When I became a Christian, I was instantly interested in preaching the gospel to people, which in Vegas, led me to be instantly interested in studying other religions and worldviews, because I wanted to know how to dialogue with each individual. My library, at that time, was largely made up of both primary and secondary sources for the study of all of the major world religions, cults and worldviews, and even a bunch of obscure ones. I listened to lectures and took courses at UNLV when they would offer interfaith classes. One of the classes I took there was taught by an interfaith advocate, who believed in inclusivism. Inclusivism is the idea that one does not need to hear the gospel and follow Christ through what Christ has spoken about His work of salvation and the Scripture God has laid down for us, but instead that a follower of his own religion, as long as that religion had a "Christlikeness" about it, was actually just following Christ through another way. Hence, in this view, even an atheist can be saved, as long as he lives a life that is consistent with what Christ taught, and the sacrifice of Christ would then cover his sins. This is a prevalent view in the liberal church, and it dominates our culture (see, for instance, the theology of Oprah Winfrey or the statements made by Aslan in the Narnia series--yes, Lewis (sadly) was, at the very least, a speculative inclusivist, along with John Stott and Billy Graham).
The inclusivist does believe that the only way one can be saved is through Christ, but he simply believes that general revelation, as it is displayed in other religions and worldviews, relates some of Christ to people, and if it garners a positive response from people, that faith saves the individual who has it.
Now, apart from a denial of Scripture that teaches that all of those who are saved are explicitly called by the preaching of the gospel, and that our response to general revelation is more damnation, not salvation, as our problem is not that we don't have revelation from God, it's our rebellious nature that does not desire to submit to God as Lord, all of which I've talked about before on this blog, a major problem with this view is the premise that all religions are the same, either in doctrine or in morality. In other words, if it is not true that these religions contain the image of Christ in their doctrines and practices, then it cannot be said that they are following Christ in any way, shape, or form.
So let's look at the doctrines of the major religions first and then we'll discuss their morality, which is usually (and deceptively) often reduced to "love your neighbor as yourself," as though that has any meaning apart from defining love with the rest of the teachings of Scripture (but we'll get back to that). Obviously, there is a lot more to these religions and worldviews, and what is said all needs to be nuanced, but for our purposes, they've been reduced to fundamental basics.
Let's start with the biggest religion outside of Christianity first: Islam. Islam believes that salvation is by works, and that a man can achieve such on his own because he has no sin nature, that Christ was just a human prophet, his death is worthless as far as its ability to atone for our sin, the Triune God is rejected, God arbitrarily forgives people, as justice is not something that needs to be satisfied (i.e., he is not such a righteous and just God that he needs to send the evildoer to hell and the doer of good to heaven--he can reverse that if he so chooses), etc. Hence, the teaching of Christ that He is God come in the flesh, that apart from believing that He is God, people will die in their sins, that His work on the cross is necessary in order for all to have life, that God is just and His wrath must be satisfied through Christ or by forever punishing the evildoer (God can't just ignore His own righteousness and the call for justice to be satisfied), etc. is all rejected.
Judaism: God is not a Trinity, Jesus was either a demonic deceiver or he was a human prophet whose words were distorted by his followers, His death means nothing except for maybe showing sacrificial love, it does not provide a propitiation, however, for our sins, faith in the Torah, not Christ, is what saves a man. Hence, salvation is by works, and a man can achieve such on his own, since he has no sin nature.
Hinduism: There are many gods that are all a part of the One Impersonal God/Universal (Non-)Mind. Our encasement in flesh is just a deception. There are not many, but only One. Our salvation from this deceptive prison of the physical world is in realizing that we do not really exist as individuals, and instead, must do good works to progress upward until we ascend to the oneness of non-individuality. The goal of the Hindu is to be absorbed back into God. Heaven and hell may be a part of this path, but the final goal is to no longer exist as an individual. Christ is just one of many gurus, he is not God in any Christian sense of the word, His death provides no atonement for our sin, as we must work our way through Karma to gain Oneness (sin and evil are an illusion, there is only that which fosters the physical and that which fosters a denial of the physical).
Buddhism: Any personal God is irrelevant. God is perceived much like that in Hinduism, with some variation, where all drops of water become one with the larger sea. A denial of the physical world is the quickest path to salvation, although there are slower paths for the non-monk, who must live in the daily world. Christ is not God, he is just a spirit guide toward the path of self denial (in Buddhist terms, not in Christ's terms). His death just shows that the physical is worthless and must be rejected, but does not atone for sin (sin and evil are an illusion).
