You shall have no other gods before me. [NIV Exodus 20:3]
So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. [NIV Acts 17:17]
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. [NIV Matt 12:36-37]
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” [NIV Matt 28:18]
There is significant division within the Christian community. On the one hand, there are people who believe that Christ is the one and only Mediator between God the Father and all humanity, that He is Lord of the universe and Savior of the world. And on the other, are the Christian relativists who believe Christ is ‘the truth’ only for those who follow Him and that there are alternative truths and various other gods as represented in the other world religions—which is technically defined as polytheism. However, both sides freely admit that they have an incomplete knowledge of God.
We can never have a complete or exhaustive knowledge of who God is….That our knowledge of God is partial, however, does not indicate that it is…untrue. If we were required to have a comprehensive or total understanding of the nature of God before we could be assured that we had a true knowledge of him, we would have to reject Christian theism altogether. Christian theology asserts the incomprehensibility of God, a notion that is not only biblical but philosophical as well. As John Calvin expressed it, the finite cannot grasp the infinite….No creature, being finite, no matter the level of its intelligence or scope of its knowledge, could possibly fathom entirely the depth of an infinite being. To have an exhaustive or comprehensive understanding of an infinite being, one would have to be infinite….1
When the term ‘Triune God’ is used, I am referring to the Christian concept of the Holy Trinity, i.e., God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; three in One. Those who believe that the Triune God is the only and absolute God dispute the relativists’ claim to the simultaneously co-existing gods of polytheism. When the believer claims there is one Creator of the world in which we live and this Creator has revealed Himself in revelation [the Holy Bible], the believer is accused of arrogance. When he says the Bible is the authoritative revelation of God given for the purpose of the redemption of all humankind, again, he is accused of arrogance.
When one examines the arguments on behalf of universalism [all go to Heaven with or without faith in Christ], one finds them to be of very uneven worth, some objections being little more than ad hominem attacks on particulars. For example, it is frequently asserted that it is arrogant and immoral to hold to any doctrine of religious particularism [i.e., that Jesus is the sole means through which all people can know salvation] because one must then regard all persons who disagree with one’s own religion as mistaken. This is an odd objection, since the truth of a position is quite independent of the moral qualities of those who believe it. Even if all Christian particularists were arrogant and immoral, that would do nothing to prove that their view is false. In any case, it is not only incorrect to say that arrogance and immorality are necessary conditions of being a particularist—the Christian particularist may have done all he can to discover the religious truth about reality and humbly embraces Christian faith as an undeserved gift—but, even more fundamentally, those who make such accusations find themselves hoist on their own petard. For the universalist believes that his own view is right and that all those adherents to particularistic religious traditions are wrong. Thus, he himself would be convicted of arrogance and immorality if he were right that holding to a view with which many others disagree is arrogant and immoral.2
How does one know what to believe? What it all comes down to is this: who or what does one claim as one’s authority? For a society without authority disinigrates into chaos. If a person says that she believes in the Triune God of which Jesus is a part and, therefore, Christ is her authority, her Lord and Savior, why then would she not believe what Christ says when He states that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one comes to the Father except through Him [John 14:6]? How can a person say that she believes in Christ, yet not believe Christ’s words? That would be a contradiction.
A relativist says that Jesus is the truth only for those who follow Him and that mankind can know God in other ways. But truth, by definition, if it is true for one, must be true for all; otherwise, it is not truth. It is then just subjective opinion, whim, or taste. And because of the law of noncontradiction, truth, or knowledge of God, cannot be true only in certain circumstances for it cannot contradict itself, i.e., being true only part of the time.
Believing in contradiction is irrational and a seed for insanity. The law of noncontradition is a fundamental principle of knowledge that allows for interpretations of propositions necessary for rational living. These propositions are necessary for the survival of human beings and all life on earth. Thomas Aquinas said Christianity is a reasonable faith, one that uses the reasoning of the intellect; and the mind only has the ability to know truth through the light of God’s grace. Rationality comes by the grace of God.3
I do not limit God’s revelation to what is revealed in scripture. One cannot limit God. However, I go along with the Presbyterian Church, USA, denomination’s statement at its website4 that states that if there is any truth to other world religions it would lay in their ability to point the way to Christ. Only in the measure of any of their teachings pointing to Christ as Savior of the world do they hold any truth. Jesus Christ has unique authority as Lord and every other authority is finally subject to Christ. At the same time, Presbyterians acknowledge that no one can know all of truth or all of God. Since God is infinite and is of infinite depth, it only follows that it is beyond our limited human capacity to comprehend all of God and His truth.
