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5 Is Christianity the Only True Religion, or One among Others? John Hick The likelihood is that you are a Christian. So the question I am raising is inevitably an uncomfortable one. For you may have taken it for granted, for as long as you can remember, that of course Christianity is the only true religion, or at least much the most true. I myself became a Christian by Evangelical conversion when a law student, and it was part of the package of belief that I accepted wholeheartedly that Christianity is uniquely superior to all others, and the world in process of being converted to Christian faith. But that was some sixty years ago. In those days, like most of my generation, I had never met anyone of another faith and knew virtually nothing about the other world religions—and the little that I thought I knew has turned out to be largely caricature. But the present generation is generally much better informed. And today we all know, when we stop to think about it, that people of the other world religions have exactly the same view of their own faith as we do of ours. In other words, the religion that seems so obviously superior to anyone depends in the vast majority of cases on where he or she happens to have been born. Someone born into a devout Muslim family in Egypt or Pakistan or Albania (or for that matter in England) is very likely to grow up as a Muslim; someone born into a devout Hindu family in India (or again in England) is very likely to be a Hindu; someone born into a devout Buddhist family in Thailand or Sri Lanka or Burma (or once again England) is very likely to be a Buddhist, just as someone born into a devout Christian family in this country is very likely to be a Christian; and so on. There are, of course, and always will be individual conversions for individual reasons in every direction both to and from each of the great world 105 faiths, and generally we must presume that this is a right move, but such conversions are statistically marginal in comparison with the massive transmission of faith from generation to generation within the same religion. So normally, the religion that you accept—or, of course, the religion that you reject—is the one into which you happen to have been born. I think that this is obvious and undeniable, although theologians all too seldom reflect on its implications. So why do many—in fact, probably most—Christians believe that Christianity is uniquely superior to all other faiths, the one and only true religion? Well, above all, the New Testament says so. We read in John’s Gospel that Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me” (14:6), “I and the Father are one” (10:30), “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (14:9), and “[B]efore Abraham was, I am” (8:58 RSV). In these texts, all from John’s Gospel, does Jesus not clearly claim to be God, or God the Son, incarnate, and is he not claiming that his is the only path of salvation and thus the only true religion? So in the Acts of the Apostles, we read that “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name [than that of Christ] under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). I must say a little about this New Testament basis of the belief, although it would require a whole week, or more likely a whole year, to discuss it properly. But most New Testament scholars today do not believe that Jesus, the historical individual, claimed to be God incarnate. That doesn’t mean that they don’t believe that Jesus was in fact God incarnate, but they don’t think that he himself taught that he was. In case this comes as a surprise to some, I will give some brief quotations. I’m going to quote only from distinguished New Testament scholars who personally believe strongly that the church has been right in believing that Jesus was God incarnate. They believe this with their whole heart. But nevertheless they hold, on the basis of the evidence, that Jesus did not himself claim this. Referring first to those New Testament sayings which I quoted...


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