In chapter one, “There Can’t Be Just One True Religion,” Keller begins by noting that the claim of exclusivity (that there is only one way to God) is one of the most troubling aspects of Christianity for people to swallow. It’s believed by many that religion represents a significant barrier to world peace, particularly because of exclusive claims to superiority. Keller actually agrees. He says that religion can easily cause people to look down on others who hold contrary beliefs. This can turn into hatred, oppression, or even violence towards others. He asks, “what can we do about it?” He suggests that there are three primary approaches that civic and cultural leaders take to address this issue. They are calls to outlaw religion, condemn religion, or to radically privatize it.

Keller argues that calls to outlaw religion don’t work. These efforts serve to intensify religious belief, rather than eradicate it. History also shows that what replaces religion is usually even more dangerous. Secondly, calls to condemn religion aren’t effective either. This is done as many in a society attempt to stimatize religious belief. They strive to create an environment in which it is considered outlandish to make exclusive claims by insisting on certain beliefs that are assumed to be true. However, these beliefs are inconsistent. Here are a few Keller deals with:

1. “All religions are equally valid and basically teach the same thing.”

Response: This belief insists that doctrine is unimportant, yet at the same time assumes doctrinal beliefs about the nature of God that are at odds with those of all the major faiths.

2. “Each religion sees part of spiritual truth, but none can see the whole truth.”

Response: How could you know that no religion can see the whole truth unless you yourself are claiming to have comprehensive knowledge which none of the religions can supposedly have?

3. “Religious belief is too culturally and historically conditioned to be ‘truth.'”

Response: This very statement is a product of social conditions, and therefore cannot be true on its own terms. You can’t say “All claims about religions are historically conditioned except the one I am making right now.”

4. “It is arrogant to insist your religion is right and to convert others to it.”

Response: We are all exclusive in our beliefs about religion. The view above is exclusive in that it implies that those who don’t agree are wrong.

Finally, calls to radically privatize religion (you may privately believe your faith as long as you don’t bring it into the public sphere) fail to recognize that it’s impossible to check your convictions at the door. This is true for secularists as much as it is for religious people. We all live by some master narrative or worldview that informs our understanding of life, who we are, and what we are supposed to do. We all come to the table with these deep commitments that are really built upon faith assumptions that cannot be proven.

Keller concludes the chapter by suggesting that Christianity has the resources for uniquely dealing with the divisive tendencies within the human heart. Christianity teaches that God’s grace does not come to people who morally outperform others, but to those who admit their failure to perform and who acknowledge their need for a Savior. Christian faith should therefore produce humility as its adherents recognize that they aren’t morally superior to anyone. In addition, Christians should be generous and gracious towards those who hold different views then themselves, since at the heart of Christianity is the One who died for his enemies.

The conversation continues…

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