Can a Christian Be “Defender of the Faiths?”

Can a Christian Be “Defender of the Faiths?” May 9, 2023

Can a Christian Be “Defender of the Faiths?”

King Charles III of the UK is by law “The Defender of the [Christian] Faith” as well as “Chief Governor of the Church of England.” However, in the past, before he became king upon the death of his mother, he has declared that he intends to be “Defender of the Faiths [plural]” as well as “Defender of the [Christian] Faith.”

Notable at his coronation were representatives of world religions including The Bahai World Faith. There were Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and, of course, representatives of the Jewish faith. And he met with these after his coronation to assure them, individually and personally, of his high regard for their religions. This according to news reports.

Ostensibly, Charles is a Christian. Can a real Christian be a defender of other faiths? Yes and no.

Yes, in the sense of defending their rights to worship freely. No, in the sense of defending their religious beliefs as valid and true.

Which does King Charles III mean? The first one only or both?

England is by tradition and common law a Christian country which is why it tolerates and even extends equal rights under the law to members of non-Christian religions. Do any Muslim monarchs extend equal rights to members of non-Muslim religions in their realms?

I think it is good and right that King Charles express his support for equal rights to members of non-Christian religions. But, I hope he doesn’t mean that he defends their religions as equally true as Christianity—as means of salvation.

However, I will go further. As an Anabapticostal (yes, you read that right), I am opposed to any established church or denomination or worldview. By “established” I mean given special privileges by government. I do not believe the head of state should be the “chief governor” of any particular religion, church or denomination. Nor should a particular religion’s leader be head of state or government. I believe in separation of church and state. So I have trouble with the whole idea of King Charles III being “Chief Governor of the Church of England” AS monarch of the realm.

So, no, I do not think a Christian can or should be “defender of the faiths” IN THE SENSE of embracing a pluralism of religions as equal in terms of truth and spiritual power. A true Christian can defend the equal rights of non-Christians in law and in terms of citizenship rights, but a true Christian cannot defend non-Christian religions as means of salvation. Salvation, for a true Christian, is only available through Jesus Christ.

Some of King Charles’ statements in the past can be interpreted either way. I worry that he may be a pluralist in terms of viewing non-Christian religions as means of salvation. I hope my concern is unfounded and wrong.

However, here is what I have experienced during my long tenure as a teacher of Christian theology mostly to Christian students, many of them allegedly evangelicals. When I talk about Christianity as true, they agree, but as soon as I talk about other religions being false, they disagree. Many (not all) of them seem to have this attitude: “Christianity is true but non-Christian religions are not false.” And they DO NOT mean that there is truth in non-Christian religions (as C. S. Lewis affirmed) but that they are true FOR THEIR ADHERENTS EVEN IF NOT TRUE FOR CHRISTIANS.

Liberal theology in the form of pluralism of religious truth has seeped into even evangelical Christian circles. I asked a very devoted evangelical Christian students why neither he nor any other of my conservative Christian students ever spoke up against this pluralism idea of world religions. He said “Nobody wants to be called a jerk.” I have had numerous conversations over the years with various people, some Christians and some not, who argue that all world religions are equal paths to God and that, at the center, they all share the same basic beliefs. When I have played my “PhD in Religious Studies” “card” and told them that is absolutely not the case, they have become angry and some of them have simply stalked away from me.

Of course, more knowledgeable and sophisticated pluralists admit that world religions have different beliefs, but they will still argue that all are equally valid paths to salvation. When pushed to define “salvation,” however, they don’t.

The most influential pluralist philosopher-theologian was the late John Hick. Lesser known but also a pluralist was Catholic theologian Paul Knitter with whom I had a personal conversation. This idea that Jesus Christ is the Savior for Western people but not for all people and that there are other saviors has filtered out and into the minds of many Christians.

Is that what King Charles III means by “defender of the faiths?” I can’t say because I can’t read his mind. However, I am concerned by one thing. His coronation ceremony was a Christian service of worship of God. Representatives of non-Christian religions were especially invited to attend if not participate. A service of worship of God where known non-Christians are present ought to invite them to embrace Jesus Christ. I watched the coronation ceremony-service and, unless I fell asleep for a time, did not once hear the NAME Jesus Christ in spite of the many Christian clergy who led the ceremony-service.

*Note: If you choose to comment, keep your comment relatively brief (no more than 100 words), on topic, addressed to me, and civil and respectful (not hostile or argumentative), and devoid of pictures or links. And remember this is a blog for and about evangelical Christianity. Mere expressions of alternative belief systems or worldviews are not appropriate here. Non-Christians are welcome to ask questions. This is not a neutral discussion board.*

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