To accept Christianity, then, is to accept objective truth claims that carry the weight of other objective claims about reality. And, as with other objective claims about reality, there is a consequence for rejecting truth. There is a consequence for rejecting reality. Paul’s assertion that there is only one gospel was well warranted. It is the only Gospel that leads to eternal life, regardless of personal opinions to the contrary. Any rejection of this claim will, unsurprisingly, have eternal consequences.
Easily the most well-known Bible verse in America today is John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.” Placed on bumper stickers and seen on signs in football field end zones, it is likely that most people, skeptic and Christian alike, have heard of this verse or some variation of its content. However, hidden in this verse about God’s love is a controversial suggestion: that those that do not believe in Jesus Christ will not “have eternal life.” While this verse offers hope and comfort to the Christian faithful, for non-believers it can be one more example of the judgmental nature of Christianity.
Huffington Post contributor Terrance Thomas succinctly summarized this view, writing, “To suggest that 1 out of 4200 religions holds all of the truth and the key to salvation is not only arrogant, it is spiritually narcissistic.” Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also spoke to the exclusive, potentially judgmental nature of Christianity when she noted in a 2020 interview, “A lot of young people are leaving the Church, in part because the way they understand what Christianity has become … so judgmental, so alienating that they think to themselves, ‘well, I don’t need that.’”
Clinton is correct in her analysis: many young Christians are leaving the church and a significant portion cite the judgmental nature of the faith and its assertion that it holds exclusive truth as leading reasons for their departure.
There is simply no getting around the idea that Christianity teaches it holds exclusive truth that requires the rejection of other beliefs. Luke quotes the Apostle Peter, one of Jesus’ closest followers, as proclaiming, “There is salvation in no one else [apart from Jesus]; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12). Jesus said much the same concerning himself and his teachings, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6). The Apostle Paul was adamant that Christianity was not only true, but also the one true way to God.
When Christians in Galatia began believing in a modified version of Christianity, Paul wrote them a letter reading:
“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel… even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:6-8)
In light of these New Testament verses and others (including numerous similar verses in the Old Testament) it is difficult to call oneself a Christian without accepting the exclusive nature of its truth claims. Anyone calling themself a Christian – while simultaneously denying its objective truth claims – would have to reject much, if not all, of Christian scripture, rendering their version of “Christianity” meaningless. Christian scripture clearly teaches what it believes to be objective, exclusive truth claims which have real-world consequences.
It is important to understand what is meant by the claim that “Christianity is true.” Many truth claims may be considered personal or subjective. Many aesthetic judgements (such as one’s personal view of the best movie) lie well within the realm of “subjective truth.” The claim that a certain movie is “best” is clearly a statement meant to imply the personal preference of the speaker and does not require the acceptance or rejection of those around them. As a result, such claims can be easily accepted or ignored as they bear no real, transcendent, obligatory weight.
Objective truth claims are – by their very nature – exclusive. To state one claim is true is to imply that any competing claim is false. Further, truth is inherently important and meaningful and cannot be escaped; to argue that truth does not matter is a non-sequitur (as one would essentially be arguing that it is true that truth does not matter, and that this truth is so meaningful that one should accept the proposition that truth is not meaningful). All belief systems (whether they identify as “religious” or not) must agree on this point.
All the world’s major religions (be it Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, etc) make objective claims about reality, and these objective claims contradict one another. As a result, these religions may all be objectively false, but they cannot all be objectively true.