Do all roads (and flights) lead to God?

On a weekend when the world remembers the 9/11 that made that date infamous, many questions remain unanswered.

My concern is that there are answers that remain unquestioned.

 

Coexist. This sounds so terribly profound and noble. Even the graphic is inspiring. In one word we have Rodney King’s plea from a decade earlier – “Can’t we all just get along?” Well, I suppose that depends what you mean.

  • Can we accept one another as humans with inherent value? – I would hope so.
  • Can we tolerate viewpoints and lifestyles different from our own? – We should.
  • Can we live out our own beliefs without injuring or belittling others in the name of our beliefs? – Most of us do, except for the occasional misguided zealot.
  • Can we accept that we are all climbing the same mountain, even though we may be choosing separate paths? – No. This is where we must part company.

The term for this sentiment is religious pluralism. It means ‘acceptance of all religious paths as equally valid, promoting coexistence.’

So – does this hold up? Is there more than one way to God / heaven / enlightenment? I say absolutely not. Sometimes things that sound like good ideas simply don’t work. Religious pluralism is nonsensical.

 

Let’s start here in case you are new. I am a Christian. I believe in Jesus Christ, that he was and is God, that he came to earth as a human, that he died and rose again, and that only through him can we achieve right standing before God. I am aware of the charges that this sounds intolerant and arrogant. I get it, but I don’t think it holds up. First off, no Christian has warrant to be intolerant or arrogant. We are just beggars telling other beggars where to find bread.

Is a view arrogant if it is correct? If I tell a child that 2+2=4, am I being arrogant and intolerant of other views? Of course this is silly. If a position aligns with reality, then it is not arrogant – it simply is.

But isn’t it intolerant to say that other ways are illegitimate? Tolerance is overrated. Claiming all religious paths lead to God is like saying that all exits off of all highways lead to the same Cracker Barrel.

Merely asserting something does not make it so. A bumper sticker is not an argument. Let’s turn this around. Isn’t the person who claims they are superior to all religions being more arrogant than the proponents of those religions? And if someone demands that we accept pluralism, aren’t they being intolerant of all religions at once? This is not about arrogance or intolerance. This is about truth.

The hijackers who brought this tragedy to our country believed in certain truth claims. They believed in God. They believed they were doing his will. In fact, they believed he would honor them for what they did on 9/11. Do the pluralists want to label this expression of worship as equally noble to the ways that adherents to Judaism or Hinduism attempt to honor God?

The fact is, the claim of religious pluralism is nonsense.

Religious pluralism cannot possibly be true – it is a logical impossibility. Some examples:

  • God either is one of a kind, one of many, or not at all.
  • Jesus either was God in flesh or he was not.
  • God is either a personal being, or he is not.
  • God cannot be both a trinity, and an antiquated notion.
  • If any religions hold these opposing claims (and they do), then they cannot all be right. It is possible that they are all incorrect, but it is not possible that they are all correct.

To the claim of religious pluralism, author Steve Turner wrote the following:

“We believe that religions are basically the same…
they only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.”

 

In other words, the only things that religions disagree on are the things that actually matter.

The argument for religious pluralism commits suicide. It defeats itself. Let’s follow the logic: If all religions are true, then Christianity is true. If Christianity is true, then Jesus is the only way. If Jesus is the only way, then not all religions are true. Houston, we have a problem.

The issue is not faith, but the object of our faith. If faith saves us, then the Muslim hijackers are superstars in heaven today. They had so much faith in their beliefs that they died for it. I can admire their conviction, but it’s meaningless if the object of their allegiance is worthy. Hundreds died trusting that the Titanic was unsinkable. Faith is only valuable if it is well-placed.

I believe we are all seeking something. Apologists call it the argument from desire. We want to know that there are answers. We want to believe in a place where there is no more pain or suffering. We hope that those who perpetrate evil will be brought to justice. We long for these things and more. But just because all people seek something, that does not mean they have all found the same thing. Two plus two does not equal seven. Not all roads lead to the Cracker Barrel.

