Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Shedding Light on Pluralism

Chris Wright, in his book, The Uniqueness of Jesus, writes:

“We can challenge the relativistic illogic of pluralism. The argument that ‘there is no absolute truth’ is logically self-contradictory and self-destructive, because it is itself being presented as an absolute truth. You cannot be absolutely relative!

We can challenge the hidden arrogance of pluralism. Pluralists say ‘Nobody can really know the truth. No religion perceives or contains the truth about the divine reality as it really is.’ But how do they know that themselves? They are claiming to know a lot about what they say nobody can know. They adopt a stance, as it were, above or behind all other religions and presume to know what those religions may or may not have truthful knowledge about. To put it in more technical terms, what privileged epistemological stance gives the pluralist the right to deny truth and knowledge to any other position than his own? There is, in other words, a hidden arrogance behind the apparent humility of pluralist pronouncements, which shows itself in very explicit intolerance of those who disagree.

We can challenge the cultural short-sightedness of pluralism. Modern western pluralism, as an ideology, is a particular cultural development of the post-Enlightenment era in Europe and North America. Yet it claims to have the key to all human knowledge and religion. But by what right? We need to remember...that what pluralism does to Christianity it does to all other religions as well, and all in the name of a peculiarly reductionist view of truth which is not shared by the vast majority of the human race. So Christians, along with other great religious traditions which make exclusive truth claims...have every right to challenge such thinking and expose its cultural arrogance.

Pluralism itself is becoming a new dogma, and in some contexts it can be experienced as just as intolerant and repressive as the alleged religious bigotries it claims to replace. Those who insist on declaring, however humbly and non-aggressively, their allegiance to Jesus Christ as only Lord, God, and Savior, find themselves facing opposition, exclusion and legal threat. This happens in the educational world and may spread to other areas of public life. ‘Political correctness’ can be horrendously dogmatic and intolerant.
                    Chris Wright, The Uniqueness of Jesus

“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” John 18:37

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Satan Gives Us a Spirit of Self-Protection That Keeps Us From God

Psalm 51 says:

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:17.

Satan desires to keep us in a spirit of self-protection and self-justification. To be vulnerable to our self and before others is far too painful. The state of vulnerability-avoidance keeps us from God, before whom we can be vulnerable and cleansed. We have a place to go with our vulnerability. We have someone who can handle it because surely we, and often others, cannot.

People keep themselves from God by nurturing pride in “not being a bad person” (when in essence we all know we are. Why else would we be trying so hard to distract ourselves?) “Being good” in our own eyes is a deception. This is the worldly state of blindness. In a weird way we self-avoid by thinking we’re good. We self-promote a false image, which is very self-centered because it keeps us from ever finding fault with ourselves. The real tragedy is that it keeps God out. Which is exactly where Satan wants us. Whenever Satan can keep us focused on a false version of our self, he succeeds then in keeping us from seeing God.

I praise God that He has given me sight to see my sin and be vulnerable and contrite before Him so that my defiled heart can be made pure through the blood of Jesus Christ. This is not pain-free. All birth is painful, including the birth to a new life that involves a death to our delusions about our self. Yet the release and freedom this confessing and admitting brings is unfathomable. We have faced the worst in ourselves and lived. And continue to now live in the turning away from that which was in us that kept us in bondage to basically being a poser to our self and others.

No amount of thinking “I’m not as bad as the next guy,” or “I’ve made mistakes, but I’ve done good things too” will ever bring us to peace with God or ourselves. Thinking that we have somehow gotten a rawer deal than others in life also does not let us off the hook for facing up to who we really are. As the psalm says, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” The only way to “come clean” is through Jesus Christ.

“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Surely you desire truth in the inner parts;
you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from ytour presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.
Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:1-17

Friday, September 12, 2014

Co-Opting Heaven

Yesterday I posed the topic of whether miracles are relevant. Here is some additional food for thought from Paul Little:

“You may have had positive or negative reactions to hearing of Christ’s miracles. In our science-oriented society, there is a tendency to try to explain everything by ‘natural’ causes. This tendency puts the emphasis on how a miraculous event happened, while the Bible is concerned with why miraculous events happened. So we moderns ask questions which the biblical authors would not have even considered.
Within the assertion that the God of the Bible exists, there is a necessary corollary that this God indeed has the power to work miracles. If, however, someone does not believe in the God of the Bible, the concept of miracles becomes difficult, if not impossible, to entertain.” Paul Little

Yet, have you ever noticed that people who are “not religious,” “don’t believe in the Bible or take it literally” or who claim to be “spiritual without God” will also tell you unequivocally that they are going to heaven after they die? On what basis do they make that miraculous claim, when they have denied miracles as being literal in the Bible?

There are people who cannot believe Christ was born of a virgin or rose from the dead, but believe they themselves are going to heaven after they die. They would never believe Jonah could survive in a fish, but they believe they are going to heaven after they die. They shut down and don’t want to talk about faith—in fact are offended by faith in Jesus Christ—yet they say they are going to heaven after they die. In any other area of life we would call this line of thinking delusional. But people with this mindset make an exception in reasoning when it comes to their own death and subsequent going-to-heaven.

People are often convinced of going to heaven after they die (a supernatural event) while rejecting the supernatural in Scripture. Even those who say, “Well, you can’t really know” when it comes to the Bible, claim they “do really know” when it comes to their own trip to heaven! They have no foundation for their claim that they will go to heaven other than it is what they have chosen to appropriate for themselves. 

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

“Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gifof God—" Ephesians 2:8

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Are Miracles Relevant?

The following quote is from Paul Little:

“‘Do you really believe Jonah was swallowed by a whale? And do you seriously think that Christ actually fed five thousand people from five loaves of bread and two fish?’ So goes the trend and tone of many modern questioners. Surely, they say, these ‘miracle’ stories in the Bible must be quaint ways of conveying spiritual truth, and they are not meant to be taken literally.
With many questions, it is more important to discern the root problem than to become involved in discussing a twig on a branch. This is especially true of questions about miracles. The questioner’s problem is generally not with a particular miracle, but with a whole principle. To establish the miracle in question would not answer the question. The controversy is with the whole principle of the possibility of miracles.
The real problem goes even deeper. It is not with miracles but with the whole concept of God. This is the question Jesus discusses with the disciples in John 14.”
Paul Little, writing in the Certainty Christian Basics Bible Study guide.

“Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.’
Jesus answered, ‘Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.’” John 14:8-11

“Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’
Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John 20:29-31

Thursday, September 4, 2014

We Don't Decide Who God Is

Quote of the day comes from Francis Chan, writing in Crazy Love:

"A lot of people say that whatever you believe about God is fine, so long as you are sincere. But that is comparable to describing your friend in one instance as a three-hundred-pound sumo wrestler and in another as a five-foot-two, ninety-pound gymnast. No matter how sincere you are in your explanations, both descriptions of your friend simply cannot be true.
The preposterous part about our doing this to God is that He already has a name, an identity. We don't get to decide who God is." Francis Chan, Crazy Love

"God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM..." Exodus 3:14a