Truth is the beginning of wisdom…


Posted by straight shooter on June 26, 2008 under Political, Religion, Theological Concerns

“Survey Shows U.S. Religious Tolerance” was the headline of a New York Times article about the Pew Forum’s survey of America’s religious landscape. It found that Americans have acquired a “non-dogmatic approach to faith.” In fact, 70% of Americans who claim affiliation to a religious body – including Christians – agreed that “many religions can lead to eternal life.” Nearly the same percentage said that “there’s more than one true way to interpret the teachings of my religion.” WHAT?

What’s true of faith is also true of morals when 78% say that there are “absolute standards of right and wrong.” But only 29% say that they “rely on their religion to delineate these standards.” Instead, more than half of the respondents said that they rely on “practical experience and common sense.” As the Book of Judges aptly puts it, “every man did what was right in his own eyes” has become the practice of the day.

Not surprisingly, the media repeatedly used the word “tolerant” to characterize America’s religious beliefs.

But to be regarded as “tolerant” today no longer means extending “full rights of free speech and free expression” to those of all faiths. Instead, it appears that “tolerance” now requires what journalist Terry Mattingly calls a “certain doctrine of salvation,” that regards all “religious paths” as leading “to the top of the same eternal mountain.”

So, it is not possible anymore to debate religious truth claims respectfully. Instead, the new “tolerance,” which has become our ultimate civic virtue, requires abandoning all truth claims lest we “offend” somebody.

This applies everywhere: over the water cooler at work or even in presidential politics. When asked recently in a private meeting with religious leaders whether Jesus was the only way to salvation, Barack Obama reportedly said, “Jesus is the only way for me. I’m not in a position to judge other people.” Was Obama merely trying not to offend non-Christians, or did his answer reflect what he truly believes? This growing relativism is becoming rampant even among “Christians.”

The problem is that all religions make mutually exclusive truth claims. Either Jesus is, as He Himself said, “the only way to the Father,” or He is not. What Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Hindus say about the person and work of Jesus Christ cannot be reconciled. They cannot all be true.

It’s called the law of non-contradiction – it goes back to Aristotle: If proposition A is true – that is, if it conforms to reality – then proposition B, making a contrary claim, cannot be true as well.

We can trace our debased definition of “tolerance” back to French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau who rejected any distinction between “civil” and “theological intolerance.” Rousseau did not believe that people can “live at peace with those [they] regard as damned.” He saw Christian truth claims as being intolerant. Specifically, he wrote, anyone who dared to say “no salvation outside the church” should be driven out of society – that is precisely what is happening today.

Have we been so taken in by our own culture that we have abandoned truth? The antidote to this is that Christians need to be grounded in their basic beliefs, or indeed will be swept up in the tides of surging relativism.