Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
We are continuing in our “Reason to Believe” series this morning.
Where for 5 weeks, we are going to examine whether it’s more reasonable to believe in God or not believe in God
Each week we are covering a lot of evidence, weighing it with reason, and asking tough questions of Christianity.
This morning…I want to ask another tough question.
It’s one of the most common objections to Christianity.
And that’s this: Christianity claims that it alone is the way to God, and how could that possibly be reasonable to believe with so many other religions out there?
And isn’t that rather arrogant? And exclusive?
Doesn’t sound very loving.
And maybe even doesn’t sound very reasonable to believe in.
Here are the claims:
The first is from Jesus himself.
(John 14:6) – NIV
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Here’s another, from the disciple Peter, in one of the first sermons of early Christianity
(Acts 4:12) – NIV
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
And there are plenty of more verses we could put up there from the Bible, saying the same thing.
Now unfortunately, a lot of church messages just stop right there. Look, it’s in the Bible… end of story.
Now, I happen to believe the Bible, so right now in my life, that is enough for me.
But that hasn’t always been true in my life, and if you’re not sure you believe the Bible, it probably isn’t enough for you.
I know it wouldn’t have been for me at one time.
It would have just been circular reasoning
So let’s try and reasonably look at these claims before we come back to the Bible.
And let’s ask the question, “IF you’re going to believe in God, what’s the most reasonable way to do this…especially with so many religions out there”
So this morning, I want to look at 3 possible alternative thoughts to Christianity regarding this topic.
Many of them are very popular right now.
And explore if they are reasonable alternatives.
But before we start that, I want to challenge you again this week to put on your thinking cap.
This WILL challenge some of your assumptions about life and the world today.
And realize that if you’re not willing to let your assumptions be challenged, then you’re not willing to grow or you’ve assumed you’ve arrived.
I know, for me, the only way I grow as a learner, is if I approach every day saying, “I don’t know everything. There’s a good shot I’m wrong here. Teach me”
We don’t have a formal Q&A after the services today, but if you have questions…come and talk to me afterwards, I’d love to talk to you.
I might just say, “I have no idea,” to your question…but who knows
ALTERNATIVE THOUGHT #1: ALL RELIGIONS ARE EQUALLY VALID AND TRUE
So, let’s take a look at the first alternative thought to the typical, orthodox Christian view on this topic.
Alternative Thought #1: All religions are equally valid and true
In other words, it’s not fair to just say that Christianity is true…that’s pretty arrogant.
Religions are, for the most part pretty similar, and just different expressions, and therefore equally valid and true.
You heard this in the video a lot… “They all essentially teach the same thing”
I remember, when I was in high school, and not a Christian, but I was struggling for the first time with the thought of, “How come there are so many religions?”
So I asked someone in my family I respected, and she just said, “Well, David, they’re all basically the same, they just call God by different names.”
But how true is that?
Did God just reveal himself slightly different to different cultures over time?
Let’s start to break this down.
Which is why I asked that last woman, “What if I started my own religion?”
You can start to see that every religion is not equally valid. And that we DO actually judge them by something.
Was David Koresh’s cult of the Branch Davidians equally valid to Judaism?
What about some tribal religions that mutilate female babies? Just as good as Mormonism?
What about religions that require child sacrifice?
But then we quickly say, “Okay…they’re not ALL equal..”
But what I MEANT was…the major faiths.
Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judasim, Islam…
“Sure there are a few minor differences…different names for God, etc…but they are fundamentally the same
Unfortunately, if you study those 5 major religions, you’ll find they are anything but similar.
To start with…we can’t even say “God is the same in all 5” because in Hinduism, there is no personal God up in heaven.
In Hinduism, you are one with God. God is in each of us, and each of us is part of God.
That is the traditional Hindu belief, although some sects of Hinduism now believe in a pantheon of gods…some even have hundreds of gods
Buddhism, particularly Zen Buddhism (the type that is popular here in the West), doesn’t technically believe in a God at all.
