Is There One True Religion?
Some people find that question offensive. Given the sheer multitude of religious beliefs worldwide, they reason that anyone who claims to have a monopoly on truth must be narrow-minded, even arrogant. Surely, it would seem, some good is to be found in all religions or at least most of them. Is that how you feel?
THERE are, of course, situations in which it is prudent to allow for a variety of opinions. For example, a person might believe that a certain diet will make him healthier. But should he impose that diet on everyone else, as if it were the only way to healthy living? Certainly, it would be wise and modest on his part to allow for the possibility that someone else’s choice of food might be as good or even better, at least for that other person.
Is it the same with religion? Are there a variety of acceptable alternatives from which to choose, depending on one’s upbringing and way of perceiving things? Or is there one body of religious truth that applies to all mankind? Let us see what the Bible has to say. First, we will consider whether truth is even attainable. After all, if it is not, then there is little point in searching for one true religion.
Is Religious Truth Attainable?
Shortly before he was killed, Jesus Christ told his interrogator, Roman Governor Pontius Pilate: “Everyone that is on the side of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate may well have been responding cynically when he said: “What is truth?” (John 18:37, 38) Jesus, on the other hand, spoke unashamedly of truth. He did not doubt its existence. Consider, for example, the following four statements that Jesus made to various people.
“For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.”—John 18:37.
“I am the way and the truth and the life.”—John 14:6.
“God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.”—John 4:23, 24.
“If you remain in my word, you are really my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”—John 8:31, 32.
Since Jesus spoke so confidently of truth and of coming to know it, shouldn’t we at least examine the possibility that religious truth exists and that it can be found?
Does Absolute Truth Really Exist?
No doubt you will agree that there are some things of which you can be absolutely certain. You are sure of your own existence and that the objects that surround you are real. The trees, the mountains, the clouds, the sun, and the moon—the material world—are not figments of your imagination. Of course, there may be a few people who argue in a philosophical way that even those things are questionable. But it is unlikely that you agree with such an extreme notion.
Then there are natural laws. Of these too, you can be absolutely certain. For example, if you jump off a cliff, you will fall; if you refuse to eat, you will feel hungry; and if you go without food for a long time, you will die. You do not wonder if such natural laws hold true for some but not for others. They apply to all mankind and are therefore said to be universal.
The Bible alludes to one such universal law when it asks: “Can a man rake together fire into his bosom and yet his very garments not be burned?” Indeed, when that was written, it was universally true that clothing would burn if brought into contact with fire. However, in stating this fact, the above Bible proverb is really making a bigger point, namely, that “anyone having [sexual] relations with the wife of his fellowman” will suffer adverse consequences.—Proverbs 6:27, 29.
Is that statement an absolute truth of which we can be certain? Some would say no. They claim that morals are personal, that they depend on one’s upbringing, beliefs, and circumstances. But consider a few of God’s moral laws as found in the Bible. Are these not universal truths?
The Bible condemns adultery. (1 Corinthians 6:9, 10) Some people do not accept this Bible precept as truth, and they practice adultery. Still, even they generally reap bitter consequences, which often include a troubled conscience, divorce, and deep emotional scars for all concerned.
Drunkenness is also condemned by God. (Proverbs 23:20; Ephesians 5:18) What happens when people practice it? In many cases they lose their job, their health, and their family, who also suffer emotionally. (Proverbs 23:29-35) Such consequences come even to those who do not believe that drunkenness is wrong. Does the truthfulness of these moral laws appear to be relative to the beliefs or perceptions of each individual?
Then there are the Bible’s positive moral commands—such as the commands to love one’s wife, to respect one’s husband, and to do good to others. (Matthew 7:12; Ephesians 5:33) Observing these commands brings beneficial results. Would you argue that such moral counsel is good for some but not for others?
Whether the moral laws of the Bible are followed or not brings consequences to people. This fact argues that such laws are not just alternative points of view. Rather, they are truths. Evidence reveals that good consequences are realized when the Bible’s moral laws are followed, but bad ones when they are not.
So think: If the Bible’s moral laws hold true for all mankind, what about the standards in God’s Word regarding worship? What about its comments on what happens when we die and the hope we have for an everlasting future? It logically follows that these Bible teachings are also truths, provided for all mankind. Their benefits and consequences are not limited to only the people who believe them.
Truth can be found. Jesus said that God’s Word, the Bible, is truth. (John 17:17) Yet, truth may still seem unattainable. Why? Because so many different religions claim to teach what the Bible says. Which religion is teaching the truth from God’s Word? Must we limit the answer to just one religion? Could not the truth, or at least parts of it, be found in a number of religions?
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How is the consequence of embracing fire related to disobedience to God’s laws?