image There are a lot of people who agree with this statement – “All religions are equally true and valid.”  Some dismiss doctrine as unimportant and say these religions are equal.  But we know there are clear differences in major points of doctrine among the major world religions.

For instance, Christians believe that Jesus is God incarnate, fully God, fully man, co-equal with God the Father, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, was crucified, buried and was resurrected.  He is now sitting at the right hand of God as our chief advocate and will judge the living and the dead.  Muslims believe Jesus is a prophet.  Jewish people reject that He is the Messiah they’ve been waiting for.

Buddhism doesn’t believe in a personal God in which Christianity does.  We could go down the line.

Can we not agree that claiming that doctrine is unimportant is making a doctrinal statement?

Then some say different religions only see part of what the whole truth.  Timothy Keller in his book The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism cites the example often used of the blind men and the elephant – in that one man could feel the leg, one could pat its side, and another yet could feel its trunk.  None can see the whole truth.

Ergo, no one can claim to know absolute truth.

The problem, Keller states, with that is that the story is told from the perspective of somebody who is not blind. How could you know the blind men could only grasp a part of the elephant unless you can see the whole elephant.

Those who claim this seem on the surface to be humble.  Keller quotes Lesslie Newbigin’s book, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, to address this:

There is an appearance of humility in the protestation that the truth is much greater than any one of us can grasp, but if this is used to invalidate all claims to discern the truth it is in fact an arrogant claim to a kind of knowledge which is superior to (all others)… We have to ask: ‘”What is the (absolute) vantage ground from which you claim to be able to revitalize all the absolute claims these different scriptures make?” (pg. 9-10, 170).

Then another argument often stated by those who object to an absolute truth claim, Keller says, “It is arrogant to insist your religion is right and convert others to it.”

If that is arrogant, so is the claim that any exclusive claim about religion is untrue.  Isn’t that an exclusive claim?  It is also a doctrinal claim, Keller states:

But this objection is itself a religious belief.  It assumes God is unknowable, or that God is an impersonal force rather than a person who speaks in Scripture.  All of these are unprovable faith assumptions, (pg. 12).

So if all exclusive views should be discouraged, this one should as well.

So in a nutshell the person making an argument against exclusive truth claims can should apply the same argument with their exclusive claim.

4 comments
  1. Great insights Shane! I have found both Newbigin and Keller immensely beneficial (though I disagree with Newbigin on biblical inerrancy). For those interested I’d highly recommend Newbigin’s Christian Catalyst DVD(2 messages: “The Gospel as Public Truth” & “The Missionary Mandate: ‘So Send I You'”). He is a brillant exegete of culture, God’s mission, and the Church’s mission.

  2. John 8:32, tells us that we can know the truth, and knowing it will make us free. Sometimes though, it is a question of just what “truth” in scripture refers to. I was raised in, and spent 33 years in a group that believed it referred to “the truth of the one body,” and proceeded to exclude fellowship with all members of that one body except those that met with their group on a regular basis. In fact, they believe to this day that they alone have the Lord’s presence in their midst, based on a strict interpretation of Matthew 18:20. For example, if your church has a name….it doesn’t fit into the parameters of this verse, because you are meeting “in another name.” Now, that is a real expression of the term Exclusive!

    According to Olivetree.com, “truth” occurs 231 times in the KJV. Does it have only one meaning?

    1. This particular post is dealing with major world religions, not different groups/sects/denominations within Christianity.

      With the group you cite I don’t think the definition of truth is the problem. Their issue is proper biblical interpretation using sound hermenutical principles. For starters you shouldn’t hold forth a doctrinal position on just one verse, but rather the whole of scripture. You could believe in some funky things if you based your belief off of just one verse.

      They need to rightly divide the Word of God, and it appears that they are not doing so.

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