Much of eastern religion is rooted in the teaching that people are suffering in life because they have not liberated themselves from their personal physical world…which is an illusion.
You must transcend this world of illusion through yoga or meditation.
And start to achieve enlightenment…or nirvana…
But again, you’re not even seeking a personal God in heaven…you are becoming one with the universe…
I don’t know how to say this lightly…this is about as similar to Christianity as riding a bike is to reading a book on Jupiter.
Now, the concept of having one God (which is called monotheism) is actually consistent for Jews, Christians, and Muslims,
That’s about where it ends.
And even that part isn’t all that similar
Christians believe in the trinity. God in 3 persons.
But that’s denied by Muslims and Jews. God is different for them.
Jesus is the Son of God to Christians, but to Jews he was someone who lied about being the messiah, and to Muslims, merely a good teacher who was NOT the son of God, NOT the messiah, and they don’t even believe he was crucified, let alone resurrected from the dead.
One of the greatest thinkers of our time, and world religions expert, Ravi Zacharias puts it this way:
“Many people think religions are superficially different, but fundamentally the same. The reality is they are superficially the same, and fundamentally different!” – Ravi Zacharias
Dr. David Clark, who was here at our Q&A last week, and a brilliant thinker when it comes to reason, put it to me this way as we chatted about it last week.
“If you have multiple contradictory viewpoints on the something, you have two options:
Either everybody is wrong OR somebody is right.
The ONE option you don’t have, is they’re all right.
This is basic logic.
And therefore, if we can not agree on even the most basic definition of God or what He is like (1 person, force, the universe), how can we say that all the major religions are on the same path towards the same God?
But is it any better that Christianity says it knows God best?
Well, it might surprise you, but Christianity is not the only religion that says this.
Islam is incredibly exclusive
I know of no predominantly Christian country where your life is at risk for converting to another religion…
Yet, the same can not be said for the Islamic countries of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, etc.
Hinduism is uncompromising on many issues (Karma, reincarnation, the authority of the Vedas (their scriptures)
Even Buddhism was born because Gautama (gaw-tuh-muh) Buddha REJECTED Hinduism.
He said…it was wrong. Not, it’s all the same.
Almost every religion is exclusive for the most part.
Even atheists are exclusive by saying their way is the right way to think.
Atheists don’t say, “All beliefs are equally true.” They say, “The one truth is, there is no God.”
And yet, in our culture, we HATE the idea that one religion could say, “We have the truth, which I suppose means, you don’t.” We HATE that.
Yet, putting that aside, it makes no rational sense for us to say, “All religions are true, when none of the religions themselves would agree to that…nor would any of them want you to come to that conclusion on their behalf”
I’ve heard a number of speakers say this lately: “What we need in our culture is an equality of people, and hierarchy of ideas. People are equal. Ideas are not”
And not every religion is equal.
ALTERNATIVE THOUGHT #2
Yet, that being said, there’s another common alterative thought that you could still have.
You could say, “I don’t believe that all religions are equally true and equally valid, it’s more like this:”
Alternative Thought #2: - All religions are partially true
At first that sounds like the same thing. But it’s not.
The first alternative thought was more of a thought of modernity, this is more of a postmodern thought.
Most teens, college students, people in their 20’s and early 30’s…have now blown up the modern approach of attempting to evidentially show that religions are all equally valid, and instead say, “They’re each true…in their own way.”
They each contain partial truths about God…as if each culture has a different knowledge…a slice of truth about God…and therefore, we can not say that one isn’t true!
We saw this refrain over and over again as we interviewed people.
“As long as you really believe it (and you’re not hurting anyone), it’s true for you.”
It has enough partial truth, that’s it’s therefore true.
This is often argued by the analogy of the blind men and the elephant.
Have you heard this one?
Three blind men come upon an elephant…
The 1st blind guy grabs the trunk and says, “This creature is long and flexible…it’s a snake!”
The 2nd blind guy grabs a leg and says, “This creature is thick and round….it’s not a creature, it’s a tree trunk!”
