In our increasingly pluralistic society, Christians often wonder how they should engage with other religions. On one hand, we are called to share the Gospel and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). On the other hand, we are told to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) and be prepared to give an answer for our faith with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). So what does the Bible say about how we should view and interact with other religions? Here are some key takeaways:
- God desires all people to know Him through Jesus Christ
- There is salvation in no other name except Jesus Christ
- We must share the Gospel with humility, grace and respect
- We must not compromise on the exclusivity of Christ
- We must avoid unnecessary contention and arguing
- We must focus on sharing Christ rather than attacking other religions
- We are called to discern truth from error
- We must balance truth with love
- Our attitude is as important as our message
In this comprehensive blog post, we will examine what the Bible teaches about criticizing other religions and how we can engage people of other faiths with both conviction and Christ-like compassion.
God Desires All People to Know Him Through Jesus Christ
The Bible is clear that there is only one way to God, and that is through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6 NKJV). The apostles testified “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
God desires all people to know Him. He “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). He “commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). That includes people from all nations, tribes, cultures and religions.
As Christians, we have been entrusted with the Great Commission – to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). We are ambassadors for Christ, imploring others to “be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). So we must share the Gospel with people of all religious backgrounds.
However, we must do so with grace, respect and sensitivity to their culture and beliefs. The early church gives us a model for engaging people of other faiths. The apostle Paul sought to build bridges with his audiences. He looked for common ground as a starting point. He reasoned and persuaded rather than attacked or coerced (Acts 17:22-34, Acts 19:8-10).
As we think about criticizing or engaging with other religions, we must remember that God loves all people and wants them to know Him. Our motivation should be one of love – to see people saved, set free, and worshiping the one true God.
There is Salvation in No Other Name Except Jesus Christ
The exclusivity of Christ is clearly taught throughout Scripture. Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). There is no salvation found in any other. As Peter proclaimed before the Sanhedrin, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
This teaching was foundational to the apostolic proclamation of the Gospel. Paul wrote “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). He stressed that “no one is justified before God by the law” and that “by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight” (Romans 3:20, Galatians 2:16). Salvation is only through faith in Christ.
The Bible categorically rules out all other paths to God. Other religions cannot reconcile us to God or provide salvation. Neither good works nor religious rituals can earn our salvation. Believing in and worshipping objects, humans, or idols is futile. Adherence to non-Christian philosophies reflects flawed human thinking. There simply is no other savior than Jesus Christ. As John wrote:
Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. (1 John 2:22-23)
The exclusivity of Christ is an increasingly counter-cultural idea. Our pluralistic society embraces all religions as equally valid paths to God. But as Christians, we cannot compromise on this essential biblical truth. We must continue to proclaim faith in Jesus Christ as the only way to salvation.
We Must Share the Gospel with Humility, Grace and Respect
Given the exclusivity of Christ, some people think the most loving thing is to confront other religions and point out why they’re wrong. But this is not the approach modeled for us in Scripture. We are instead called to share the Gospel with humility, grace and respect.
Paul wrote “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:5-6). We must be wise in how we engage people of other faiths. Our speech should be gracious and thoughtful.
Peter exhorted believers to “always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). We are to speak the truth, but do it lovingly. We must avoid self-righteousness, pride and hostility.
Jesus rebuked his disciples when they wanted to call down fire on a Samaritan village (Luke 9:54-55). They had righteous zeal but the wrong attitude. We too must check our attitudes. Paul warns that if do not have love, we gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Without love, we are just clanging cymbals.
As we share Christ with others, we must remember Jesus came first to serve, not to condemn (John 3:17). We must reflect His heart of compassion. Our motivation must be to see people reconciled to God – not to prove ourselves right or superior.
We Must Not Compromise on the Exclusivity of Christ
In our pluralistic society, there is pressure to compromise and embrace all religions as valid paths to God. But as Christians, we cannot do this. It contradicts the clear biblical teaching that salvation is found in Christ alone.
Throughout Scripture, idolatry is condemned as futile. Paul rebuked the Corinthians for suggesting idol worship had any validity: “What fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial?” (2 Corinthians 6:14-15). John warned against idols, false gods and false teachings (1 John 5:21, 2 John 1:7).
The early Christians refused to add Jesus to the pantheon of Roman gods. They would not mix Christianity with idol worship or pagan philosophy. Even at the cost of persecution and death, they held exclusively to Christ.
The Bible also warns against being led astray by false prophets, messiahs and cults. We are to test the spirits (1 John 4:1). Paul cautions that Satan himself disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). We must guard against deception.
In upholding the exclusivity of Christ, we must avoid two ditches: compromise on the one hand, and hostility on the other. We cannot embrace all paths, but we also cannot force our beliefs on others. We must hold to truth, and trust the Holy Spirit to open eyes and change hearts.
We Must Avoid Unnecessary Contention and Arguing
In speaking the truth about Christ as the only way, it’s easy to fall into contention, hostility and endless arguing. But Scripture cautions against this. As Paul wrote:
Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. (2 Timothy 2:23-25)
We must avoid foolish controversies and quarreling over opinions. That only breeds strife. Instead we are to gently correct and instruct those who oppose the truth. We must be kind and patient with all people.