 

On this weekend, it is easy for many to fall into the old routine of bashing Islam. Muslims are evil and should be expunged, they will say. Religious pluralists sporting the COEXIST sticker have no basis to object to their murder and destruction. Christians do. Not because Muslims are evil. Not because we are right and they are wrong. Christians believe that Jesus Christ came to earth, simultaneously both God and man, and made the way for humanity to be reconciled with God. But this reconciliation is not on our terms. God made us. He provided the way. So only He gets to determine the terms.

All paths do not lead to eternal peace. They do all lead to God, but only for a moment. All of us, hijackers and victims alike, will appear before the holy God to answer for our rebellion. Our beliefs do not save us. Only Jesus is the road that determines where each of our individual ‘Ground Zero’ experiences will take us after death.

 

NOTE: On this difficult weekend, many of my friends have also written their thoughts about the questions that surround 9/11. I encourage you to visit their blogs as well!

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  • Todd Moser

    “Is a view arrogant if it is correct? If I tell a child that 2+2=4, am I being arrogant and intolerant of other views?”
    Yes, because 1+1+1+1 also is 4. As is 4+4-4. 
    All roads do lead to the same Cracker Barrel, just the people and ideas change. It just takes either shorter or longer to get there based on the route 
    Saying one route is better/grander/ is intolerant and also arrogant.Coexist as a definition IS a better/grander/ than saying mine is than yours.
    You can claim to know the truth, but what truth is it? There are many faces of the truth.Many are archived or  edited so much to twist it back on itself without resolution or to be left to mystery.
    I firmly believe that no one will know any answers until you take your last breath and ascend or just go black, or unless the aliens show back up.I think it should be good enough that people even try to find their own spirituality. They don’t have to be on any team. There are concepts and shared historical contexts from all the religions that shine a light on the greater message. Failure to see that and only play for the team is arrogant and intolerant. To think that there is only ONE way because a council decided to edit the words that have stood the test of time because they had the resources to make it happen, is arrogant. We have free will. So, by all means continue.

  • Hey Todd. Thanks for stopping by!

    I have no problem agreeing with your other methods of reaching the number four, because they all reach the same solution, and because that solution corresponds to reality. If, on the other hand you want to propose that 2+2=7, this is when we have a problem.

    All roads do *not* lead to the same Cracker Barrel (to continue the analogy). The fact is there are hundreds of Cracker Barrels. There are dead end and one way roads that do not lead anywhere. I can only agree with you if we are talking about the same Cracker Barrel. When it comes to religion though, I can guarantee that they do not. Buddhists do not believe there is a God. Hindus are divided on the issue. Muslims , Christians and Jews have some things in common, but their conceptions of who God is and what he requires are drastically different. These views simply cannot be reconciled.

    Is your GPS’s way to a destination arrogant and intolerant? No – it’s simply correct. And GPS destinations only work if the GPS is trustworthy and the destination entered is accurate. If not, your route is worthless.

    Is it intolerant for the state to require us to drive on the right side of the road? Or to make us stop on red? No – it simply is.

    You ask what truth I am speaking of, and this is the origin of the problem. Truth simply is. There are not multiple truths. Truth is that which corresponds with reality. Saying “the sky is blue” is a truth claim that is only valid if the sky is indeed blue. It is not intolerant or arrogant – it is a description of reality.

    There are no “individual paths to spirituality”. If they completely oppose one another, they cannot all be true.

    As to you other claims about councils and conspiracies, they are simply false. If you think you have some compelling evidence, let me know. The facts are not on your side though.

    Thanks again for commenting!

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  • Gern

    I respect your perspective, Scott, although I disagree with some the points you present as ‘fact.’ The tenets of your religion (any religion) are based within the frame of the religion. Your beliefs says there is but one path through Jesus to God and salvation. It is part of Your set of truths. Other beliefs have their own paths to God or enlightenment or whatever their frame of spiritual oneness is. Part of Their set of truths. Both parties can be equally strong in their convictions and in their belief that theirs is the one truth. Yet neither can ever prove it empirically to the other.

