Isn’t Christianity Exclusive?
12 of 12: Apologetics: Defending the Christian Faith
- Three blind men touching an elephant:
- Man feeling trunk: “An elephant is long and thin like a snake.”
- Man feeling leg: “No, an elephant is thick and round like a tree trunk.”
- Man feeling side: “No, and elephant is large and flat like a wall.”
- Modern worldview: all are right from their own perspective. This is known as “pluralism.”
- This is the modern view of religion, which makes historic Christianity unpopular to moderns.
- Particular concern not to exclude any category of people; defend minorities
- Christianity is perceived as running counter to this concern.
- The claim that we have truth is perceived as arrogant, bigoted, hateful.
- How can we respond?
I. The exclusive nature of pluralism
- Doesn’t pluralism include everyone? How can it be exclusive?
- Think back to the three blind men; there is actually a fourth person: the observer/narrator.
- Pluralists cast themselves as the neutral observers, while all others are blind men.
- In other words, their version of the truth is right, and ours is wrong.
- Tim Keller: “It is no more narrow to claim that one religion is right than to claim that one way
to think about all religions (namely that all are equal) is right. We are all exclusive in our beliefs
about religion, but in different ways.”
- Any acknowledgement of truth necessarily excludes whatever contradicts that truth.
- Exclusiveness, then, is necessary for any kind of knowledge; pluralism does not escape it.
II. The inclusive nature of Christianity
(1) Christianity is not tribal.
- Matthew 28:18-20: a global mission to make disciples
- Acts: the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to Rome; significance of Acts 15
- Paul’s gospel for the nations: Galatians 3:23-28
- God’s plan is to unite all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:10): that is very inclusive.
- Christianity is the only major world religion whose center has shifted geographically.
- Jerusalem, Eastern Mediterranean, Europe, North America, global south, China (?)
- Pluralism effectively maintains divisions among tribes; Christianity unites them.
(2) Christianity is not elitist.
- Elite members of society can be Christian and have been.
- But Christianity is not uniquely for people who distinguish themselves; quite the opposite.
- 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
- What the world values and what God values are two different things.
III. The exclusive nature of Christianity
(1) Jesus Christ is the only Savior of humanity.
- 1 Tim. 2:5: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man
- Whole story of the Bible tells us this; if this is not true, we have a completely different story.
- Any compromise on this point leads us away from the gospel and the Christian faith.
(2) Salvation comes only by a response of faith to the gospel.
- Some have claimed that the work of Christ is ontologically, but not epistemologically necessary
- But Scripture says otherwise: Romans 10:13-15.
- God’s plan is to exalt Christ by making him the conscious focus of all saving faith.
- This truth informs the necessity of our mission.
- Our claim for Christ’s exclusivity is not something we made up; it comes from Jesus himself.
- The alternative is to claim to follow Jesus while denying his own teachings about himself.
- This will offend some, but this offense comes from the gospel itself.
IV. The resources of Christianity for peaceful coexistence
- What is happening on college campuses today? Violence is shutting down free speech.
- Babylon Bee: “UC Berkeley Begins Conversion of Campus into Sprawling Echo Chamber.”
- Ripened secularism is totalitarian.
- Ironically, Christianity has resources for toleration of diverse religious views in a society.
- Christians affirm:
(1) Every person is made in God’s image.
- Respecting the beliefs and speech of others is one way we show respect to God.
- Non-Christian religions are distortions of truth; there will be good in them to affirm.
(2) Grace alone opens eyes to truth.
- We see the truth of Christ by grace, not because we are better than anyone.
- Therefore, we should be humble, not arrogant.
- We should also be patient, loving, and gentle, knowing grace can open their eyes too.
- Let us show great interest in genuine dialogue.
- Is Christianity exclusive? Yes and no.
- Yes, because any claim to truth is necessarily exclusive (even pluralism!).
- Yes, because we will not waver on the supremacy of Jesus Christ.
- No, because we recognize our commonality with all people in Adam (image of God and sin).
- No, because we proclaim a gospel that is for every nation, tribe, and class of people.
- 1 Peter 3:13-17: the emphasis is on character.
- You may not be able to convince with arguments that Christianity is not an arrogant religion.
- But you can show that person that you are not arrogant.
- As a result, he may not write of Christians so quickly in the future.