Making Sense of Religious Pluralism?

I admit—it sounds terribly appealing. You know, the idea that all paths lead to God, that at their core we find no intrinsic differences between belief systems. I mean, if we can all accept this reality and just get along with one another, wouldn’t this world be a much better place?

While generally embracing nebulous concepts of spirituality, Western culture despises the idea of religious absolutes. We’re told that no one can be certain about their beliefs, and that such vestiges of certainty inevitably lead to both dogmatism and radical fundamentalism. The problem—and it’s a big one—is that while these ideas may in some ways appeal to a desire for peace, their hollow ring becomes all too evident upon careful consideration.

The following are three relatively short points to show that religious pluralism simply doesn’t make sense.

1. Religious pluralism speaks of an imagined reality. I am a real person writing a real blog post. And while people may reasonably question whether or not I personally penned these words, I can’t imagine anyone arguing that I have twelve eyes, three arms, and green skin. Why? Such ideas conflict with the visible reality of who I am. When we contend that God is whoever we want him (or her) to be, we are behaving as though God were the product of human imagination and not a real person. In this case, I think it would be better to believe nothing (a virtual impossibility) than to believe everything.

 2. All belief systems are not the same. Sure, there are common themes to be found, but at its core, Christianity is radically different from all other faiths. To begin, its founder claims to still be alive. While the decomposed bodies of all other religious leaders rest quietly in their graves, Christ’s tomb remains empty. This means that Jesus is actively involved in our Universe.

Furthermore, the central mechanism that drives almost all religious belief systems is that of law. Adherence to a law-based system means that by somehow purifying ourselves, or by measuring up to certain standards, we can gain the favor of the heavens and improve our eternal lot. This type of mindset radically opposes a paradigm of grace.

Other belief systems may incorporate elements of grace, but only biblical Christianity functions by grace at its core. We don’t earn God’s favor; we receive it through faith in Christ’s sacrificial work on the cross. Further still, only grace provides an effective solution to the problem of sin. Through grace, we are cleansed from the guilt and stain of our sins, and through grace, we are empowered to live in victory over sin.

3. We can’t become more like Jesus by believing in Him less. Jesus is generally seen as a pretty good guy. The real problem, we are told, is that well-meaning people have mistakenly exalted Jesus to a place of supremacy. The answer to this problem is to relax our belief in the Bible while still holding to its ideals. Christians should do all they can to emulate Christ’s love, but they should become more loving by their own self efforts. In other words, truth does nothing to free and change us; we must rely upon self to overcome self.

I get the idea that way too many lives have been destroyed due to religious dogmatism—even on the part of professing Christians. However, at its core, this problem is the result of displacing a paradigm of grace and replacing it with one of law. The key to becoming more loving, then, is not to abandon truth, but to more fully embrace it.

Grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) and faith go hand in hand, as do faith and certainty (Hebrews 11:1). Faith enables us to abide in God’s grace, grace empowers us to love, and love is the seed that yields a harvest of peace. Religious pluralism simply does not make sense. If we want this world to be a better place, the answer is for all of us to believe the teachings of the Bible more—not less.