Contradictions Don’t Coexist

Thanks to Issues Etc. and Table Talk Radio we are far more aware of “bumper sticker theology” than we used to be. Religious positions are a dime a dozen, as are the cheap, never-gonna-scrape-that-off-your-bumper stickers you see on the road these days. Even John Lennon’s famous line has made it to fender fad fame: “Imagine no religion.” Yes, even this is a religious proposition.

If you were to make a game of it – call it bumper sticker bingo – chances are the one that comes up most often is this: coexist. I see it all the time here in the land of fruits and nuts. But all ad hominem attacks aside, there is a serious problem with this cliché canard. As much as you can sympathize with the motivation to “just get along” this is most illogical.

Christians are confronted with this dilemma all the time in the public square. I hear it on campus and in conversations with non-Christians all the time: “all religions are just the same; you know different parts under the hood but still the same car, you know.”

However, this objection to Christianity – or simply to any one holding any religious position – is one of the easiest to remove on your way to proclaiming Christ Crucified. You don’t even need Christianity (at least at the start) to make your case. All you need is a little logic. And as a brief aside, Luther was right in saying that reason was the devil’s whore when it comes to attempting to think your way into heaven, as if your brain was a new Tower of Babel. But Luther also held that reason is a gift of God to be used by men; in fact he held it in high regard when used properly, ministerially instead of magisterially. Remember your first article explanation…“my reason and all my senses.” That is something we need to remember in the apologetic task. Reason has a place, even a blessed one, in communicating the Christian faith and sorting out truth from error, as in the case of this bumper sticker.

It’s a simple logical fact. As John Warwick Montgomery states in the opening of his apologetic magnum, “The characteristic most fully shared by the religions of the world is their mutual incompatibility with each other” (Montgomery, Tractatus, Logico Theologicus, p.13).

There may be sociological similarities. There may even be common elements of truth shared among the religions of the world. For example, while many have different definitions of who should not be murdered and who is to be protected under the law it is clearly written on the heart that murder is wrong. Even though common activities and ceremonial parallels exist that does not in and of itself prove a common source or cause. In fact the world’s religions are mutually incompatible when it comes to their respective views on the following positions: man, the way of salvation, the goal and purpose of human life, the basis of authority, ethics and morality, and the origin of evil just to name a few. A quick comparison between Islam’s and Christianity’s view on Jesus’ death reveals the same problem. Compare Sura 4:157, where the Qu’ran claims that Jesus was not crucified, with the Passion narrative of any of the four Gospels (not to mention hostile Roman and Jewish historians who corroborate the New Testament evidence by saying that he was crucified). They could both be wrong, but they can’t both be right. The better question is: which, if any of the world’s religions have overwhelming evidence in favor of their position? The answer I submit to you is this: Christ’s claim that he died and rose again.

While the Christian is called to speak the truth in love to the neighbor this does not include forsaking truth for a lie. Logically (let alone theologically) the coexist position is untenable, nonsensical and misleading. Of course, the atheist could be right: all the world’s religions could be false. That’s logically possible. But they cannot all be true.

As another famous Christian apologist once wrote: “There is a phrase of facile liberality uttered again and again at ethical societies and parliaments of religion: ‘the religions of the earth differ in rites and forms, but they are the same in what they teach.’ It is false; it is the opposite of the fact. The religions of the earth do not greatly differ in rites and forms; they do greatly differ in what they teach…Truth is, of course, that they are alike in everything except in the fact that they don’t say the same thing” (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, p. 134-135).

Contradictions don’t coexist, not in logic, not in theology, not in apologetics and not in the real world. Thankfully, the Christian has more to offer than sound logic. We also have history, geography, archaeology as solid evidence for the Christian claim. We have eyewitnesses that saw Jesus dead on a Good Friday and alive again on Easter Sunday. We have an impeccably reliable and veracious written record in the Gospels that rivals any other document of historical nature from the 1st century A.D. Those words are spirit, life and good reporting. What’s more, we have the Lord of heaven and earth who took on human flesh and blood, who made himself tangible, knowable, and hearable in human time and history. He has not left us a record of contradictions in the Scriptures, but a witness to the Him who is the way, the truth and the life. Christianity offers comfort in the face of contradictions. Truth in the face of error. Life in the face of death.

So, I think I’ve finally found a new bumper sticker that I’d like to stick on my window. Hopefully it will get a conversation going; one that begins in logic and ends at the cross.





About Pastor Sam Schuldheisz

Pastor Schuldheisz serves as Pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church, Huntington Beach, CA. He graduated in 2004 from Concordia University Irvine. And he is a 2008 graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana. Pastor Schuldheisz is also blessed in marriage to his wife of 7 years, Natasha. Together they enjoy the blessings of parenthood with their daughter Zoe. And when he’s not writing sermons or changing diapers, he enjoys reading and writing about the works of the Inklings and other belletristic literature, and Christian apologetics. He’s even been known to answer to Pastor Samwise on occasion.