So it comes back to deciding who or what is one’s authority. If a person doesn’t look up to anything or anyone above himself, he is deifying himself, making a god or idol of himself. He ends up worshipping himself, which is, indeed, arrogance. If a person venerates philosophies or theologies other than those given by God, this is idol worship.
If a person says the Bible is their authority and it points to Christ, then, again, it would logically follow to believe what Christ says. For a person cannot say, “Jesus is Lord,” and then not believe His words. You can’t have it both ways. To say that Christ is a great moral teacher but also a liar when stating that He is the only way to the Father is self-contradictory and nonsensical.
Often, Christ is sacrificed in the name of religious pluralism masquerading under the concept of ‘inclusion.’ While it is of paramount importance to be socially inclusive, to treat all humans from all cultures and races with the utmost love, acceptance, and respect, this is not to say they are to be idolized in the sense of being placed above the Triune God. To do so is to deify humans. I strongly believe in inclusion, in loving and accepting all people, but not at the expense of sacrificing Christ’s central position in the universe. The Bible says that loving God should come first, then, your neighbor:
NIV Matthew 22:34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
In our current situation, in the Postmodernist [and New Age] mind, God is not the God of the Bible, but is one that consists in a plurality of choices. In this religious grocery store, gods can be a rock, or a tree, or a cow. God can be an impersonal energy or force, without personality, feelings or intellect. Such a god does not make any demands. It does not require a human’s self-denial.
Postmodernist/New Age gods can also be idols of self-fulfillment, self-promotion, and accomplishment. They can be gods of pleasure and hedonism. With such, there is no need of atonement for sin; indeed, there is no acknowledgement of sin. When there is a need for salvation in Postmodernist thought people are saved by works or their own efforts (which is impossible) if the concept of sin is real to them. For to many, it is not. If Jesus’ crucifixion and death were necessary only for the salvation of those who follow Him, while others find other ways to God—then He died in vain and this makes a mockery of the cross.
Socially, we see a pluralistic society and global community but this pluralism should not carry over into the world of spiritual truth:
….As we confess Jesus as Lord in a plural society, and as the Church grows through the coming of people from many different cultural and religious traditions to faith in Christ, we are enabled to learn more of the length and breath and height and depth of the love of God (Eph. 3:14-19) than we can in a monochrome society. But we must reject the ideology of pluralism. We must reject the invitation to live in a society where everything is subjective and relative, a society which has abandoned the belief that truth can be known and has settled for a purely subjective view of truth–“truth for you” but not truth for all….
In a pluralist society there is always the temptation to judge the importance of any statement of the truth by the number of people who believe it. Truth, for practical purposes, is what most people believe. Christians can fall into this trap….5
So, again, it comes down to choices: who or what is our authority? And to whom or what will we bow? A person can pray and ask God if He exists and in what form. She can also ask if the Bible is God’s revelation as well as whether Jesus’ words are true. Contrary to accusations of an arrogant heart, it may take some humility and a humble attitude to submit oneself to someone or something beyond oneself and, in doing so, to admit to one’s own insufficiency. Augustine, a great philosopher and theologian of the Middle Ages, was a strong proponent of submission to authority, particularly, divine authority.6 Without daily submission, such a mind-set results in the self-appointed lordship of oneself.
When I heard the following statement: “Jesus Christ is the ultimate truth for those who call Him Lord,” it was not clear to me how I should interpret this or what the meaning was. A possible interpretation was: Jesus Christ is the ultimate truth for those who call Him Lord, but not for others; they have their own ‘truths.’ In other words, it may have meant, People who follow Christ believe He is the ultimate truth while those who do not follow Christ do not believe He is the ultimate truth with no detrimental consequences as a result of their unbelief.
I believe that Christ is Lord and the ultimate truth for those who call Him Lord; and for those who do not choose to call Him Lord, He still remains the ultimate truth to which all will be held accountable.
Problems arise when it comes to defining the term ‘truth.’ In many ways truth, in contemporary society, has lost its meaning. For truth has become synonymous with individual tastes and preferences when, by definition, it actually means that which transcends cultures, times, and places. Truth is foundational and is based within a metaphysical context which has as its source an absolute objective reality independent of time and space and human subjectivity. Truth means, by definition, that if it is true for one, it is true for all.
