Unity Without Contradiction

thumbnail15This week, as we continue to ponder John 17 (and I hope you have read it once, and more than once!) I’ve decided to give you an excellent and thought-provoking passage from the philosopher Peter Kreeft, who has, like C. S. Lewis in his Mere Christianity, the gift of cutting through the fog with something more than radar.  I find Kreeft’s teachings (which can be found in forty-some books) more complete than Lewis’:

It seems so narrow-minded to believe that the Catholic religion is the one true religion.  Doesn’t every person believe that his religion is the true one?

“Of course.  If Muslims didn’t believe that Islam was true, they wouldn’t be Muslims.  If Buddhists didn’t believe that Buddhism was true, they wouldn’t be Buddhists….But if two beliefs contradict each other, one must be wrong.  Atheism says there is no God, and theism says there is.  One of the two must be wrong….Jews and Muslims believe Jesus was only a human being.  Christians believe He was (and is) God.  One of the two must be wrong.

“Some Christians–Protestants–do not believe that Jesus established one visible Catholic Church and gave her His authority to teach all people for all time.  Other Christians–Catholics–do believe that.  One of the two must be wrong.

“It’s not narrow-minded to believe that others are wrong about some things.  It is narrow-minded to believe that others are wrong about everything, that no one else knows any important truths at all.  And it’s also narrow-minded to believe that people who believe different things than you do are stupid people.

“But to believe that an idea is either true or false is not narrow-mindedness; it’s just clear, logical thinking.  No one believes that two ideas that contradict each other are both true anywhere else.  Why believe that about religion?  For instance, you wouldn’t believe the idea that the earth is round and the idea that it isn’t round….Whenever you’re dealing with anything real, you always believe in the basic logical law of non-contradiction.  Two contradictory ideas about anything real can’t both be true.

“But when you’re dealing with something that’s not real, then contradictory ideas can both be true.  For instance, take elves.  Elves are short and cute, not tall and awesome;  and elves are tall and awesome, not short and cute.  They’re short and cute in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, and they’re tall and awesome in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, because both are fiction, not fact.  Elves aren’t real.

“So if you believe that different religions can be true even when they contradict each other, you’re really saying that religions aren’t real but fictions, like elves.  When you say that all religions are true, you are really saying that they are all false!  You’re saying that God is not real but only in our minds, like elves.  Whenever we deal with reality, we believe in the law of non-contradiction.

“….we might think that Protestantism and Catholicism contradict each other on how to be saved because Protestants say we are saved by faith alone while Catholics say we are saved by faith and good works;  but that’s probably a mistake because when Protestants speak of being ‘saved,’ they mean only ‘getting to Heaven’ (the theological term for this is justification), and when Catholics speak of being ‘saved,’ they mean also becoming a saint (the theological term for this is sanctification).  You don’t get to Heaven by piling up enough good works but by faith in Jesus the Savior.  But without good works, you can’t become holy, or wholly good, which is what you must become when Jesus saves you.  Jesus does not just save you from eternal punishment for your sins but from your sins themselves.  ‘You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’ (Mt. 1:21).

“So we might think that two religions contradict each other on some questions when they really don’t.

“But Jews and Christians really do contradict each other on whether Jesus is God or not, and Catholics and Protestants really do contradict each other on whether or not the Catholic Church speaks with the authority of Jesus Christ and not just human authority.

“No one can believe everything that all the religions of the world believe at the same time.  You have to choose….And you have to have good reasons to choose (I Pet. 3:15).”

–from Peter Kreeft, Because God Is Real 

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I will be writing one more post, next Friday, based on the mind of Christ revealed in John 17.  Then, on Sept. 4, I hope to see many of you for our discussion on the interisland ferry.  Have a great Labor Day weekend!  -jc