What about those born into other religions? Isn’t God playing favorites?

What about those born into other religions?  Isn’t God playing favorites?

English: Richard Dawkins giving a lecture base...

English: Richard Dawkins giving a lecture based on his book, The God Delusion, in Reykjavik (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

This is a common argument that comes up quite a lot by people who reject the Christian faith because of exclusivity of salvation as being by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.  Usually, the argument is thrown out to people who grew up in predominantly Christian regions of the world.  Outspoken Atheist, Richard Dawkins refers to this situation as the result of “childhood indoctrination.”  In the Preface of his best-selling book, The God Delusion, Dawkins writes:

If you feel trapped in the religion of your upbringing, it would be worth asking yourself how this came about.  The answer is usually some form of childhood indoctrination.  If you are religious at all it is overwhelmingly probable that your religion is that of your parents.  If you were born in Arkansas and you think Christianity is true and Islam false, knowing full well that you would think the opposite if you had been born in Afghanistan, you are the victim of childhood indoctrination.

Sadly, Dawkins is likely correct for many religious adherents.  Many people would attest that their faith is the result of their upbringing and they don’t have any answers to share to back up their faith besides pointing to the claims of their religious texts (Christians – the Bible is true because it says it is true) or their subjective experience during prayer (Mormons – just pray and you’ll feel the burning in your bosom that Mormonism is true).  I know my faith is a product of my upbringing, and I don’t deny it.  However, I and many other Christians point outside of our experience to observable evidence such as the fine-tuning of the universe for life on earth for the existence of God and we then point to the historical evidence of the person of Jesus Christ.  The Christian faith is grounded in history and the authors of the New Testament pain-mistakenly made efforts to ensure their accounts portray this fact.  You can sift through this blog more to find answers to back-up the validity of the Christian faith via historical examination, but I want to address this question from a different angle.  Since “child indoctrination” doesn’t apply to everyone who is a Christian, or follower of another faith, I think the complaint of Dawkins can be boiled down to fairness.  If God is real and a correct understanding and truth about him and trust in him are key components of salvation, it’s not fair that some are born in positions where they likely will become adherents of the WRONG religion.  Since this doesn’t seem fair, then God must not exist, because God must be fair.

As I have answered previous questions from time to time, here I go again with a statement of validation, Socratic style answering, a straight answer, and Scripture to back up the answer.

Validation:

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking that I’m a Christian, because I grew up in a Christian family, a Christian culture, that if I grew up in Turkey, I’d likely be a Muslim, or that if I grew up in India, I’d probably be a Hindu.  I’d agree with you; it’s not always the case, but more often than not we are often a product of our environment.  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as the saying goes.  It seems as if God is playing favorites, since some people are born into lives that appear to be more fertile to having a relationship with him.

Socratic Method:

“How is it playing favorites, if Jesus died to take away the sins of all people?”

“Is it really playing favorites, if we are all sinful and deserving of condemnation?  For God to remain just and not overlook lawlessness, he had to send his one and only Son, Jesus Christ to die as a substitutionary sacrifice.  Does God have to go through such pain and suffering, considering we are all guilty of sin?  Shouldn’t we be fortunate that he has paved a way for us to have salvation?”

“Where do you stand in the so-called “favorites” ranking?  Have you heard the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ?”

Answer:

The Bible is very clear that God does not show favoritism. He is the savior of all men.  Jesus’ last words to his disciples before ascending to heaven were commands that they should make disciples of all nations.  (Matthew 28:18-20)  He even promised that it would happen and that the disciples would receive power through the Holy Spirit to accomplish that feat.  (Acts 1:7-8)  It is clear in Scripture that people from all races, nations, and tongues will have salvation and be with God in heaven.  This is already evident now if you look on a map of the spread of religions.  Christianity is the only religion that is diverse enough to have spread across the globe, breaking through all sorts of barriers of language, culture, ethnicity, and lines of nationality.  Jesus even promised that the end would not come until the Gospel has been preached to all nations.  (Matthew 24:14)  It is clear that Jesus does not show favorites due to place of birth.

