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viewpoint

No other name

| Monday, January 31, 2022

The Bible speaks in unequivocally clear terms that Christianity is the only true religion and that Jesus Christ is the only way to God. “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). “[T]here 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). “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). The God who revealed Himself to the people of Israel, became Incarnate and “bore our sins” (1 Peter 2:24) is “the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20). All other religions have falsely testified about who God is. We cannot properly understand Scripture apart from this fact.

Most today bristle at such writing. How can you say Christianity is right and everyone else is wrong? You’re quite arrogant, you might say, to think you have the truth! But in saying that I am arrogant for believing myself to have the truth, you are actually suggesting that I am wrong and therefore you have the truth when it comes to spiritual matters (how arrogant of you!). You are making just as much of a truth claim as I am.

But what about the famous allegory of the blind men and the elephant? Each blind man felt a part of the elephant and said it was a wall, a rope, a spear, etc. They all had a part of the truth, but none had all of it. Perhaps, you say, religions are something like that.

This objection, however, indulges in false humility. For, as others have pointed out, the reader of the story knows the blind men are wrong only because they, not the blind men, can see the entire elephant. The religious pluralist, who (in my definition here) believes all religions are equally valid, is making just as great a claim as those of any religion: They believe they alone fully understand ultimate reality. To suggest that no religion has the full truth is just as much an exclusive spiritual claim as it is to hold that one religion does.

It is intriguing, though, that most find pluralism inherently more attractive, especially when we realize that religions are not complimentary but contradictory. Christianity, for example, proclaims that Jesus is God Himself and, through His death and resurrection, has opened the only way of salvation and reconciliation with God. All other religions deny this message. Applied to the allegory, the blind men are not touching different parts of the elephant. They are examining the same part and coming up with different answers. Clearly, then, the world’s religions are not talking about the same God. The only way fundamentally contradictory worldviews could worship the same God is if God actively deceives the world about who He is. But we know that God “never lies” (Titus 1:2), nor is He “a God of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33). Only one religion, if any, can claim to hold the truth. While others can contain some elements or beliefs that are true, they give false testimony about God and ultimate reality in other fundamental areas and contradict the truth. Having rejected God and the only Way to the Father (John 14:6), these men and women stand open to God’s justice. And what is the verdict of this perfect justice for those who do not put their faith in Jesus Christ? “[T]he punishment of eternal destruction” (2 Thessalonians 1:9) and condemnation. Jesus said, “unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). The Bible makes it clear clear that those who do not repent and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ will stand before God’s Throne, be found guilty of sinning and defying the Lord Almighty Himself, and will receive the just reward for their heinous offenses: hell.

The reason we find this so offensive and hard to accept is because we don’t believe people actually deserve hell. Either we think we’re good enough to get into Heaven or that God has not revealed Himself enough to render us morally culpable. The Bible shatters all such thinking. “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal men and birds and animals and creeping things” (Romans 1:21-23). Man has “exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Romans 1:25). “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (Romans 1:32). What brazen, God-hating sinners we are! What perverse, wretched hearts we have! How can expect anything but God’s just condemnation and wrath?

Only when we realize something of the heinousness of our sin and sinful nature can we finally begin to understand and cherish John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” On the Cross, Jesus “bore our sins” (1 Peter 2:24). He paid our penalty. His sacrifice completely satisfies God’s justice and saves us entirely from condemnation because He drank the cup of God’s wrath in our place. It is only through the blood of Jesus that sinners can be brought near to God. That is why Christians are saved. Not because they are better than everyone else. Not because they have done x amount of good works. We are all by nature guilty sinners and rebels, but Christianity offers the only thing that can bring us salvation, something no other religion offers: a true and complete Savior, one that came to save even the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).

Andrew Sveda is a junior at Notre Dame from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, majoring in political science with a supplementary major in theology. In his free time, he enjoys writing (obviously), reading and playing the piano. He can be reached at [email protected] or @SvedaAndrew on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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