Aren’t All Religions the Same?

Some folks object to Christianity on the grounds that all religions are basically the same. Why should we think Christianity is the only right way when all religions offer the same moral message about loving others and being a good person? Sure, there are minor theological variations, but aren’t all religions working toward the same goal, namely, to make the world a better place?

At first glance, such reasoning sounds quite plausible. Indeed, it makes Christians seem like quarrelsome folks who are needlessly picking a fight with all other religions. But a closer look reveals that this is not the case at all. First, all religions are decidedly not the same. They have major and irreconcilable differences. Some religions believe in only one God, others in multiple gods. Both can’t be true. Some religions believe that the Qur’an is the word of God; others think it is not. Both can’t be true. Some religions say hell exists; some say it doesn’t. Both can’t be true. Some say Jesus rose from the dead; others say he is still in the grave. Both can’t be true.

The inescapable fact is that not all these religions can be right. Some of them have to be wrong.

I think most people at UNC, when pressed, would even admit this. Rhetorically, they push for the “all religions are the same” approach, but when faced with the harsh realities of some religions, they quickly change their tune. We know, for example, that many ancient religions practiced child sacrifice—from the worshipers of the Canaanite god Molech all the way to the religion of the Incas. Are we obligated to accept all these religions as equally valid as all others? Surely not. And I doubt many of your UNC friends are ready to affirm the truth of the various alien-inspired religions out there, such as Brazil’s Sunrise Valley religion with its eight hundred thousand followers who believe they are aliens in human form! Thus, even postmodern folks eventually must admit that not every religious system can be correct.

Second, there are features about Christianity that make it genuinely distinct from the rest of the world’s religions. And the fundamental difference is this: Christianity is not just another religion about being a good person. Needless to say, this flies in the face of what most people think about religion. Just consider the very popular television show The Good Place, starring Kristen Bell. As strange as it sounds, the show is a comedy about heaven (the good place) and hell (the bad place). On the show, the good place is where good people go, regardless of their religious beliefs. Whether you’re Hindu, Buddhist, or Muslim, you go to the good place as long as your good deeds outweigh your bad.

In contrast, Christianity says something stunning. Something counterintuitive. Something unique. It says that bad people go to the good place. Just let that sink in for a moment. Heaven is not for good people but for sinful people forgiven by grace. Now, to be clear, God does care about how we live. In a sense, we could say that Christians are called to be “good people” by the help of the Spirit. But God’s commandments are to be kept not as a mechanism of salvation (like so many other religions) but as an act of thanksgiving for the grace and mercy shown to us. We are not saved by obedience. We are saved for obedience.

The bottom line is this: we cannot be good enough to repair our broken relationship with God. Moralism is not the solution. It’s the problem.

It is here that Christianity is genuinely different. The problem of our sin is solved not by us trying harder or becoming better but by God himself coming to earth in the flesh to live a righteous life and to die for the sins of his people. In other words, the solution is something that no other religion has (or could have): the person of Jesus Christ.

This reality highlights why Christianity is exclusive. Christianity does not claim to be the only way merely because we Christians are proud of ourselves or because we are looking for a way to promote our religion over all the others. No, Christianity claims to be the only way because it is the only religion that offers a real solution to the problem of sin. It is the only religion that offers an atoning sacrifice that pays the debt we owe.

Thus, there is an internal logic to why Christianity is exclusive. Think about it for a moment. If there were another way to heaven, then why did Jesus have to die? Why would he go through such a horrific death if heaven could be attained simply by following, say, the Eightfold Path of Buddhism? This is why Peter could confidently declare in Acts, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (4:12).


Content taken from Surviving Religion 101 by Michael J. Kruger, ©2021. Used by permission of Crossway.

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Michael J. Kruger

Michael J. Kruger is President and Samuel C. Patterson Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC. You can find out more about him at michaeljkruger.com.

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