BROADCAST TALKS presents ideas to cultivate Christ-like thinking and living. Each issue features a transcription of a talk presented at an event of The C. S. Lewis Institute. The following is adapted from a talk by Dr. Andy Bannister delivered on February 18, 2016 at Park Community Church in Chicago, IL; an event sponsored by the C.S. Lewis Institute.
e live in a highly pluralistic context in modern America, one of the most multicultural societies on earth. For example, here in Chicago, you can choose from Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, atheism, Islamism. You can even be a Chicago Bears fan; we call that masochism.
How do we navigate that maze of religious diversity? One answer that’s increasingly common is to say that every religion is essentially the same, that everybody is worshiping the same God in his or her own way, that all paths lead to God, and so forth. A friend of mine who teaches at the University of Toronto has an illustration he likes to use to make this point. My friend Jeff says we should try to think of all the different religions in the world as being like paths up a mountain. There are hundreds of different paths, so just choose the path that fits you; why worry?, after all, all the paths ultimately lead to the top.
That sounds like such a simple idea, doesn’t it? Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, all the world’s different belief systems and religions are just different paths – and every path leads to the top of the mountain. But hang on a moment. As a hobby, I’m a mountaineer. I climb mountains whenever I can. A few years ago, I even made it to Everest Base Camp. And the thing is, I can confidently tell you this: every path does not lead to the top of the mountain. Some paths lead around the bottom of the mountain. Some lead to sheer cliffs, because they were designed to get rock climbers to a great climb. Some lead in entirely different directions. Indeed, if the fog comes down in the mountains and you have no map and compass, following any path at random leads not to wisdom but probably to death. Furthermore, it also occurs to me that there’s only one place you could be to know that every path leads to the top of the mountain, and that’s suspended in the air a few hundred feet above it. In other words, my friend Jeff at the University of Toronto, without realizing it, was effectively claiming to be god himself.
The other problem with the all-paths-lead-to-the-top-of-the-mountain approach to religions is that it ignores the massive differences between the different religions of the world – and the claims of exclusivity built into each one. And claims of exclusivity – whether by Christians or Muslims or Buddhists or Hindus or atheists – shouldn’t make us nervous. It is the nature of truth to be exclusive: 2 + 2 = 4; it isn’t 7, 19, or 437.2, no matter what some economists may try to make you believe.
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