Contradictions Don’t Coexist — 62 Comments

  1. @Ted Crandall #50

    tty, are you saying we should start teaching that Jesus is just another selection at the spiritual smorgasbord and that there are many, many ways to heaven, that Jesus Christ is not the only Savior?

    No, I’m taking the words “coexist” literally. Whether we like it or not the Muslim, Pacifist, Homosexual, Jew, Pagan, Taoist, and Christian featured on the bumper sticker is our neighbor in the full Luke 10 meaning of the word. The explicit message of the bumper sticker is that even though we, as members of a religion, necessarily carry the banner ~ “Gott Mit Uns” we don’t have to act like those who carried it before us.

  2. @#4 Kitty #1
    “The explicit message of the bumper sticker is…”

    …debatable. See @John Rixe #2 .

    In the meantime, I’ll stop accusing you of proclaiming that Jesus is just another joker in the deck. I will greatly appreciate it if you stop accusing me of throwing acid in the faces of non-Christians.

    In other words, can’t you and I coexist? 🙂

  3. So are the atheists willing to coexist or are they calling on the school system to actively disabuse students of their religious faith? Inquiring minds of parents of college students want to know.

    I have more faith in the probability of jihadis coexisting than rabidly atheist professors.

  4. I would just like to point out that Gay Rights are not suppressed by ALL religions. Just Abrahamic faiths (Christian, Hebrew, Islam)

    Also the line that “Christianity poses no threat to the others” is complete bupkis. Christian groups have been some of the loudest antagonists against equal religious rights in America, the country where this sticker originated. Attacks on Islamic communities, merely because a small group of extreme fundamentalist Muslims attacked their country, attacks on Pagan communities because people still fear that “evil witchcraft”, attacks on each other for practicing the wrong brand of Christianity, each one claiming to hold the “true word of god”.

    It’s not all of them, no. But it is the squeaky wheel which gets the grease. How about drowning out the hate with love? I know that the peaceful Christians must outnumber the hateful ones, so prove it to me. Prove it to the world.

    All Islam is not the Taliban, just as all Christianity is not the Westboro Baptist Church. Remember that, if nothing else.

    I hope you remember that the next time you set out to “fix” a call for peace.

  5. @TheSeptet #6
    “It’s not all of them, no. But it is the squeaky wheel which gets the grease.”

    Yes. Yes, it is — like what you call the “small group of extreme fundamentalist Muslims” who massacred our babies. Perhaps the peaceful Muslims outnumber the hateful ones, but we’re still waiting for them to prove it to the world. Instead I hear crickets — or dancing in the streets.

    You seem to be missing the point that Jesus is the only One Who can save you; He is not just another selection at the spiritual smorgasbord.

    Also, I would just like to point out that Gay Rights are not suppressed by ALL Abrahamic faiths (Christian, Hebrew, Islam). Plenty of them embrace sodomy. The Word of God never had a law against love (witness the intense love of David and Jonathan). It’s the sexual abominations which God judged that we are being pressed to embrace, not just tolerate.

  6. @Pastor Ted Crandall #7

    Once again you miss the point. You cannot blame the whole for the actions of a few. If one man massacres a dozen people, do we blame his entire family? If a bear eats someone, do we try to kill all bears? If two people eat a magical fruit, are all of their descendants cursed unto the end of time by a vengeful god?
    Well, all of those answers are yes, but the point I’m trying to make here is that they are the wrong answers.

    Jesus Christ is just the latest saviour god in a long line of resurrection deities. Look up “dying god” if you don’t know what I’m talking about. I understand that the Christ is very important to Christians. But the thing you need to understand is most non-Christians don’t care. We don’t want your saviour. Most either have their own, or they don’t operate under the assumption that they need to be saved from anything. Judeo-Christian beliefs teach that mankind is “born in sin” therefore all people need to be saved. But as a wise man once said, “that’s YOUR opinion”. Many faiths don’t even contain the concept of “sin” (as in an affront to god, not the usual catch-all term for mortal misbehaviour) instead opting for a more deeds based system.

    Christianity is very much a bargain bin style religion, taking traditions and myths from other religions. I don’t have a problem with that kind of thing, but instead of embracing their heritage they attempt to obfuscate the truth, even from themselves. There’s nothing wrong with being a young faith, nor building upon systems built by older faiths. Hell, Wicca’s 70 years old and you don’t see them trying to act like they come from a millennia -long line of uninterrupted priesthood. Well, except for the Gardnerians. But they don’t get invited to the parties anyway. The age or originality of a faith isn’t what counts. It’s the message.

