How to defend Christian exclusivism from the challenge of religious pluralism

Recently, I had posted a debate from the Unbelievable radio show, which is broadcast in the UK. The topic of the debate was whether India should pass an anti-conversion law to prevent Christians from trying to convert people to Christianity. Basically, many Hindus in India want Christians to adopt the Hindu notions of polytheism and religious pluralism. They want Christians to accept that Jesus is one incarnation of the divine among many, and they want to outlaw the Christian practice of using speech to convince people to become Christians.

You can listen to the debate here in my original post.

But I wanted to highlight another debate that occurred in the comments of this blog, between me and a Hindu reader, who challenged me for being intolerant because I said that Hinduism was false.

His initial comment is here.

Guys, all religions teach the same things. Its how each religion is interpreted that makes it different. If you follow any religion persistently, it will lead you to a peaceful and happy life.

[…]If one feels happy following Christian rituals, he may follow Christianity; if he feels happy following Hindu rituals, he is good to a Hindu. It all depends on what makes sense to the person. Enforcing or luring someone to another religion is wrong…It should be a personal choice. And no one should oppose a conversion made by personal choice.

[…]To say that someone’s God or method of worship is false or not real is absolute rubbish according to me.

[…]If one says that other’s God or religion is false, he/she is not tolerating the other’s beliefs. And its immoral. Such things lead to religious conflicts.

[…]I believe in Jesus and so in my religion which is Hinduism.

[…]Why convert when a human being’s main aim is to be happy? Every religion has scriptures that tell how to become happy and attain heaven/liberation.

[…]Everyone loves his/her religion. They would not want to hear anything bad about it.

And I replied:

Our view as Christians is that the purpose of religion is not to live a happy life and to be “good”. Our view is that we want to believe what is true and to know God as God really is. We believe that God is a person, with a real personality – likes and dislikes.

What you’re proposing is a Hindu approach to religion, except with Christian symbols and rituals. But Christians don’t care about symbols and rituals much. We are more interested in history, science and propositional logic. We treat religion like… any other area of knowledge. First we discover the truth, then we act on it.

Additionally, you have a Hindu approach to conversion, and you are trying to force that on Christians. You can keep your Hindu approach to yourself, and tolerate the fact that we have a different approach to conversion.

[…]You’re not in a position to know what Christianity teaches, or what Jesus believes, since you haven’t looked into these things at all. You know Hinduism. And you are projecting Hinduism onto other religions. But Hinduism is totally different than Christianity. They conflict in many areas, like cosmology and history. We believe that the universe had a beginning, you think it’s eternal. And science can arbitrate that claim. We are willing to change our beliefs to be in line with what we can test in the external world, using the laws of logic, and the study of science and history.

[…]You write “To say that someone’s God or method of worship is false or not real is absolute rubbish according to me.”, yet you think that Christianity is false, and not real. But I am actually not offended by that at all. You are welcome to think I am wrong. I don’t mind, this is the way that the game plays. Only one of us can be right, and if you were right, I would have to switch over to your view and that would be fine with me.

[…]You write “Everyone loves his/her religion. They would not want to hear anything bad about it.” No that’s your view. You identify Hindusim with India and patriotism and your people and culture. I don’t identify Christianity with anything except truth. I like it because it’s true. And that the only reason I like it.

[…]When I say that Hinduism is false, I am not “talking bad about your religion” any more than I am talking bad about the view that 2 + 2 = 5, when I say that 2 + 2 = 4. It’s not talking bad about an idea to say it is false.

And then he replied:

Do you believe that people who worship idols are devilish or all religions except Christianity are false? If yes then explain me with proper scientific reasoning and provide me a proof in the recent decades that logically explains the above two statements. You need to prove me that what you believe is experimented by scientists and proven by technology.

[…]I believe in all Gods no matter what religion because God is One. For me and this generation of educated Indians, we believe in tolerance and respect for all religions. We believe in co-operating with each other and not pointing flaws in others beliefs until its proven scientifically and attested by scientific authority. And we believe that people’s belief be respected!

Then I replied:

The current best theory of the origin of the universe is called the big bang theory. It states that all the matter, energy, as well as time and space and time, came into being from nothing. It is backed by experimental data from red-shift measurements, cosmic microwave background radiation measurements, and light element abundance measurements, etc. The theory states that the universe began 14.7 billion years ago. Additionally, the universe will not recollapse because measurements of mass density from Maxima and Boomerang show that the universe will expand forever.

The big 3 monotheistic religions agree with the universe coming into being from nothing. Unfortunately, other religions think that the universe is eternal, such as Mormonism and Hinduism. On that basis, I reject Hinduism, which requires that the universe be eternal.

“I believe in all Gods no matter what religion because God is One.” That view (pantheism/polytheism) is called Hinduism. You are a Hindu. Christianity (monotheism) is mutually exclusive with Hinduism, because the teachings are in conflict, (as with the example of cosmology). As a Hindu, you therefore think that Christianity is false. On your definition, you don’t “tolerate” Christianity – you think it’s false. You don’t “respect” Christianity, because you want to force your view (Hinduism) and your view of conversion (don’t tell other people their religion is false) on Christians.

[…]Note: I am ok with you saying that I am wrong and that Christianity is false.

And then we sort of wound things down from there.

Anyway, the point of this exchange is most people in most religions think that the point of religion is to be happy, to have a sense of community and to get along with everyone by never talking about whether religious claims about the external world are true or false. But that view of the purpose of religion is not the Christian view. On the Christian view, the goal is to seek the truth. And part of Christian practice is to defend Christianity in public, and trying to convince other people that Christianity is true.

So, I think that Christians need to be a bit tougher, and recognize when someone who is not a Christian is trying to get them to accept that the purpose of religion is not to seek the truth. That’s their view. That’s not our view. It doesn’t make any sense for someone to say that I am evil for thinking they are wrong, when they are thinking that I am wrong. I think a better way forward is to allow other people to disagree with you, but to keep the disagreement focused on arguments and evidence.

And just because you disagree with someone else, it doesn’t mean you have to be mean to them. In my office, I am friends with Hindus, Muslims, atheists and Jews. We try to outdo one another in good deeds to make our religions look good! And when we debate which religion is true, we use arguments and evidence to attack and defend. What I’ve found is that you get a much stronger friendship when you are comfortable being yourself. I keep telling my co-workers – it’s OK to disagree.

Related posts

Mentoring

Apologetics advocacy

4 thoughts on “How to defend Christian exclusivism from the challenge of religious pluralism”

  1. I love these posts, WK. All of these common objections are things I’ve been focusing on getting more familiar with lately. Friends of mine who don’t share my beliefs are standing on the other side of the argument, and friends who do share my beliefs are becoming more interested in apologetics, wanting me to help them learn more. I think some of the most common objections to Christianity (or religion in general) are the best places to start.

    Your exchange between yourself and your other site poster make it really easy to understand for people not versed in apologetics. Thanks.

  2. Great dialogue! Glad you engaged him that way. I pray that it planted a seed for him to reconsider his false views. I love disarming people like that and pointing them to why we think Christianity is true.

  3. brilliant article. Especially relevant when one considers the stark anti-Christian and anti-Western attitude of Hinduism today.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s