Where the Truth Lies: How Otherwise Contradictory Worldviews Offer us “The Same Old Thing”
by Abdu Murray
**This article is an adaptation of themes developed in Abdu’s new book, Grand Central Question – Answering the Critical Concerns of the Major Worldviews.
In our never-ending search for novelty, the gospel has been found to be too traditional, too old school, too much like the faith of old men in powdered wigs to be relevant today. So we find ourselves looking everywhere else—anywhere else—for answers. Looking in new, exotic places for answers can make us feel like we are being “deep” and “spiritual.” But decades ago, C. S. Lewis warned us that our love of the exotic and our “horror of the Same Old Thing” can entice us away to explore seemingly novel ideas that actually don’t give us anything new. Lewis knew of what he spoke, having dabbled in various worldviews, from atheism to pantheism, before arriving at Christianity.
Anything but the been-there-done-that gospel will do to satisfy our spiritual hunger for novelty, it seems. And so to keep our menu as eclectic as possible, many people have embraced the notion that all worldviews—theistic, pantheistic, or non-theistic—are equally valid options. Common in the postmodern age was the claim that all religious systems or spiritual beliefs are equally valid. According to this way of thinking, no matter your beliefs, whether you hold to a pantheistic worldview (which views reality as all One and all divine) such as Hinduism or Buddhism, or a monotheistic faith (such as Islam, Orthodox Judaism, or Christianity), your worldview cannot be judged as being “wrong” because they all teach love and goodness. The differences between religious (and even non-religious) worldviews, we were told when postmodernism was in full swing, are only superficial, but their similarities are fundamental.
This always struck me as untrue and yet at the same time, true (yes, I’m intentionally being paradoxical). The falsehood lies in the fact that the differences between worldviews are actually fundamental while the similarities are superficial. The truth lies in the fact that there are unexpected and important commonalities between otherwise contradictory worldviews. Having studied different religions and worldviews for years, I’m confident that the Christian worldview—despite being seen as the “same old thing”—is the only truly unique worldview. This all may sound confusing, but allow me to explain.
First, we must be clear that all views do not teach the same things and they don’t all “lead to God.” While the claim that all religious views are fundamentally the same is meant to show respect to all views, it actually insults all of them. Consider Islam. Islam actually doesn’t teach us that we can “get to God” because humanity never actually communes with God, not even in heaven. Rather, heaven is a garden-like state in which the faithful are rewarded physically and mentally, but never with God’s actual presence. Further, to tell a Muslim—who believes that God is a monad, an absolute unity with no differentiations in his personhood—that he believes the same things that a Christian believes is insulting, because Christians believe that there is only one God, but that he has three eternally distinct personhoods. Every orthodox Muslim on the planet wholeheartedly and adamantly disagrees with that. In fact, many Muslims believe that God revealed the Qur’an in part to correct blasphemous ideas like the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the atonement on the cross. Yet every one of these doctrines forms the basis of Christianity. To say that Islam and Christianity are fundamentally the same dismissively waves away 1,400 years of Islamic theology. That’s insulting to both Islam and Christianity.
Similarly, to tell a Buddhist that she believes the same thing as a Hindu is to ignore the fact that Gautama Siddhartha, who was born a Hindu, founded Buddhism in direct rejection of some Hindu doctrines, such as the existence of the self and the transmigration of the soul. Again, to characterize Hinduism and Buddhism as basically the same is to ignore the development of Eastern religious thought. And of course, naturalism is fundamentally different, and in fact directly opposed to, all religious worldviews. It denies the existence of the supernatural altogether and asserts that all phenomena are based in the physical. One could not conceive of a worldview more different than these…
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