In our increasingly pluralistic society, Christians are often confronted with the question of how we should relate to and interact with people of other faiths. Should we be tolerant and accepting of other religions, or should we view them as false and dangerous? In this comprehensive blog post, we will explore what the Bible has to say about religious tolerance and how Christians can apply biblical principles to this important issue.
- The Bible clearly teaches that there is only one true God and one way to salvation through Jesus Christ.
- Christians are called to share the gospel and make disciples of all nations, which precludes religious pluralism.
- While being intolerant of false doctrine, Christians should treat all people, including those of other faiths, with love and respect.
- Biblical prophecy indicates that many will turn away from true faith in the end times, so we should not be surprised to see growth in non-Christian religions.
- Christians can acknowledge truth and virtue in other faiths without validating the belief systems themselves.
- Religious freedom is a biblical concept that should be advocated by Christians.
- Christians should focus their critique on ideological threats, not people. Our battle is spiritual, not physical.
- Biblical principles, not fear or prejudice, should drive Christian engagement with other religions.
The Exclusive Nature of Faith in Christ
A foundational biblical truth is that there is only one true God (Isaiah 46:9) and that salvation comes only through faith in Jesus Christ, who said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The exclusivity of the Christian gospel is emphasized throughout Scripture:
“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)
“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6)
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (John 14:6)
The apostles taught that faith in Christ is the only way to be reconciled to God and receive forgiveness and eternal life. Thus, Christianity is inherently exclusive in its core claims. Religious pluralism—the view that all religions are equally valid paths to God—is ruled out. Christians are compelled by Scripture to uphold Jesus as the sole Savior and reject the relativism that says all faiths lead to heaven.
The Call to Make Disciples of All Nations
Not only is Christianity exclusive, but Christians are called to actively spread this exclusive message to the world. Before ascending to heaven, Jesus commissioned his followers:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
The apostles understood their mission as being to preach Christ and call all people, whether Jew or Gentile, to repentance and faith in Jesus:
“But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24)
“And 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)
Christianity does not allow for equal validity of other religions. Believers are urged to persuade all people to embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior. This missionary impulse affirms Christianity’s exclusive claims in a pluralistic world. As Paul said:
“I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:15-16)
Treating All People with Love and Respect
While the Bible prohibits religious pluralism, it also forbids mistreatment of those who do not follow Christ. Jesus taught his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-44)
He set the example by willingly giving his life to redeem sinners:
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly … God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6, 8)
“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse … Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless.” (Romans 12:14, 17)
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)
Prophecies of End Times Apostasy
Ironically, the very same Bible that condemns religious pluralism also predicts that many will turn away from the exclusive truth of Christianity leading up to Christ’s return. Scripture warns of a coming “apostasy” when people will reject biblical faith:
“The Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1)
“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 4:2-4)
Thus, the rise of non-Christian religions and the rejection of the gospel in modern times should not surprise Christians. Yet this apostasy necessitates renewed commitment to the Great Commission call to make disciples and spread the truth of Christ to all nations.
Acknowledging Truth and Virtue Without Validating False Beliefs
As Christians engage people of other faiths, it is appropriate to acknowledge moral and theological truths found in their religious writings without validating the belief system as a whole. As Paul demonstrated in his famous sermon in Athens, Christians can appeal to the noble aspects and true insights in a non-Christian religion to build common ground for preaching the gospel (Acts 17:22-34). By affirming truth and virtue wherever it is found, we earn a hearing for the greater truth revealed in Christ. But we must be careful not to confirm non-biblical worldviews that contain fundamental errors about God, salvation, and eternity.
Advocating for Religious Freedom
The principles of Christianity require religious freedom for all people. Since sincere faith cannot be coerced, Christians should champion the right of all individuals to worship according to their consciences. The Bible condemns faith by compulsion and commands treating others as we wish to be treated:
“Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.” (1 Samuel 12:24)
“Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them.” (Matthew 7:12)
While refusing to validate false teachings, Christians can support the religious liberties of others, which creates space for the gospel to be shared freely. The freedom we want for ourselves we should defend for all.
Avoiding Physical Conflict
When sharing Christ in a pluralistic society, it is vital that Christians conduct themselves with grace, avoiding inflammatory rhetoric and actions. The New Testament makes it clear that Christians battle spiritual forces, not flesh and blood:
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)
While false ideologies must be opposed, people should be treated with dignity. Christians should direct their critique at beliefs, not people created in God’s image. By overcoming evil with good, the love of Christ shines through and offers a powerful witness for the gospel.
Conclusion: Let Biblical Values Guide Our Engagement
The Bible provides foundational principles for how Christians should engage other religions in a tolerant, pluralistic society. While Scripture clearly teaches exclusivity and universal truth in Christ, it also mandates love for neighbors, religious freedom, respectful communication, and non-violence. By upholding biblical values—not cultural trends or personal prejudices—the light of the gospel can shine into darkness and religious liberty can be maintained for all people. With wisdom, courage and grace, Christians can firmly share the truth in love with a lost world.
Summary of Key Principles:
- Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. Religious pluralism contradicts the Bible.
- Christians are called to make disciples of all nations, sharing the exclusive gospel.
- People of all faiths should be treated with love and respect, even if their beliefs are false.
- Growth of non-Christian religions was prophesied, necessitating faithful gospel witness.
- Truth and virtue in other faiths can be acknowledged without validating overall worldview.
- Religious freedom for all is a biblical principle Christians must champion.
- Avoid inflammatory rhetoric and actions; our battle is spiritual, not physical.
- Biblical values like truth, love, and non-violence should guide all interactions.