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In the modern world, many people believe that each religion is as good as any other. “All paths lead to heaven” is one way of stating the matter. But this belief—usually referred to as religious pluralism—is neither logical nor biblical, and therefore it is not spiritually helpful.
Religious pluralism is not logical for the simple reason that however similar they may be, the various religions make contradictory truth claims. Consider the case of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Traditional Judaism condemns Jesus as a heretic. Islam praises him as a merely human prophet. Christianity worships him as the Incarnate Son of God. Logically speaking, these religions’ individual beliefs about Jesus Christ may all be false, but they cannot each be true, for they cancel each other out.
From a biblical point of view, religious pluralism does not fare much better. Consider the end of Jonah’s prayer in Jonah 2:8-10:
“Those who cling to worthless idolsforfeit the grace that could be theirs.But I, with a song of thanksgiving,will sacrifice to you.What I have vowed I will make good.Salvation comes from the LORD.”And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
Notice the explicit criticism of non-biblical religions in verse 8: “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” That is the consistent position of the Bible. There is one true God who made the heavens and the earth, who reveals his will to men and women, who judges them for their sins, but nonetheless saves them from themselves. Verse 9 states the biblical position more positively: “Salvation comes from the LORD.” Now this biblical position is either true or false. If true, it means that non-biblical religions are unable to save you. If false, it means that the biblical religion is unable to save you. You can take or leave what the Bible says, but you cannot deny that it teaches what it teaches. And it does not teach religious pluralism.
If religious pluralism is both illogical and unbiblical, then it is also spiritually unhelpful (assuming, of course, that the biblical teaching about salvation is true). If all paths do not lead to heaven, then it is spiritually harmful to tell people that they do. It would be like telling people to take the sea route to Fresno or the land route to Hawaii. It just can’t be done, and all you will do if you try is experience the frustration of an impossible project.
Some people think that the notion of one religion teaching the correct path of salvation is too narrow and bigoted. Jonah thought otherwise. He rightly concluded that if God saves a sinner such as himself, the proper responses are thanksgiving and obedience. A drowning man has only two options: rescue or death. It would be churlish to quibble with the lifeguard about how he saved you, rather than gratefully to acknowledge the simple fact that he saved you.