A student writes:
“[W]hen I read “Jesus died for the whole world” it made me wonder how that works for people of other religions. Do we as Christians believe that Muslims who pray to Allah, are really just calling our God by the name Allah? What about Jewish people who, from what I know about that religion which is very little, don’t believe that Jesus was the son of God. Is that a little arrogant to believe that we “know” the real God and the rest are unaware?”
I reply: Great question, and a very common one… Here’ a clip from an old post of mine:
Authority. If a person believes that they should give serious attention to religious and spiritual things – perhaps asking questions like “has God spoken?” – they will, sooner or later, realize something…. Yes, Jesus spoke with real authority. And yet, so, evidently, did Confucius. And the Buddha. And Mohammad. And even Joseph Smith.
And while there might be some overlap here and there, the teachings of these men also contradict one another wildly at important points. If and when we become aware of this – particularly in this pluralistic day and age – many of us might find ourselves asking: which of them speaks the truth – or at the very least, gets closest to the truth? How to really know?
Things become more complicated when we come to understand that many of these teachers often talked about how people could know that what they said was true by an internal self-attestation of sorts. In other words, when listening to their authoritative-sounding words – words often later put down in authoritative writings – one will feel it in one’s heart. That is how the truth will be known. Some of these teachers – even Jesus Himself – add that one can know whether the teaching is from God when one puts it into practice (see John 7:17).
Regarding the self-attestation of the truth, Christians talk about something like this as well – with a basis for such thought being found in the Scriptures. “Taste and see tha the Lord is good!” “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free!” And, perhaps most importantly, “I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me” (II Tim. 1:12). They talk about the “self-authenticating” nature of the Christian message in general, and the Christian Scriptures in particular. More specifically, this is seen to be a work of the Holy Spirit, and it is called the “testimonium Spiritu Sancti internum” or internal testimony of the Holy Spirit. We can call that TSSI for short.
We will look at that in the next post, but permit one more brief note at this point: even many Christians here might ask “but what about our own capacity to verify what authorities might be telling the truth”? This is a good question, and we can briefly address it at this point. First, it is helpful to look at an interesting illustration demonstrating the stakes of what is involved.
“Suppose someone is running from an island volcano to a harbor, and sees a large fleet of boats. He has been warned before that many of the boats have terrible holes and cannot be trusted on the open sea. If this person hopes to escape the coming wrath, he will surely be concerned with which of the crafts is seaworthy.” (Angus Menuge, p. 252, Reformation and the Rationality of Science, Theologia et Apologia)
Going along with this, another good question is “which boats should I look at first”? Here, one notes that of all the religious leaders in the world’s history, there is only One who is claimed to still live – not only spiritually, but physically. Might this not be highly significant, given that one of the most significant man’s great questions is “Why do we die and what follows death?” Of course the Christian faith is unique in this claim of its founder’s overcoming of death – and His claims to have its final answer – and also opens the way for historical investigation into the matter (see Acts 2, 17 and 26 regarding this matter). As Jesus’ disciples said concerning him: “Come and see”. While the Scriptures would assert that you are not able to give yourself true spiritual life, you certainly can decide to put yourself in the path of the One who can.
From here I’d point you to this post first: https://infanttheology.wordpress.com/2016/02/21/i-feel-like-most-religions-are-based-on-the-same-basic-principles-yes/
And then this one next, if you are interested: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/justandsinner/do-proponents-of-other-abrahamic-faiths-worship-the-same-god-the-answer-is-not-in-philosophy-but-in-the-distinction-between-law-and-gospel/
As you can see, this question has multiple layers.
It gets to the heart, also, about what I said [earlier in class]: for Christians, faith is not blind or unconcerned about material and historical evidences. Those things are part and parcel of it.