Likewise, Titus 3:9-11 warns against pointless disputes over genealogies, contentions, and quarrels about the law. We are to avoid foolish controversies, divisions and arguments. We must not waste time debating and attacking other beliefs. Instead, we are to stick to biblical truth.
It’s easy to get drawn into heated arguments trying to prove ourselves right. But 2 Timothy 2:14 reminds us to “Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.” We must avoid useless word battles.
Engaging in endless arguments and disputes about religion rarely accomplishes anything positive. We are not called to attack and defeat people verbally. As Romans 14:19 says “let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” Our aim is to build others up, not win debates.
We Must Focus on Sharing Christ Rather Than Attacking Other Religions
Rather than criticizing and attacking other faiths, our focus should be on sharing the truth about Jesus Christ. As Paul said “It pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:21). The simple message of Christ crucified has power to save.
We are not called to tear down false idols and erroneous beliefs. That won’t change hearts. Only the Gospel message can change hearts. Paul wrote:
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified… And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. (1 Corinthians 2:2-5)
Proclaiming Christ in the Spirit’s power is what brings people from death to life. We don’t need to cleverly argue people into the faith. Rather than attacking other religions, we simply need to share the Good News of Christ’s love, grace and salvation.
The Gospel is offensive enough on its own because of its call to repentance and humility. We shouldn’t add unnecessary offense by harping on other religions. That only erects barriers. Just as Paul focused on preaching Christ, we too should major on presenting the Gospel.
We are Called to Discern Truth from Error
In speaking the truth, we must also discern truth from error. Paul instructs Timothy:
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:1-4)
Timothy is to preach and teach God’s Word. He must also reprove and rebuke false teaching. There is a place for identifying doctrinal errors, false beliefs, and flawed philosophies. We refute falsehood by teaching truth.
Paul did this in his ministry. He engaged deeply with cultures to identify areas where they diverged from biblical truth. At Athens he challenged the practice of idolatry (Acts 17:16-31). At Ephesus he confronted magical arts (Acts 19:17-20). He contended vigorously against the Judaizers who taught salvation by works (Galatians 2).
Likewise, in love we must identify beliefs that are unbiblical. We should point people to the truth, while being careful to avoid personal attacks or insults. We can critique ideas without condemning people. Our aim should be instructing in sound doctrine with patience and care.
We Must Balance Truth With Love
In all our interactions, we must speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). We should avoid compromise on the one hand, and hostility on the other. Zeal without knowledge breeds fanaticism. Truth void of love breeds judgmentalism. We need both convicting truth and Christ-like compassion.
Paul beautifully models this balance. He did not shrink back from proclaiming the exclusivity of Christ and refuting falsehood. But he also showed tremendous sensitivity to culture and overwhelming love for unbelievers. He became all things to all people, that he might save some (1 Corinthians 9:22).
Paul teaches it’s possible to be both clear about truth, and loving towards those in error. We see him rebuking the Galatians strongly for departing from the Gospel. Yet he also travailed over them until Christ was formed in them (Galatians 4:19). He reproved them because he loved them deeply.
Like Paul, we must ground our interactions in love, viewing others as precious souls to be won for Christ. We should feel compassion, not contempt, for those deceived by other religions. Our aim is not to win arguments, but to win people.
Our Attitude is as Important as Our Message
Sharing truth without love profits nothing. In fact, it does more harm than good if our attitude is wrong. We can perfectly articulate the Gospel, and yet completely turn people off. Paul warns:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-2)
We must check our hearts. Do we demonstrate the mind of Christ – a heart of humility, gentleness and compassion? Or are we motivated by pride, self-righteousness and hostility? Our attitude affects how receptive people are to our message.
Paul wrote “the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:24-25). We must not come across as argumentative, combative and impatient. That hardens hearts.
Likewise, 2 Timothy 2:26 says we must gently instruct those opposed to truth, in hopes “that they will come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” Our aim is to see people escape deception through God’s grace.
Christ is our model. He was full of both grace and truth (John 1:14). He strongly rebuked religious hypocrisy yet showed great compassion to sinners. We too must take the plank out of our own eye, before helping others. Our attitude should reflect His gentle humility.
In summary, we cannot compromise on the exclusivity of Christ. There is salvation in no other name. We must continue to proclaim this truth with conviction. However, we must do so with Christ-like compassion for the lost. We are to focus on building bridges and sharing the Gospel – not attacking and arguing endlessly.
Our speech should be gracious, gentle and thoughtful. We must avoid pride, hostility and quarreling. In discerning truth from error, our aim should be to instruct and enlighten – not put others down. We must speak truth in love, with humility and patience.
Most importantly, we must keep our hearts soft, open and loving toward others. Truth without love is just noisy gong. But truth spoken in love has power to transform. May we be faithful ambassadors for Christ, imploring all people to be reconciled to God.