    My point (and I do have one) is that one of the main tenants of Christianity is their belief that they are the only people with cosmic truth. However, that cannot be proven in a world were the gods no longer walk openly amongst the sons of men. Their only basis for this is the word of an allegedly 6000 year old book. I’ve heard the same thing over and over again when I ask Christians why they believe the Bible is true. They tell me it’s because the Bible says it is true.
    … what?
    I can take a piece of paper and write “This is a piece of delicious cake” on it, but that does not make it a piece of delicious cake.

    Christianity is a monotheism, which I can respect. But what I cannot respect is hatred, oppression and hypocrisy. You need to wake up and realize that you are not THE faith, you are A faith. Most of the other faiths have accepted each other as friends. We welcome Christians to the pluralistic society that we live in with open arms, no questions asked. We only ask that you do the same.

  7. TheSeptet says “when I ask Christians why they believe the Bible is true. They tell me it’s because the Bible says it is true.”
    Christians trust the witnesses. Because we trust their witness that Jesus is the Christ, then we trust Jesus who used the Old Testament and testified to its truth.
    We trust the accounts of the original witnesses because their faith was unshakable; many died rather than worship any other god besides Jesus, Father and Spirit. (Before you trot out the old argument that the Jesus story was made up decades later, let me point out that this canard has been thoroughly de-bunked and we have no further patience for it.)
    We trust the account that St. Paul was so worked up to suppress the Jesus movement (why else except that they were teaching that the risen Jesus is one with God?) that he took papers to allow him to have Christians in Damascus arrested. On his way there something happened to turn him into an ardent supporter of Christ. If this happened only a year or three (at most) after the crucifixion, then what accounts for his 180-degree turnaround other than a powerful vision? Similarly, when the Jews wrote about Jesus, they did not say that he was not crucified, nor that his body had been found in its tomb, but they did say he was guilty of blasphemy and sorcery. To us, their charge of blasphemy corroborates what the witnesses said about his claim to be “one with the Father.” The Jewish claim of sorcery just corroborates the claims of the witnesses about miracles.
    There is in fact a very large body of evidence if you really want it. However it is obvious that a serious consideration of the evidence is not what you want at all.

  8. And what of the hundreds of thousands of people who died during the Inquisition, the Crusades, the witch trials, and all the other times ravenous Christian sects went on conversion quests? The ones who spent their last breaths praying to their gods rather than accept the White God? Or professing their innocence to torturers who would accept nothing but guilt? Are they not worthy of the same respect as Christian martyrs? Christians have gained much power in the last 2000 years, and now they seek to rewrite history. To wash the blood off the record. The blood is there, and you’re not going to fool anybody by saying that it isn’t. Accept it as a time when your people were less wise. What is past is past and cannot be changed. Move on into the future, learning from the past.

    To accept truth blindly (i.e. “I read it in a book”) without searching to find out for yourself is foolish. I omitted a factor in my previous post. There is one group of Christians who don’t go straight for “The Bible is true because it says so” response. Mormons tell me they believe in the truth of the Bible because they prayed and received an confirmation of its truth. That was the point I was trying to make. Don’t simply rely on the words of men. Get your truth from the source.

    It is not in any god’s best interest to obfuscate cosmic truth from their followers. “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” Matthew-7:7

  9. I really enjoyed and agreed with everything you said on this post… until you chose sides. Of course, this is a Lutheran website so I suppose I shouldn’t have expected otherwise. You complain that religions cannot coexist and in the end you say that everyone should just become Lutheran. No one if they truly believe in their religion will be able to use “logic” to find out that the bible promotes the only true religion. You have no factual evidence. How do you know that Jesus was actually the son of God? Because some fanatic wrote it in the book and told everyone he was? Because Mary was supposedly a virgin? Do you have actual PROOF to any of that? No. Neither are any witnesses still alive and nobody knows if they ever even existed in the first place. Maybe it was just a bunch of Christians wanting to show to everyone that their religion is the only true one and that only their God has power. In a court none of this “evidence” would be enough to convince any judge that your religion is true and all others are false. Do you know how many prophecies in the bible never came true? If God really created every human being why would he let anyone pursue other religions instead of him and have them kill each other? Why are there plagues like Ebola or those who nearly wiped out humanity in medieval times? If he really loves every single human being why would he let so many of them die in so many tragic ways? This of course isn’t only the case for Christians, because why would Allah have created other religions? They all have some kind of “proof” that their religion is true. If everyone converted to the Islam we would be able to coexist peacefully too. I have stopped believing in the bible ever since I went to a catholic school, because I realized that everything they taught me was based on pure speculation and undoubted belief of what some fanatics wrote thousands of years ago. That of course is my opinion and I will not try to convince anyone otherwise. I too believe that we will never be able to coexist peacefully, but I do believe that you have any right or justification to say that we should convert to Christianity to achieve peaceful coexistence.

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