Tolerance, truth and religious pluralism
One of the greatest possible privileges in the ministry of evangelism is to know the Truth in Christ and go out to the world to declare it. I would never want to go out to the world and declare for one minute a message that I knew wasn’t true or else was uncertain of its Truth.
A young boy was asked once for a definition of faith and he replied, “Faith is believing something which you know isn’t true!” Thank goodness we don’t believe that or have to tell untruths to the world.
I know that before I was converted and found Christ, Christianity was just one truth amongst many other optional religious truths, but after I had found Christ as Saviour, Lord and Friend, I knew I had found one who was Himself the Truth. So, no wonder I was excited when I really registered for the first time that truth was personal in Jesus Christ before it was propositional in any statement about Him. And suddenly I also realised that if Jesus could say “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6) then He could never be just one in a pantheon of religious options.
I also realised that contradictory statements about Jesus Christ could not both be true. So if the Muslim says that Jesus is not the Son of God, that He did not die on the cross, or rise again, and that salvation is not “by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8), then the Christian who believes all those things to be true must politely and graciously but firmly declare to the Muslim that his contrary views on these things are in error. In other words, they are not true.
As Francis Schaeffer at the Berlin Congress on Evangelism in 1966 noted: “Christianity rests upon Truth – not truth as an abstract concept, nor even what the 20th century man regards as ‘religious truth’, but objective truth. Part of this truth is the emphasis that certain things happened in history. Historic Christianity rests upon the truth of what today is called ‘brute facts’, and not just upon an unknown experience of men in past ages of which we have only a faulty hermeneutical interpretation. Behind the truth of such history is the great truth that the personal, infinite God is objectively ‘there’. He actually exists (in contrast to his not being there): and Christ’s redemptive and finished work actually took place at a point of time in real space-time history (in contrast to this not being the case). Historic Christianity rests upon the truth of these things in absolute antithesis to their not being true.”
That is why it is really important to know what you believe, why you believe it to be true and why you know you must declare it. That’s why if someone discovered a real cure for cancer which they knew to be true; it would be unconscionable for them not to declare that truth to all cancer patients.
Called to be witnesses
So then, believing as he did that “the Truth is in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:21) the apostle would obviously feel himself obligated to declare this truth far and wide. Hence his affirmation: “For necessity is laid upon me. Woe is me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Of course not everyone goes out preaching the Gospel, but all believers are nevertheless called to be “witnesses to these things” (Acts 5:32).
Perhaps you are feeling that while you are a believer you are unsure about the intellectual basis of the Truth you profess to believe. You might find it helpful to secure a copy of Nicky Gumbel’s book (of Alpha fame) Why Jesus? Or else order from us, via Dave Rees at firstname.lastname@example.org or 033 347 1911, my little booklet Christianity for the Open Minded (R40 including postage).
Implications of the truth
The point to grasp is that if Christianity is true, as against it being untrue, then there are enormous implications. If it is true that Jesus said we must go and proclaim the Gospel then we must. If it is true that “unless we turn and become like little children and are converted we will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3) then we must not only turn ourselves but urge others to do likewise.
If it is true that without being born anew and from above (as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3) that we will not even see (v3) let alone (v5) enter the Kingdom of Heaven, then we’d better be born again ourselves and lead others into the experience too.
If it is true as Acts 4:11 says that, “There is no other name under Heaven by which we may be saved” then we must proclaim that Name to the ends of the earth. This is what all biblical Christians need to embrace and thereafter be committed to taking the Gospel throughout South Africa and across the continent. It is also note-worthy that The Church Jesus Prayed For (the title of my book on John 17) is characterised in the first instance by the mark of Truth.
Thus our Lord prays to the Father as “the only True God” (v3), as against other so-called gods which are false and untrue. He likewise prays that his disciples should be sanctified “in the Truth” (v17) and “consecrated in Truth” (v19). Incidentally, let me remind you that you can order a copy of my book via a note to Dave Rees at the contact details given earlier in this letter.
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