I like vanilla ice cream. I know that a lot of people
equate vanilla with being plain, but there’s a simplicity
of vanilla that I like. This wasn’t always the case.
Growing up, I had seasons where I liked cookies and
cream, and then chocolate chip (yes, I know these are
variations of vanilla). I even liked rainbow sherbet for a
while. But I’m hands down a vanilla person. Now I
know there are others of you that like other flavors.
There are some of you that like green tea, bubble gum,
pistachio, pralines and cream and a whole series of
other flavors. All I can say to that is: you do you.
In his book, Choosing My Religion, Author and Teacher
RC Sproul points out that when it comes to faith, many
of us take a view faith in the same way. It’s like ice
cream. Each person can pick whichever and whatever
religion fits their own preferences. Whatever gives you
peace or spiritual fulfillment is fine. Each person is
entitled to their own view. In the same way it would be
ridiculous to impose or argue about my taste of vanilla
on other people.
How does this idea play out in society? Here are some
phrases that we may encounter that demonstrates how
this idea is believed.
“You shouldn’t impose your beliefs on other people.”
“I want my children to make their own decision rather
than force it on them.”
“Whatever is true for you is true for you.”
How are we to view this idea as Christians? Biblically
speaking we certainly reject the idea of imposing faith
on people by the sword or by any form of coercion.
Faith in Christ is a matter of the conscience and the will
not by the sword. Even if a confession was coerced, it is
doubtful that it would be a real conversion. But
convincing and proclaiming is a far cry from forcing
someone to believe. As Christians we must be aware of
the sensitivities of the people around us, but not be
forced into silence out of fear of offending or
As we consider this idea of faith as ice cream from a
Christian perspective, we will discover that there are
some problems with the idea. The issue is that religious
claims aren’t just about preferences. Religious claims
are about truth. They claim that they represent the reality of God.
First, this idea reduces religions to moralistic teaching. Many who hold
to religion as preference often reduce the various religions to moral
teaching or a way of life. This is understandable as a motive. Religious
discussions make people uncomfortable. Wars have been fought over
different ideologies. In reducing the differences, perhaps we can help
people get along with one another. The problem with this is that the
various religions have major differences that are not peripheral but basic
and central ideas of these faiths. Christianity claims that Jesus was God
incarnate who died on the cross for sinners and rose again from dead
three days after he was crucified. This act reconciles us to God. Judaism
rejects Jesus’ claims as the Messiah. Islam claims to be in line with
Judaism and Christianity, but claims that God revealed himself to
Mohammed while he was in the desert. These faiths differ from
Buddhism in that while Judaism, Christianity and Islam all affirm a day
when all will be judged before God, Buddhism states that people are
stuck in a cycle of reincarnation until a person reaches Nirvana. A
supreme God is not clearly recognized. These differences can’t be easily
Second, we often forget that ideas are intimately connected with our
lives. Ideas don’t just stay as ideas. Ideas affect how we live and how
we live often reflects what we really believe. How does this idea affect
how we live? If we were to believe that religious claims really have no
bearing on truth and that it is merely a preference, it often causes
people to conclude that religious claims don’t matter. For many it’s
considered irrelevant or important. It makes sense because in the same
way I wouldn’t care too much about people’s ice cream flavor, I
wouldn’t do that to another person’s faith either. This idea actually
serves to dampen people’s attempt to search for truth.
Third, the idea that religion is a preference is an idea that makes a claim
of truth and imposes its ideology on others without realizing it. When a
person says that they shouldn’t impose their religious ideas on other
people, they themselves are imposing a religious idea on another
person. The problem is that they don’t realize they’re doing this. If a
Christian or a Muslim or a religious person makes a claim of truth from
their religious perspective, they often know they are trying to convince
someone that their view of reality is truer. But often people who see
religion as a preference often see their viewpoint as “neutral”. It’s
Christianity claims truth. Scripture also tells us what people do with the
truth. In Romans 1, the Apostle Paul makes a bold statement. People
instinctively know the truth about God’s existence, sin, and judgement.
But what people do is to suppress the truth because it’s uncomfortable
or inconvenient. Could it be that the idea of religions as a preference
and not a truth claim may actually be a cover for what is true? If truth is
diminished and reduced as unimportant it becomes easier to dismiss.
Perhaps the greatest thing you can discover today is that Christ’s claims aren’t just options. They are claims of truth that can give you hope.