Tag Archives: Pluralism

In addition to being asked questions about evil and suffering, and questions about the accuracy of the Bible (see the past couple posts), future college students face the challenge of tackling pluralism. How can they tell others that they are correct and the other’s beliefs are wrong? In a postmodern society, this is quite problematic. Using the Bible study below, you can provide the information that they need to answer the questions they are going to face once they start attending college.

HS BS on Pluralism and Postmodernism

Problems with pluralism basically fall under “let’s all try to get along and not offend each other.” These are silly because they’re artificial and assume that rational people can’t find a way to co-exist even believing radically different things (granted there’s plenty of evidence for and against that). It also presupposes that you can get to know the true me without understanding the most fundamental, important part of me, my religious beliefs; the same goes for Muslims, Jews, etc.

Other problems with Postmodernism generally concern our inability to know or understand truth. This is due to cultural predispositions we can do nothing to filter out, and the intrinsic difficulty of the reliability of knowledge. These objections ultimately turn on themselves (for the most part), since some knowledge is needed to argue that there’s no knowledge, some truth to argue that there’s no truth, etc, and eventually any foundation will lead you back to God.

  1. Pluralism/Postmodernism: How can you possibly say that there’s only one religion? Isn’t that hopelessly close-minded and hurtful to other religions? Isn’t it arrogant, I mean, how would you really know?
    1. All religions are equally valid, or every road leads to God.
      1. How could you possibly know that unless you are God?
        1. Two parables are commonly offered in support of this; both of these require that the teller has true sight!
          1. The mountain: All religions are like people taking different paths to the top of a mountain. The paths are different, but the destination, God or the mountain top, is the same.
          2. The elephant: Different religions are like a group of blind men touching an elephant; one touches the trunk and says it’s a rope, one touches the leg and says it a tree, one touches the ear and says it’s a fan, but all just know a part of the elephant.
        2. These parables require that the teller is not blind, or is hovering above the mountain, so aren’t quite as humble as they seem. Why aren’t you (the teller) blind? Have you (the teller) alone ascended to the top of the mountain by every path?
      2. This view offends pretty much anyone with deeply held traditional religious convictions, from Muslims to Hindus, because it trivializes authentic differences in different religions. (although less so Hindus perhaps, and Jews have a similar parable)
    2. There is no one true religion
      1. Except the “one true religion” you’re pushing? You couldn’t know that, it’s a faith statement, and you’re proselytizing for your faith. In other words, you’re asking me to believe a faith statement, that there is no one true faith, as a “one true faith” that is above all others!
      2. Similarly, the statement that there is no absolute truth is self-defeating
        1. Example: There is no absolute truth (except what I just said).
    3. It’s arrogant for Christians to believe that they have the only way.
      1. Oh really? And it’s not arrogant to believe what you believe? Don’t you think that the only appropriate way to believe is that you don’t have the only way? In point of fact, what a Christian believes is humble. The Christian’s life would be infinitely easier to just believe what everyone else does. The reason we don’t is because it’s what the Bible says, and we’ve made a commitment to trust God and trust the Bible.
      2. All faiths at one point or another are exclusive in what they believe; that is, either they’re right and everyone else is wrong, or not. Islam is every bit as exclusive as Christianity, Judaism believes in one God alone, Hinduism holds firmly to the Vedic texts, and Buddhism holds that karma and reincarnation are the only possible explanations for suffering.
    4. Believing you have the “one true faith” is extremely dangerous; this is where war, terrorism and world strife (like the Israeli conflict) come from.
      1. Do you believe that the world would be a better place if everyone believed exactly what you believe? Are you moving towards that end with this conversation? Then how is this different than what you say Christians do?
      2. Everyone has certain fundamental faith assumptions, everyone. The question then becomes not, “Does fundamentalism cause violence?” but “Which fundamentals cause violence?” There’s a much larger case to be made for atheism causing violence from Evolution and from Marxism than could every be made for all the religions of the world put together.
        1. And what are the fundamentals of Christianity? Grace, peace, forgiveness, a God who died in order to make peace with the world and forgive us our sins. What would those fundamentals make you more like?
      3. You can’t know me as I really am without my faith, and knowing and understanding others is where real peace comes from.
    5. Religion should be kept outside of the public square, because it is divisive and secular values everyone can agree on.
      1. This statement itself is divisive and not something everyone can agree on. Secular values, again, are quite controversial and not something everyone can agree on (eg, abortion).
      2. Illustration of this in Reason for God, p. 16
    6. Cultural relativism: you believe what you believe because you were born where you were born. If you hadn’t been born into a Christian household, you wouldn’t be a believer.
      1. If you hadn’t been born into a liberal Western household, you wouldn’t be an atheist. Does this mean your atheism was the result of an unreliable set of cultural norms? This argument is self defeating. So what if I was born in a Christian household? Literally millions of people believe what I believe and were raised atheists in China, or spirit worshipers in Africa, etc etc.
    7. God is basically love” or “Isn’t love really what all religions have in common? Why shouldn’t we just love each other and call it a day?”
      1. This view is horribly insensitive to other religions and cultures, and is pretty much unique to the West. This is a Christian idea and to tell a Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist (some of which don’t even believe in God(s)) that “God is basically love” would flip them out.
    8. It’s well and fine to believe, but you must keep these beliefs to yourself. Don’t push your religion onto others!
      1. Isn’t that what you’re doing when you tell me not to talk about my faith? You have a certain view of God, and that motivates you to tell me to keep mine to myself. How is what you’re doing any different than what I’m doing?
      2. Also, you can’t possibly know me as I am without the most central part of me, my religious beliefs.
    9. It’s ok that people believed stuff like this back in the day, but by modern standards, we have so many different religions that this sort of claim is rude and it just won’t fly.
      1. It didn’t fly back in the day either. The Roman world was (if possible) even more pluralistic than our own, and yes, Christians made no friends by claiming exclusivity.

Bibliography:

Reason for God by Tim Keller

Case for Faith by Lee Strobel