Arguments Against Christianity – Episode 12 – Christianity Cannot be the Only True Religion

There are so many religions, yours simply cannot be the only true religion. Rather, I believe that each religion provides a glimpses into various spiritual truths.

Whenever I’m asked how I know that Christianity is the only true religion, it always takes me a second to answer, as there are several routes one can take when discussing this objection. [The reader will also what to read Episode 8 where we tackled the argument that beliefs are determined by one’s context.] 

First, I could discuss what the Bible itself says about being the only true religion. For instance, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Elsewhere He said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9), and that “Whoever is in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). This was also the teaching of the apostles: “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Not only this, but when Jesus returns he will enact “vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thess. 1:8). So, according to Jesus, and indeed all of Scripture, Christianity is the only true religion, the only way to go to heaven and avoid the eternal flames of Hell.

Second, I could discuss the contradictions between various religions. People who bring this claim like to relativize or moralize all religions so that they are basically the same. Salvation, they claim, is like a mountain: there are many paths to the top, and indeed they all lead to the top. The problem with this pluralism is that in Christianity, for instance, the Triune God created everything, including man in His image. But Adam sinned, and all of humanity along with him. And since “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin” (Heb. 9:22), God sent His Son, Jesus, to be a substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf, in order to reconcile us (and all of creation) back to God (Col. 1:20). We are thus saved by placing our faith in Jesus’ sacrifice, by believing that He is the Son of God, that He rose from the grave, and by repenting of our sins (Mark 6:12; Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:9-10). This is not the narrative of Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Wicca, Hinduism, or any other religion. Therefore, logically speaking, all religions could be wrong, but they cannot all be right.

Third, I could get into more of an evidentialist mode of arguing, and discuss all the evidences for the resurrection of Jesus and the reliability of the New Testament. In this line of reasoning, it could be argued that the evidence (and reliability of that evidence) points overwhelmingly to Christianity as opposed to any other religion. When you look at other religions: when their scriptures were written, external supportive evidence, etc., the evidence pales in comparison to the evidence for Christianity.

A few pieces of evidence one could cite for the resurrection might be:

1) The disciples left Jesus when he was taken to be crucified (Matt. 26:55-56), Peter denied Jesus (John 18:25-27), Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe in Him (John 7:5), and Thomas doubted Jesus (John 20:25). Then, they all said they saw the risen Christ and all but one went to their martyrdom, proclaiming and spreading the good news. Is it likely that a group of men, who found it no trifle to abandon and reject Christ, would die terrible deaths for what unbeliever’s claim was a made-up story?

2) The Bible narrates that women found the empty tomb of Jesus (Luke 24:1, 22, 24). In that day, a woman’s testimony could not be heard in court, so if the writer wanted to write a piece of persuasive fiction, he would not have narrated that women found the empty tomb—unless it actually happened.

3) More than 500 people were reported to have seen the resurrected Jesus (1 Cor. 15:6).

4) Paul received an early Christian creed (probably orally spoken) from Peter and James 3-5 years after the crucifixion of Christ affirming the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:3-8).

5) The idea of resurrection came from neither pagan nor Jewish influence; thus, showing the uniqueness of the resurrection of Jesus in that part of the world and at that time period.

6) The early eye witness testimony—both oral and written—went uncontested. That is, if these eye witness accounts were made up, then they would have been contested by the people that were there and still alive.

7) Non-Christian historians in antiquity have written of the risen Christ; thus, we have sources outside of the Bible that speak of Jesus’ resurrection.

8) The event of the resurrection best describes the spread of Christianity. Because of the historical resurrection of Jesus—confirmed by eye witnesses—the movement spread all over the world.[1]

Regarding evidence for the New Testament, one could cite:

1) The entire New Testament was written within the first century—during the life time of eye witnesses. The Book of Revelation being the last book, which is dated to the AD 90’s.

