6.1 I don’t need a religion.
• If religion were only good for teaching people to live good lives, then perhaps not everyone needs a religion. But what is a “good life”? More importantly, where is your life heading?
• Faith in God is more than what we do in our everyday life of work and play. It is also more than some vague idea of meaning or value. Faith in God is finding the answer to our “ultimate concern.” It is about where we came from, why we live, and where we will end up. Without God, we are trapped in evil, sin, suffering, and death. But, through Jesus Christ, we can be saved from our afflictions and receive eternal life. This means that we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
6.2 All religions are pretty much the same.
• You might say, “Different religions are simply different paths up the same mountain.” But what if one guide told you that the only way up the mountain was to crawl back downward, while another told you to jump off its side, while yet another told you to keep climbing up? They couldn’t all be right at the same time!
• Different religious traditions often offer completely opposite answers to our problems. For example, one religion teaches about a heavenly afterlife, while another denies that heaven exists at all. Which is right? Given that our entire existence is at stake, we have to find the answer—not just a plausible answer, but the right answer.
6.3 Your religious beliefs may be true for you but not for me. There is no absolute right or wrong when it comes to religion. Who is to say which religion is right? We should just respect each other’s beliefs.
• Is the belief that “there is no absolute right or wrong” absolute? If so, then it’s self-defeating because it claims to be absolutely right.
• Religious beliefs must be based on reality. Any belief that is not true to reality is false belief. Different people may choose to believe differently, but not all beliefs are based on the truth. You may choose to believe that there is no such thing as gravity, but would your belief be valid? If you then jumped off a cliff, would you not fall anymore? Like gravity, religion isn’t just a matter of personal taste, where your opinion is as good as the next person’s. Because our religious belief determines our destiny, it must be firmly rooted only in the absolute truth.
• God tells us, “Besides me there is no other God.” Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already.” Either this is true or this is a lie. We must find out which, because the future of our very existence is at stake.
6.4 If Christians cannot even agree among themselves, how can you claim that there is absolute truth? Even if I want to know the absolute truth, I am getting different answers from different Christians.
• Just as the diversity of beliefs among world religions does not disprove the existence of absolute truth, the differences in beliefs among Christians do not disprove absolute truth. Although there are many Christian denominations that disagree in their basic doctrines, the Bible tells us that there is only one true gospel (Gal 6-12).
• Despite the various views on salvation, it is not impossible to find the true gospel. Instead of only looking to men for answers, we must turn to God’s word and Spirit for guidance (Gal 1:11-12). We need to humbly and diligently examine the message we hear against the Scriptures to see if it is true (like the Bereans in Acts 17:11-12). If a church preaches the true gospel, she would agree completely with the teachings of the apostles (Eph 2:19-20; 1Tim 3:15). The believers in this church would also receive the Holy Spirit as the apostles did (Acts 10:47; 11:15; cf. 2:2-4; 10:44-46; 19:1-7). If we seek the true gospel with sincere prayer for guidance, God promises us that we will find it (Jer 29:13; Mt 7:7-8).
6.5 Isn’t “trying to do the right thing” enough? God will accept me if I be a good and sincere person.
• Trying to be good is just not good enough. The Bible tells us that we all have sinned (Rom 3:23), and no sinner can save himself from sin no matter how much “good” he has done (Rom 3:20). Salvation is by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ because only Christ can deliver us from sin and judgment (Eph 2:8,9; Tit 3:5).
• In answering the claim that sincerity is good enough, Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli write, “No one accepts sincerity alone as sufficient in any other field than religion. Sincerity may be necessary but it is not sufficient. Is it sufficient that your surgeon, your accountant or your travel agent be sincere? Is sincerity alone enough to save you from cancer, bankruptcy, accident or death? It is not. Why then do you think it should be enough to save you from hell?”1
• Kreeft and Tacelli continue the above argument, “Your hand shakes; how can you be the surgeon on your own hand? You’ve fallen into quicksand and have no solid place to stand for leverage to get yourself out. You’ve sold yourself into slavery and you are no longer free or rich enough to buy your own freedom back. You need more than sincerity; you need a Savior. Sincerity is necessary for salvation—only those who sincerely seek, find—but it is not sufficient.”2
6.6 Why is God so narrow-minded that he only saves believers?
• Imagine a person drowning. Now if someone threw this person a lifesaver, the only logical response would be to reach out and grab it. Would he or she ask instead, “Why can’t I be saved by my own methods?” or say, “I don’t want to hold on to the lifesaver, but you should still save me”?
• Like the person drowning, we can’t save ourselves from the destiny of hell because we all have fallen away from God. But he has offered salvation to everyone without exception. He even came to this world and laid down his own life to save us. Far from being narrow-minded, God opens his arms to anyone who believes in him.
