Exclusivism Part 1: The Label Nobody Wants

Rick Mattson Apologetics, Religious Pluralism 6 Comments

I am what’s sometimes called a traditional or “historic” Christian. It means I’m trying to stand in a line that stretches back to the Reformation, to the early church, to the twelve Apostles, and to Jesus himself.*

One of the main beliefs of historic Christians such as myself is that the Apostles and early church were in a unique position to assess the life of Jesus and to either debunk his claim to be the Son of God, or promote it. They chose the latter (mainly because of the resurrection) — and were martyred for doing so.

This stance of identifying with the early church carries with it an assertion that is very unpopular in contemporary American society (and elsewhere): that historic Christianity is true.

Honestly, this mantle can be a burden at times.

Whereas it’s acceptable in contemporary culture to say of oneself, “I’m religious,” or “I’m a Christian,” or “I choose X while others choose Y, and we’re all OK with that,” the claim to believe that a certain view is actually true (as I do) contains an additional unpopular corollary: every other competing claim is false. Atheism, for example, is false if historic Christianity is true.

Now a critic might object along these lines: 

Why can’t we all just get along?

Why can’t we work together toward a tolerant and just society that respects the views of all well-meaning persons? Hasn’t history taught us that such exclusive truth claims have often been the source of conflict, even war?

I’ll respond to the critic in my next post.

*In contemporary terms, I’m also an “evangelical” Christian. But that can mean a lot of things. I use the words “historic” or “traditional” Christian because those words point back in time to the beginning of the faith.


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Comments 6

  1. You are sooo correct as CS Lewis stated:
    If what Jesus Christ said about himself is not true, it is of NO IMPORTANCE.
    If what Jesus Christ said about himself is true, it is of INFINITE IMPORTANCE.
    what Jesus Christ said about himself can never be of MODERATE IMPORTANCE.

    1. Post

      Zeke, Regarding the first statement, I suppose it could be argued that even if false, Christianity is important simply because of its influence on history and culture.

      The second statement is obviously true.

      I guess the third statement follows from the first two. The ultimate truth claim of being the Son of God is either looney or true, certainly not “sort of important.”

  2. Rick,

    I love your blog post on historic Christianity. It’s funny how some people don’t understand that you can look at Roman history and see from a non-biblical perspective that Jesus was real. I’m troubled these days that when they poll millennials that they think the Church is fake and not truthful. I’m sure you deal with this everyday, especially during the Stump the Chump sessions you have.

    Keep up your holy work!!!


    1. Post

      Rob, I keep getting back to the importance of history, as you suggest. Christianity is a historical religion not merely because its prophets or spokespersons were historical — of course they were. That’s true of all religions. But the Christian claim is that the incarnation of God himself in Jesus Christ was historical. That’s the established history to which I always want to be anchored. Students ask all the time, Why is your way right? Answer: It’s not my way. It’s the way of the historic church which was founded by the historic Son of God, which extends forward to our own time, of which I am a member.

  3. I like what you said about, “they were martyred” for believing that. I have to ask myself at times, am I willing to stand publically on unpopular biblical truths in the spirit of “lets all get along” or not offending, or will I be willing to take the hard road like the disciples at the possible cost of being despised, rejected or mocked?

    1. Post

      Kelli, Agreed. “Go along to get along” is tempting these days. Standing up for biblical truth in a caring way is a lot harder.

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