Can a sincere belief be sincerely wrong?

multiple-choice-test

With so many people in the world and so many different worldviews and conflicting religions, it’s hard for many people to grasp the idea that only a small portion of the population could be “right” about what many would say really matters, the purpose of life and what happens when we die. Nineteeth century poet John Godfrey Saxe wrote a poem titled Blind Men and the Elephant:

It was six men of Indostan,
To learning much inclined, 
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind), 
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind. 

The First approach’d the Elephant, 
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side, 
At once began to bawl: 
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!” 

The Second, feeling of the tusk, 
Cried, -“Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp? 
To me ’tis mighty clear, 
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!” 

The Third approach’d the animal, 
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands, 
Thus boldly up and spake: 
“I see,” -quoth he- “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!” 

The Fourth reached out an eager hand, 
And felt about the knee: 
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” -quoth he,- 
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant 
Is very like a tree!” 

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, 
Said- “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most; 
Deny the fact who can, 
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!” 

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope, 
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope, 
“I see,” -quoth he,- “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!” 
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long, 
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong, 
Though each was partly in the right, 
And all were in the wrong! 

MORAL, 
So, oft in theologic wars 
The disputants, I ween, 
Rail on in utter ignorance 
Of what each other mean; 
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen!

All the men in this poem are blind men making the best guess they can with the information they are given. Are we like these men? Are the different religions of the world basically men grabbing at different parts of the “Elephant” which they cannot see? All the men in the poem were essentially wrong. But is all of mankind wrong? For those who are sincere seekers of truth yet end up with the wrong answer based solely on the limited information they are given, does eternal damnation await them?

This is an important question for the Christian and the non-Christian. For the Christian because it will effect his evangelism. If he believes he has the only right answer and those who don’t will perish for eternity, then he will be driven to share his faith with others. If he believes we are all just doing the best we can and that his faith may be as valid as other faiths, then he is likely to have a laissez-faire approach when it comes to matters of faith. He probably will not put much stock in Jesus’ command to go into all the world and make disciples of all men. Both Christian and non-Christian will have an attitude that says “You believe whatever you want. As long as you are truly seeking the truth and have a sincere heart, God will not punish.”

Does God hold us accountable if we seek the truth but come to a wrong conclusion? Is there a wrong conclusion? The answer matters. In school we learn at a very young age that there are right and wrong answers. On an assignment, getting one wrong answer will get points taken off. Getting too many wrong answers will get a failing grade. On some tests, some answers could be worth more points than others (like essay questions verses multiple choice questions). The important thing we learn, however, is that THERE IS A RIGHT ANSWER AND THERE IS A WRONG ANSWER. In the realm of belief systems some questions have more value than others. For example, in Christianity some believe that speaking in tongues is one proof of salvation today, while others believe that speaking in tongues is one gift of many that a believer may or may not have, and yet others believe that speaking in tongues was only for the New Testament church. This is what we consider nonessentials. Nonessentials are things we may disagree on but will not get anyone to heaven or condemn anyone to hell. Things of “minor points”.

In the Bible, Jesus tells us in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, the life. No man comes to me unless the Father draws him.” This is a pretty exclusive claim. For someone to believe in the claims of Christ they must believe that Jesus is the one door. The one right answer. Jesus didn’t say He was A way, but THE way. And that no one comes to the Father except through him. He also says that “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” in John 6:44. He repeated this sentiment in John 6:65 “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Jesus also says “I am the door (gate). If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved.” John 10:9

It is to be noted that although many disciples rejected Jesus’ claims immediately after he made them (John 6:66) His disciples took them to be the words of life (John 6:68-69). In the book of Acts 4, Peter said with boldness “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved.” Paul tells Timothy that “there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Jesus the Messiah.” 1 Timothy 2:5

So with all the claims of Christ to have the sole key to salvation, any other religion that claims otherwise is saying Jesus’ claims are false. That being said, anyone who claims all faiths are basically the same and equally valid fail to see that Jesus is not and cannot be just one valid choice among many. In the multiple choice world of religions, there is only one right answer and it is Jesus the Christ. Jesus didnt just make these claims, He backed them up. In my next blog I will dive into the reasons His claims are valid.

More exclusive claims of Christ: 1 John 2:23, 1 John 5:11-12, Luke 10:16, Luke 12:8-9 , John 3:18, John 3:36, John 8:24, and John 10:7-8b.

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

One thought on “Can a sincere belief be sincerely wrong?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s