Recently, while at a coffee shop, I was having a conversation with the manager and she– knowing I was a seminary student– asked me about what I believed about Jesus Christ. During the course of our conversation, I explained to her the similarities and differences between religion and Christianity. Just as I was about to offer a response to what she had asked; a customer came through the drive-through, and the conversation ended. The question she asked me was, “How can you believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God?” As the readers of Servants of Grace, know I have written a lot on the exclusivity of Jesus and the doctrine of hell, which in recent days has come under attack from inside and outside the Church. The conversation I am describing here occurred several weeks ago, but as I’ve reflected and prayed on it, I thought it would be a helpful exercise to demonstrate how dangerous and inconsistent tolerance and pluralism are to the Church.
This manager (just before the conversation) ended stated that it is intolerant to believe that there is only one way to God. In summary she stated that there are many paths to God, and evangelicals who believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to God are mistaken and misguided.
The manager of the coffee shop told me that I needed to have an open mind about the Bible. This statement is very popular in our day, but it is also thoroughly inconsistent and untrue. People who espouse pluralism grant others who believe in various doctrines space in which to practice their theology without ridicule, or opposition, but do not allow for Christians who believe that Jesus Christ is the “Way, Truth and the Life” (John 14:6) room to practice what they believe without ridicule or opposition. The opposition to the exclusivity of Christ comes outside the Church from sources such as: radio shows, news programs, documentaries, and inside the Church from liberal theologians, and denominations who deny that Jesus Christ is the only way to God.
Pluralism, Tolerance and The Gospel
The problem with the belief that there are “many paths to God” is that it is inconsistent. Those who espouse pluralism say that they are “tolerant” of all views except the exclusivity of Jesus. The problem with this view is that it is intolerant because while allowing for others of various religious beliefs to practice their beliefs with no opposition or challenge; they do not allow for Christians to do the same. Pluralists are the most vocal group in opposition to evangelicals who affirm the exclusivity of Christ. The issue goes beyond just being intellectually dishonest to the fact that pluralists are spiritually blind and unable to understand what the Bible teaches about the person and work of Jesus Christ.
The liberal media loves to paint Christians as uneducated and unable to compete in the marketplace of ideas. The fact is that there are many brilliant evangelical scholars in disciplines such as the Bible, theology, languages, literature and the sciences who have committed their entire lives to the study and proclamation of the Word of God. To suggest, as liberals and others do, that evangelicals are uneducated and unable to compete in the marketplace of ideas is to not engage the argument, but rather to attack the person and the message. Attacking the person and the message is disrespectful, and reveals that such people are intolerant.
People who believe in tolerance want evangelicals who affirm the exclusivity of Christ to be silenced, so that pluralists can be free to “rule the airwaves”. This argument doesn’t prove anything, but does reveal their high view of themselves and their low view of God, which in turn demonstrates their rebellion against God. Such man-centered thinking demonstrates they are blind to their sin and to the Savior of sinners, Jesus Christ. Tolerance promises much, but at the end of the day is a lie straight from the pit of hell. Rather than just critiquing pluralism evangelicals need to pray and intercede for pluralists that the Holy Spirit would open their eyes to the Truth about the person and work of Jesus Christ.
2nd Corinthians 4:3-5, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”
In 2nd Corinthians 4:3 the false teachers accused Paul of preaching an antiquated message. Paul showed that the problem was not with the message or the messenger, but with the hearers headed for hell (1 Cor. 2:14). The preacher cannot persuade people to believe; only God can do that. The problem is that people who attack the message and the messenger are blinded by Satan who is the “god of this world” according to 2nd Corinthians 4:4. “This world” in 2nd Corinthians 4:4 refers to the current world mind-set expressed by the ideals, opinions, goals, hopes, and views of the majority of people. It encompasses the world’s philosophies, education, and commerce.
“Has blinded” in 2nd Corinthians 4:4 means that Satan blinds men to God’s Truth through the world system; he has created. Without a godly influence, man left to himself will follow that system, which panders to the depravity of unbelievers and deepens their moral darkness (Matt. 13:19). Ultimately, it is God who allows such blindness (John 12:40). The “image of God” Paul speaks of in 2nd Corinthians 4:4 is Jesus Christ the exact representation of God Himself (Col. 1:15; 2:9; Heb. 1:3).
With the phrase “for what we proclaim is not ourselves” Paul confronted the false teachers who accused him of preaching for his own benefit, when in fact they were the ones guilty of doing so. In contrast to this, Paul was always humble (12:5, 9; 1 Cor. 2:3) never promoted himself, and always preached Christ Jesus as Lord (1 Cor. 2:2).
“Let light shine out of darkness” in 2nd Corinthians 4:6 is a direct reference to God as Creator, who commands physical light into existence (Gen. 1:3). “The light of the knowledge of the glory of God” refers to the same God who created physical light in the universe, and who creates supernatural light in the soul by ushering believers from spiritual darkness to His Kingdom of Light (Col. 1:13). The light is expressed as “the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ”, which means to know Jesus Christ is to know God incarnate. To be saved, one must understand that the glory of God shone in Jesus Christ.
The problem with tolerance is that it is not tolerant at all. Tolerance promises much, but at end of the day is another false gospel the world proclaims in order to distract men and women from the Gospel. As Paul did with the false teachers at Corinth, so Christians must today do, which is to not preach their opinions nor accommodate false teaching, but to proclaim that the Gospel is the power of God unto the salvation of mankind. The Gospel shines the light of the “knowledge of the glory of God” (2 Cor. 4:5) upon sinners who need to see their sin for what it is, and come to Jesus in repentance and faith. The Gospel is not an opinion or a fairytale, but the power of God to transfer those from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The “gospel” of tolerance is another lie designed to lead the people of God away from God. Tolerance promotes a low view of God and a high view of man. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is supreme over the “gospel” of tolerance, because the Gospel carries with it the power of God to open sinner’s eyes to the Truth about who God is, who Jesus is, and what He has done in His death, burial and resurrection. The “gospel” of tolerance proclaims a false view of God by teaching people to turn to themselves which taken to its conclusion will not result in happiness, but rather in eternal unending, unrelenting separation from God in hell. The byproduct of believing pluralism and tolerance is that people have no fear of God, which means they do not believe that Jesus will come to judge the living and the dead.
The gospel of tolerance and pluralism is destroying generation after generation, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God to opens people’s eyes to the Truth about who Jesus is and what He has done in His death, burial and resurrection. The Gospel is superior in every way to the inferior gospel of tolerance and pluralism, because the Gospel alone contains the power of God to accomplish all that it aims to do, which is to effect the salvation of the lost and gather and scatter the people of God to bear witness to Jesus Christ the Chief Shepherd of His People.