Pluralism

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One of the obstacles young people face in fully embracing the Christian message is the struggle with pluralism.  That is, what about all these other faiths?  Can they all be wrong?  The exclusiveness of the Christian message borders on intellectual arrogance in their mind.

I would approach this objection from two angles.  First, understand and be able to explain that Christianity does not have a corner on common grace, God’s general revelation to man.  The golden rule, honoring one’s parents, and caring for the poor are not exclusive to Christian teaching.  With an attitude of humility, we must recognize and celebrate God’s truth that is revealed in a variety of belief systems.  We can agree with unbelievers in their goal of strengthening their marriage and loving their children.  By virtue of being created in God’s image, all people have some level of moral ability.  And we demonstrate generosity, when we acknowledge truth wherever we find it.

Where Christianity does have exclusive claims, we need to be firm in our teaching.  Jesus’ own words could not be more clear; Jesus is the only way to eternal life with God, the Father, our Creator.  There is no room or need to compromise on this foundational tenet of our faith.  All paths do not lead to heaven.  Our rescue from sin, our deliverance is only through faith in the work and name of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12 and a hundred other texts).

The second angle is to proclaim the exclusive message of “Jesus is the only way” in love, not condemnation.  Rather than excluding people, love emphasizes the inclusiveness of the wide open invitation.  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world should be saved through Him” (Jn 3:16-17).  The salvation message of Christ is open to all.  There are no limits; no barriers of race, culture, sophistication, location, or time in history.  “For there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile [or any race, for that matter]; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:12-13).

If you think about it, most religions are basically cultural and nationalistic.  Christianity is just the opposite.  And because of that, its movement has spread at various times and in various ways across the whole world.  We so often associate Christianity with Western Europe or the United States, but that is because our understanding of the history of the church is naturally colored by our own cultural experience.  The cultural variety of Christianity extends from families in Palestine who have a Christian heritage going back a thousand years to the explosion of Christianity today in the global south.

We partly dismantle the pluralism objection by emphasizing the wide open invitation for people everywhere to join in.  In my opinion, Christianity is not a narrow view to be defended, but a wide open invitation to be extended.  There is incredible cultural diversity in Christianity.  And young people may be surprised to find this out.

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