“And Samuel said unto the people, Fear not: ye have done all this wickedness: yet turn not aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart; And turn ye not aside: for then should ye go after vain things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain.”
(1 Samuel 12:20-21)
Samuel’s statement to erring Israel is more than an admonishment to repent and turn to the LORD. It is a clear and unmistakable claim that the pursuit of anything without reference to the God of the Bible is ultimately a complete waste of time. In fact, such things are actually worse than useless because they serve to distract people from matters of eternal significance. I recently had an encounter with a non-believer who asked me about these kinds of exclusivist claims in the Bible. For him, the thousands of competing religions with their billions of faithful devotees was reason enough to reject the claim that Christianity is the only true religion. Rather than soften Christianity’s claims, I reinforced them. “All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers,” said Jesus (John 10:8); “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Thinking logically, rationally, we understand that the fact that there are many competing religious systems in the world does not by itself bring down the conclusion that none of them can be true. In the area of mathematics, for instance, there are an infinite number of wrong answers to the question of what two plus two equals. That fact alone obviously does nothing to exclude four from being the only true answer. The fact is, any truth claim we wish to make will be, in the very nature of the case, exclusivistic; if we say things are one way, we necessarily exclude the contrary from also being true. Any proper and principled rejection of Christianity therefore must rest upon something other than its claims to be the one true religion in the world. Some have tried to invalidate Christianity by finding internal inconsistency in its core doctrines. This project fails miserably, however, because our religion flows from the declarations and commands of a holy God Who cannot lie or contradict Himself (Numbers 23:19; 1 Samuel 15:29; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18). This is not so with our religious and philosophical competitors; every instantiation of the non-Christian worldview suffers from irresolvable, systemic contradiction. It is not at all unloving to point this out to people. In fact, steering people away from serious spiritual and religious error is one of the most loving things we can do. The same apostle who instructed us to do all things in love (1 Corinthians 16:14) also instructed us to “preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2). May we faithfully and courageously discharge this sacred duty, even as Samuel did, for God’s glory and for the good of others.
God bless you,