2) The earliest Gospel (Mark) dates to maybe around AD 55,[2] and some of Paul’s epistles date even earlier. This makes Christianity different from other historical figures (e.g., Plato) and even religions (e.g., Buddhism, Islam, etc), for the gap between the eye witnesses’ written testimony and the actual events is short.

3) We have well over 5,500 NT manuscripts, some of which date as early as the first century. This again is unique to Christianity, as most other historical figures and religions do not have nearly as many ancient manuscripts.

4) With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, it has been demonstrated that the copying of texts by scribes is extremely accurate (e.g., the Isaiah scroll).

Fourth, I could bring up the fact that other religions, according to the Bible, are just various forms of unbelief, and that it makes sense to have diluted forms from the one true religion. That is, it makes sense that Satan would skew Christianity and dilute it, creating “copy cat” religions, for his own demonic purposes. Romans 1 says that everyone knows God, but many are suppressing that truth in unrighteousness, which will render them “without excuse” on judgment day (vv.18-32). Sometimes this suppression of truth manifests itself in atheism, sometimes agnosticism, sometimes Buddhism, sometimes Islam, sometimes Mormonism, and so forth. As Scott Oliphint has said:

There is, therefore in false religions, a parody or errant copy of Christianity at work. In every other religion, by definition, there are deep roots at work in a person that includes ritual and worship, and normally a specific set of ideas and doctrines… False religions are ‘Bizarro’ religions. They depend on the real thing for their basic identity, but they twist and turn all of what is right in the true religion of Christianity and make it into something false, confused, and wicked. False religions take what Christianity has and use it for their own superstitious purposes.[3]

Fifth, I could talk about how unless the Bible is true, we couldn’t actually know anything at all (i.e., the transcendental argument for God’s existence).

To state the matter simply, “The Bible must be true because if it were not, we could not actually know anything at all.”[4] This argument is based on the impossibility of the contrary. That is, this argument seeks to illustrate that Christianity makes sense of the world, while other worldviews cannot. Cornelius Van Til writes, “The best and only possible proof for the existence of such a God is that his existence is required for the uniformity of nature and for the coherence of all things in the world.”[5] He also writes that Christianity is the only position that “does not annihilate intelligent human experience.”[6] More pointedly, perhaps, Greg Bahnsen has said:

We can prove the existence of God from the impossibility of the contrary. The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist world view is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist world view cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes.[7]

And elsewhere:

Man must think God’s thoughts after Him, for “in Thy light shall we see light” (Ps. 36:9)… To make God’s word your presupposition, your standard, your instructor and guide, however, calls for renouncing intellectual self-sufficiency—the attitude that you are autonomous, able to attain unto genuine knowledge independent of God’s direction and standard… All knowledge begins with God, and thus we who wish to have knowledge must presuppose God’s word and renounce intellectual autonomy… The foundation of knowledge is God’s revelation. Are you founded there or intellectually adrift?[8]

So says Jason Lisle, “In order for a worldview to be rationally defensible, it must be internally consistent,” and “must provide the preconditions of intelligibility” (e.g., the reliability of memory, the reliability of senses, and the laws of logic).[9] Lisle continues:

We all presume that there are law of logic that govern correct reasoning. Earlier in the chapter I stated that contradictions cannot be true. It probably didn’t occur to any reader to question that claim; it is a law of logic that all take for granted. And yet how could we prove that there are laws of logic? We would have to first assume them in order to begin a logical proof. Therefore, laws of logic constitute a precondition of intelligibility. They must be assumed before we can even begin to reason about anything—including reasoning about laws of logic themselves… Only a consistent Christian can have justification (a sound reason) for things like laws of logic and the reliability of our senses. Without justification for things we take for granted, we can’t really know that any of our thinking or observations of the world are correct… For the Christian there is an absolute standard for reasoning; we are to pattern our thoughts after God’s… According to Genesis, God has made us in His image (Gen. 1:26) and therefore we are to follow His example (Eph. 5:1). The laws of logic are a reflection of the way God thinks, and thus the way He expects us to think… Laws of logic make sense in a Christian worldview. But other worldviews cannot account for them.[10]

