“There is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me.”
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
How can Christians be so sure they’re right and everyone else is wrong? Isn’t that arrogant?
Logically, it’s not possible for all the major world religions to be valid ways to God. As seen in the verses above, Christianity states that the God of the Bible is the only true God and salvation is only possible by accepting Christ as Saviour and Lord. Judaism states that the God of the Torah/Old Testament is the only true God, but that Jesus is not the Messiah, putting it directly at odds with Christianity. Jesus either is the Messiah, or he is not. If he is, Judaism is not a valid way to God; if he is not, Christianity is not a valid way to God. The mutual exclusion only grows when other religions are added: Islam says that Allah is the only true God, and that anyone who says Christ is the Son of God will be condemned (Qur’an, 5:72, 9:30). Furthermore, if religions other than Christianity are valid ways to God, then one of Christianity’s basic principles is false; in that case, can it still be said to be a valid, trustworthy religion? (See also 1 Cor 15:14-19.)
No matter what belief system you adopt, you will be saying that your system is right and that the billions of people who don’t accept it are wrong. If Islam is correct, the billions of non-Muslims are wrong; if Orthodox Judaism is correct, the billions of Gentiles are wrong. If it is correct to approve of multiple belief systems because they’re all valid ways of achieving spiritual enlightenment, the billions of Christians, Jews, Muslims and others who believe in exclusive religions are intolerant and therefore wrong.
How can Christians be sure their religion is the right one? Being born into a Christian family or growing up in a Christian community doesn’t make one a Christian; culture and ethnicity don’t determine one’s relationship with God. Instead, people become Christians because they are convinced of the truth of Christianity and/or have had experiences with God – in short, they have good reasons for believing Christianity to be true. (See the testimonies of people who have become Christians.) Also, Christians are not saying that their personal ideas are true, but that the Christian God exists, and his words are true.
Furthermore, Christianity is unique among religions because it addresses the fact that we can never be good enough to be in the presence of a perfect, holy God. In order to be perfectly good, we would have to be doing good all the time. If we do something wrong, we can’t undo it, and we can no longer be considered perfect. Nor can we do more good to make up for our wrongs, for perfection requires doing the most good possible at all times – we can’t be more than perfect to make up for when we’re less than perfect. Other religions teach that we can somehow do enough good to earn heaven or nirvana, but they don’t address the fact that we continually make mistakes.
Christianity teaches that our sins were paid for by Jesus’ death on the cross, and that by accepting his payment and believing in him we can be forgiven; we don’t have to earn our way into heaven, which is a good thing, because we can’t do it. Christ is the only way to God, because without the forgiveness that comes through his death and resurrection, there’s no way for us to be able to stand before a holy God.
Saying that Christianity is right does not mean that Christians themselves are right about everything, or that they are innately superior to non-Christians. What Christianity teaches is that both Christians and non-Christians “have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23) and need salvation, which comes only by the grace of God, not the individual’s actions or merits (Eph 2:8-9, 1 Cor 1:26-31).
Christianity is Intolerant of other Beliefs
Is refusing to call a belief false always the right thing to do? For instance, is it right to say that racism and Nazism are simply alternate belief systems that we shouldn’t pass judgement on, or should we condemn these beliefs as being morally wrong? If someone believes they have the right to rape or kill whomever they please, should we accept their beliefs as an alternate lifestyle, or denounce them? Tolerance is an admirable virtue in many circumstances, but tolerating wrong by refusing to say it’s wrong is in itself wrong. If Christianity is true, then there is only one God and salvation comes only through Him, and religions that deny this are not merely alternate forms of spiritual expression, but systems of belief that prevent their adherents from obtaining salvation. If Christ is in fact the only way to God, then to claim that he’s not is both false and dangerous. If someone has a fatal disease, telling them that they don’t need to seek medical treatment is wrong. If someone can only have salvation by accepting Christ as their Savior, telling them they don’t need to accept Christ is even more wrong, no matter how tolerant or well-meaning it may seem to be.
Christianity is exclusive – those outside the church aren’t saved
First of all, would a religion that taught that everyone goes to heaven be a good religion? We would all like to think that we and our loved ones will go to heaven. Yet if everyone automatically goes to heaven, this includes evil people as well as good people. Should an unrepentant killer go to heaven? Should someone who enjoys torturing people, or who molests children and feels no guilt, go to heaven? If not, then there are cases when it’s morally right for people to be excluded from heaven.
Christianity does not teach that only Christians deserve to go to heaven. Rather, it teaches that no one deserves to go to heaven, because we have all done wrong during our lives (Rom 3:23). We can gain admittance to heaven by repenting of our wrongs, accepting Jesus Christ’s death as payment for our wrongs and deciding to follow and worship him as Lord. The principle is that Jesus is the only way to God, not any particular church or denomination (John 6:40). Thus, salvation is accessible to everyone and is intended by God for everyone:
Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! (Is 45:22)
I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people…This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all…
(1 Tim 2:1, 3-6; see also Is 49:6, 52:10, Rev 5:9)
Indeed, there are people “from every nation, tribe, people and language” who will be saved (Rev 7:9). Thus, far from being exclusive, Christianity is inclusive. Anyone who chooses to accept Christ as Lord and Saviour is a Christian and has equal standing with all other Christians before God.
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:26-28)