The Problem of Religious Pluralism
John Piper has written an extremely relevant message not long after the 11 September 2001 attacks, which reminds all of us of the importance of evangelism and showing love to our enemies. When people persecute us, we might fall into the extreme of letting our hatred and vengeance consumes us, leading us into demonizing these people. However, there is the other extreme, which is that of religious pluralism.
Living in a culturally and religiously pluralistic society like Singapore, we are bombarded with propaganda that all religions are essentially good. Evangelizing people of other faiths is frowned upon because of political correctness. We are told that all religions lead to God. Good works is the goal of all religions rather than the worship of the one and true living God.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not calling for intolerance, for intolerance is the unwillingness to recognize and respect differences in religious beliefs. Intolerance would only lead to religious persecution, which I am wholly against, no matter what religion you belong to. But is religious pluralism the answer?
The second greatest commandment in the Bible tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves. And pray tell me, what is the greatest gift of love that we can offer our neighbor? Is it material needs like food? Clothing? Money? Well, maybe these things might temporarily satisfy our neighbor’s wants, but our neighbor will never be fully satisfied with these temporal things.
John Piper made popular the saying, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” Reverse this saying around and what do you get? We are most satisfied in God when God is most glorified in us.
There you have it. Full satisfaction can only be attained when we are able to worship and glorify God in spirit and in truth. Full satisfaction is found by walking with Jesus Christ. Health and wealth will not satisfy. Humanitarianism will not satisfy. Religious pluralism will not satisfy our neighbor. Religious pluralism is not love because we do not love our neighbor by withholding the truth from them. Religious pluralism wrongly makes false gods the way to everlasting joy.
In Psalm 16:11, we read, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” It is only the gospel that satisfies. The truth is, our neighbor can only be completely satisfied when he or she repents and acknowledges Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
Thus, we should not deny our neighbor eternal life because of hate. And neither should we deny our neighbor eternal life by withholding the gospel of Jesus Christ in the name of religious pluralism.
Obstacles to the Eternal Life of Muslims
September 24, 2001
Paradoxically, hatred and tolerance are teaming up to take eternal life from Muslim people. Jesus said - and we say it with tears - "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him" (John 3:36). In other words, nominal Christians, devoted Muslims, pious Hindus, faithful Buddhists, orthodox Jews, devout animists, sincere agnostics, secular atheists - everyone who does not hold fast to Jesus Christ as the supremely valuable Son of God and Savior - will perish and not have eternal life. "He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life" (1 John 5:12).
Whatever obscures this message for Muslim people obstructs their way to eternal life. For them Christ is a prophet, but not the divine Son of God who said, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). For Muslims Jesus is not the Savior who died for their sins and said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). Unless Muslims - and all others who deny Christ's deity - hear and embrace the good news that "the fullness of deity" dwells in Jesus (Colossians 2:9), they will be without eternal hope. This has always been true, but today things are different. Two seemingly opposite forces gather to block the gospel from Muslim minds.
First, there is the fire of hatred, fanned by the flames of September 11. Second, there is a twisted tolerance fed by the fear of man.
My son called me from Chicago to say that one of his Muslim friends had been beaten on the street. No reason. He just looked like one of "them." The spirit of revenge against Muslims in our nation these days is indiscriminate. Rage boils just beneath the surface. This is not the way of Christ. He calls his people to suffer for the sake of love, not seethe with the fire of hate. "Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he trusted to him who judges justly" (1 Peter 2:21-23).
Hatred from Christians keeps Muslims from seeing the superior worth of Jesus Christ. The spirit of revenge sends the false signal that Christ is not an all-sufficient, all-satisfying Savior. We justify our own little jihad, and seek our satisfaction by injuring the adversary. But true Christians treasure Jesus above vengeance, and do not rob Muslim people of truth and hope in this way. Christians would rather suffer to show the supreme worth of Christ. They crucify the craving of hate in their own hearts. They long for Muslims to see Jesus for who he really is. They know that eternal life is at stake - for both.
In reaction against indiscriminate hate there is now a stampede to pluralism and twisted tolerance. If Muslims are hated, then let us call ecumenical gatherings, and let us all praise the virtues of Islam, and the wisdom of Allah and the goodness of Mohammed. But let no one speak the intolerable and indispensable truth that Jesus is the only way to God.
Once upon a time tolerance was the power that kept lovers of competing faiths from killing each other. It was the principle that put freedom above forced conversion. It was rooted in the truth that coerced conviction is no conviction. But now the new twisted tolerance denies that there are any competing faiths; they only complement each other. It denounces not only the effort to force conversions, but the very idea that any conversion may be necessary for eternal life. It holds the conviction that no religious conviction should claim superiority over another.
When Muslims are protected from hate with this "tolerance," they are cut off from eternal life. And what promises deliverance proves to be death. If, in the name of this new tolerance, we are forbidden to say of Jesus, "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12), then eternal life is concealed and we are cruel.
Therefore let us open the door of life for all Muslim people by renouncing hate, showing love, conquering fear, commending the King of the universe, Jesus Christ, and suffering willingly, if we must.
Praying with you for a stunning breakthrough,