Posted by: rmbrowning | May 12, 2009

Close-mindedness and Christianity

In today’s age of religious tolerance there is a tendency for people to deride the importance of religious belief or to say that “all paths lead to God”.  Increasingly anyone who does not agree with these ideas can be labelled as close-minded, intolerant or judgmental.  However I think all of this business is a bit muddled and needs a bit of straightening out.

Now unless you really haven’t paid any attention to me whatsoever you either know or are not surprised to find that I am a Christian.  Am I therefore close-minded or intolerant then as well?  That depends on what you mean by close-minded and intolerant.

If you mean that if one holds a belief and defends their position against views which are incompatible/contradictory then I’ll likely disagree.  For example if I am approached by a nice Mormon individual while strolling to the supermarket who tells me that salvation is by faith + works I may disagree and attempt to falsify this idea being a budding apologist.  It is perfectly acceptable to do so (with gentleness and respect of course – 1 Peter 3:15-16) as their position contradicts my own and I do allow their beliefs to endure.

I think the crux of the matter is that all religious faiths are mutually exclusive.  This means that the idea that “all paths lead to God” is logically infeasible.  For instance Taoism is pantheistic, Hinduism polytheistic and Christianity monotheistic. Basically they’re all teaching different things which are irreconcilable with each other.  If you believe A is true and someone else believes B is true you cannot both be correct (although you can both be wrong).  This is also the case when you compare Christianity and Islam (considered to be quite similar) they are not the same at a fundamental level.  Christianity says Jesus died on the cross and Islam says he did not die on the cross, both cannot be correct.  These claims come from religious texts which  claim to be written by men inspired by God but one must be incorrect (Either A or B, not both).  This is a reflection of logic and reality, not intolerance.  Truth cannot contradict itself otherwise it cannot possibly be the truth can it?

Furthermore I would add that anyone that holds an opinion on anything is close-minded to an extent.  Having an opinion usually indicates they have employed reason to get there and eliminated other alternatives as possibilities (as we should – 1 Thessalonians 5:21).  You should still show respect for the others position and remember there is always a chance you could be wrong.

So in conclusion I do not believe that “all paths lead to God” as religions make mutually exclusive truth claims.  Is it logically possible to reconcile Christ’s statement “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No-one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) with a religion that does not accept Jesus as God incarnate?  To do so you would have to alter them to the degree that either one or both no longer contains its core doctrines.  Respect/tolerance should always be shown to those with different ideals but this does not make all views equal or correct.

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Responses

  1. Well said sir. I find that much of the rhetoric about ‘tolerance’ actually comes from those who are intolerant of anyone who dares to make a truth claim. Which ignores that truth claims can be made with tolerance. Indeed – to ‘tolerate’ something necessitates that you don’t agree with it…

  2. Welcome Dale,

    I profoundly agree with you. It’s probably another one of those examples of “political correctness gone mad”. It no longer seems socially acceptable to say what you think if it’s even mildly contentious. As if the only way a society can be happy is if everyone agrees with one another!

  3. Your statements bring Norman Geisler to my mind. Today’s society is not necessarily blind to the truth; remember Isaac Asimov, “I don’t have the evidence to prove that God doesn’t exist, but I so strongly suspect that he doesn’t that I don’t want to waste my time”. The Truth exists and is hard to deny no different than trying to prove a theorem designed to explain the different species of life later tampered with to explain the origins of life. Therefore, in a way to deny God, a patch of a patch of a patch of a patch just to satisfy the requirement.


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