Four Common (and Unhelpful) Responses to the Exclusivity of Christ

Author Jonathan Noyes Published on 04/20/2023

The most offensive part of the gospel, and the most common objection to Christianity proper, is the idea that there is only one way to God: Jesus. It’s offensive because it seems arrogant, bigoted, and narrow-minded. The claim is often met with one of four common and unhelpful responses. They might sound legitimate, but they aren’t. Here’s why.

“It’s intolerant or arrogant to think you’re right.”

Believing you’re right doesn’t make you intolerant. A simple illustration makes this clear. Imagine you have a friend who goes to the doctor. The doctor tells your friend, “You have cancer, and you need an operation.” And your friend responds, “You’re mean!”

What would you think of your friend if she ignored her doctor’s advice because she thought the doctor was mean to say she had cancer? You’d probably think your friend’s comment was silly, even foolish. It’s silly because it isn’t mean to give a diagnosis someone doesn’t like. It’s foolish because even if the doctor is mean, he could still be right. Your friend could still have a deadly disease.

The response “You’re intolerant” or “You’re arrogant” to the claim that Jesus is the only way amounts to the same thing: “You’re mean.” And it’s also silly and foolish. Just because someone doesn’t like the spiritual diagnosis, that doesn’t mean the Christian has a character flaw, and there’s always the outside possibility the Christian might be right. The “intolerant” challenge is just a way of ignoring or dismissing the claim by attacking the Christian. Whenever the challenge is about the person, not the view, you know it’s aiming at the wrong target. This is an ad hominem fallacy, and it’s not a valid response.

Christians think that people are dying of the disease of sin and that radical surgery must be performed by Jesus. This doesn’t mean we’re right, but it does show that simply dismissing our claims on the grounds of alleged intolerance or arrogance misses the point.

This is a trick. Don’t be fooled by it. Everyone in the discussion thinks he’s right about the views he holds. But notice, the Christian is faulted for thinking he’s right, though the non-Christian is doing the same thing when he corrects the Christian. Now, the Christian may be arrogant, but not because he thinks he’s right. That’s a different issue.

“Christians are narrow-minded.”

This is a variation of the first challenge and is based on a misunderstanding. The word “narrow” accurately describes the Christian view. It is narrow. The word “narrow-minded,” though, describes the person who holds the view. All truth claims are narrow in that they exclude other options. Narrow-mindedness has to do with the way a person holds his view. Being narrow-minded is based not on what you believe but on how you believe it.

Simply holding beliefs and perspectives that disagree with others’ beliefs and perspectives doesn’t make a person narrow-minded. There’s a difference between holding a narrow view because you think it’s true and holding that view in a narrow way: with blinders on, refusing to consider other views or evidence contrary to your own view. We don’t dismiss a view because it’s narrow; we dismiss it because it’s false. Calling someone narrow-minded will never help you answer important questions about truth.

“Who are you to say?”

First, notice this is almost always a rhetorical question that isn’t genuinely looking for an answer or trying to engage the ideas. Instead, it’s a way of dismissing the claim. Even when it’s genuine, it’s merely a request for credentials. It’s arguments that matter, though, not credentials.

This common response is often merely an implicit assertion of radical skepticism disguised as a question. What it really means is that “no one is to say.” But this is wrong. The person with the best reasons gets to say. Right answers depend on right reasons. We answer difficult questions all the time. Faced with life’s challenges, we never say, “Who’s to say?” as if these are questions no one can answer. We always try to look at the facts and the arguments to find out what is actually true.

“That’s just your truth.”

Finally, this might be the most common response to the exclusivity of Jesus, but it’s just an attempt to relativize our views. Think about the statement “That’s just your truth.” What does it actually mean? It means the claim is a mere preference, not objective truth.

So, the statement misuses the term “truth.” When I say something is true, I mean it’s actually so. It’s a fact. I could be mistaken, of course, but I don’t mean to be giving a mere opinion or stating a personal preference. This challenge gets us nowhere because it doesn’t say anything meaningful in response to the objective claim.

When Christians claim Christ is the only way, we’re expressing a vital detail of our worldview. This is not intolerance, arrogance, or narrow-mindedness. And it’s more than just our opinion. We could be wrong, but only reasoned arguments could reveal that.