The 3rd blind guy grabs the side of the elephant and says, “This creature is flat and large, it’s not a creature at all, it’s a wall!”
And the analogy is given to show that each religion of the world is like one of the blind men.
It has a grasp on a PART of a spiritual truth, but not all of it.
But to claim that one has full knowledge of God…is arrogant.
Makes sense, right?
However, let’s take a step back.
It appears like a really humble analogy, but it’s actually the most arrogant of all analogies.
Because the pluralist (the person who’s saying all religions are partially true) is saying, “None of you has the whole truth…you’re just blind men…but I have such an absolute vantage point of reality…that only I can see the whole elephant. Only I can see things as they really are.”
And they are therefore claiming that they have the very knowledge that no religious experts have
They KNOW who God really is.
Which is the same sort of exclusivity that Christians are accused of.
So, it’s no less arrogant to say that all religions are partially true in their own way than it is to say that Islam is the only true religion.
Or that Mormonism is…or Christianity is.
Each of those claims is an exclusive claim to the truth…of how things really are.
Or sometimes people will say, “Forget all of those religious beliefs and doctrines. They’re all wrong…in their own cultural way…but we can know this: God is loving and accepting of all”
That’s the American God.
But reason with me…you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
You can’t say…belief, religion, and doctrine are not important, and then come up with a DOCTRINE that says God is ONLY Love.
And if Muslims say God is about justice and weighing deeds…WRONG! Or if Christians say, “he’s about forgiveness and a personal relationship…WRONG!”
“God is just love & acceptance”
That’s just a religious belief too. And one that excludes others at that.
And worse yet, it’s based on an improvable assumption, not a religious text.
Timothy Keller summarizes it this way,
“It is no more narrow to claim that one religion is right than to claim that one way to think about religions (namely that all are equal) is right. We are all exclusive in our beliefs about religion, but in different ways” – Timothy Keller
Let me tackle this alternative view, that “all religions are partially true,” from one more angle before we move on.
This is an angle that I think a lot of people, even a lot of Christian writers miss.
See, we love to ask the questions from the angle of comparing religious beliefs, but we often fail to ask the question that I believe this whole discussion is begging. And that’s this:
IF…and it’s a big IF…If one God did reveal himself differently to different cultures over time…and every religion could therefore be traced back to this one same God.
Then, who is this God? And the HUGE question that I believe this scenario begs is: What would that God be like?
It’s not just: “He’s love”
NO! Cuz you just combined all the religions saying they were from God!
If all of these religions are FROM God….and EQUAL in God’s eyes as partially true of HIM…than our only logical and reasonable deduction about what God would be like would be that He is the most awkward, distant, unknowable, incompetent, and dare I say, schizophrenic being in the universe.
If there is ONE God responsible for ALL of these religions…that would mean that this SAME God…
Revealed Himself to some of the earliest Hindus…and said… “I’m not really personal…”I’m actually just a non-reality that you must transcend to and become one w/
Then later sent His Son to earth and inspired Him to say, “I am personal, and I’m the only way to salvation”
But then, 600 years later, this same God somehow got confused, and told Muhammad, when he started Islam, that Jesus was the one who was confused, and HE wasn’t God…
And then later, inspired Joseph Smith to say, “Nah, Jesus wasn’t right either, but neither was Muhammad, so here’s the Book of Mormon!”
I mean, is that a God you want to believe in?
Is that a God even WORTH believing in?
“It’s sometimes out of this reasoning that people just say, “Hey, let’s face it, all religions are WRONG and have messed it up. But God is still real. He’s out there…and He’s love”
But that’s not even a God worth worshipping.
Because that’s saying that God is SO weak and SO incompetent that He couldn’t even reveal himself properly to ONE person over all of time.
ALTERNATIVE THOUGHT #3: TRUTH IS UNKNOWABLE
So, if you’re tracking along with me here…using reason…using logic….there are only a couple of views left.