Taoism: There is no Personal God. God is the Tao, made up of light and dark balancing themselves out (yin and yang). Salvation is in letting go and letting the two balance each other out. Detachment, then, is the path to salvation. Sin and evil do not exist. There is only the light and dark balancing themselves in order to reach harmony between the two. Hence, there is no need for a Savior from sin and evil.
Animism: Pagan/tribal religions largely adopt similar views of the universe and of God. They believe in lesser gods, like Hinduism does, but they are all a part of the One. Salvation (going to heaven or becoming one) is through works. The emphasis, however, of tribal religions is on this life more than the next. Sacrifices and prayers exist to make one's life better here, regardless of what may come (although there is usually a general idea that an afterlife exists for those who are loyal to the tribe and the gods).
But some will say, "OK, they differ on all of their theology to the point of being the exact opposite of what Christ taught about Himself, us, and the nature of salvation; but they agree on being good people by making some sort of commitment to spirituality, and that must be how we're saved anyway."
Now, we're going to turn to their "good works" in a moment, but I first want to note that this is already a rejection of Christ's teaching at the get go. The distinction of Christ and His work is theology, and that theology is not accepted by being rejected. Hence, to differ from Him, even rejecting His teaching on these major subjects altogether, is a rejection, not acceptance of Him. You cannot divorce Christ from what He revealed about Himself and His work in the world anymore than you can divorce Yahweh from His distinctions in the revelation of Himself from Baal. In reality, inclusivism should deny the entire Old Testament teaching against the Baals (and other foreign gods) simply because God can be worshiped/followed, in their ideology, through other religions. Why call foreign gods "demons," as the Old Testament does, then? The acceptance of inclusivism is the denial of the Bible and of Christianity just by denying its theological teachings.
But let's move on to morals in order to see how similar these religions are to Christianity in their moral practices.
Islam: The infidel must pay taxes higher than anyone else if he does not convert to Islam. He may even need to be killed in order to wipe him out from the earth. Christianity: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless and do not curse, do not seek vengeance.
Judaism: Christ was a demon possessed human who had a illegitimate birth (Talmud, venerated by Judaism). Christianity: "Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in this life or in the one to come. This He said because they were saying that He had a demon."
Hinduism: To help the poor is to interfere with their salvation, as their situation is brought about for the good of their becoming one. It is payment for a previous bad life. Christianity: Whoever gives to the least of these children even a cold cup of water to drink, he will in no way lose his reward. I was naked and you clothed me, hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me drink . . .
Buddhism: Salvation is through not being concerned with this world and the life therein. It is to deny the illusion of suffering by not acknowledging it and by disconnecting oneself. Hence, the poor man's poverty is an illusion. It is good that he is poor. This will help him deny himself as the Buddha denied himself by giving up his wealth. Nothing should then be done for the poor man, as this interferes with his salvation and acknowledges the reality of evil. Christianity: those who have should share with those who do not.
Toaism: To interfere by helping someone is to interfere with the universe balancing itself out. A rape occurs because there is an imbalance in the universe. To stop it is to let the imbalance persist. Inaction is necessary to let the universe balance itself. Hence, a person who has truly mastered inaction should let another die in a disaster, a woman be raped, the murder of his children to take place, etc. Christianity: Let us do good to (i.e., save/preserve human life for) all men.
Animism: do whatever you wish in accordance with the tribe's morals and what the gods permit for a good life. Sexual immorality, murder, cannibalism, rape, pillaging, etc. Whatever sacrifices, animal or human, are needed for a better life is sought. Curses placed upon people. Christianity: Pretty much the exact opposite of everything.
Atheism and Agnosticism: Same as in Animism, only the tribe is expanded to the state and the cultural values to which they adhere are usually Enlightenment ideals of civility.
Now, my point is not to say that all people of these religions do this. In fact, you will find many Jewish people not blaspheming Christ, Muslims not killing or oppressing non-Muslims; Hindus and Buddhists feeding the poor; Taoists stopping violence and saving human life; atheists and agnostics who, based on Enlightenment ideals that incorporate certain Christian principles, have some practices that parallel those found in Christianity. My point is simply that they must do this in rejection of their religions, not through their religions. To fully accept what is taught in their religions, one cannot do what is considered moral within Christ's teaching, and hence, cannot follow Christ through the morals of their religions.
