Masonic Lodge (Chicago: Moody Press, 1990), pp. 192-201 and John Weldon, The Baha’i World Faith, ms, copy on file at the ATRI office.
- Dewi Arwel Hughes, “Christianity and Other Religions: A Review of Some Recent Discussion,” Themelios, January 1984, p. 20.
- Joseph Tong, “On the Finality of Christ,” Stulos Theological Journal, Vol. 1, no. 1, May 1993, p. 6.
- E.g., for illustrations in science see Jerry Bergman, The Criterion (Richfield, MN: Onesimus, 1984).
- James Sire, Why Should Anyone Believe Anything At All? (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), p. 10.
- John Warwick Montgomery, “The Jury Returns: A Juridical Defense of Christianity” in John Warwick Montgomery (ed.), Evidence for Faith: Deciding the God Question (Dallas: Probe Books, 1991), pp. 319-320.