Scripture:

Galatians 3:26-29 – “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Revelation 7:9 – “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.”

Acts 10:34 – “Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.”

6 thoughts on “What about those born into other religions? Isn’t God playing favorites?

  1. could bring up the fact that since we’re not worthy of eternal life in the first place, then why is the premise of this argument even considered. If we start from their false premise then we are saying that people deserve salvation. We must remember, we are a product of our environment. This includes all those moral atheists who think they’re more righteous than others, but have had good parents and surroundings, unlike the homeless, thieves and angry people they condemn and think themselves better than. So then, they give credit to themselves by their thinking themselves more righteous and by that, deny the goodness of their parents and surroundings they were raise in, and thus, play the hypocrite to the claims of “religious surroundings”.

  2. Typo: pain-mistakenly = painstakenly ?

    And to answer Bill, “Unconditional election” and “Limited Atonement” as taught in some Christian sects such as Calvinism may be what this is an attack of. Those 2 combined say that only the “elect” where saved by Christ.

    • I live in a paradoxical view of Scripture. I hold to “unconditional election” yet reject “limited atonement.” I think it is pretty clear in Scripture that Jesus died to take away the sins of the world and that it is the will of God that none should perish but all come to repentance. I have thought about writing a blog post or two on this Scriptural debate that has been waged for centuries, but I haven’t done so because I think it is most fruitful in circles that our only Christian and not in private.

      I agree with you Aaron. I think with Calvinism the argument that God is playing favorites must come up quite a lot since limited atonement teaches that God doesn’t love everyone and only sent Christ to die for the elect. I try to avoid election when sharing the Gospel.

      • That is a paradox. I would argue that that they are inseparable. In John 10, Christ told the Jewish crowd around him specifically who he would die for. The sheep only. Not the wolves. Not the goats. Just the sheep.

        He goes on to tell them the reason for their unbelief. They didn’t believe because they weren’t sheep. It is important to realize that he didn’t say it the other way around. He did NOT say they weren’t sheep because of their unbelief. Only sheep believe. Their unbelief was proof that they weren’t sheep. Therefore he told them he wouldn’t be laying down his life for them.

        Consider the implications of the premise that Christ atoned for the sins of everyone that ever did or ever will live. He’ll must be empty because it would be unjust for the Father to hold an individual accountable for something which Christ had already paid the price.

        You may respond that we have to believe. But isn’t unbelief a sin? Doesn’t the bible speak of a wicked heart of unbelief? If it is a sin, then it was paid for, unless Christ paid for all sins except that particular one.

  3. There are some questions, loads of questions, but not so many answers! Well, answers of sorts, but few that really satisfy. I am a Christian, from a very nominally Christian country, England. Much of what passes for organised Christianity now in the UK is mere show, a sort of Christianity that reflects the English social system and the pretend niceties of the English ruling classes. It is at best very dull and completely uninspiring to most people, which is why very few people go to ‘church’ in England. It is, in short, aimed primarily at the white respectable and affluent folk who have it all together. Didn’t Jesus come for the marginalised, the downtrodden, the outcasts? Yet, the very people who in some cases create and help to further their interests at the expense of others are the ones who ‘get the best seats in the church’ so to speak. If you want to talk about Christianity in the British Empire, that was 100 times worse, a religion of the conqueror and ‘might is right’ which you Americans seem to know all about, too.

    The question isn’t ‘Are you from a Christian country, community or background’ But ‘regardless of where you come from, who you are and etc, do you serve the Lord Jesus with the whole heart, or do you at least start your day trying to do that?’

    I’m no theologian, I just know that Jesus is my friend. He heals me, puts me on the right path, is preparing me for prosperity, and gave me a new song in my heart, but if you heard me sing you’d be glad I only sing in the bath!!!

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