QOTD (Question of the Day) Introduction: This blog series reviews questions asked to teenagers as part of the NSYR study as documented in Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers. These questions relate to “seeker attitudes” among American Teenagers. I am also using these discussion questions to engage the kids in our After School program at a deeper level.
Question: Is only one religion true?
“Fewer than one-third of teens (29 percent) report that they believe that only one religion is true. The majority of teens (60 percent) say they believe that many religions may be true. Only 9 percent say there is very little truth in any religion.”
My brief answer:
This question, like others on the list, is a little more ambiguous than it might originally seem so an easy yes/no doesn’t suffice. Instead, I might propose the following logical propositions:
1) There is one truth which is knowable.
2) Sometimes, different religions propose different and mutually exclusive visions of that truth. In these cases, one religion is necessarily right and the others necessarily wrong – or they could all be wrong.
3) Sometimes, different religions propose overlapping or complimentary visions of that truth. In these cases, multiple religions may be correct.
By this logic, then, we might say that the religion that comes closest to the approximation of truth is the “true religion” and that, because there are so many divergent and mutually exclusive claims made about truth, that “only one religion is true.” This is seen most obviously in claims about salvation. Christianity proposes that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. Other religions place an emphasis upon particular religious behavior or piety. In the case of salvation, Christianity is either true (as I would say) or false.
However, we can also say that many religions contain some correct vision of the truth. Several religions say there is only one God. In this case, they could all be true at the same time. Several promote charitable giving, honoring your parents, etc. Again, in all these cases, proponents of one religion can, and should observe the overlap of beliefs.
Many have observed the overlap of ethical agreement in the major religions (which is usually overestimated) and come to the conclusion that because of this overlap that all religions are essentially the same. This is a tragic error. Our relationship to God is not based on our own morality – if it was we would all be condemned – but on God’s mercy and forgiveness. That mercy is only in Jesus’ death and resurrection. It is only Christianity that bears witness to this essential truth. It is to Christ we must turn.