Can Truth Be Found In Other Religions?
My personal spiritual journey has been one that has allowed me to experience many faiths, not simply as an onlooker, but sometimes as an active participant. I have explored Buddhism, Islam, the Unification Church, the Yamabushi, and I was even an initiated sannyasi in the Vaisnava sect of Hinduism. So, how do I view my Hindu past (indeed, all world religion) in light of the Truth of Christ? It is an accepted principle of hyper-ecumenism and the New Age Movement that there is room within Christianity for accepting the teachings of Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Paganism, and any other religious "ism" as equal in dignity and validity as the Biblical faith.
I beg to differ.
Hinduism holds that all metaphysical truth, and hence access to experiential knowledge of the divine, have always been available throughout history and are to be found within the framework of every valid religious tradition when properly understood. This of course requires us to take a second look at religious history in light of the claims of this supposed "perennial wisdom". History from the viewpoint of Hinduism is cyclical, and not a progressive sequence. In scientific terms, Hinduism holds to a theory of time in which all events repeat over and over. In this repetition, the Hindu recognizes a continuous degeneration from a former golden age to a mundane age, a cycle of gradual degeneration rather than advancement. The Christian view of time stands in stark contrast to this. The Hindu concept of time necessitates and eternal universe. The problem is, we know from cosmology that the universe is expanding. What does this mean? It means that, any universe that has been expanding throughout its history cannot be eternal in the past, but must have an absolute beginning- not just a continues expansion and contraction. The Hindu concept of time, with its need for an eternal universe, fails to meet the requirements of the Cosmological Argument.
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Hinduism rejects premise one, as it promotes an eternal universe. The Hindu concept of an infinite, eternal universe involves the logical impossibility of creating an actual infinite number of events in physical space and time to exist. This is where we find the error of Hindu time conception. If you start counting 1, 2, 3… you could count forever and never reach a time when you finish counting to infinity. You could count forever, but whatever number you were counting at that exact moment would be an actual finite number. You can always add one more to the number you were currently saying; therefore, you could never reach the end of infinity. So, is there such a thing as infinity future? Yes, but it will never get here. Is an infinite past possible? If the universe did not begin to exist, then it had to have always been here from past infinity, but then the number of events that happen in the universe would have to be infinite because the universe would be infinite. It would then be impossible to answer many questions. For instance, consider the following thought experiment regarding two beginningless series of coordinated events. I want you to envision our solar system existing from infinity past. The planet’s orbital periods would correspond that for every one orbit Saturn would complete, Jupiter would complete 2.5 orbits around the sun.
Here’s the problem: if both Saturn and Jupiter have been orbiting the sun for past infinity, which planet has completed the most orbits? Initially, you might want to answer Jupiter because it is closer to the sun and orbits 2.5 times faster, but you would be wrong. If both planets have been orbiting from infinity past, the correct mathematical answer would be that Jupiter and Saturn have completed the exact same number of orbits. This is ludicrous because Jupiter orbits 2.5 times faster than Saturn, and it would seem that if they have been orbiting the sun from infinity past, then, Saturn should have fallen infinitely behind Jupiter. This is a ridiculous paradox demonstrating the absurdity of an actually infinite past. Since this is so obviously absurd, it is logically evident that the universe did begin to exist, and is therefore, not actually infinite or eternal.
Consider as well the Law of Thermodynamics. It states that all of the useful energy that already exists in the universe is being used up and is being transformed into non-usable energy. This refers to a process called entropy. If the universe were infinitely old (eternal), then it would have already used up all of its usable energy an infinite amount of time ago. Therefore, we would have reached a temperature of absolute zero, and the heat death of the universe an infinite amount of time ago. There would be no heat, no light, no life, not just in our galaxy, but anywhere in the entire universe. There could be no eternal expansion and contraction, as Hinduism teaches. Now, since there are pockets of useful energy left in the universe, the universe had to have had a starting point. Moreover, scientists can show us that we live in an expanding universe.
According to Hinduism, throughout time God provides a means by which humanity can attain communion with the "Supreme Personality of Godhead", according to the various times, places and circumstances. God provided a means for salvation (moksha). The various means by which God has provided a path to liberation have changed depending on time, place and circumstances. However, Christianity teaches that God has always been consistent in His plan for salvation, and that this plan was- from the foundation of the universe-Jesus Christ. This has never changed, and is not different depending on time, place or circumstance. Some might say that the Old Testament Israelites did not know Christ, therefore this cannot be so. To this we respond, salvation was not possible, even for the patriarchs, outside of faith and grace.
This is the exact way salvation works today. By faith in Christ, and the grace of God, we are counted righteous. Nothing has changed in God's plan of salvation. It is this alone that leads us to salvation. And so it follows that salvation comes to us by the Divine Logos, which Logos exists and existed from the beginning of time, for “in the beginning was the Word.”
Does this mean that Hinduism (or other world religions) possess no truth whatsoever? We find the Church Fathers making two distinct conclusions regarding other religions in light of Christianity. They either declared the fact that Christianity is the depository of the fullness of the Truth and that therefore there is no need to look elsewhere, or they held that all truth, no matter where it was found, belonged to the integrity of the faith, and was therefore to be understood in that light.In other words, any truths found in the various pagan religions are a result of God making a witness of certain aspects of His truths to them out of mercy, and/or these elements of truth were the vestiges of the truths of the Biblical faith passed on by the children of Noah down to that present generation. As Thomas Aquinas said, quoting Ambrose, “all truth, no matter where it is found, has the Holy Spirit for its author.” As God is the Source of all Truth, this must be the case. This does not however mean that these religions are true, any more than a thief telling the police certain elements of truth in order to hide his guilt, makes his entire story true. As one can see, this is the opposite of the silly hyper-ecumenism that seems to be the rage-an ecumenism that would accept literally every New Age deviation imaginable as if it equal to Christianity. While we can recognize truths when evangelizing adherents of other religions, we must understand those tiny bits and pieces of information in their proper perspective, and not absorb the multitudes of falsehoods hidden beneath a small truth.