Is Christianity Arrogant ?
What’s that all about ?
Our modern society makes a great deal of the concept of tolerance as a virtue. We are told that to hold onto any belief dogmatically as ‘right’ is to arrogantly put ourselves in a morally superior position and look down upon others that we disagree with. We are told we should tolerate different beliefs, no matter how bizarre or inconsistent some may seem. No one should ever be excluded in a belief system â€“ otherwise it is wrong, we are told.
Thus, Christians are very often viewed as being arrogant and Christianity’s claims viewed as arrogant simply because they claim only one way of salvation and not many.
Well, let’s take a situation for a second.
If, after visiting this site, you were to drop me an e-mail and say ‘Kerry, I don’t get all this Christianity stuff, but I’m curious a bit. I’d like to talk with you in person. Can you meet me at Barnes and Noble on Tuesday ?’ and I say ‘Ok. I’ll have on jeans and t-shirt.’
So we go out to B&N, we talk, the conversation goes very amicably and then you say ‘Ok, thanks. Lunch was great, I really enjoyed the conversation and would like to talk some more. I think I’ll come visit your church this Sunday. I have a friend there.’
On Sunday, after church, I run into your friend and you talking. Your friend says hello to me and asks ‘Hey! How was lunch with you two ?’ and before I can answer, you say ‘It was tolerable’.
Just ‘tolerable’ ?
What does that say about you ?
Yep. It says that you believe that I obviously have some great character flaw, but out of the grand goodness of your heart, you have condescended to have my closed-minded, narrow and religiously inferior person in your illustrious presence, hoping that your superior and open mind and viewpoint would rub off on me, though you’d rather have been elsewhere.
How arrogant is that ?
Let’s take another example.
Michael Ramsden of Ravi Zacharias ministries once remarked about a time when, as a new Christian, he came into contact with a friend of his in the middle east who was the leader of the Baha’i, an offshoot group from orthodox Islam. In their talking, the person told him that he was now the leader of the Baha’i in his country and that their group “believes that all religious paths lead to God and they wish to exclude no one, but accept everyone”.
Michael said in response “Well, I’m a Christian and I believe that only one path leads to God through Jesus. Would you accept me ?”
The gentleman responded “No, we wouldn’t accept that.”
Michael said “Well then, you’re excluding me.”
The gentlemen quickly retorted “No, no, no. We exclude no one. We accept everyone.”
Michael asked again “But what about me ? What if I think there’s only one way ? Would you include that ?”
The gentleman said “No.”
To which Michael responded “Then you’re excluding me again.”
No matter how the question is phrased, and no matter how tolerant and open we may appear to be with our language, appeals to tolerance of all religious beliefs will necessarily exclude those who claim that only some or one religious path is correct.
One last example.
All religious paths leading to God has often been compared to climbing a mountain. The claim is usually along the lines of “there are many different paths, but all paths lead to the top.” I’m a bit of an Everest buff and have done some study on the subject. At the summit of Mt. Everest, while the tops of many other mountains are visible, along with the last few hundred yards up Everest, all of the paths up the mountain are not. Further, standing at Base Camp on either side of Everest, you can’t see an entire path clearly up the mountain. The only way you’d be able to know for certain that ‘all paths lead to the top’ is to have this viewpoint.
Now, religiously speaking, Who alone would have that type of view of ‘all religious paths up the religious mountain’ ?
And wouldn’t it be arrogant to claim to be that Person ?
Claims of religious inclusivism are no more gracious (because they exclude those who hold to religious exclusivism) and humble than claims of those who hold to religious exclusivism (because they exclude people who hold to religious inclusivism). Everyone excludes someone in their religious thinking, whether they admit to it or not.
The real question is should be ‘what should be the attitude of those with claims to religious truth’ ?
Jesus Christ made a simple, yet powerful claim to religious truth and exclusivity when He walked the earth. He taught that faith in Him alone was the only path up the ‘religious mountain’ to God (John 14:6). But He did not limit that claim to one group of people â€“ His offer of salvation is a free one, given indiscriminately to everyone and inviting all to come to Him for salvation (John 3:16). His claims are exclusive â€“ but they are also gracious.
When Christians present this truth to others, they don’t do so out of some assumed moral or religious superiority, for they once stood where the non-Christian now stands. Instead, they offer to the non-Christian the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ. Christians are commanded to do so (Matthew 28:18-20) with an attitude of respect and gentleness (1 Peter 3:15). This gift of God has so transformed their lives, that not just out of obedience, but out of love, they freely seek to offer that gift to others.
Such an attitude not only sets both parties on truly even ground and makes for a good place to begin dialoging about the Christian faith.