This, then, leads us to the common citation of the love rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Most religions have this concept in them. The problem, as I've tried to outline above, is that love is defined by the religions so differently that it does not mean the same thing as it does in Christ's teaching, which again means that one is not following Christ through it. Love, to the Muslim, might mean killing you. Love, to the Hindu or Buddhist might mean letting you starve to death. Love, to the Taoist, is letting you be left for dead or raped. Love, to the animist might mean sacrificing you, as an honor, to the gods. Love, to the Jewish person, might mean drawing you away from Christ. In fact, love to all of these religions and worldviews means to draw you away from Christ and to replace the true Christ with a false one, so that salvation through Him is not possible. The goal of love in all of these religions will be to get you to be saved, and that means to teach you their teachings concerning salvation that are opposite of Christ and His teachings. Love, to them, takes you away, not toward, Christ, and that is why these religions fit well in the devil's world, as they lead away from Christ and the salvation of mankind.
Love cannot mean the same thing as what Christ means because love is defined by what one does to another in both word and deed (i.e., both the ideas with which he seeks to influence others and the deeds he does to those others). If one's theology and morals are contrary to Christ's, then one's love is contrary to Christ's. Yet, Christ tells us that this is the reason people are damned, and not saved (Matt 25). It does not matter that the statement, "Love your neighbor" appears in other religions if that statement is completely redefined by the teachings and practices of its adherents. It reminds me of Ravi Zacharias's comments concerning the debate between Frederick Copleston and Bertrand Russell, where Russell was arguing that we differentiate between good and evil by feeling. Zacharias imagines himself in the debate and asks a question of Russell: "Mr. Russell, in some cultures they love their neighbors, and in other cultures, they eat them, both on the basis of feeling. Which do you prefer?"
Love itself, however, must be defined not by feeling, but by what it teaches and does to another. If so, Christ cannot be followed through other religions. Faith in what is contrary to the love of Christ that would lead people to Him, His work of salvation, and His definitions of love in action is not saving faith. The faith therein is evil, and as such, it is rejected.
We are left with rejecting all religions and worldviews, except Christianity without actually following Christianity, and that of course is an impossible hypothetical. Hence, one cannot even reject his own religion and do good that is similar to Christ's commands in order to be saved, because His primary command is to believe on Him whom God has sent, to adhere to His words as His sheep, and to do be baptized in Him. One especially cannot love, as Christ commanded, because by teaching others in word and/or in deed that Christ is not necessary to be saved is the most evil act one can do to another who needs to be saved. Not even murder is a greater crime than this, since the murderer seeks to take away the possibility of life for the moment, but the one who preaches love apart from the doctrines and teachings of Christ, and therefore, leads one away from Him, kills eternally.
My point above is that there is really no doctrine or practice similar enough in any of the world's religions to Christianity that could possibly be considered "following Christ and His teachings through another way," or "knowing Christ through another form." These beliefs are completely the opposite of what Christ taught, and who He revealed Himself to be, so in what way exactly are these other religions expressing Him, and in what way exactly can one follow Him through another religion if He is not expressed? As I said in a previous post, the world belongs to the devil, and that means the religions of the world belong to the devil. This view simply tells us that one can follow Christ by following the devil, which is complete nonsense, but it makes us feel better as long as we don't think too hard about it and imagine that these religions and Christianity are much similar than they really are. It reminds me of Turner's Creed, where the beliefs and practices of human beings are irrelevant to his relationship with God, and that is exactly what inclusivism must imply. I, therefore, leave you with the absurdity brought out by Turner of any claim that would not submit itself to one way of salvation for all of humanity:
We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin
We believe everything is OK
as long as you don’t hurt anyone
to the best of your definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.
We believe in sex before, during, and
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy’s OK.
We believe that taboos are taboo.
We believe that everything’s getting better
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated
And you can prove anything with evidence.
We believe there’s something in horoscopes
UFO’s and bent spoons.
Jesus was a good man just like Buddha,
Mohammed, and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher though we think
His good morals were bad.
We believe that all religions are basically the same-
at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of creation,
sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.
We believe that after death comes the Nothing
Because when you ask the dead what happens
they say nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied, then its
compulsory heaven for all
Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Kahn
We believe in Masters and Johnson
What’s selected is average.
What’s average is normal.
What’s normal is good.
We believe in total disarmament.
We believe there are direct links between warfare and
Americans should beat their guns into tractors .
And the Russians would be sure to follow.
We believe that man is essentially good.
It’s only his behavior that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.
We believe that each man must find the truth that
is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust.
History will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth
excepting the truth
that there is no absolute truth.
We believe in the rejection of creeds,
And the flowering of individual thought.
If chance be
the Father of all flesh,
disaster is his rainbow in the sky
and when you hear
State of Emergency!
Sniper Kills Ten!
Troops on Rampage!
Whites go Looting!
Bomb Blasts School!
It is but the sound of man
worshipping his maker.
"And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12)