"In a context where there is no truth but only truths, no principles but only preferences, we face the challenge of being regarded as arrogant for proclaiming Jesus," said a Cleveland, Ohio, pastor.
Dr. Alistair Begg, who is senior pastor of Parkside Church and hosts "Truth for Life" radio, was answering the question "Is the exclusivity of Christ unjust?" when he made the statement.
He spoke to some 4,000 people at Ligonier Ministries' national conference in Orlando, Fla. The theme of the June 17-19 event was "Tough Questions Christians Face."
The Bible affirms that there is only one way to God and one mediator, Begg said. And that is Christ Jesus.
"If we're going to take seriously the instruction of the Bible ... as believing Christian people we accept the fact that Jesus' name is above every name and that all of history is moving towards the day when at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father," he said in his session on Friday.
Two thousand years ago, the affirmation of the exclusive claims of Jesus resulted in the death of those who held to it. Today, while there may not be physical persecution for believers in America, there certainly is intellectual and social persecution, Begg said.
To suggest that Christianity has got it right and that others have got it wrong comes off as arrogant to many.
Begg acknowledged that some Christians' affirmations are "justifiably charged as arrogant – not the truth itself but the way that truth is conveyed."
But in general, he said, "We need to understand that truth is not a matter of pride or humility. It's a matter of fact."
Christians are often also accused of being narrow and intolerant for proclaiming Jesus as the only way to salvation.
Many, however, have redefined the term tolerance, Begg noted.
"What we need is a dictionary. We need to rescue 'tolerance' from the mistaken notion that tolerance means accepting every viewpoint as equally true and value," he said.
That new "tolerance" "cultivates a mind so broad that it can tolerate every opinion without ever detecting anything in it to reject." That, he said, is "not a virtue but the vice of the feeble-minded."
"True tolerance," he explained, "involves treating with integrity and humility someone whose opinions I believe to be untrue and invalid."
"Therefore, to be a tolerant Christian doesn't mean accepting contrary views as valid but treating with grace and kindness those with whom you disagree," he added.
Begg laid emphasis on the fact that Christianity makes affirmations no other religion makes, such as God becoming flesh and Christ suffering and dying the death that everyone deserves.
"The uniqueness of Jesus is inescapable. Christianity is superior or it is totally irrelevant," he said.
Though the world and culture say that all the "stories" of various religions are equally valid and that there is no overarching story, the Bible says otherwise.
"The entire story is the story of our alienation and the wonder of God's reconciliation," said Begg. "The alienations of our world today, which don't have to be argued for, they jump out on us don't they? – a man alienated from his wife, parents from their children ... governments from their people, man from himself. ... Is it unjust, it is unfair to say 'Do you know there is someone who has come to deal with your alienation? Do you know that there is someone who has come and has himself taken all of your alienation in him? Do you know that the story that we have for you is not the story of a God on a deck chair somewhere but it is the story of a God on a cross?'"
Begg added, "It won't do for us to offer our friends ... a God who does everything in general and nothing in particular. It sounds appealing but it's irrelevant."
Other topics covered during the Ligonier conference include "Why did Jesus have to die?" "Is the doctrine of inerrancy defensible?" "What is evil and where did it come from?" and "Why do Christians still sin?"