The traditional motto of the United States is the Latin expression “e pluribus unum”—“out of many, one.” In many cases, plurality is desirable. America’s society is a wonderful human tapestry woven together from the lives of millions of people with different languages, music, food, literature, art, and ethnicities. Diversity is a worthy aspiration that has inspired many noble causes.
Furthermore, diversity is an ideal that God values. According to His own revelation, every “nation, tribe, people and language” (Rev. 7:9) will be represented in heaven. Heaven will be the place where those “out of many” who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ will come together to worship the One. The ethnicity of each person is sacred because ethnicity is an essential, immutable component of personhood, and each person is made in God’s image. Thus, heaven, the place where God will dwell with His people forever (see Rev. 21:3), will reflect the diversity of His image bearers.
Disagreeing Without Being Disagreeable
People, however, are not the same as beliefs. It is incredibly important not to confuse the reality of a pluralistic society (that is, a society that includes people of diverse beliefs) with being a pluralist about truth. The former is desirable because all people are equally valuable; the latter is incoherent and should be rejected.
Although all people are equally valuable, the same cannot be said for their beliefs. Unlike people, who are intrinsically valuable because they bear the image of God, beliefs are merely true or false. What makes a belief valuable or valid is whether it is true. In other words, beliefs that are true and undergirded by strong evidentiary support are preferable to those that are false and lacking in evidence.
Certainly, it is tempting to want to affirm all beliefs as equally valid in order to be inclusive and avoid the risk of offending other people. This fear is understandable; no one wants to be viewed as narrow-minded, arrogant, dogmatic, or bigoted. But affirming all beliefs as equally valid results in two mistakes.
- It confuses a person with his or her beliefs. Criticizing a belief, if done respectfully, is not the same as criticizing the person who holds that belief.
- Affirming all beliefs as equally valuable, for all practical purposes, is equivalent to claiming that all ideas are equally right, equally correct, or equally true.
While Christians should always heed biblical admonitions to disagree without being disagreeable (see Col. 4:6; 1 Pet. 3:15), they are called to disagree at times when false ideas are being passed off as true. Paul clearly thought some beliefs were more valuable than others because they were true, and “knowledge of the truth … leads to godliness” (Titus 1:1). Therefore, he urged his readers to correct, rebuke, warn, and exhort others and to respond to unsound teaching and false doctrine with the truth. But he also encouraged them to do so “with great patience and careful instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2) because God’s servants must be “kind to everyone” and “not resentful” (2 Tim. 2:24).
Jesus is the Truth
The same God who values the plurality of human diversity flatly rejects the notion of pluralism about truth itself. In Scripture we see this fact in two primary ways.
- Jesus asserted that He is “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Notice that Jesus did not just claim to be someone who speaks or teaches the truth; He claimed to be truth itself—truth incarnated in human form (see Phil. 2:5-11). Therefore, everything Jesus said and did is true and authoritative.
- Jesus followed up this statement with another: “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The early church was no less ambiguous on this point (see John 17:3; Acts 4:12; 1 John 5:12; 1 Tim. 2:5).
Therefore, despite all the options in the marketplace of religions, not all paths lead to God (or claim to). Eternal life and salvation—intimate, loving relationship with God—are found in Christ alone and no one else (see Rev. 3:20). Admittedly, the exclusivity of such a claim rubs many people the wrong way. However, truth by its very definition is exclusive, because asserting that something is true involves an implicit assertion that its negation is false. In other words, what is true must logically exclude its oppo- site. If the statements of Jesus, Peter, Paul, and John are all true, then as a matter of reality, no other person, including Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius, or oneself, can provide eternal life or salvation other than Jesus Christ.
This was an excerpt from Jesus Among Secular Gods, by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale. Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™