Oct 21, 2013 | Wes Hynd
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by too many choices?
I recently wrote a multiple choice exam which offered some confusing questions. Three possible answers would be given, followed by “a and b” and “b and c,” or the infamous “All of the above.” The questions were made much more difficult by the number of possible answers. However, there was still a correct answer. The answer key for the exam did in fact have one of those answers on it. The multiplicity of possible answers did not mean there was not one correct one.
Previously, we looked at why universalism does not work, and why not all paths can lead to God. But this of course does not actually solve the problem for us. There are still a significant number of philosophies of life and religious worldviews out there to choose from, and an enormous range of differences between them. It seems impossible to know which one (if any of them) is true with so many options. And yet, we can be confident that something is in fact true. The multiplicity of possible answers does not mean that there is not one correct one.
Though all religions cannot be true, we can learn something from the commonalities between them. Each of them shows us that we have an innate sense of God’s existence. Why else would so many different cultures throughout time develop religions? (You may argue that this sense is lying to us, but it is nevertheless there). They also show us that we are aware of a problem between us and God which needs to be solved somehow. Nearly all religions teach that in order to attain “salvation” or “enlightenment” or fill in the blank, we must do certain things. We must obey God’s moral commands in order to be sufficiently good people, and to make up for the evil things we have done. Yet, this very sense of falling short and needing to make up for our failures shows us that we are far from capable of meeting God’s standards. If God himself is the answer key, then none of our good deeds are capable of saving us. If they could, then this would make God unjust. He must punish evil or else he is a God who allows evil to prevail and therefore is not perfectly good. In this case, he would not be worthy of the title God.
These realizations actually do us a world of good. They point to the existence of God, and the existence of a problem between us and God because of our failure to live up to his standards. This failure has manifested itself in a variety of attempts to fix the problem through our own efforts, but such attempts cannot logically do so. This effectively rules out almost every possible answer we see around us (and simultaneously explains why so many different religions exist!). In fact, as much as we would not want to believe it, a more logical solution than religion would be simply to acknowledge that there isn’t one. If there is a God and we know we fall short, there is nothing we can do. What religion tells us is that we have already missed the mark. There is only one defector from this pattern of trying to solve the unsolvable problem. His name is Jesus.
According to Christianity, God gave us his laws (and our consciences) to show us that we are in need of something other than ourselves to save us. He himself provided the payment for our disobedience by sending Jesus Christ to perfectly obey all of his laws on our behalf and to suffer all of God’s wrath which we deserve upon himself as he died on the cross. Because Jesus was both God and human, his life and death were able to perfectly satisfy God’s justice (in our evil being punished) and his love (in offering us forgiveness and a way out). Then he resurrected from the dead, showing that he had completely satisfied God’s justice. In this way, Jesus is God’s only provision for us because his life, death and resurrection are the only means by which we could possibly be saved.
It is true that there are a great number and variety of philosophies of life and religious explanations to choose from in the world today. However, as we have seen, a great number of possibilities does not mean that there isn’t one correct one. Nearly all religions attempt to solve the human problem in precisely the same way: by doing good deeds. Since this method logically fails, none of these options can be the correct one. This leaves only two options: Atheism, which does not easily account for our innate sense of God’s existence or the human problem, and Christianity.
It is not a matter of one religion being better than another. All peoples in all places at all times are in need of God to save them. Could it be that this could only be accomplished through the sacrifice of Jesus?
What do you think?