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Why Is Christianity So “Exclusive”?

Why Is Christianity So Exclusive
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Easily the most well-known Bible verse in America today is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” Placed on bumper stickers and seen on signs in football field end zones, it is likely that most people, skeptic and Christian alike, have heard of this verse or some variation of its content. However, hidden in this verse about God’s love is a controversial suggestion: that those that do not believe in Jesus Christ will not “have eternal life.” While this verse offers hope and comfort to the Christian faithful, for non-believers it can be one more example of the judgmental nature of Christianity.

Huffington Post contributor Terrance Thomas succinctly summarized this view, writing, “To suggest that 1 out of 4200 religions holds all of the truth and the key to salvation is not only arrogant, it is spiritually narcissistic.”[1] Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also spoke to the exclusive, potentially judgmental nature of Christianity when she noted in a 2020 interview, “A lot of young people are leaving the Church, in part because the way they understand what Christianity has become … so judgmental, so alienating that they think to themselves, ‘well, I don’t need that.’”[2]

Clinton is correct in her analysis: many young Christians are leaving the church and a significant portion cite the judgmental nature of the faith and its assertion that it holds exclusive truth as leading reasons for their departure.[3]

There is simply no getting around the idea that Christianity teaches it holds exclusive truth that requires the rejection of other beliefs. Luke quotes the Apostle Peter, one of Jesus’ closest followers, as proclaiming, “There is salvation in no one else [apart from Jesus]; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). Jesus said much the same concerning himself and his teachings, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). The Apostle Paul was adamant that Christianity was not only true, but also the one true way to God.

When Christians in Galatia began believing in a modified version of Christianity, Paul wrote them a letter reading:

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel… even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:6-8)

In light of these New Testament verses and others (including numerous similar verses in the Old Testament) it is difficult to call oneself a Christian without accepting the exclusive nature of its truth claims. Anyone calling themself a Christian – while simultaneously denying its objective truth claims – would have to reject much, if not all, of Christian scripture, rendering their version of “Christianity” meaningless. Christian scripture clearly teaches what it believes to be objective, exclusive truth claims which have real-world consequences.

It is important to understand what is meant by the claim that “Christianity is true.” Many truth claims may be considered personal or subjective. Many aesthetic judgements (such as one’s personal view of the best movie) lie well within the realm of “subjective truth.” The claim that a certain movie is “best” is clearly a statement meant to imply the personal preference of the speaker and does not require the acceptance or rejection of those around them. As a result, such claims can be easily accepted or ignored as they bear no real, transcendent, obligatory weight.

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The claims related to Christianity, however, are not subjective. The claims of the New Testament – in particular the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – are made as objective claims (claims that are true for all people regardless of personal opinions) with real consequences for everyone. The Apostle Paul makes this point clear in 1 Corinthians, writing, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless.” (1 Corinthians 15:17) Such objective truth claims have a bearing on reality and call for a response (even if it is to ultimately reject the claims).

Objective truth claims are – by their very nature – exclusive. To state one claim is true is to imply that any competing claim is false. Further, truth is inherently important and meaningful and cannot be escaped; to argue that truth does not matter is a non-sequitur (as one would essentially be arguing that it is true that truth does not matter, and that this truth is so meaningful that one should accept the proposition that truth is not meaningful). All belief systems (whether they identify as “religious” or not) must agree on this point.

All the world’s major religions (be it Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, etc) make objective claims about reality, and these objective claims contradict one another. As a result, these religions may all be objectively false, but they cannot all be objectively true.

Baha’u’llah , founder of the Baha’i Faith, recognized the exclusive nature of religious claims and, in an effort to bring unity, argued that the numerous religions were all equally meaningful expressions of the same divine reality. Phillip Smith, writing in Baha’i Studies Review, put it like this:

“In the Baha’i teachings all religions are seen as God-centred and the founders of all of them as being equal Manifestations of God… Indeed, it could be argued that this is the fundamental insight that Baha’u’llah brought to mankind in order to unite the religions.”[4]

However, in pursuing this goal, Baha’u’llah ultimately created a new religion, a new worldview which stood in contradiction to the other world religions and claimed to be the ultimate truth about God and His “manifestations.”[5] In attempting to reach unity and remove the exclusive, “judgmental” aspects of religion, Baha’u’llah simply added one more exclusive, “judgmental’ religion to the mix.

The exclusivity and judgement of truth cannot be escaped.

