Religion And Truth

Sophists: the original religious pluralists

…if in virtue of its nature all religion includes some kind of cognition and in its doctrine posits the reality of its object, it automatically falls under the heading of truth or untruth. Religion is never the product of feeling or fantasy alone; if that were the case, it would attach only an aesthetic value to its representations. But every religion is convinced of the reality and truth of its representations and cannot exist without this conviction. Accordingly and in fact everyone applies the categories of “true” and “false” to religions. Even the most “presuppositionless” philosopher of religion does not believe in the truth of the gods of the nations, however much he appreciates the religious disposition that comes to expression in it, and speaks, for example, of intellectualism, mythical sentimentalism, moralism, as well as of the pathological phenomena that contrast with sound and vital religion. The religions, accordingly, are far from viewing themselves as indifferent with respect to each other; they do not think they form a graduated series from the lower to the higher, but each in turn presents itself as true over against every other religion as untrue. Frederick the Great may say, and a philosopher of religion may say after him: “In my realm every citizen is free to be saved in his own fashion,” but the religions themselves have a very different view of this matter. And they cannot do otherwise: what one religion posits as true is disregarded by another. If Christ is the one sent by the Father, then Mohammed is not. If the Catholic doctrine of the Lord’s Supper is correct, that of the Reformation is in error. One who thinks and speaks otherwise and calls all religions equally true or equally false, in principle takes the position of the sophists who saw man as the measure of all things. [Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics vol. 1, 249]