To sum up this survey of the transcendental argument, Brant Bosserman writes:

The entire biblical system must be true by virtue of the impossibility of the contrary position. As we have seen, as long as the unbeliever fails to harmonize logic and time, he lacks justification for supposing that any inference, act of predication, or even interpretation of his own state of affairs is correct… And since only the Triune God can account for the validity of reason, the Christian apologist is necessarily correct in his evaluation that the unbeliever is culpable reliant on God. Yet, the unbeliever will object again that even if his arguments presuppose the validity of induction, mathematical principles, and any number of other tools, it does not logically follow that he consciously or unconsciously knows anything about this Triune God Who allegedly renders them effective. But again, the unbeliever has not appreciated the gravity of his predicament. The one-many problem to which he is subject renders his notion of formal logic unintelligible, and undependable because divorced from a concrete vision of the ‘whole.’[11]

But what would we say, for example, if a Muslim made this very claim with reference to the Qur’an? Here we would have to deconstruct the Islamic system. Lisle argues that Sura 42:11 makes impossible the idea that Allah could account for the preconditions of intelligibility: “According to the Islamic doctrine of tanzih, Allah is so superior that nothing in human experience is comparable to him”[12]  Oliphint, likewise, has shown internal inconsistencies within Islamic theology.[13] Not only this, but James White has called into question (and very convincingly, I might add)  the reliability of the Qur’an itself. Therefore it can be demonstrated that only the Triune God of Christianity can account for the preconditions of intelligibility.

Sixth, I could go a bit deeper and talk about why the Trinity is necessary to solve the one and the many problem. The Trinity (one ousia in three hypostases) solves many of the problems that have plagued philosophy throughout history. As Francis Schaeffer once said, “I would still be an agnostic if there were no Trinity, because there would be no answers. Without the high order of personal unity and diversity as given in the Trinity, there are no answers.”[14]  Other monotheistic religions (e.g., Judaism and Islam) run into many problems. How can their god create, for instance, and enter into a relationship with man when there was no relationship preceding in eternity? That is, in Christianity a relationship existed in eternity past in the ontological Trinity. Also, the very speech of their god becomes problematic, and ends up looking more like Aristotle’s “Thought Thinking Itself” (see: Oliphint). Bosserman, highlighting perichoresis, elaborates further:

The doctrine of the Trinity sets all of reality and every relationship, including God’s self-relationship within the context of divine persons… God is exhaustively defined by the three co-eternal persons and their communion. The Father and the Son are related to the one another within the personal context of God the Holy Spirit; the Father and the Spirit are related to one another within the personal context of God the Son; and the Son and the Spirit are related to one another within the personal context of God the Father…God can only be an Absolute person if He is Tri-personal, in such a manner that each pair of persons are related to one another through none other than the third… only a specifically Triune God can exist as a perfectly self-contained person, and it is exactly this sort of God upon whom the Christian system, and indeed all rational discourse, depends.[15]

In other words, it is vital for daily life that there be a God that is one in substance, existing in three subsistences. But why three persons specifically? Bosserman notes that if there was one God in two persons,

one of two equally problematic conclusions would follow. Either (a) the Father and the Son would be reliant on an impersonal context as that which could facilitate their mutual relationship and definition; or (b) one of the two persons would have to function as an unrelated and thus undefined context, in whom the other resides as an individual monad.[16]

And if there were more than three persons:

A quadrinity in whom the Father, Son, and Spirit are married to some fourth person “x,” must subordinate the individual persons to abstract and impersonal “groups,” and/or render the persons divisible into finite impersonal parts. If the relationship between the Spirit and person “x” were facilitated by the Father and Son together, then the actual mediator of that relationship, and that thing which comprehends the Trinity, would be an abstract and impersonal “group” formed by the Father and Son, rather than a concrete person… But the very profundity of the Trinity lies in the fact that which unifies all things is not an unknown something, but a personal Authority Who we might come to know and trust because He is also a concrete individual.[17]

