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What The Bible Really Says About Other Religions

what the bible really says about other religions

This might surprise you, but did you know that much of the Bible is very positive about other religions?

We generally think that the Bible is exclusive – that it says there is only one true religion. And when we interpret the Bible, that one true religion conveniently tends to be mine!

Well, throughout the Bible, we frequently see a different message. One claiming that God works in and through people of other religions.

But Jesus Makes Exclusive Claims about Being the Way, Truth, and Life, Right?

Before I tell you more, many Christians believe that Christianity is the only true religion because in John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

But notice that Jesus doesn’t say, “Christianity is the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Christianity.”

It’s important to start where the Gospel of John starts, which is in John chapter 1, not John chapter 14.

John 1 makes universal claims, not exclusive claims. It states that the Word of God was with God in the beginning, that the Word was God, and that all things came into being through the Word. And then it says that in the Word was life and that, “the life was the light of all people.”

I love the phrase “the light of all people.” The light of the sun is free for all people, animals, and plants. Just like no one owns the light, no one owns the Word. It has been here from the beginning, enlightening all people.

The Word of God in John 1 is not a book we call the Bible. In Greek, the word for Word is “Logos.” It is better translated as “Reason” or “Logic.” The Reason or Logic of God has always been present in the world, enlightening all people.

So when Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” he is alluding back to John 1. Like the light of the sun, the Word has always been in the world showing people the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through the Word of God, who is the light of the world, who has been present from the beginning, and who became flesh in the person of Jesus.

God Is Bigger than Any One Religion – For the Bible Tells Me So

Where do we see the Word of God enlightening people in the Bible?

We see it throughout the Bible.

Take the book of Genesis, for example.

In Genesis 20, Abraham and Sarah travel to a country called Gerar. Abraham had a hard time trusting God’s promise that he would be the father of a great nation. He was afraid that the king of Gerar would kill him because the king would want Sarah as his wife. 

So Abraham told the king that Sarah was his sister. The king took Sarah into his house. But God came to the king in a dream and warned him to not have sex with Sarah.

Side note: If Abraham sometimes makes you feel icky, that’s a good thing. He is not always a prime example of faith. Like Jonah, he is one of the major anti-heroes of the Bible.

The king confronts Abraham about the situation. After the king asked Abraham why he deceived him, Abraham responded, “I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.”

Abraham had a very small understanding of God. He didn’t think that anyone from another country or another religion would “fear God.” He thought God was contained to one religion – which of course was his own.

Another side note: The word for “fear” in Hebrew can also be translated as “revere.” I much prefer “revere,” in part because 1 John states that “perfect love casts out fear.”

Abraham started to outgrow his religious prejudice when he discovered that people from other religions do revere God. In fact, it could be argued that the king of Gerar revered God more than Abraham did. After all, God had promised that Abraham and Sarah would be the parents of a great nation, but Abraham was so afraid of the king that he failed to trust God’s promises to him and Sarah.

We see similar stories of God working through people of other religions in Genesis 26, 31, 39, and 41.

God, a Midianite Priest, and Those We Call Our Enemies

In Exodus 18, we discover that Moses’ father-in-law was a priest of Midian. The Midianites were a people from another land and a different religion. And yet, Moses’ father-in-law recognized that God was with Moses and the Israelites.

In Psalm 87 God says, “Among those who know me I mention Rahab and Babylon; Philistia too, and Tyre, with Ethiopia.” The psalm goes on to say that people will come to Zion, the holy place of God, and that God “registers the people, ‘This one was born there.’”

Rahab was a Canaanite, who were enemies of Israel and had a different religion. The Babylonians and Philistines were also some of the major enemies of Israel from different religions. And yet, God says in the psalm that they also know God and will be registered as God’s people.

Conclusion: Jesus and the God Who Is Bigger

But how does this inclusiveness of other religions connect with Jesus’ statement, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”?

It’s important to remember that Jesus, as the Word made flesh, is bigger than Christianity. The Word is the light of the world. It has been here from the beginning. Like the light, the Word guides all people. Abraham didn’t own God. Neither did the Psalmist. That’s because the Word of God shows up in Jesus. And the word of God shows up in other religions and other people.

That’s because the Bible reveals that God is bigger than any religion. For that I say, Thank God.

Adam Ericksen

Adam Ericksen

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