One: There is NO God (which I believe is NOT true…but it’s honestly more rational than all religions are true)
Two: One of the religions is RIGHT
Or Three: There is still one more alternative view I want to glance at with this topic…
Alternative Thought #3: “Truth is Unknowable”
Another very postmodern thought in our culture.
Many simply say, “Truth….what is truth?
Truth is relative.
Truth is in the eye of the beholder.
Truth is what I make it.
There is no RIGHT truth…or one right way.
But no one actually believes that. In practice.
You probably believe in the truth of physics or you wouldn’t have trusted your car to bring you here today.
You probably believe in the truth of gravity, or you’d be freaking out that you’re about to be crushed in your chair….or cooler yet, float away.
Even in morality, I bet you believe in some sort of truth.
As much as people like to say there is no one right truth in morality.
Yet when those same people have a family member murdered, they find it hard pressed to say, “I can’t say that was wrong”
I think what so many in our postmodern culture fail to realize when they say, “We can’t really know truth…we can’t really know the true God…
Is that…that in itself is a truth claim.
It’s just a different side of the same coin.
Listen, it’s great to acknowledge our limitations in what we can know…it really is…But to state that we CAN’T know…is a truth claim…
It’s a claim that says, “The TRUTH is…know one can know”
I think part of that comes out of the belief that “no one can prove God,” so how can we know anything?!?
But that’s where we come back to the theme of this series. We have evidence, so what is more reasonable?
But simply not having 100% proof doesn’t give us a right to think irrationally
When Jesus is on trial…about to be executed…he’s brought before the Roman governor…Pontius Pilate.
And they have this little exchange.
(John 18:37-38) – NIV
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate. Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” 38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.
But Pilate ends up eventually handing him over to the Jews to be crucified anyway.
And I often wonder…as this powerful and SMART governor…sat there reasoning with Jesus about TRUTH…did it ever hit him later in life that He was having a conversation with the TRUTH himself.
The guy who said he was the way, the TRUTH, and the life.
Pilate was so caught up in the Roman culture of pluralism and universalism that He missed truth (THE TRUTH) even though it was right in front of Him.
And I want to ask you the same question this morning.
What will you do with all of this?
And what will you do with the truth of Jesus?
And what if it’s all true? What if there IS more? What if after death there is heaven and hell? Isn’t it worth finding out?
And what if it IS significantly more reasonable to believe that one faith is correct rather than all are correct, how do we know which one?
While I believe there are plenty of ways to go about this, I believe the easiest and simplest way is to look at Jesus.
Because Christianity claims that Jesus is the resurrected Son of God, and that He is only way to get right w/ God…
While Islam and Judaism flat out deny this about Jesus, and Buddhism and Hinduism would say…there really isn’t even such a thing as a personal God who could have a son in the first place.
So if we can prove that it’s reasonable to believe that Jesus is in fact the Son of God who DID in fact resurrect from the dead, then…Christianity stands head and shoulders above the rest.
And that is exactly what we did last week.
If you were not here, we covered why it’s actually reasonable to believe in the resurrection, and I really want to encourage you to check it out online if you missed it.
If Jesus is the Son of God…then His words matter.
If humans could have reached God another way…or through another religion…there is absolutely no reason for God to have his own son murdered on a cross.
One of my personal heroes that I mentioned earlier is Ravi Zacharias.
Ravi grew up in India surrounded by Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Christians, and Sikhs.
A brilliant, but discouraged teenager, he tried to commit suicide at 17 by swallowing a bunch of poisons.
Thankfully, it didn’t work.
A friend found him at the hospital and shared John 14 with him.
(the passage about Jesus being the way, the truth, and the life)
And he says that that passage really spoke to him, but it was a few verses later that really caught his attention
(John 14:18-19) – NIV
18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.
And then it hit him. Unlike all the other religions he was surrounded with, Jesus was different.
Buddha is dead. Confucius is dead. Muhammad is dead.
And the fact that Jesus is still alive is the ultimate validation of His truth.