Josh McDowell and Thomas Williams have written:
If everyone’s truth is equally valid, then truth is a meaningless term. A word that can mean anything really means nothing.7
To state as truth that Jesus is Lord only for His followers and people of other religions have their own truth about the reality of God is to render ‘truth’ arbitrary and relative. This nullifies the very concept.
In response to atheists, New Agers, Postmodernists, relativists, and supporters of the Simultaneously Existing Model of world religions I’ll, again, quote McDowell & Williams:
When they claim there are no absolutes, they must believe that this claim, at least, is absolute. And at the very least they must believe their thinking is true when it leads them to conclude that there is no truth. And they must find some way to live with the convoluted inconsistency of such a conclusion….8
And author, R.C. Sproul maintains:
Ironically, no one can be a consistent relativist for very long; even when absolute truth is denied to exist, those denying it affirm at least one absolute, namely, that no absolutes exist.9
Some say that scripture is God’s word to them and the authoritative witness to Jesus Christ. I believe that the innumerable ways we may come to know Christ are mysterious and ultimately up to God. If one accepts Christ as Lord and scripture as Christ’s authoritative witness, it follows that one believes what scripture quotes Christ as saying. Again, to not believe His words would be a contradiction.
Some say that Jesus is Lord and the ultimate truth and that every other kind of truth is penultimate. Penultimate is a term which refers to something that is secondary to or that coexists with something else while retaining its validity. In considering the validity of various religious truth claims and whether or not they can coexist, one cannot throw reason out the window. For example, when making decisions and judgments regarding the material world, logic is demanded. One should also be rational in spiritual matters.
When the truth claims of diverse religions contradict or negate one another it would logically follow that one is true and the other is false. God is a God of reason and rationality, of logic and noncontradiction. Just as there are laws in the empirical world of science, so are there foundational and necessary spiritual, philosophical, and intellectual laws upon which sanity is based. Kenneth Richard Samples explains about one such law that I mentioned before—that of noncontradiction, i.e., A cannot equal A and non-A at the same time. Jesus Christ cannot be both God incarnate (Christianity) and not-God incarnate (other religions) at the same time.10
In a similar vein, if we, as Christians, define God as the Holy Trinity, then something claiming God to be less than this would be a contradiction. Any religion that does not acknowledge Jesus as Lord and the second person of the Trinity cannot be considered the whole truth. Definitions of God are at stake.
One might counter with: “But God is beyond definition!”
While it is true that no human has a complete knowledge of God, I believe that God has revealed Himself in scripture. Much of the New Testament is historically verifiable and is, therefore, trustworthy testimony. Any belief, philosophy, or theology that contradicts these doctrines would be is less than penultimate, they would be contradictory. If Christ is, indeed, the only way to the Father, any other claim to knowing God is also less than penultimate—it also becomes contradictory. The law of noncontradiction states that Christ cannot be both the Way and not the Way. And since Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism (an atheistic religion), all deny the divinity of Christ it follows that Christianity and other religions cannot be true simultaneously.
Jesus was a Jew, and within Judaism and the Old Testament we see these Chosen People in a holy covenant with God that precedes the New Testament years and then extends beyond in some mysterious fashion. The Jewish Old Testament, through the prophets and others, point to Christ.
I maintain and, humbly submit, that Christ is Lord in the sense that this is an ultimate absolute truth which is an objective reality transcending all cultures, times, and places. There is but one Creator which is the Triune God—the Holy Trinity. When a Christian relativist says that God is anything you wish God to be, this is stepping outside the bounds of historically verified Christianity. When anything other than the doctrine of the Trinity is postulated as truth this becomes an attempt to deny the validity of Christ’s spoken Word. The truth may not be politically correct or popular; but there it is. Truth is not determined by our wishful thinking or by society in general.
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men…
[NIV 1Timothy 2:5-6a]
1 Sproul, R.C., Defending Your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003, pp. 138-139.
2 Moreland, J.P. & Craig, W.L., Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003, pp. 617-618.
3 Williams, T., Reason and Faith: Philosophy in the Middle Ages [sound recording], Chantilly, VA: Teaching Company, 2007.
5 Newbigin, L., The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1989, p. 244.
6 Williams, T., Reason and Faith: Philosophy in the Middle Ages [sound recording], Chantilly, VA: Teaching Company, 2007.
7 McDowell, J.D., & Williams, T., In Search of Certainty, Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2003, p. 34.
8 Ibid, pp. 68-69.
9 Sproul, R.C., Defending Your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003, p.35.
10 Samples, K.R., Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2004,
Copyright © 2009 Marcia A. Murphy