Tag Archives: truth

Don’t All Religions Lead to God?

Just because all of the world’s religions express important elements of spiritual truth doesn’t mean that they all represent enough truth to lead to God.

The history of religion shows how immoral and violent religion can be. Most modern people would look upon the actual practice of many extinct religions with horror. The Canaanites, for instance, practiced human sacrifice, bestiality, and ritual prostitution. The Phoenicians practiced a similar, horrible religion. In the New World, the Aztec Indians practiced ritual human sacrifice on a scale that is almost beyond modern imagination.

Even our relativistic, “Postmodern” culture would find it difficult to defend religions that encourage impersonal ritual sex, human sacrifice, and cannibalism. It’s just too obvious that such religions don’t bring out the best in people. Neither do they produce healthy civilizations.

History also shows us that some civilizations that were founded on evil religion were ripe for destruction. The Canaanites were conquered by Israel. Carthage was utterly destroyed by Rome. The Aztecs were conquered by a few hundred Spaniards and a vast army of Amerindian allies from surrounding tribes who longed for deliverance from Aztec terror.

The major religions that still survive today have lasted a long time, gained many followers, and produced complex and highly developed cultures. Those that have survived into the 20th century generally uphold a moral law similar to the biblical 10 Commandments.  But the world’s major religions do not share a consensus about how to come to terms with our failure to live up to the moral standards of our faith.

While all major contemporary religions have a fairly close general consensus regarding the moral law—the kind of behavior that deserves to be classified as virtuous or sinful—they fall far short of showing us how to come to terms with our own failure to live up to the moral standards of our faith.

According to the New Testament gospel of Christ, knowledge of the moral law brings awareness of sin and guilt (Romans 3:19,20; Romans 7:7-13; 1 Timothy 1:7-11), but is in itself not a means of salvation. Knowledge of the moral law only brings condemnation, and with condemnation comes guilt and the many destructive ways people try to suppress it (legalism, self-righteousness, scapegoating). (See the ATQ article, Can Assurance of Salvation Be Found in Obeying the Old Testament Law?) Only reliance upon Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection in our behalf provides a solution to the awareness of moral condemnation and agony of guilt that rises out of knowledge of the moral law. Only Christianity offers access to God because it answers the problem of evil and guilt.

Jesus Christ fulfilled the moral law both in His life and in His death. He obeyed it perfectly. Of the entire human race, only He never sinned (see John 5:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22). He also laid down His life to pay the penalty for sin demanded by the law (see John 3:16; John 10:11-l8; John 11:50-52; Romans. 5:6-8; 2 Corinthians. 5:21). Because Jesus Christ fulfilled the requirements of the moral law, believers in him are restored to relationship with God through grace and no longer alienated and tormented by guilt. Only with Jesus Christ as both master and example can people manifest God’s love and exhibit a righteousness that fulfills the law without being shackled by it (Romans 13:8-10).

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Why Doesn’t God Make His Existence Undeniable?

God may have designed the universe so that the motive for faith must be as much moral, relational and spiritual as it is logical. Consider what the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews writes:

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:1-6 NIV, italics added).

In fact, the intrinsic nature of faith, hope, and love are such that they shouldn’t and can’t be reduced to mere logic. If God designed the universe so that His presence could be “proven” in the scientific, mathematical sense, faith wouldn’t have to be a decision of the heart. It would be mere acquiescence of the mind, motivated by necessity and fear but not by love. If faith, hope, and love were reduced to a logical decision, freedom would vanish. Who would dare stand against God if logic always seemed completely on the side of faith? If God’s existence and ultimate control were undeniable, people would obey out of fear and would struggle to conceal their resentment.

Rather than being a loving, heavenly Father who allows prodigals to make mistakes, repent, and come home to experience His love, He would be viewed as such an ominous authority that creatures would never dare become prodigals, who by returning to faith could discover freedom, individuality, calling, and love. Self-awareness would be overwhelmed by the obviousness of God’s presence. Creatures would be so engulfed by His power and glory that they couldn’t even begin to discover themselves. Love as we know it could never exist in such a world.

This may be why faith, hope, and love affirm logic but transcend it; why they must involve moral choice rather than mere logical deduction. This too may be why He employs randomness within the creative process, leaving profound evidence of His involvement and presence but doing nothing to coerce obedience.1

  1. “I believe that we Christians are warranted in seeing every potentially viable life form (or every viable variant of DNA) as something thoughtfully conceived in the mind of the Creator. As did Basil and Augustine, I believe that we may rightfully speak of God calling into being at the beginning, from nothing, all material substance and all creaturely forms (whether inanimate structures or animate life forms). And, still standing with Basil and Augustine, I believe that we may rightfully presume that the array of structures and life forms now present was not yet present at the beginning, but became actualized in the course of time as the created substances, employing the capacities thoughtfully given to them by God at the beginning, functioned in a gapless creational economy to bring about what the Creator called for and intended from the outset.
    “In the context of this traditional Christian vision of God’s creative work . . . , we might now wish to employ the vocabulary of twentieth-century science and speak about the full array of functionally viable forms of DNA (and the creatures thereby represented) as constituting a ‘possibility space’ of potential life forms—this possibility space itself, along with all connective pathways, being an integral component of the world brought into being at the beginning. Furthermore, in the language of this theistic paradigm of evolutionary creation, we would speak of DNA being enabled by the Creator to employ random genetic variation as a means to explore and discover (in contrast to create) viable pathways and novel life forms so that the Creator’s intentions for the formative history of the Creation might be actualized in the course of time.

    “See, then, what this evolutionary creation paradigm accomplishes: Do material processes have to create? No, the possibility space of viable and historically achievable life forms is an integral aspect of the world that God created at the beginning. Material systems need only employ their God-given functional capacities to discover some of the possibilities thoughtfully prepared for them. But, one might ask, how can such ‘mindless’ material processes function to bring about what appears to be the product of ‘intelligent design’? The point is that they are not really mindless at all. Rather, every one of these processes and every connective pathway in the possibility space of viable creatures is itself a mindfully designed provision from a Creator possessing unfathomable intelligence.

    “It seems to me that this theistic paradigm provides precisely what the naturalistic (broad) paradigm—the blind watchmaker hypothesis—could not. It provides the answer to the question, How is it possible that such a remarkable array of life forms is not only viable but historically realizable within the economy of the world at hand? Could anything less than the infinite creativity and faithful providence of God suffice?” (Howard Van Til, First Things, July/August 1993) Back To Article

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