Is the Christian Faith Really That Exclusive?

For some reason, Christians have been singled out by the non-Christian world as being bigots and narrowminded zealots because of our belief that salvation is found only in Jesus Christ. Certainly, they have not mischaracterized our belief about Christ. We really do believe that he provides the only road to salvation.

 

So does this mean that the criticism has validity? Actually, no! We would only be bigoted and narrowminded if our claim was false and we were rubbing people’s faces in it because we have something that they don’t have access to.

 

First of all, there is every evidence that what we believe is actually true – Jesus was God in the flesh and his death on the cross and his resurrection actually did provide the means for the salvation of mankind. There has not been another person or event which has come along to take care of the sin problem which separates humanity from God.

 

Secondly, what legitimate Christian would ever rub people’s faces in it. Our whole goal is to share the good news of salvation so that they can have it too, not to haughtily assert that we have something others don’t have.

 

So, if we are not really bigoted and narrowminded zealots, why would non-believers pin that label on us? Well, there is a very good reason why they do it. It is to protect their own very narrow understanding of salvation. Most people who would label Christians as narrowminded don’t really understand the argument they are making. If the Christian understanding is right, then they have to face up to the fact that their own beliefs are wrong – and who can simply let that slide? To protect themselves, they lash out at opposing viewpoints. And with this, we get at the very heart of an understanding of worldview.

 

The Nature of Worldview

Every worldview belief is, by its very nature, exclusive. In looking at a belief system – any belief system – there is a line which cannot be crossed. It is impossible for there to be a god and not be a god at the same time. If there is a god, it is impossible for him to be personal and impersonal at the same time. In the case of Jesus Christ, it is impossible for him to be the only way to salvation and to not be the only way to salvation at the same time. So, if someone believes that salvation is found by some other means, the Christian viewpoint becomes a target because of the assertion of some other narrowminded viewpoint.

 

With this understanding in place, it seems a bit disingenuous for someone to assert that our Christian view is narrowminded from the platform of a different narrowminded point of view. But that is exactly what has happened when someone attacks our faith in that manner.

 

What Defines Exclusivity?

If some belief system is going to be called exclusive, we must understand what is meant by that before the charge makes any sense. The fact is, every belief system in existence (even those which pride themselves on being open and tolerant) has a line around it which defines the boundaries of the belief. As long as you stay within the boundaries you are a part of that system. When you move outside of that boundary, you have moved into something else. Because of our understanding of worldview, we actually have a way to get at that. There are three basic things which define the boundaries around a belief. These can be identified by asking three questions.

 

1. What is the nature of ultimate reality?

2. What is the nature of a human being?

3. What is salvation and how do you achieve it?

 

Every belief system answers these questions and the answers define the system’s exclusivity. So, when someone claims that Christianity is narrowminded, the claim is made based on the doctrine of some other narrow belief system. The person making the charge may believe that their belief is not exclusive but, by default, it has its own line around it.

How Is Christianity Is Exclusive?

As we mentioned before, Christians embrace the “exclusive” label. But it is not that we are exclusive in order to keep people out. In fact, we want as many people as possible to enter into our faith. But we do recognize that there is a particular way for people to enter the faith. So just how does the exclusiveness of Christianity play out? How does it answer the three questions above?

 

1. What is the nature of ultimate reality?

For a Christian, ultimate reality is expressed as the God of the Bible. He is the creator and sustainer of the material universe. He is holy, righteous and just. For his own purposes, God created mankind for fellowship with himself. In eternity, human beings will either live in the presence of God or outside of his presence.

 

2. What is the nature of a human being?

Christians understand human beings to be persons created in the image of God, but who are tainted by sin because of the fall. This has caused individual humans to be separated from God because he cannot dwell in the presence of unholiness.

 

3. What is salvation and how do you achieve it?

Salvation then, for Christians, is the means by which the problem of separation from God is fixed. It was accomplished by the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross and his resurrection. It is specifically applied to individual human beings as they acknowledge their sinfulness and invite Christ into their lives.

 

Now, certainly, that is specific enough to garner the label “exclusive.” It is only through Christ that a person can enter into a relationship with God.

 

How Is a So Called “Non-exclusive” Belief Systems Exclusive?

There are many belief systems which point to Christianity and claim that we are exclusive, believing that they themselves are not. It is impossible to detail all of these, but one example will highlight how to analyze all of the rest. For this example, we will use Secular Humanism.

 

Secular Humanists really believe that they are open minded because they don’t force people to believe a particular way about God (or even to believe in God at all). But is that really the case? Here is how Secular Humanists answer the three questions.

 

1. What is the nature of ultimate reality?

Secular Humanism asserts that there is no such thing as a supernatural reality. Everything that exists is the result of natural evolutionary processes.

 

2. What is the nature of a human being?

Human beings, for Secular Humanists, are simply the naturally evolved animal creature which has developed the most complex brain. Humans are nothing more than highly evolved biological machines.

 

3. What is salvation and how do you achieve it?

For Secular Humanists, salvation is nothing more than personal self-fulfillment and the structuring of society in ways which insure the survival of the species. Since there is no transcendent existence to impose purpose or meaning on the material world, it is up to individuals and society to determine what constitutes personal self-fulfillment and how to best insure species survival.

 

Does this have a ring to it of open mindedness? Does the fact that there is no religious or revealed authority mean that Secular Humanists are more “tolerant” because they don’t look to God for guidance?

 

Not really. In fact, they are very intolerant of anyone who does not answer the three questions the way they do. They are intolerant of any person who believes in God. They are intolerant of any person who views mankind as a purposefully created individual. And since, for them, salvation involves their own personal self-fulfillment, they are intolerant of anyone who stands in their way, no matter what arena of life this involves. By the same token, many of them don’t have any qualms about walking on others or putting others down if it furthers their own personal advancement. The fact is, Secular Humanists have a very narrowminded approach to belief and anyone who does not agree with them is considered to be ignorant and wrong.

 

Is it the Truth?

While we used Secular Humanism as an example, you can use the three questions to get at the narrow-mindedness of any belief system, no matter how “inclusive” they claim to be. But this is not even the real issue at hand. The real question is not, “Is it exclusive?”, but “Is it the truth?”

 

There is some way that reality is actually organized. Either there is a God or there is not. If there is, he is either personal or impersonal. You can’t have it both ways. So, someone is right and everyone else is wrong. Claims of tolerance and open-mindedness are totally meaningless if the claims don’t correspond with the way reality is actually structured. Of course, there is no empirical evidence that one belief system or another does represent truth. Worldview beliefs cannot be addressed that way. But there are other kinds of very powerful and profound evidence for or against every belief.

 

The fact is, our Christian faith has more evidence to support it than any other belief system in existence. It is not narrowminded to make a belief claim if what you are claiming actually does represent the truth.

 

For the Christian faith, the focus is not on the fact that Christ is the only way to God. While this is a true statement, the real issue is much more important. Human beings exist in a condition where we are separated from God. We desperately need a means of fixing that problem. God provided that fix through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Rather than being upset that there is only one way to God, we ought to be very grateful that God provided a way for us to escape the death trap of sin.

 

The exclusivity of Christianity is not oppressive – it is freeing. It is the message that there is a way for us to escape slavery from sin and eternal separation from God. Every belief system in existence is exclusive and we have to come to grips with that fact. The important thing to discover is, which exclusive set of beliefs represents the truth? Once we know that, narrow-mindedness becomes a blessing, not a curse.