One nerdy pastor's proclamation, examination and defense of the
Friday, September 9, 2011
The Myth of Religious Harmony
"There is in fact no subject upon which so much difference of opinion exists, not only among the unlearned but also among educated men; and the views entertained are so various and so discrepant, that, while it is no doubt a possible alternative that none of them is true, it is certainly impossible that more than one should be so" -Cicer0 (De natura deorum).
Unwittingly (and unintentionally as well), Cicero has given Christians a reasonable, sound way of debunking a popular, yet doggedly old myth: all religions lead to the same god. I hear this a lot with students I talk to on college campuses and people around town I meet. You know them by their catch phrases: "I'm not religious; I'm spiritual." Whatever that means. After all, I can be religious about watching Detroit Red Wing's hockey and going to Joe Louis Arena may indeed feel like a spiritual experience. But that's just the problem; their are as many (contradictory) definitions of "religious" and "spiritual" as there are people who offer them up. That's right, contradictory. That's the truth behind the fantastic lie that goes around masked by the worldly superficial beauty of ecumenical relations (read: interfaith and syncretistic). Just take one example: contrary to popular opinion (yes, the majority of popular opinion can be wrong even when it sounds appealing), Muslim, Jews and Christians do not believe in the same God, not even close, not by a mile. And for all the seemingly harmonious similarities in the world's religions (and there are myriads of myriads) these similarities are superficial, barely skin deep. A mere facade of truth and commonality. The myth that all religions lead to the same god is not a harmony at all; it's a religious cacophony and it's an inadequate, not to mention illogical, way of thinking about religious truth claims. Of which all religious people (or spiritual, if you prefer) and world religions make. They could all be false, logically speaking. But it is impossible for them all to be true.
And so, with gratitude and immense appreciation, I bring you the following post from a good friend, Ed Killian, host of Mad Gnesio, an online group for the defense of the Christian faith. He is also the proprietor of the Iowa Christian Apologetics Society. He summarizes the argument well and succinctly outlines the absolute absurdity of this common myth as an objection to the Christian faith so that we can get on with the the good stuff: the central event in all human history, namely, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As we encounter the unbelieving world, we are called to proclaim the Gospel of Christ and Him crucified for the forgiveness of sins. As we have said, this is the only way a heart lost in unbelief can be converted to a believing Christian heart.
To the world, however, your Christian faith is one possible option of many. Two common ways the world often views religion. First that all religions are the same: untrue. Second that all religions are the same: all equally true.
Since Christianity is a faith that rests on exclusive claims (e.g. "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" etc.), we must make efforts to move people away from the belief that all religions are the same so that we can proclaim God's exclusive truth, and they might be saved.
We do not refute the "all religions are the same" argument by an appeal to emotions or personal experience. We will instead appeal to simple logic. If that scares you, don't let it. Listen carefully: it is true that the Bible says that natural man cannot understand godly things; God never said he cannot understand simple facts.
"The characteristic most fully shared by the religions of the world is their incompatibility with each other" (John Warwick Montgomery, Tractatus Logico Theologicus, 13).
Saying that all religions are the same is a nonsensical statement. By definition, each one of them is different. Each says different things about who God is. Each says different things about how the earth was created. Each says different things about who man is, how he is supposed live, and what happens to him when he dies. Each says different things about the meaning of life. All of the world's religions make conflicting claims and statements. Thus they are not all the same, and cannot all be true. Simple logic: something cannot be simultaneously A and not A.
If I told you that a square and a triangle were identical, you would think I was nuts. Why? By definition they aren't One is defined by four equal sides, and one by three sides. I can say they are both shapes, but I cannot say they are both the same.
And so it is for engaging the unbelieving mind in regards to all religions being the same. We display in a simple way that it is nonsensical to say so. This will usually move them to the next question: "How do we know which one of them is true?"
We'll address that in the next post. (Posted with permission by Ed Killian of Mad Gnesio).
Notice that nothing has been said about Christianity up to this point. At times this is a fine place to start an argument (i.e. reasoned discussion). Now of course there are many, who for a variety of reasons, will claim to be logical and prove the opposite by their words and deeds. Yet, humanly speaking, logic is a useful tool and something we all (at least ought to) have in common with the unbelieving world.
This is the goal of Christian apologetics. Clearing off one obstacle at a time so the real scandal of the cross can be heard and seen for what it is: foolishness in the eyes of men, wisdom in the eyes of God and salvation for all who believe.