    I think the Coexist concept says ‘keep peace with the good people who are not harming us or the helpless.’ This does not mean coexist with Nazis or terrorists. 

    The upside for a Christian, if one can peacefully exchange ideas and beliefs for greater understanding, is that maybe you win over people to your way. The opposite to coexistence is intolerance like the Crusades or Inquisition, and those paths do not work out so well.

  • Hey Gern,

    First, let’s start here: there is only one truth. You may say that the grass is green, while I say it is pink, but the simple matter is we cannot both be right. One of us might be wrong, or both of us might be wrong, but it is impossible for us to both be right. Make sense so far?Christianity claims that Jesus was God, came as a human, and is the only means by which we may be saved. (You’ll note that at this point I am stating facts about the religion, not claiming that these religious beliefs are true.) The religious pluralism represented by the ‘coexist’ sentiment states that all religions are equally valid. However, Christianity (for just one example) excludes all other religions. So here you are presented with a trilemma. Either you hold an incoherent position that contradicts itself, or you hold to Christianity, or you hold to ‘everyone BUT Christianity’. You see the problem? Views which are mutually exclusive cannot coexist. The position is nonsensical.

    There are no “sets of truths”. There are things that are, and there are things that are not. We refer to things that are as truths. Things which are not are non-truths. There can be opposing religions and belief systems, and there most certainly are. But they cannot be said to have equal standing if any of them are false. The strength with which a position is held says nothing of its veracity. All that matters is whether it corresponds with reality. I can believe really, really strongly that Daffy Duck is real, but this belief is meaningless if the object of my faith is invalid. 

    You say ” the Coexist concept says keep peace with the good people who are not harming us or the helpless”. This is going to present you with some difficulties. First of all, I agree that we should keep peace and be nice. That is a given. But this is not the message of pluralism. The message embodied in this bumper sticker is one of equality. And this is where you’re going to have to do some soul searching. To begin with, how will you differentiate between “good” and “bad” people? This is a moral judgment. Whose moral system shall we use? To be consistent with pluralism, all moral systems are equally valid, so the words good and bad are rendered meaningless. See the problem?

    As to your closing, the Crusades and Inquisition are favorite targets. This is a red herring though. Neither of these were Christian positions. Far more blood has been shed in the name of atheism (to name just one) than Christianity. Additionally, any blood shed reflects primarily on the persons doing the killing, not the religion they claim to represent. There are bad people doing bad things under every possible banner. That does not indict the cause they claim to be fighting for, unless of course that religion is one that commands killing. There are religions that do, but Christianity is not one of them.

    I appreciate your comments! Thanks for reading!

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  • Scott, 10000 points for referring to a Looney Tunes character in a philosophical discussion. 😀
    I can’t help but wonder how Elmer Fudd saw truth when Daffy Duck grabbed a carrot and bunny ears, while Bugs Bunny put on a duck bill and webbed feet. The sign said “Rabbit Season”. Daffy (thinking the sign still said “Duck Season”) states “You know what to do with that gun, Doc!” Guess who got shot. Was Elmer right or wrong?

  • Wow. 10,000?!?!?  If I’d have known that, I’d have brought them up years ago!
    And I have no idea how to respond to your dilemma of cartoon ethics. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    In our PC world, it’s refreshing to hear the truth. Either Jesus is who he said He was or He’s alunatic. I’m betting my life that He is incapable of lying. So, He is the Messiah, the Lord of Lords, the only way to the Father. That’s just the way it is.

  • There can only be one truth, can’t there David?

  • Gern

    Scott;

    To better understand each others perspective, I am compelled to submit a response.

    First, I do not read the “Coexist” sticker as you do: that you should accept other religions as being as “true” and equal as your own. Rather, I think it is a statement predicated on the fact that other people have the Right to believe other religions (this is America, after all.) Since their beliefs are as empirically valid as ours, we should Coexist.

