Why is it that Christianity exercises exclusivity in claiming to be the only way to Heaven? Why is faith in Christ the only way to obtain the forgiveness of our sins? Why aren’t all faiths equal (mutually inclusive)? What makes me think that I have the right to say what the truth is?
A common objection raised against Christianity is its exclusivity, or its ‘;my way or the highway (to Hell)’ mentality. In John 14:6, Jesus tells his disciples, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” What Jesus is saying is simply intolerant according to today’s standards. But is he right?
Dealing with Exclusivity
To many, the exclusivity of Christianity is a sincere roadblock in convincing them to accept its message. However, what is often never realized is that pretty much all faiths are mutually exclusive in one area or another, so why make Christianity the black sheep of the group? It’s quite true that a majority of the belief systems in the world have several similarities between them, from belief in a creator god, to moral rules that are against murder, stealing, lying and for love, peace and charity. But the Devil, we will see, is in the differences.
All faiths have mutually exclusivity doctrines in them. For example, Mormonism teaches that there are countless gods in existence and Islam teaches that there is one. Jehovah’s Witnesses say Jesus was an angel and Muslims say he was just a man. Many faiths believe in God and some do not. Some teach that there is a Hell and others don’t. Some beliefs include reincarnation and others reject it. Some New Age teachings say that we are collectively god whereas others say that the creator is separate from the creation.
From this we can see that Christianity is not the only faith that is exercises exclusivity in its doctrines. Even the statement “all faiths are equal” is exclusive in that it puts itself in a position over all other belief systems validating them as true, yet denouncing the mutually exclusive doctrines as false. When it all boils down to it, two opposing views cannot both be right. Yes, they may both be close in their presentations of the truth and they can also both be completely false, but they simply cannot both be true.
To put it in an analogy, suppose there is a car accident involving two cars and when the police officer arrives to take a report he hears a few different conflicting stories. One person says driver A pulled out in front of driver B and caused the accident, another person says that driver B hit driver A who was stopped at a red light, and yet another person says that there was no accident at all and that both cars have always been parked there.
Clearly we know the third individual has a few screws loose because we see the two cars smashed together and can feel the heat still radiating from the engines. So the police officer’s job now requires him to do some investigation to find out which story is true. Just because there are conflicting views does not mean that there is no right answer and it certainly can’t be that all the stories are true. It simply means that we have to work a little harder than we may like in order to find out what really happened.
Mutual exclusivity is not really a problem, it’s merely a byproduct of opposing views which must be investigated and discarded if necessary.
Appealing to Sincerity
Upon hearing this, people may appeal to the idea that someone should get into heaven if they are sincere in their faith, regardless of whether or not it is true. But this position is one which stands on thin glass if we apply it to our lives.
For example, should I reward my child if they sincerely believe that another child’s father is better than me because he lets his kids do whatever they want? No.
At the end of the day, should I welcome my wife into my arms if she sincerely believes that another man makes a better husband? No. Should I give an employee a bonus who sincerely believes it is right for him to give his best work to my small competitor? No.
Finally, should God reward someone who spent their entire life sincerely believing that the Bible is wrong yet what a demon taught was right? No. In the end, your faith is only as good as who you put it in.
The Elephant Analogy
Timothy Keller answers objections to the exclusivity of Christianity from an old analogy where “Several blind men were walking along and came upon an elephant that allowed them to touch and feel it. ‘;This creature is long and flexible like a snake’ said the first blind man, holding the elephant’s trunk. ‘;Not at all - it is thick and round like a tree trunk,’ said the second blind man, feeling the elephant’s leg. ‘;No, it is large and flat,’ said the third blind man, touching the elephant’s side.”1
This analogy is used by opponents of mutual exclusivity to say that all religions only see a part of God as a whole, and that while some are closer than others to being right, all are mistaken in thinking they have a complete view of God. However, this analogy breaks down in a number of different ways.
First, as Keller mentions, “the story is told from the point of view of someone who is not blind. How could you know that each blind man only sees part of the elephant unless you claim to be able to see the whole elephant?”2
Second - and quite simply - what if the elephant speaks to us?3 Surely, if the elephant speaks up and says, “I’m an elephant!” that will get the picture across that he is not a snake, a tree trunk, or a large flat surface.
While God’s existence is evident from examining nature, the Bible is his way of telling us about him. It is what we call God’s word, meaning that when we read the scriptures, it is God speaking to us. It tells the story of humanity’s creation, fall, and redemption through Christ’s crucifixion.
The Bible stands alone in the list of self-declared ‘;divinely inspired books’ because it can back up its claims. Probably the most powerful evidence for its validity is known as ‘;Bible prophecy.’ According to J. Barton Payne there are 1,817 prophecies in the Bible which tell of events that were yet to to occur at the time of their writing. Of these prophecies, 1,239 are in the Old Testament and 578 in the New Testament. From the Bible’s 31,124 verses, 8,352 of them are prophetic. According to Payne, 87% of the prophecies have already come to pass and out of the remaining 13%, 98% of those will be fulfilled during the seven year tribulation.4
Also, these were not remote allusions to events that were likely to happen given current circumstances and traditions. Instead we have prophecies that give us even the small details of events that would occur hundreds of years in the future. Like the predictions of a coming savior that would be born of a virgin (Isa 7:14) in the town of Bethlehem (Mic 5:1-2), who is descended from King David (Jer 23:5) and the tribe of Judah (Gen 49:10). He would grow up in Egypt (Hos 11:1), perform miracles (Isa 35:4-6), be rejected for his message (Isa 53:1-3), betrayed by a friend (Psa 41:9) and then crucified as an innocent man for the forgiveness of our sins (Isa 53:4-6), buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isa 53:9) and risen from the grave three days later to show his power over death (Mat 20:18-19). This man is Jesus Christ and these are only a small selection of the prophecies made about him.
There are over twenty other books whose authors or followers claim are ‘;divinely inspired.’ Among these are the Hindu Vedas, Upanishads, Mahabharata, Avesta, Pali Tripataka, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenant, Pearl of Great Price, and the Qu’ran. It is important to note that out of all these, not a single one contains any fulfilled prophecy but the Bible itself, and only God can tell us things that are yet to occur.
So while the claims of mutual exclusivtiy in the Bible may be unattractive to some people, it cannot serve as a proof or a valid argument against Christianity or the Bible. It is merely a complaint from people who do not like the words that are said because it doesn’t feel nice. As logic follows, complaints don’t do anything in the hands of truth, and truth is always exclusive.
- Keller, Timothy J. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Dutton, 2008. 8. Print.
- Ibid. 9
- DeYoung, Kevin. "The Truth and the Lie in the Contemporary Church." Exchange Conference. The Rock Church, San Diego. 17 June 2010. Lecture.
- Payne, John Barton. Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy: the Complete Guide to Scriptural Predictions and Their Fulfillment. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1987. Print.