Doctrines are different from character

Christians believe that their religion has the fullness of truth, and it necessarily follows from that that another religion is less true to the extent it disagrees with Christianity.

A lot of people get offended at this, for a variety of reasons. I’d like to address one possible reason here.

A response one sometimes hears to the Christian perspective is this: Christians don’t act any better than other people. They’re not more loving or more devoted to God or more faithful than the followers of other religions. In fact, when young Christians make friends with the followers of other faiths for the first time, they can become confused. The good that they see in the non-Christian makes them wonder what makes Christianity so special.

So how can we say that Christianity has the fullness of truth, if one sees no difference in virtues and character between Christians and non-Christians?

This question is based on a confusion of two different things: truth and virtue. The fact is that one can know the truth without being virtuous, and one can be virtuous without knowing the truth.

Just because someone knows that Jesus is the Son of God, that does not necessarily mean that they live righteously. On the other hand, someone can be unaware that Jesus is the Son of God and still desire to do the right thing. What we know in our intellect and what we desire to do are two different things.

A physiologist can know intellectually what foods are healthy, but he might still eat junk food. Someone with limited knowledge of nutrition can still be drawn to healthy foods.

Knowing facts about reality doesn’t make us act better. “Jesus is the Son of God” is a fact, in the same sense that “heat rises” and “Montpelier is the capital of Vermont” are facts. They’re all true, but acknowledging their truth doesn’t make us better people.

By the same token, it is not logical to say, “That guy is a jerk, therefore if he thinks Montpelier is the capital of Vermont, he must be wrong.”