    I think you counter that opinion with some faulty logic about how two religions cannot both be right. One cannot make a logical argument, as you have, by applying the terms “true,” “false” or “valid” to matters of faith. As strongly as one may “know” that the tenets of their religion are true, it is still belief, not fact. The label of “truth” may be accurate only to the individuals who share those beliefs. To a non-believer, the Bible is just an old book of stories, not a source of empirical evidence. Presumably, people of other religions can be just as committed to their beliefs and their scriptures, so that they have their own “facts.” If the referee were an alien form Mars, which religion would be ruled as “true”?

    It’s like the old parable of the blind men and the elephant. Each feels only one part of the animal (tusk, leg, belly, tail, etc.), so when asked to describe the animal, they all express characteristics in wide disagreement. Yet each is right in their own way, since each could only grasp a small part of the whole. Similarly, at their most spiritual, I think the world’s various religions take different perspectives along different paths, while addressing common mysteries beyond our limited human comprehension. To me, if people can take a religious faith to heart and express it through actions that are empirically understood as “good” (you know it when you see it), and they abide by our secular laws, we should live and let live. You don’t have to believe their beliefs, nor they yours. But we should Coexist.

  • Hey Gern.

    I’ll give a few responses to clarify.

    “I think it is a statement predicated on the fact that other people have the Right to believe other religions”
    Well, of course it is that. And to that point, I agree. But what is the purpose? Is there some enormous movement demanding that people give up their religion? If so, I haven’t seen it. However, I think you’re wrong in this. If I had a bumper sticker that spelled “COEXIST” with logos of all the political parties, would you think that it was a plea to merely get along (which we are), or that it was an encouragement that we see all political parties as equally valid?

    “I think you counter that opinion with some faulty logic about how two religions cannot both be right.”
    My point was not merely that two religions cannot be right. My point was that two religions with opposing truth claims cannot both be right. If one says there is a God and one says there is not a God, then one is right and one is wrong. This is not faulty logic – it is the law of the excluded middle. Either a claim is true, or the negation of that claim is true – there is no in between. So, in that sense, I hold to my point. Religions with opposing views simply cannot be right. They may all be wrong, but they can not all be right.

    Meaningless Terms
    You talk about truth and facts as if the words have no meaning. It makes no difference how committed people are to their views. Their views are either true or they are false. You talk of different people having different facts. This renders another word useless. People may all have different claims, and they may hold them with incredible dedication. But in the end, if those views do not correspond with reality, they aren’t facts are they? Try this line of reasoning in court and see how well it works. Truth and facts are real things. We may not always know the truth about everything, and our view of the facts may be skewed, but this does not mean that truth and facts do not exist or that they are subjective.

    Blind Men and the Elephant
    This analogy simply doesn’t work. Don’t you see the problem? You are claiming that all these blind men are exploring the same elephant. If you believe that the Christian, the Mormon, the Muslim, and the Buddhist have the same elephant in view, then you simply are not familiar with any of these religions.

    You Know Good When You See It
    Plenty of religions have burned babies in an attempt to appease the gods. Should we coexist unjudgmentally with them? Was their sacrifice good? Who are you to say otherwise? After all, everyone in the culture agreed, it was for the common good, and they believed it to be true.
    And when you say that I will know it when I see it, that sounds like you are appealing to a higher authority – a universal, objective, transcendent thing called goodness. Where does this sense of goodness come from?

    “You don’t have to believe their beliefs, nor they yours. But we should Coexist.”
    I agree that we don’t have to share beliefs. I agree that we should live and let live. But when you imply that it is possible for us to all be right, I’m going to cry foul. I don’t believe that you actually hold this opinion consistently. Do you hold this same view when it comes to education or law? Should we be tolerant of kids who hold incorrect views of math, as long as they hold them fervently? Should we allow people to violate laws because they are merely abstract beliefs?

    I think you missed my point. I spent a good chunk of my post supporting the things you are criticizing me for: acceptance, tolerance, coexistence, etc.  My point was that we can and should do all these things. But we cannot pretend that we all have compatible beliefs because that is simply not the case.

  • Your post is very relevant to today’s trend for unity for all religions, and I wish more Christians could see it the way you do!

  • KaDar

    This was gold for me. Thank you!

  • Good to hear, KaDar. Thanks!

  • Thanks!

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