“Russ, if You Had Been Born in Afghanistan You Would Have Been a Muslim.”

Last week I was hanging out with some school friends and as the conversation usual turns, it turned to God and Christianity and my evangelicalism and we are off to the races. During the course of that conversation we got to a point at which I had expressed the exclusivity of Christianity and made an ultimate truth claim that Christianity was the only correct and true worldview. It was at this point that my friend said, “Russ, if you had been born in Afghanistan you would have been a Muslim.” I didn’t know how I should respond and the conversation shifted away from it. But it bugged me because I didn’t know. So I turned to my good friends at BeThinking .org for answers here is what I found;

“There is an old parable about six blind Hindus touching an elephant. One blind man touched the side of the elephant and said it was a wall. Another blind man touched the ear and said it was a large leaf of a tree. Yet another blind man was holding a leg and thought it was a tree trunk. Still another blind man took hold of the elephant’s trunk and said it was a snake. Someone else was touching the elephant’s tusk and believed it was a spear. Another blind man had the elephant’s tail in his hand and was calling it a rope. All of the blind men were touching the same reality but were understanding it differently. They all had the right to interpret what they were touching in their own personal way, yet it was the same elephant.

People have used this old parable to share their opinion or viewpoint that no one religion is the only route to God (pluralism). Pluralists believe that the road to God is wide. The opposite of this is that only one religion is really true (exclusivism).

What could a thoughtful person say in response?

• Just because there are many different religious answers and systems doesn’t automatically mean pluralism is correct.

• Simply because there are many political alternatives in the world (monarchy, fascism, communism, democracy, etc.) doesn’t mean that someone growing up in the midst of them is unable to see that some forms of government are better than others.

• That kind of evaluation isn’t arrogant or presumptuous. The same is true of grappling with religion.

• The same line of reasoning applies to the pluralist himself. If the pluralist grew up in Madagascar or medieval France, he would not have been a pluralist!

• If we are culturally conditioned regarding our religious beliefs, then why should the religious pluralist think his view is less arbitrary or conditioned than the exclusivist’s?

• If Christian faith is true, then the Christian would be in a better position than the pluralist to assess the status of other religions

• How does the pluralist know he is correct? Even though he claims others don’t know Ultimate Reality as it really is, he implies that he does. (To say that the Ultimate Reality can’t be known is a statement of knowledge.)

• If the Christian needs to justify Christianity’s claims, the pluralist’s views need just as much substantiation.

If we can’t know Reality as it really is, why think one exists at all? Why not simply try to explain religions as purely human or cultural manifestations without being anything more?” – Paul Copan form “If you were born in India you would be a Hindu.”

In addition to these points here are two more things for consideration. First, we must articulate the reality of divine election; that God saves those who he has chosen to save no matter the geography. Secondly, we should point out that most of the church is now in the east and the south. There may be a higher chance of knowing God and hearing the gospel in the developing world than on an North American or European university campus.

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    • russellandduenes
    • May 5th, 2009

    Good points, my friend. I believe that, in all likelihood, had you been born in Afghanistan, you would have been born into a Muslim family. You would have grown in a thoroughly non-Western culture with vastly different customs and folkways that you imbibed in your current upbringing. You would not have had the plethora of Bible and “Christian” resources which you have available to you here in the U.S.. All that being said, one wonders if all of these things are the impediment to believing in Jesus Christ that your friend perhaps thinks they are. Western culture has its own set of barriers, and frankly, I think they are considerable. The real question is: Would there be sufficient disciples of Christ in Afghanistan to bear witness to the reality of Jesus such that you could believe in Him? I think I know how Paul would have answered that question. Your friend may forget too that all believers in Christ believed something other than the gospel (yes, even children) before they were converted. So it is quite naive to say that because one was born into a certain belief system, they can never be converted out of it. Has your friend ever changed his mind and habits about something, especially something he has had a long-standing belief in? If he has, then I think he has his answer.

    • I am completely with you. your comment raises two really good points; first that in some regards he is correct. I would have been Muslim. This leads to the second point, NO ONE IS BORN A CHRISTIAN.
      The reason I posted on it was i really couldn’t come up with a good response. My gut response was the hard five point “God is sovereign” answer, but I wanted more to work with as he rejects the notion of God and scripture being authoritative.

    • russellandduenes
    • May 5th, 2009

    Sometimes it helps to see the questions beneath the questions. I suspect you know this, but your friend probably isn’t really sold on pluralism. Few people are. It just gives cover to their real questions. I remember talking with a guy in a restaurant once about the gospel and he was talking about all the contradictions in the Bible and such. And then my friend with me asked a perceptive question. He said, “If I could clear up all your problems with the Bible and Christianity to YOUR satisfaction, then would you be interested in following Jesus?” I appreciated his honesty in saying “no.” That pretty much ended the conversation on that point.

  1. I think what you have said brings up a really important thing to keep in mind; that part of the issue at had is the mind. The majority of it is the spiritual condition of the lost heart. So even if we could clear up all the questions and objections, if the spirit isn’t moving the answer to Jesus is no. Let us pray that God would allow us to have conversations with ready soil.

    • shag
    • May 14th, 2009

    I heartily agree with the statement “no one is born a Christian.” If God sovereignly orchestrates that someone born into a Muslim family in a Muslim culture will come to receive knowledge of Him, then that person will become saved. God transcends culture and worldviews.

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