Many people wonder why Christianity is so “narrow-minded.” Why can’t all religions be considered equally valid ways to God?
I will admit that most if not all religions have some good in them. Most preach avoiding evil and doing good, although there is some difference in the definition of the those two terms. (But not as much as you would think, as C.S. Lewis has pointed out in Mere Christianity and The Abolition of Man).
The problem is that all religions and their rituals are mere pictures of who God is. In the case of Judaism, it’s a pretty good picture, as God specifically gave the Jews their laws and rituals as a picture of himself and of Christ. In the case of others, the pictures are much more distorted, many to the point where you can barely recognize God for who he truly is at all. Because of this, none of the laws and rituals they present can in any way bring us closer to God.
Even in the best of them, namely the Jewish laws and rituals, they are not the reality of Christ nor of salvation. The Jewish rituals, sacrifices and festivals, wonderful pictures of Christ and his sacrifice on the cross though they are, are not Christ himself. They are not his sacrifice on the cross itself.
As a result, they have no power to save. And if these rituals, sacrifices and festivals, ordained by God himself, are powerless to save anyone, how can the rituals, sacrifices, and festivals ordained by other religions be any more effective?
And so Paul says,
Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God–or rather are known by God–how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. (8-11)
Paul speaks specifically here to the former gods and religious practices of the Galatians. And he says, “Before you were saved, you were slaves to things that were not gods, forced to follow rituals and religious celebrations that could not save you. But now you know better. You actually know God now. And he knows you. You are in a real relationship with him as his beloved children. Why then are you going back to what is weak and powerless?
“Oh, sure, you’re not going back to your old gods and religious practices. Now you’re turning to Jewish religious practices to save you. But these are just as powerless to save you as your old religious practices were. They were just the ABCs of getting to know God. Helpful in their own way in that they help you see your own sin and need for a Savior. But they can’t actually save you. All they can do is make you miserable because you see you can’t keep the rules perfectly and deserve to be condemned. You know this! Why go back to them?”
He then says, “Look, I became like you. When I’m with you, I eat with you, eat your food, and break all kinds of Jewish customs. So don’t be afraid to be like me. Stop living by the rules of religion, but by faith in Christ.”
And that’s Paul’s charge to us. Let’s get away from the pictures of Christ. That’s all the Jewish laws and rituals were. They have no power to save in themselves. So let us come into relationship with Christ himself. And let us rejoice in the relationship we now have with God as his children because of what Christ has done for us.