And there’s more. Not only is Jesus the only one alive…
Christianity is the only one that provides a legitimate answer for our sins.
In Islam, your good deeds and bad deeds will be weighed on a scale at the end of your life…and you better hope you did more good…
In Hinduism, again, your deeds will determine your rewards and punishments (your Karma) and what even you will reincarnate as
In Buddhism you basically are called to pull yourself up by your own ethical bootstraps and do it on your own.
But the Christian Bible says something very different.
It says we can’t do it on our own.
And better yet, you don’t have to do it on your own.
I mean…What if you’re life has been a mess?
You’ve done some pretty bad things? Hurt a lot of people, committed adultery, been divorced, went to prison, and on and on.
In every other religion…you’re in serious trouble. You’re probably never going to make it up.
But Christianity says this:
(Romans 5:8) – NIV
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
In other words, Jesus is so in love with you, that even before he decided to die for you, He could see everything you would ever do, and said, “I love that person so much, that I’m going to die on the cross for them.”
No matter what they’ve done. No matter what.
In Christianity, we don’t have to earn our way to God; Jesus pays our way to God
(1 Timothy 2:4-6) – NIV
Who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time.
Jesus was our ransom.
He paid the price, so we could be set free.
Every religion says that there must be justice for our sins…our wrong doings…our shortcomings.
But in every other religion…you pay for it. You reap the punishment somehow.
But in Christianity….Jesus pays it for you. …..with his death on the cross.
And I wonder…do you believe that this morning?
Because the Bible says, “Believing it…putting our faith in it….saying that we want to believe and follow…..is how we’re forgiven”
(Romans 10:9) – NIV
9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
So, I want to ask you this morning…do you want to believe that Jesus died for you and become a follower of His?
To start a relationship with Him? Where you follow this ONE TRUE God who came to rescue you because He’s so in love with you.
Have you ever told Him that? Have you ever committed to follow Him? As your Lord? Your leader – as the text said.
If not, let’s do that.
In fact, let’s do this: Let’s all bow our heads and close our eyes…as I want this to be a special moment between you and God.
If you want to start this incredible relationship with Jesus….who loves you so much….and believe in what He did for you and commit your life to him (to make Him your leader & forgiver) to be completely forgiven…spend eternity in heaven w/ Him! If that’s you…and you’ve never done this before…in just a few moments, I’m actually going to ask you to quietly stand up. As a symbol…to say…this is what I’m living for now.
Everyone is going to have their eyes closed (no one’s looking), so this is just between you & God
This is a way for you to say, “I believe this is REAL. Jesus died for me. I believe, and I will be a follower of this amazing God”
So wherever you are, all across this room right now. If you’d like to become a follower of Christ, to enter into a relationship with Him, and accept his gift of forgiveness, I want you to just, real quietly, stand up wherever you are.
If God is nudging your heart in this…that means He’s real. That means…it’s TIME. If you feel it in your pulse…in your heart…that’s God. Accept His forgiveness. Start a new life with Him. It’s amazing!
If you’re standing up, would you pray this prayer with me?
It’s not a magic prayer…but just a prayer to tell God where you’re at…again, the Bible says, we 1) believe in our hearts and 2) confess with our mouths.
So I want you to say it out loud with me. Repeat after me
IN fact, there are a lot of other believers already in the room, and this is what we believe.
So, let’s all say it together with these new believers.
EVERYONE repeat after me with these new believers.
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
But God I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life. Amen
AMEN!! Let’s just clap and praise God.
Let me thank Him and PRAY.
If you gave your life to Christ today, I need you to do 2 things for me
Right after the service today, I want you to go to the back of the room …for just a moment.
In the back there is a sign that says “FOLLOW-UP”
There will be some incredibly nice people there (they have lanyards on) who want to give you some extremely helpful tools to help you get started in your faith
Won’t take you very long. But absolutely go back there.
Also, if you stood up today, we wrote you a letter. It’s under your chair, and we’d love for you to read it before the service is over.
Let me just pray & thank God!
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.