It doesn’t matter what Christian denomination you join, as long as you’re sincere. This may sound like a claim that we hear often in today’s culture. We live in a world ruled by the dictatorship of relativism.
But back in 1887, Father John MacLaughlin grappled with the question of whether one religion is as good as another. It’s an age old question, reaching back into the days of the early church.
“My scope is to show that all religions are not equally right,” he wrote. “One only can be right; that the rest must be wrong; and, having done this, then to point out that the one that alone is right among the multitudinous claimants.”
Father MacLaughlin’s work, previously published under the title Is One Religion as Good as Another, has been republished by Sophia Institute Press as Let There Be No Divisions Among You: Why All Christians Should be Catholic. With clear, sound logic and compelling Biblical texts, Father MacLaughlin address the problems with indifferentism. He explains how it can threaten our salvation and the Church. Here are a few of his thoughts:
Reason topples claims of indifferentism
The theory of indifferentism says that man can be indifferent to what creed he believes in. As long as he is a good man, everything is fine. “This advocates and says in the plainest terms, that God does not care what religion His creatures profess, provided that they live up to and act consistently with the one they have embraced or the one handed down to them by family tradition,” Father MacLaughlin wrote.
But believing in indifferentism is a contradiction of human reason.
“God, being what He is, the God of eternal truth, He cannot be indifferent as to whether His people believe this particular creed or some other creed that contradicts it,” Father MacLaughlin pointed out. “To say that He does not care what form of Christianity they profess is exactly equivalent to saying He does not care whether they believe what is true or false.”
The conversion of Cornelius rejects indifferentism
The conversion story of Cornelius the Centurion takes up the entire tenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. “It looks as if the Holy Spirit had penned the lengthy description of this conversion so that it might be a standing record to demolish the flimsy sophistry of those who advocate unrestricted liberty in the choice of a religious creed, Father MacLaughlin wrote.
Before his conversion, Cornelius was an upright soldier. But Cornelius wanted more than just to be good – he wanted to be holy. “If Cornelius knew God, if he feared Him, if he loved Him. . . if he spent long hours in prayer, if his life was such that he was style in inspired language a ‘just man’, why should God send an angel from heaven to him, Father MacLaughlin asked, “Or why should He send Saint Peter from Joppa to Caesarea, to bring him the light of the new gospel, to administer to him the sacrament of Baptism, and to receive him and his family into the one true fold?”
If any religion was just as good as the other, why did God encourage conversion in the hart of Cornelius? It is because the Catholic Church is the true church established by Christ that God calls Cornelius into the fold of Catholicism.
Saint Paul disproved indifferentism
Acts of the Apostles tells us that Paul went to Syria and Cilicia to confirm the churches. He also commanded them to keep the precepts of the Apostles and the ancients. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul couldn’t have used stronger language to condemn those who wanted to introduce a second gospel among the Galatians.
Father MacLaughlin wrote about what conversations between Saint Paul and proponents of relativism and indifferentism would look like, saying: “Can we imagine that if Paul appeared today before the influential, learned advocates of indifferentism, he would give any assent to, or connive at, the statement that all gospels are good – that one religion is as good as another – that all Christian creeds, although they contradict each other in matters that are of vital importance, if any can be, are equally good, or pretty much the same; and that it is quite immaterial which of them a man embraces as a symbol of faith, provided he shape his life after the one upon which his choice has fallen?”
Want to learn more about why there can only be one, true, Catholic Church? Do you know the marks of the Catholic Church? To find out more, pick up a copy of Let There Be No Divisions Among You at your local Catholic bookstore or online here!