Seventh, it could be pointed out that the person making this claim has assumed an arrogant vantage point whereby he is able to make such truth claims about all religions. As Lesslie Newbigin stated:

There is an appearance of humility in the protestation that the truth is much greater than any one of us can grasp, but if this is used to invalidate all claims to discern the truth it is in fact an arrogant claim to a kind of knowledge which is superior to [all others]… We have to ask: ‘What is the [absolute] vantage ground from which you claim to be able to relativize all the absolute claims these different scriptures make?[18]

In other words:

How could you possibly know that no religion can see the whole truth unless you yourself have the superior, comprehensive knowledge of spiritual reality you just claimed that none of the religions have?[19]

Finally, we could discuss the issue of experience. I would argue that the reason I’m a Christian is not because of philosophical arguments or archaeological evidences, but because of the new birth (John 3:3). That is, I have experienced being “born again” or “regenerated.” The Holy Spirit awakened by dead heart, and gave me eyes to see the truth in Scripture. In other words, God is the cause of my being a Christian. He even gave me the very faith by which I believe in Him. But couldn’t a Muslim or Mormon say the same thing? Could they not root their belief in their experience as well? They could indeed, which is why I give the above seven arguments in favor of the exclusivity of Christianity. Feelings and truth, emotions and intellect, should never be separated, but rather the former should operate in the context of the latter.

Also in this series:

Episode 1 – No Ultimate Truth

Episode 2 – Not Enough Evidence

Episode 3 – Christians Arbitrarily Choose What Teachings to Follow in the Bible

Episode 4 – Too Much Suffering in the World

Episode 5 – The Bible is a Work of Fiction

Episode 6 – Christianity is a Form of “God of the Gaps”

Episode 7 – Faith is Confused with Fact

Episode 8 – Belief is Determined by One’s Context

Episode 9 – Christians Persecuted Men of Science

Episode 10 – Science and Religion are Irreconcilable

Episode 11 – No Evidence

© copyright J. Brandon Burks

[1]William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 333-400; Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998), 19-91, 205, 243; Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism  (New York: Riverhead, 2008), 209-221; Matt Perman, “Historical Case for the Resurrection,” Desiring God,http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/historical-evidence-for-the-resurrection.

[2]Mark L. Strauss, Four Portraits, One Jesus: An Introduction to Jesus and the Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 203-204.

[3]K. Scott Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 225-226.

[4]Jason Lisle, The Ultimate Proof of Creation: Resolving the Origins Debate (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2009), 42

[5]Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, ed. Scott Oliphint (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1955), 126.

[6] Ibid., 198.

[7] Greg Bahnsen and Gordon Stein, “A Transcendental Argument for God’s Existence,” in Christian Apologetics: An Anthology of Primary Sources, ed. by Khaldoun A. Sweis and Chad V. Meister (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 142.

[8]Greg. L. Bahnsen, Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith, ed. by Robert R. Booth (Nacogdoches, TX: CMP, 1996), 19-21.

[9] Jason Lisle, The Ultimate Proof of Creation: Resolving the Origins Debate (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2009), 38-39.

[10]Ibid., 39-40, 52.

[11] B.A. Bosserman, The Trinity and the Vindication of Christian Paradox: An Interpretation and Refinement of the Theological Apologetic of Cornelius Van Til (Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2014), 94.

[12]Lisle, The Ultimate Proof, 56.

[13]Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics, 225-258.

[14] Francis A. Schaeffer, He is There and He is not Silent: Does it Make Sense to Believe in God? (Coral Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 1972), 13.

[15]Bosserman, The Trinity and the Vindication of Christian Paradox, 178, 251.

[16]Ibid., 180.

[17]Ibid.

[18]Keller, The Reason for God, 9.

[19]Ibid.

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