By Clete Hux
Why are there so many different religions? Actually, the answer can be quite simple: because
religions are different! Although there are similarities in many, the differences in religions often
are the reasons why people choose one religion over another.
We live in a day and age of many instead of one. This is what we call religious pluralism- a
concept that basically believes all people are children of God and all religious paths ultimately
lead to the same God no matter what religion it may be. No one way is better than the other,
which assumes that we can approach God in any way we want.
One is led to believe that religious pluralism is the theme of the National Geographic Channel
production, The Story of God with Morgan Freeman. Although the term is not used, it’s meaning
is certainly expressed in the introductory video clip titled Who God is in Different Cultures.
At the very beginning Freeman says, “Who God is almost universally the great unknown.” This
admittance of ignorance of God is emphasized, but apparently to Freeman it does not matter
because again, God can be defined and approached in any way. Click here for Freeman’s viewof God.
Freeman’s co-producers, James Younger and Lori McCreary, articulate the same pluralistic
message. Younger says, “There are so many different manifestations of God- different statues,
different sounds, smells, different looks of God across cultures. God has a smell to a Navajo.
God is a bright light to many people- Christianity here in the West- it could be any of those
senses. God can be what you don’t know- express what you don’t know.”(Again, there’s the
Younger goes on, “God can be a person. If you’re a Christian and in church,
Jesus is the Son of God – someone you can sit across the table with and have a cup of coffee.
If you’re Jewish or Muslim, you don’t imagine God as a person- you don’t think of a guy you’re
having a cup of coffee with.”
Lori McCreary closes, “And I think that what we found (in these different cultures), we often
express our relationship with God in similar ways through different religions, through different
people, and even through time, and that for me was the most enlightening.”
The assumption that God can be approached salvifically in a way that He has not prescribed is
not only an ignorant way, but can be an arrogant one as well. The Apostle Paul dealt with both
mindsets when he spoke to the Epicureans and Stoics at the Areopagus in Acts 17:22, 23: “Men
of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and
observed the objects of your worship, I found an altar with this inscription, ‘to the unknown god.’
What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.”
Paul goes on to reveal and explain to these philosophers that the God who created everything,
including them, has not left to anyone the privilege of telling Him (God) what He is like. For Paul
says, “Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver
or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. The times of ignorance God
overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day
on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this
he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”(Acts 17:29-31)
It is precisely because Jesus has been raised from the dead that we know everything he taught
was true. He taught that he himself was God. Indeed, every claim he made was prefaced with
the ego eimi, “I am”, which was equivalent to saying that he was Yahweh or Jehovah, the name
God told Moses to use to tell Pharaoh to release the Israelites from bondage.(Ex.3:14) This was
the only name and only way God was to be addressed. He was not to be addressed by any other
name or way.
He does not accommodate himself to any way a culture would like to define him. Again, it needs
to be said that just because different cultures define God differently does not mean that God
approves all ways to approach him. God ’causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust’, but that
is simply his common grace which is given to all through the general revelation of creation and
While it is beneficial to understand the differences in religions, it is more important to understand
that salvifically, He can only be approached through Christ. (John 14:6) This way is not a broad
one, but narrow, and few find it. Those that do, find it in the ‘Word that became flesh and dwelt
among us’. (John 1:14) It has been said that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. The
commonalities drawn by religious pluralism lack the specific knowledge that only Biblical
Christianity gives. This is a bad thing for religious pluralism, but it is a good thing when one
comes to understand that we must approach God the way he has instructed through His Son.