Street Talk: “I believe in Jesus why does it matter what religion I practice?”
If I was proposed this question by someone on the street/in a setting where I needed to give a relatively brief reply, my response to this question would be as follows:
By this statement, I take it to mean that (1) you believe in God and (2) you believe in Jesus. Is this correct?
If they respond in the affirmative (Yes), then I would ask some clarification questions.
I do not want to make any assumptions. By your belief in God, do you believe there to be only one true God, Creator of all things visible and invisible? And by saying that you believe in Jesus, do you believe that He is God Incarnate?
Assuming that they are Christian and responded to all of the above in the affirmative (Yes), then I would proceed:
If a person did not have “religion” and simply believed whatever they wanted and lived however they desired, would this person truly be led closer to God or be led further away?
The correct response is that by relying on reason alone, because humanity’s reason is weakened and darkened due to sin, man without faith will more likely be led further away from God rather than closer to God.
If they do not grasp this truth, I would explain further: In reality, relying on our reason, intellect, emotions and desires alone, without looking to revealed truths, humanity will more likely be led astray and further from God rather than be brought closer to Him. There are some truths that can be known through reason but it is possible for our reasoning to be wrong and in error. One example of something that we can know about God through our reason/intellect alone is that God exists, but there are many other things that we could never know solely through use of our reason. Some examples of these unknowns: (1) we would never know about the existence of heaven and hell through reason alone, (2) we would never know about the existence of angels through reason alone, (3) we would never know the reality of the spiritual battle that has been occurring between good and evil, Satan and God, since the beginning of time. (And the list goes on.) This is why revealed truths from God are important for humanity to understand reality. It is Faith that elevates our reason and understanding. Using our reason illuminated by faith we will be led closer to God.
I would then continue:
Do you believe in absolute truth? For example, you told me that you believe that there is only one true God. Do you believe this to be an absolute truth – truth that is universal (the same for all men) and that is unchanging throughout all time?
If they are Christian, they would respond yes, so I would continue:
Do you believe that God has revealed various absolute truths about Himself and about humanity to us throughout history (for example, in Sacred Scriptures)?
If they are Christian, they would respond yes, so I would continue:
Do you believe that God would reveal to us contradictory truths?
If truly Christian, they must answer that the absolute truths revealed by God are unchanging and cannot be contradictory or relativistic.
If they do not know the answer, I would explain further: God has revealed truths to us through Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and even in creation itself. These revealed truths are unchanging. These truths cannot contradict each other. By definition, absolute truths are not relative but are absolute, which means that they are the same for all people at all times. For example, God cannot reveal that such intentional acts as murder, fornication, adultery, and stealing are okay for some and wrong for others. These things are either good or evil acts. Period.
I would continue:
If this is the case, then what do we do about the situation that some religious groups teach that baptism is necessary for salvation while others teach that it is not necessary for salvation? There are also some groups who teach that all one must do is “accept Jesus into their heart as their personal Lord and Savior” and thus they are saved and can never lose their salvation. Yet there are other groups who teach that this is an error. These groups believe that faith is necessary but additionally one must live this faith through love which includes good works, and these groups preach that one can lose their salvation if they habitually do evil or fall into disbelief.
These are conflicting beliefs and only one of these groups can be right. Only one can be teaching the truths revealed by God.
So if you are to say that it does not matter which “religious group I belong to”, you are wrong. Why? Because this would accept a false notion that either “there is no truth” or “truth does not matter”. Yet when it comes to God, truth absolutely matters because God is Truth. In order to find God, we must search for the truth. Jesus even tells us that He is “the way, the truth and the life; no one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). If you are Christian and you believe in all that Christ teaches, it is imperative that you seek for the truth in order to truly find Christ. This therefore means that (1) there are absolute truths that exist, (2) we must search out these truths, (3) there must be a religious community who has the truth, and (4) once we find this truth we are obligated to accept it.
It is possible that they may then state/argue the point that there is no religious community that has the fullness of the truth and that all religious groups are corrupted to some degree. If this is their response, I would then respond by quoting Scripture and Jesus Himself.
Jesus clearly tells us that:
(1) He will establish a Church in order to unite believers and preach the Gospel (“build My Church” in Matt 16:18; “preach the gospel to all nations” in Matt 28:19; in Acts 8:3 and 9:4 shows how Saul persecuting the Church he persecutes Christ)
(2) the Holy Spirit will guide the Apostles, the first leaders of the Church founded by Christ to ALL truth (John 14:26; 16:13) and be with them ALWAYS (John 14:16)
(3) He will never leave those in the Church orphans (John 14:18) and He will be with His Church always (Matt 28:20)
(4) Jesus promised that the gates of hell would never prevail against His Church (Matt 16:18)
Therefore, if one accepts the premise that there is no one true Church, then they are calling Christ a liar.
My summation points to this person would be:
So there is absolute truth. There are truths revealed to humanity by God. These truths are handed down to us through the Church that Christ established, which includes through Scripture and the teachings of this one true Church. And Christ promised that this one Church would always be protected.
To support and promote the idea that it “does not matter what religion I practice or what religious group I belong to”, you are actually being relativistic and are professing a view opposed to God and what He has revealed to us. More importantly, if you truly desire to love God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – it is important to know God. For one cannot love what he does not know. BUT if one is mistaken about what one knows about the person he loves – in this case God – then his love his not real because all one then loves is a creation in his own mind and not the real Person.