In our increasingly cosmopolitan society we have an ever growing number of religious worldviews becoming available to us. Is it even appropriate, much less necessary, for any of us to ponder the question of which religious worldview is actually the closest to the truth about the way things really are?

The answer to this question, according to those who embrace the concept of religious relativism, is a hearty “No!”

Put simply, the idea behind religious relativism is that because all religions do the same thing—help us connect with God (or ultimate reality)—they’re all equally valid. Thus, it’s both unnecessary and inappropriate for us to wonder about which faith tradition is closer to the truth.

One of the problems with this view is that a closer look at the various religions reveals that they are teaching some radically different things about God (or ultimate reality). How, then, can it be so easily assumed that all the world’s faith traditions are all equally effective in helping people connect with him (or it)?

Since, in an increasingly postmodern, post-Christian age, even many evangelical Christians are experiencing the temptation to embrace the idea of religious relativism, I’d like to point out that there’s a passage in the Gospel of Mark that would seem to give careful readers a hint as to where Jesus might stand on the issue of religious relativism.

Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. [19] “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. [20] Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. [21] The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. [22] In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. [23] At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” [24] Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? [25] When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. [26] Now about the dead rising–have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? [27] He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!” (Mark 12:18-27)

Now, we should keep in mind that the Jewish Jesus wasn’t in dialogue here with members of a completely different world religion. He was actually interacting with the members of a particular Jewish sect to which he, himself, didn’t belong.

How did Jesus act toward these fellow Jews whose religious worldview differed in some important ways from his own? What can we learn about Jesus’ view of religious relativism based upon this passage from the Gospel of Mark?

First, this passage would seem to suggest that it is Jesus’ conviction that not all worldviews, even those that are theistic, are equally accurate: it’s possible, says Jesus, for a religious worldview, though held sincerely, to be “in error” and “badly mistaken” about the way things really are.

Second, to be more specific, Jesus seems to say here that religious worldviews go awry when they don’t take into careful consideration: (a) the teaching of the Scriptures; and (b) the power of God (i.e., God’s ability and willingness to perform miracles, like raising people from the dead).

Third, since this passage shows Jesus offering a caring critique of a differing version of his own Jewish faith, we might go so far as to say that, even when it comes to evaluating differing versions of the Christian faith, we should lean toward the one that takes the Scriptures seriously while at the same time affirming God’s ability to do the miraculous.

The bottom line is that it appears that Jesus would not have embraced the popular notion of religious relativism. From his perspective, some religious worldviews are, apparently, closer to the way things really are than others. While we Christians should never assume that we have the truth about the way things really are in our back pocket, shouldn’t it be our goal to do everything we can so as to never have to hear Jesus say to us: “You are badly mistaken!”?

Something to think about.