Are other religions good?

What of the ethics, the morality of other religions? With the exception of Satanic religion(s), every religion in the world has not only some but a lot of true morality. The moral codes of the world’s great religions are not nearly as different as their theologies. You can even find many of the values Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, in Plato, Confucius, Lao-tzu or Buddha, though not in the same context of a historical “kingdom of God.

There are some significant ethical contradictions between religions, however, based on their different theological beliefs. For instance, suppose you were a typical Hindu. You would believe that (a) this body is ultimately only an appearance; (b) we must all work out our karma, or moral fate; and (c) after death everyone except a fully enlightened mystic must go through many more reincarnations. For these reasons, you would not be swift to rescue a dying derelict from the gutter. For (a) bodily death is not very important; (b) you may be interfering with the person’s karma, or fated learning experience through this suffering and dying; and (c) death is not terribly tragic because it is not final—we go round again and may get other chances through reincarnation. If, on the other hand, you were a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim, you would act like the good Samaritan because you believe that (a) the body is real and good and important; (b) we are not fated but free (or both fated and free); and (c) we live only once, so life is incalculably precious.

Moral codes can be classified into three levels: codes for pragmatic survival, codes of objective justice and codes of selflessness. All three tell us not to bash each other but for three different reasons: not to get bashed back; because it not fair; and because we should be unselfish like God, or the Ultimate Reality. Everyone knows level one, and most civilised people know level two, but level three is high and rare. Yet all the great religions of the world teach level three morality.

Are other religions salvific?

Can other religions save you? So far, our answers have been rather liberal: there is much truth and much moral goodness in other religions. Christianity cannot get rid of its founder claim to be the only Saviour. The doctrine that Christ is the only Saviour does not necessarily entail the conclusion that consciously professing Christians are the only ones saved. Passages like Romans 1 and John 1:9 tell us that God shines light into everyone mind and speaks to all people through conscience. Christians do not claim to know how many people respond to this knowledge of God in such a way as to be saved; but they do claim to know (because Jesus has told them) that if and when and however anyone is saved, it must be by Jesus, the one and only Saviour. Christianity exclusive claims are not for Christianity but for Christ.

Christians, by definition, believe Christ to be God- made-man, God-in-the-flesh. His claims cannot be amended, watered down, relativised, negotiated away or nuanced into acceptability. But this exclusivism is not an exclusivism of Christian culture, of Christian ethics or of Christians as the only candidates for heaven. Attacks on Christian exclusivism often ignorantly or maliciously confuse these three indefensible exclusivisms with the real one, which is almost never squarely faced. (How often have you heard any non-Christian face the central question of whether Jesus’ claims for himself are true or false?)

Categories: Defending the Faith, Theology

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