Those attempting to escape religion altogether make much the same mistake; the atheist believes their religious views (that there is no god) are objectively true and anyone who believes in God is objectively wrong. Ultimately, all worldviews, whether religious or otherwise, make objective truth claims which would have real-world consequences if true. Christianity is no more or less judgmental than any other worldview. It simply makes different truth claims. Ultimately, all worldviews, whether religious or otherwise, make objective truth claims which would have real-world consequences if true. Click To Tweet

The most central belief in Christianity is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, who Christians believe to be God incarnate. This is important not only as a point of theology, but as a testable claim for which there is significant relevant historical evidence.[6] [7] The historical evidence is compelling: Jesus lived, was crucified, resurrected and observed to be alive. His followers were willing to endure persecution, even to death, in support of their claims about Jesus.[8] Christianity makes reliable, testable claims, earning it the right to assert that its religious claims are objectively true in opposition to competing claims. As Paul notes in 1 Corinthians 15 (quoted above), if these historical claims are not true, then the faith is meaningless and should be abandoned. However, if the claims are true, then they must be accepted. The overwhelming evidence for the truth of Christianity more than justifies its right to claim it holds the truth.

Jesus’ exclusive, “judgmental” claim to be the only path to God (John 14:6, quoted above) should be viewed in the above context. All truth claims by their nature pass judgement on contradicting claims and exclude opposing beliefs. Christianity is not simply a collection of pleasant sayings which provide subjective comfort to those who enjoy them; Christianity makes objective truth claims about the nature of reality and about events that occurred in history.

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To accept Christianity, then, is to accept objective truth claims that carry the weight of other objective claims about reality. And, as with other objective claims about reality, there is a consequence for rejecting truth. There is a consequence for rejecting reality. Paul’s assertion that there is only one gospel was well warranted. It is the only Gospel that leads to eternal life, regardless of personal opinions to the contrary. Any rejection of this claim will, unsurprisingly, have eternal consequences.

For more information about the reliability of the New Testament gospels and the case for Christianity, please read Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels. This book teaches readers ten principles of cold-case investigations and applies these strategies to investigate the claims of the gospel authors. The book is accompanied by an eight-session Cold-Case Christianity DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.

[1] Thomas, Terrance. “Why I Find Arrogance In Chrisitanity.” HuffPost, last modified January 12, 2017. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-arrogance-of-christianity_b_5876c5fbe4b086a337b6f62a

[2] Clinton, Hillary quoted in an article by Maule, Will. “Hillary Clinton says young people reject Christianity because it’s ‘judgemental’ and ‘alienating’” Premier Christian, last modified October 8, 2020. https://premierchristian.news/en/news/article/hillary-clinton-young-people-reject-christianity-because-it-s-judgemental-and-alienating. The original quote appeared on a 2020 episode of Clinton’s podcast, “You and Me Both with Hillary Clinton.”

[3] Earls, Aaron. “Most Teenagers Drop Out of Church When They Become Young Adults.” Lifeway Research, last modified January 15, 2019. https://lifewayresearch.com/2019/01/15/most-teenagers-drop-out-of-church-as-young-adults/

[4] Smith, Phillip. “Baha’i Faith and Religious Diversity.” Baha’i Library Online, accessed May 5, 2021. https://bahai-library.com/smith_religious_diversity

[5] Phillip Smith, “Baha’i Faith and Religious Diversity.”

[6] Habermas, Gary. The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ. Joplin: College Press Publishing Co, 1996.

[7] Ehrman, Bart D. Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2012.

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[8] McDowell, Sean. The Fate of the Apostles: Examining the Martyrdom Accounts of the Closest Followers of Jesus. London and New York: Routledge, 2015.

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Written By

Jimmy Wallace (J. Warner's son) holds a BA in Psychology (from UCLA) and is currently completing his MA in Theology - Applied Apologetics (from Colorado Christian University).

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. John William

    July 10, 2021 at 11:18 am

    Christianity is “exclusive” because it is a man-made complicated religion that has non-Biblical “Faith” requirements. It uses as its foundation the writings found in the Greek NT but has all but eliminated the sayings of the Prophet Yahshua found in the Synoptic Gospels, replacing them instead with opinions of the Unknown writer of the Gospel called John and the opinions of Paul/Saul, a Pharisee want-to-be Apostle, a member of a sect that Yahshua disliked (I say it in a gentile manner). The Bible is very simple – Micah 6: 6-8. Also Read Matt. 19: 16-19.

    • Patricia

      August 2, 2021 at 3:40 am

      The point of the article is that all world views and religions claim to be exclusive: they do not differ in this respect from Christianity.
      I believe you are missing the entire point of the article in listing these points.
      Whatever religion you subscribe to is exclusive as well, if it claims to be the truth that must be accepted.

  2. Jerin Koshy

    August 29, 2021 at 6:22 am

    All major religions have actually referenced Jesus. If he didn’t exist, there wouldn’t have been many arguments about his teachings and more importantly his existence. Even the Pharisees and Sadducees questioned him. Common sense these days are less common. So let’s not worry about the naysayers.

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