How should a Christian view other religions in terms of truth? Are all religions utterly false in every respect? Can other religions have at least some truth to them?
By affirming the exclusive truth of historic Christianity (this is known as “exclusivism,” the Christian church’s historic position through the centuries), four broad points can be made concerning alternative non-Christian religions and their claims to truth:
- Because God has revealed himself in the created order and in the human conscience (imago Dei, Genesis 1:26-27; Psalm 19:1-4; Romans 1-2), we should expect to discover authentic traces of God among the beliefs of other religions. And, in fact, most people in the world believe that a spiritual reality exists in or beyond the universe and that a spiritual path in life is valued, if not necessitated.
- However, because of mankind’s fallen condition (Genesis 3) and Satan’s powerful deceptiveness (2 Corinthians 4:4), we should expect to discover the authentic traces of God mentioned above to be mixed with great distortion and falsity (Romans 1:18-21; Galatians 1:6-9). And, again, the world’s religions indeed affirm many beliefs that are contradictory to the central truths taught in Scripture about God, the world, and mankind.
- Because salvation from sin comes uniquely and exclusively in and through the person of Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12), the world’s religions cannot lead a person to salvation. People in non-Christian religions are therefore trapped in religious systems that cannot reconcile them to their true Creator and Lord.
- According to the biblical truths of revelation and man’s fallen condition, historic Christianity will find some common ground with other religions when it comes to secondary issues (for example, ethics), but there will be conflict and irreconcilable differences when it comes to the larger issues of truth, reality, and salvation.
Christian exclusivism then affirms that Christianity is the uniquely true religion, Jesus Christ is the only Savior of mankind, and having conscious faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is necessary for salvation (John 3:36).
For more on the topic of Christian truth-claims and other religions, see Kenneth Richard Samples, Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), chapters 12 and 13.