Why are there so many World Religions?
We've been dealing with Religious Pluralism in Gathering this month as a part of our Maybe Series. The question always comes up - usually with the following unspoken assumption: If there's only one way to God why do we have so many religions? Couldn't God have kept the profusion of options to a minimum and help humanity get on the same page? Couldn't God have sent a himself to every culture at different points in time to accomplish what Jesus did in first century Palestine? I've had more than one Chinese Christian ask me "How come God did not send Jesus to China instead of to a tiny nation in the Middle East?
In the first place, if there really is only one God, he can't be held responsible for what people are fully responsible for. If there is one God, there is the strong likelihood that multiple Gods (or gods) have been created by people and put in the place of God himself as substitutes for the one, real God.
The Christian scriptures are clear in pointing out that our tendency to create things is part of what it means to be made in God's image. The confusion comes when our capacity to create replaces our relational connection to God. We become idol-makers trying to please the gods instead of worshipers serving the one true, living God himself. Instead of cleaning out the house of idols, someone came along and said "let's just pretend these are real and see what happens."
Isaiah 43 tells us exactly what God thinks of this. Give it a read. Loud and clear - idols are nothing. There is only one God. He's not amused that we worship our own creativity. If for some reason he felt he had to take responsibility to animate our idols he'd have a very unwanted full time job.
Because he gives us the dignity of choice, he obligates us to the unpleasant consequences of those choices for as long as we insist on being in control. The only thing idols give us in the end... is control. Man making God over in his image instead of accepting the exact opposite arrangement.
The easier way out for God is plan A. "I think I'll keep being God on my own terms", says Yahweh. "Once you come to your senses come on back and take me up on my offer."
Good luck with that World Religions quiz. Give me a shout if you need the answers.