In an increasingly multicultural and pluralistic society where tolerance and broadmindedness are watchwords, it is easy for the Christian Church to slide over into religious pluralism. The Christian faith’s – and Jesus own – exclusive claim is degraded to a form of public religiosity in order “not to offend” people with other genuine beliefs or the surrounding culture. This is a far cry from historic Christian faith.
At the beginning of this year (2016) Pope Francis released a Youtube video, which quickly became viral, with a beautiful but confusing message. The film’s starting point is not particularly strange: most people on planet Earth define themselves as believers and this should lead to a constructive dialogue between religions to understand each other’s differences. But “many”, according to the Pope, “seek God or meet God in different ways … the only thing we can be sure of: is that we are all children of God.”
It is of course true if the expression “children of God” refers to the fact that all people are created in God’s image. But in the New Testament, the expression “children of God” is not referring to our status on the basis of our origin, but is about the status of our relationship with God right now. As John writes in the introduction of his Gospel: “But to those who received him he gave the right to become children of God, to them that believe on his Name [i.e. the name of Jesus]” (John 1:12).
The distinction between creation and salvation is significant in the Christian faith. By making this kind of statement, the pope creates confusion and talks straight against the Bible. Similar confusion about salvation is created in the Swedish Bishop Åke Bonnier’s debate article in the Christian newspaper Dagen (18/3) which was published just before Easter week.
Bonnier is bishop of the Swedish Church in Stockholm and Pope Benedict XVI appointed Åke Bonnier as: “Commander of St. Gregory the Great’s order (honorary designation for ecumenical efforts).” Bonnier writes that he is “Burning for ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue as well as a Church community where everyone feel welcome and at home, whether you are homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, transgender or queer.” 
In the article in Dagen Bonnier writes “God is beyond all the world’s religions”. While Bonnier raises important questions regarding the interpretation of the Bible and the Christian faith relation to other philosophies, he objects to the idea of a single path to God when he says that;
“My belief is that God is the God beyond all religions. God is not religious but we are and God is greater than all our religions gathered together, and at the same time, we as Christians understand the God as triune.”
If Bonnier only would have meant that God is beyond human wisdom and greater than the Gods in all other religions, it would be true because Christianity is also saying that trough the Bible. But Bonnier is not talking about that. In his article he is talking about relativism. He writes that not all words in the Bible are God’s words. Therefore Bonnier, through his philosophical argumentation, tries to undermine the Bible and Christianity to only be one of all ways to understand and get to know God. At the same time Muslims could get to know God in another way, because God is working also in their religion, but in another way because God is outside of the religion according to Bonnier.
But what Bonnier forgets is that God is not outside of Christianity. God is Christianity personified in the way the Bible describes it. In the Bible it clearly says that:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.” (Rev. 1:1)
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Tim. 3:16)
From these texts we clearly see that the Bible reveals God through Jesus Christ and that all scripture is given by inspiration of God. Everything there is true, not only some parts of it.
The claim that “God is beyond” and “greater than all our religions gathered together”, is also a self-contradictory statement. With this statement Bonnier wants to say that we cannot define God. But a truth claim, that in itself is against of defining God, falls on its own absurdity. With that statement Bonnier has already defined what God is like, namely indefinable.
In the earliest Christian writings in the New Testament we find nothing of that “God is greater than all our combined religions”. On the contrary. In multi religious Athens, Paul was very clear:
“A long time God has pardoned ignorance, but now he imposes on the people, everyone and everywhere, to repent” (Acts 17:30).
Same thing in Lystra, where they worshiped the Greek gods:
“You should turn from these powerless gods to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and all that is in them.” (Acts 14:15).
God is here in the Bible telling people to repent to the true Christianity, because that is the only way to salvation. Yes, God is greater than all other religions, but God is not greater in the way that He open roads outside Christianity, because He is the true Christianity personified, and God’s character and also the way to heaven is very well defined in the Bible, not the least through the revelation of Jesus Christ as he walked here on Earth.
Åke Bonnier continues with a range of contradictory statements, and also quotes the Pope’s statement concerning children of one and the same God:
“Now, if the Holy Spirit is operating outside the framework of the Church, in other religions, it should mean that God in different ways meet’s up with people in other religions. No religion can fully express the greatness of God. Contradictory statements do not necessarily mean that only one side is ‘correct’. ”
Here are a few things to object to:
- All Christians affirm that the Holy Spirit works outside the Church, but the drift towards that He appears in other religions is something completely different. In what way is the Holy Spirit working in the Hindu law of karma, or when a man takes several wives in the name of a religion? In which way can you meet with God in a religion that denies the deity of Christ?
- Jesus says in John 15:26 that the Holy Spirit – “Spirit of truth” – should “testify of me.” He leaves no room for that God meets with people in other religions.
- The claim that “Contradictory statements do not necessarily mean that only one side is ‘correct'”, is a logical somersault. Contradictory statements cannot both be true; which is a basic foundation in the teaching of logic. In his article, even Åke Bonnier himself reflects this when he turns away from what he believes are contradictory claims.
The Bible is clear that the only way to heaven goes through the personal relationship with Jesus Christ and not through universalism which means that all somehow are saved in their own faith. To justify and defend the uniqueness of Jesus in a world of religions is not a new challenge for the Christian Church. Still, it will become increasingly important both inside and outside the church in this time of Earth’s last time.
In the Bible we are warned about that a false Church religion, will try to unite all religions in one earthly Kingdom, with the Pope as the leader, in the last time before Jesus returns.
If you are interested to know more about that you could study Revelation 13 in Bible and at the same time read the book “The Great Controversy” by Ellen G. White. In that book, those prophecies of the Bible are made crystal clear and you will be amazed of how close we are the end of this sinful world and the coming of Jesus, that will take all His faithful children to heaven before He will create a new Earth for His children to live on.
Meteorologist at the national Swedish Television and a disciple of Christ