The short film Most made its way onto the big screen more than 10 years ago. A brilliantly moving piece of cinema, the film tells the story of a single father who lives with his son in the Czech Republic. The pair share simple yet content lives together. The father works as a bridge engineer—he is responsible for raising and lowering a massive draw-bridge that allows ships and trains to pass at scheduled times. One day, the boy happened to be at the bridge with his father. As he’s playing outside, he notices a train rapidly approaching the station.
It was an hour early. The bridge was up. And the train was heading right toward it.
He yells and shouts at the window of his father’s booth, but to no avail. The train was quickly running out of track, and the bridge needed to come down. Hundreds of people were potentially onboard. So the boy decides to manually lower the bridge by pulling a lever near the tracks. In a heart-stopping moment, he accidentally falls into the gear-works that enable to bridge to operate.
A series of heavy, metal gears and levers surrounded his body on all sides. The flicker of movement catches the father’s eye. He turns to see his son fall into the gear-box and lie helpless there.
Realization dawns upon him: If he lowers the bridge, the gears will crush his boy.
Left with the soul-shredding decision to kill his boy, he cries and screams and punches the wall. With only moments to deliberate, he reluctantly pulls the lever. He hears the gears turn and lets out a guttural scream. The camera then moves and presents us with the haunting image of the boy’s lifeless corpse. Hundreds on the train were saved, but at the biggest price to the father. He killed his son.
Another Way Out
Now picture the same scenario, but with a twist this time. Suppose the boy had fallen into the gear-works, and the train was rushing towards the raised bridge. But this time, the father had two levers: one to lower the bridge and kill his son (like in the original scenario) and one to divert the train onto an alternate track that took it over a second, parallel bridge. It would be madness for the father to choose the first lever and kill his son with the second lever within reach. Why would he kill his son when he knows fully well that the second lever is capable of saving both the lives of all the train passengers and also the life of his son? Such a decision would be utterly appalling. Only a monster would choose the first lever.
And yet this is exactly who religious pluralists make God out to be.
“All religions are true.”
“All religions lead to God.”
“All roads lead to the same destination.”
While I can understand the sentiment of inclusivity, this idea pictures an evil God. Religious pluralists often reject exclusivist positions for positing a cruel God who only made one way to reach him. But if all religions are true, then God is cruel. And not just cruel—God is an incompetent, cosmic child-abuser. If religious pluralism is true, then God is the father in the second scenario. He saw the train coming, yet he decided to pull the first lever and kill his son, rather than pull the second lever.
Is God Cruel or Incompetent?
If Islam, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and all the other world religions are true paths to God, then why did God kill his Son, Jesus, in order to make a way for men to come to him? The very notion is absurd and insulting to God. It paints a portrait of a God who is just plain cruel. He sent Jesus into the world to live a miserable life of scorn, rejection, poverty, betrayal, humiliation, sorrow, and ultimately, torture and death, in order to create a path whereby men can come to know him. Yet all the while he knew that following the Five Pillars of Islam or the Noble Eight-fold Path could accomplish the same thing. What a waste! Jesus’ life—God’s plan of salvation— is completely in vain, for the same result could be achieved by simply adhering to the tenets of any world religion. God is not only cruel but also incompetent for putting into effect the worst salvation plan possible.
But God is not cruel. He is not incompetent. He would not kill his Son needlessly. He would not put into effect a ridiculous or cruel salvation plan for mankind. Hence, religious pluralism cannot be true. This argument does not show Christianity to be true, but it does show that not all religions can be true, for if they were, then God would not be a God of love.