There is a fascinating interview with Chuck Colson at the Slate blog, conducted by Kathryn Schulz, author of Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error. One section deals with exclusivity of truth. Our culture is most critical of orthodox Christianity for its truth claims, and ridicules Christian faith for its teaching the belief in Jesus Christ is the only ticket to eternity. I’ve certainly seen this concern in my children, when they are questions by peers on these questions. As I written earlier, I believe this will be a key challenge for the church of the next generation.
Colson deals deftly with these questions:
Q: Let me ask you a few questions about wrongness and religion. We sometimes associate being wrong with being evil; if you read Saint Augustine, for instance, he grapples with the question of whether or not mistakes are sins. What do you think Christianity teaches about making mistakes?
Colson: Of all the religions and philosophies in the world, Christianity is the most interested in people who’ve made mistakes, because it says you can repent and be forgiven and start over again. Buddhism doesn’t offer that, nor does Hinduism, nor does Judaism, nor does Islam. Christianity is the religion of second chances. I’ve preached in prisons in 40 countries and I’ve preached in 800 prisons in America, and I talk about the fact that you can be forgiven of your sins and be given a new life. In Hindu countries, their eyes open like saucers because they’ve never heard that. I think Christianity is one of the most tolerant of all religions when it comes to making mistakes.
Q: Christianity also preaches humility and an awareness of our human fallibility. Yet evangelicalism presupposes that you have access to the absolute truth about God. How do you square those two things?
Colson: I don’t think it’s hard to do at all. If you’re a Jew, you believe exactly what you’re taught, which is that you’re born of the covenant people. If you’re a Hindu, you believe exactly what Hindus teach about reincarnation, about karma and consciousness, about the idea that we are a dream in the mind of God. These are all truth claims. And I respect everybody’s right to make a truth claim.
My truth claim is that Jesus says, “No man comes to the Father but through me.” Therefore I want people to come to Christ because I want them to be forgiven of their sins. It is a truth claim, but it is not an exclusive truth claim, because what Jesus is saying is: Everybody is free to come. You don’t have to be born in to a certain heritage. You have to believe a certain thing. Everybody is free to come and be forgiven. That’s my truth claim.
Q: What exactly does it mean to “respect” everyone’s truth claims, given that in the end you’re trying to get everyone to recognize your truth claim as the real one?
Colson: We can’t all be right. Ultimately I want everybody to find what I have found in life, I want to share it with people. But I also recognize that all religions have good things in them, and a lot of them share many common values. I believe moral teaching is universal, I believe we are made with a desire for certain goals and outcomes, that that’s just the way we’re wired. So Hindus have some very good values, Muslims do too. I don’t feel exclusive. I think a lot can be learned from different faiths.
In the end, you’ve got to decide for you, what is the right road to God? And Christians in that sense don’t have any wiggle room. We’re not given any leeway in that.