Religions All, But Not All Are Equal

“One who… calls all religions equally true or equally false, in principle takes the position of the sophists who saw man as the measure of all things.” (Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 1, page 249)

One might think the quote above was written for our day and age but Herman Bavinck wrote these words in the early 20 century. But they do apply to the time we live in, don’t they? We really shouldn’t be surprised though, since this kind of philosophy has been around for a long time. 

According to Bavinck, those who believe that all religions are equally true or false, take the position of the sophists (the wise men of ancient Greece). And apparently the statement “man is the measure of all things” dates back to Protagoras, a Greek philosopher who lived in the 5th century BC. Since, then, this seems to be a common or repeated problem for more than just one generation, it must not be the analysis or diagnosis that is the most significant but the criticism of it that must not fail to expose it for what it really is.

Well, Bavinck notes the preconceived (or presupposed) thought in the minds of those who adhere to this kind of thinking: namely, the religion of humanism. So though it may take many different forms in different times, it always and relentlessly submits everything to the mind and heart of man. Instead of being neutral or diffident about religion, these critics of religion have, in fact, simply put themselves in the driver’s seat and declared, to the world, that their judgment of these matters is final and undebatable. 

In other words, they are just as religious as the next man: they simply won’t allow anyone to have a corner on the truth because they themselves believe they have complete monopoly over the market by their wares. But their wares are vain and worthless.

So the next time someone says “all religions are the same,” or “all religions are false, so your religion is just as foolish as the rest” tell them: “But that is just a man’s opinion. All you have done is toss your hat in the ring with the rest of mankind. But you and I are lost. So it is God, who as the measure of all things, must tell us what is true and what is false. Let us then listen to God’s Son who said: ‘I am the light of the world.’ John 9:5 & ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ John 14:6″ 

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3 thoughts on “Religions All, But Not All Are Equal

  1. Pastor Kok … how about .. I’m a believer ? The term ‘religious’ is general is it not ? If asked one can be told ‘I’m a believer’ ..and then the conversation goes to ‘ what do you believe in? ‘ .. and you take it from there. I come across religious people every day … religious people have a religion … believers have Jesus, the son of God who is the light of the world.

    • Hi Dad. Yes, I think we can and should say “I’m a believer.” But, in the context that Bavinck is speaking of, it is also (imo) legitimate to speak of Christianity as a religion. He is noting the similarities between all the world’s religions, including Christianity. We all have beliefs, laws, and ceremonies. Many people believe in God and strive to do His will. The Christian understands that the reason for this is that men have a natural propensity to worship, serve and follow laws and ceremonies that, he believes, brings him closer to God (as we see with Cain in Genesis 4). Though none of what he does actually pleases God, it does serve as a testimony that he is made in God’s image.

      I think that is why James says: “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world (James 1:26-27). He doesn’t say that Christians aren’t religious but rather that their religion is “pure and undefiled” (accepting and pleasing to God). The difference between the Christian and the unbeliever is not so much believer vs. religious as it is true religion vs. false religion.

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