Are All Religions Equal?

Chapter from my video series “From Below to Above”

God: Allah, Yahweh, Krishna, Jesus, Vishnu… What or who is it going to be? Who is God? Will the real God please stand up! One of the problems with the Christians story about God, the story from above, is that there are so many stories.

I may tell that there is but one God and that this God has met us in Jesus of Nazareth, but Muslims will flatly deny this. They will point to their prophet Mohammed who taught that there is but one God and that this God doesn’t have a son. Hindus in return find this idea of one God absurd. For them there are at least 33 million gods while the Buddhists don’t even talk about the existence of a god. In short: there are as many gods as there are human beings.

Just as speaking of absolute truth is problematic today, so speaking about God is problematic. We have already seen that we neither have an infallible perspective on what is above nor do we have access to what is above. Christians are no different than adherents of other religions. Of course Christians can say that they know God, but don’t Muslims assert the same thing? Providing “proof” of your God-story, your “version” of revelation is not so easy. In this sense the statement: “The LORD God says in his Word….” is diametrically opposed to “And Allah spoke to Mohammed…” This is a reality we have to accept. If we Christians want to engage non-Christians in dialogue this fact needs to be taken into account. People here below hold radically different views of what is above.

But this does not mean that we are mute; that the multiplicity of gods prevents us from speaking. We can easily state that all these gods cannot exist peacfully next to each other. The truth claims of these religions cancel each other out since these claims contradict each other. God cannot be both the Father of Jesus Christ (Christianity) and not have a son (Islam). Krishna and Christ cannot be both be Lord. There cannot be both one god and many gods at the same time. There are only two possibilities, really. Either one religion is right or none of the religions are right.

But there is more to say. Our thinking about religions is not just a game we play. The story about Jesus is not an option or a hobby. Regardless of the claims of other religions, Christians know that through the Spirit of God they have encountered Christ and through him have been reconciled with God the Father. Our talk about Jesus is not optional but a commission.

We may think and argue in this manner, because not all conceptions of God are viable. Not every story about above fits with what we already know here below. One important way to determine which story is the right one, is by examining which story most fits the world we live in and already know; by finding out which story provides the most realistic answers to what we encounter in our daily lives. This is why I am a Christian.

Josh de Keijzer, Ph.D. Systematic Theology, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, MN, USA. Bonhoeffer scholar. Currently living in the Netherlands.

3 Responses

  1. Are you suggesting a rational viability exists within the Christian traditions conception of God? It seems that merely speaking of conceptions of God as if it were just a rational principle and its potential correspondence to the “real” even within a probability structure certainly seems reductionistic. Rather following in the line of a James KA Smith, the appeal of the religion must go beyond intellectual adherence to pre-cognitive functions, the gut or desires of the person. Christians don’t believe in the trinity because it is rational or has some correspondence to nature but because of an inbred heart connection and experience with each aspect of the Triune God. This appeal is primarily instinctive rather than conceptual.

    1. When comparing religions or religious worldviews one is simply compelled to talk about conceptions of God, because in these worldviews it is not one pre-cognitive notion that is compared to another, but articulated conceptions that are either more or less truthful in their articulation.

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