In recent posts, I’ve explored the place of Jesus among other gods. Using controversial titles, I suggested that every major world faith contains clues that point to him.
In this cultural moment, it’s scandalous—even arrogant—to suggest that Jesus might be the only way. I’d get a lot more traction if I said that all religions are equally valid; that all paths lead to God.
This belief, known as pluralism, is today’s accepted wisdom. No one even feels the need to defend it because it’s so widely assumed to be true.
“It’s scandalous to suggest that Jesus might be the only way.”
But pluralism has disastrous blind spots. In seeking to affirm people of every religion for their insight and spiritual commitment, it actually insults them all.
How? Pluralism does this by failing to understand the unique claims of each world faith. The founders of every religion—and most of their adherents—are convinced that their path of salvation is needed, precisely because other methods have been found wanting.
Enlightenment became possible only because the Buddha discovered the eightfold path; the five pillars of Islam are the true path of submission to Allah; Hinduism’s way of release is what makes union with the ultimate life force attainable; the Jewish people can obey God only by following his law. The list goes on.
But according to pluralism, each of these—the Buddha’s eightfold path, Muhammad’s five pillars, Hinduism’s way of release, the Jewish law, and Jesus’ death and resurrection—weren’t really needed, because hope could have been found elsewhere.
“Pluralism has disastrous blind spots.”
There’s a famous parable from India that pluralists love to tell that exposes this problem. It’s called the tale of the blind men and the elephant, and it goes like this:
Five blind men inspect an elephant. One feels the trunk and concludes it’s a snake. One touches its ear and decides it is a leaf. Another finds the leg and thinks it’s a tree. One puts his hand on the elephant’s side and believes it’s a wall. The final man holds the tail and says it is a rope.
The moral of the story, says pluralism, is that ultimate truth isn’t found in any one religion. Rather, through our combined insight we will be able to arrive at an all-encompassing truth together. If we shared our wisdom, we’d realise that all paths lead to God (or the universe, or whatever—because who cares about details, right?)
But pluralists have missed the most important fact in the story: there is a sixth man. He is the narrator, the one telling the story. Only he has all the facts; only he perceives things objectively.
“Applied to the world’s religions, this story is manipulative and insulting.”
Do you see it? Pluralism congratulates itself for its tolerance, but it actually makes the most arrogant claim of all. It paints itself as the only truly objective point of view—the one that all other religions failed to see.
The blind men and the elephant is a nice story, and surely has use in other spheres of life. But when pluralists apply it to the world’s religions, it is manipulative and insulting. Pluralism becomes simply another ideology—and a bad one at that—for people of every world religion to disagree with. Please don’t miss the irony in that.
You definitely don’t want to miss the irony in that.
So where does this leave us? If a unity between all faiths can’t be achieved, should we just reject them all?
“A conversation between the different world religions is so important.”
The problem is that faith—even in all of its various forms—seems to find an echo in every human soul. For centuries in the West, we’ve tried the secular project. We’ve lived as though the universe were a closed system and God was just an optional extra. But faith hasn’t gone away. The world, even in the West, is as religious as its ever been.
Which is why a conversation between the different world religions is so important. As a pastor, I see too many Christians who grow up in church but never really examine the claims of Jesus for themselves—much less other world faiths. Then they hit a crisis in their twenties and declare that the faith they never owned and never really thought about is a fairy tale.
Do me a favour: don’t be like that. Whether you’re a person of faith or not, think about what you believe. Compare it with the claims made by the other competing voices out there.
“We’ve tried the secular project, but faith hasn’t gone away.”
I’ll try to abstain from the arrogance of pluralism. I won’t claim to have a handle on all other world religions that they have missed. I will continue weighing up all the claims I hear and comparing them with the words and works of Jesus.
But I will tell you what I’ve seen so far. I see the fingerprints of God in every worldview. I see people with eternity written across their hearts. I see people reaching out, not just for something greater than themselves, but for a way out of our human predicament—even if that predicament is framed in a thousand different ways.
In Jesus, I see something unique. Instead of asking us to live better or strive harder or reach higher, I see a God who has come down to us, who has literally stepped into our human predicament, and done for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
“Eternity is written across our hearts.”
In Jesus, I see the enlightened one that even the Buddha needed. More than a prophet, I see the truest Muslim, the one who perfectly submitted to God and enables us to do likewise. I see Hinduism’s way of release personified and fulfilled for us. I see the God that even atheists can’t seem to escape. I see the Messiah, the hope of Israel.
Maybe I’m just seeing things as I consider Jesus among other gods.
Or maybe he is the true God—the one we’ve all been searching for.
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[…] * This article is an updated version of How Pluralism Points to Jesus. […]