• God has shown us the solution to our problem. If we then still refuse to accept him or insist on other ways, we’re actually the ones who are narrow-minded.
6.7 What about those good pagans who have never heard of Christ? Can a person be saved through other means?
• Even those who have not heard of the gospel are without excuse “because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them” through his creation (Rom 1:18-23). Not only so, God’s law is written in their hearts, and God will judge the secrets of men on this basis (Rom 2:15,16).
• God rewards eternal life to those “who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality” (Rom 2:6-11). God is able to save the pagans who seek him just as he is able to save the believers in Old Testament times who never heard of Christ.
• The Bible clearly states that Christ is the only Savior: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12); “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn 14:6). Even if the pagans who seek God will be saved, they are saved not by their paganism, but by the atoning work of Christ, who brought God’s grace and reconciliation to the world.
• Although we do not know exactly how God will judge those who never heard of the gospel, we do know that God’s judgment is always just. He demands from everyone according to what they have been given (Lk 12:48).
• We do not need to know how God will judge the pagans. Each person will have to be accountable to God on an individual basis. Instead of speculating about the salvation of the pagans, we need to be sure that we respond to the gospel we have heard (Heb 2:1-4).
6.8 Christianity is a crutch for weak people. To cope with the problems of life, some people use alcohol, some drugs, others Christianity.
• If by “weak people” we mean sinners and by “crutch,” God’s grace, then everyone needs this “crutch.”
• The more important question is this: does this “crutch” work? While other “crutches” such as alcohol or drugs do not offer real solutions to our problems, the salvation of Jesus Christ is the ultimate answer to all of life’s problems.
• It is not right to reject the Christian faith based on the assumption that it was invented for some psychological need because we could also claim that atheism is a crutch for people who are afraid to acknowledge God. We should examine whether the Christian faith is true. If Jesus is indeed the Son of God, and if he is able to give us eternal life, then we must believe him and accept him as our Savior.
6.9 I believe in God, but I don’t believe in religion. Joining an organized religion involves too many restrictions and obligations.
• While the word “religion” may bring up negative connotations for many people, we need to first understand the meaning of religion. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines religion as follows:
“1. belief in and worship of God or gods. 2. a specific system of belief or worship, etc. built around God, a code of ethics, a philosophy of life, etc.”
According to the first definition, it is not possible to believe in God and not be part of a religion because the belief itself constitutes the religion.
The second definition involves a more formal expression of personal belief, including religious institutions or organizations. It is religion in this sense of the word that many want to avoid. They do not want to be part of an organization and follow its rules. More specifically, many want to be a believer of Christ without joining a church. But before we reject all types of institutions, we must ask, “are all institutions bad?”
• An institution is good if it’s a divine institution, such as marriage and family. In the context of organized religion, God instituted the church, which is a spiritual community of all believers. Joining a church is different from joining a club. Just as an infant naturally becomes a member of the family, a believer who accepts Christ naturally becomes a member of God’s house—the church (Gal 3:26-29; Eph 2:19-22). God grants us the privilege to be a member; we do not acquire it ourselves. By God’s will, believers unite in fellowship and build each other up in the faith (Mt 18:19-20; Eph 4:11-16; Heb 10:25; Acts 2:42-47). If we truly believe in God, we would actively take part in church.
• Unlike secular organizations, where people make up the rules, the church and her members abide by God’s word. The church must be built on God’s truth and it’s her responsibility to teach this truth to her members (1Tim 3:15; Mt 28:20). As long as the church does not impose human restrictions beyond what God’s word requires, we should gladly fulfill our God-given duties and functions as members in the body of believers.
6.10 I don’t want to become a Christian because there are too many hypocrites in the church.
• The fact that some professed Christians are hypocritical does not invalidate the Christian faith. We need to look at Jesus, the foundation of Christianity. If he is indeed God, as he claimed to be, if he led a perfect life, and if he had risen from the dead, then we ought to believe and accept him as our Savior regardless of whether his followers are truthful to his teachings.
• While there are hypocrites in the church, not all Christians are hypocrites. Many Christians are true followers of Christ who abide by his teachings. They may make mistakes, but they are not afraid to repent and change. There is a difference between hypocrites and sinners. By definition, a hypocrite is someone who pretends to be righteous in order to receive praise from others. Believers who sincerely and humbly repent of their sins are sinners saved by grace, but they are not hypocrites.
• Jesus himself condemned hypocrisy and warned his followers against hypocrisy. If you are a true believer who obey Christ’s teachings, you would not be a hypocrite. Becoming a Christian doesn’t make you a hypocrite. It is when you become a false Christian that you turn into a hypocrite.
- Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994) 323.
- Ibid., 324.