Gospel, Salvation, and Other Religions - Lesson 8


This lesson explores the concept of pluralism and its implications for religious dialogue and multiculturalism. Pluralism is defined as the belief that multiple religious and philosophical perspectives can all be valid and lead to truth. The lesson looks at the history and development of pluralism from its early roots to its modern forms. It also examines some of the challenges to pluralism, such as the concept of truth and the rise of fundamentalism. Finally, the lesson considers the implications of pluralism, such as interfaith dialogue and multiculturalism.

Todd Miles
Gospel, Salvation, and Other Religions
Lesson 8
Watching Now

I. Overview of Pluralism

A. Definition of Pluralism

B. Types of Pluralism

II. History and Development of Pluralism

A. Early Religious Pluralism

B. Modern Religious Pluralism

III. Challenges to Pluralism

A. Concept of Truth

B. Fundamentalism

IV. Implications of Pluralism

A. Interfaith Dialogue

B. Multiculturalism

Class Resources
  • This lesson provides an overview of the various aspects of Theology of Religion, and explores the complexities of engaging in dialogue with other religions.
  • You will gain an understanding of the exclusivity of Christ and its implications for other religions, as well as the challenges to exclusivity presented by atheism, theological pluralism, and other religions. You'll also learn how to engage other religions and live out Christian witness in a pluralistic world.
  • This lesson will provide you a deeper understanding of how Jesus is the central figure of Scripture, and how Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in the New Testament.
  • You will gain insight into the similarities and differences between the religions of the Ancient Near East and the religions of the Bible, looking at concepts such as Hebrew monotheism, the theology of salvation, and the theology of creation. You'll also explore how mythology and evil are portrayed in both the Ancient Near East religions and the Bible, as well as how the Bible incorporates cultural elements from the Ancient Near East religions.
  • You will gain insight into the implications of polytheism from a biblical perspective and understand the nature of God and the roles of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
  • In this lesson, you will gain a better understanding of the New Testament and its relationship to other religions. You will gain insight into the theological messages found in the various books of the New Testament, and learn how the New Testament relates to other religions in terms of Jesus, salvation, evangelism, and relationships.
  • This lesson you will receive an overview of universalism, its historical context, and its implications for the Bible and theology. You will learn the different types of universalism and examine the biblical passages related to universalism, as well as the theological perspectives on universalism.
  • You will gain an understanding of what pluralism is and how it has evolved over time. You will also explore the challenges to pluralism and the implications it has for religious dialogue and multiculturalism.
  • In this lesson, you will gain an understanding of inclusivism, its history and theology, as well as its application in missions. You will learn that inclusivism is an approach to theology that respects and works with different religious paths, and offers a robust theology of salvation that is both inclusive and faithful to the biblical message
  • This lesson will teach you about the presence and role of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament, including Ancient Near Eastern Religion, the Old Testament, the Pentateuch, Wisdom Literature, and Prophets.
  • You will gain a comprehensive understanding of the person and nature of the Holy Spirit, the role and ministry of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, the process of receiving the Holy Spirit, and the gifts and fruit of the Spirit.
  • This lesson provides an overview of the critical questions related to the gospel, salvation and other religions, and the importance of asking them. It explores questions of homogeneity, essentialism and pluralism with definitions and examples.

With Todd Miles, Ph.D. Western Christianity’s interaction with world religions used to be, for the most part, overseas. Today, “religious others” often live next door. At a changing time when one public prayer spoken during the 2009 U.S. presidential inauguration festivities was addressed to “O god of our many understandings,” the evangelical Christian church should do more than simply dismiss non-Christian religions as pagan without argument or comment. The Church needs a theology of religions that is Christ-honoring, biblically faithful, intellectually satisfying, compassionate, and that will encourage Spirit-powered mission.



Dr. Todd Miles
Gospel, Salvation, and Other Religions
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:10] Well, to this point in the course, we have been looking at different responses to the question of what about those who have never heard? We spent some time looking at what the Bible said. We looked at the exclusive truth claims of Jesus Christ, what the Bible says about other religions. Then last week we began to look at proposals other than Jesus is the only way. And that was universalism. This this session we're going to look at pluralism. And pluralism is a very popular notion in our post-modern Western context. Pluralism generally defined is that all roads lead to God. Now, whereas with universalism, there is this idea that everybody gets in, whatever in is in pluralism. That's not the case. That is not the case with religious pluralism. Most people have this idea that there's going to be judgment someday, and not everybody deserves the same fate. I mean, Mother Teresa is a far greater individual than, say, an Adolf Hitler. Now, where each individual fits into that well for them, most likely that that standard is somewhere south of where they're at. After they're all there, they may not be as nice or as good as Mother Teresa, but they certainly could not share the same destiny as Adolf Hitler. And so so that judgment line for ethical behavior that determines your eternal destiny somewhere below where each person is when it comes to the exclusive claims of Christ. These are very offensive in the post-modern mindset. I mean, after all, in postmodernity, tolerance is really the prevailing virtue. It may be the only virtue that that people can wholeheartedly get behind. We have to be tolerant of other faiths. We have to be tolerant of other ideas. And and diversity in and of itself is a is a good thing in Scripture.

[00:02:03] Diversity is a is a very powerful force. God created a diverse range of of beings and creatures. And his the natural creation, the stars, the moon, the skies, the waters, the oceans, all of those things bear testimony to the creativity of God. What we find in Scripture is that diversity, for the sake of diversity, is not a good thing. Diversity unified in common praise of God is a good thing. In our post-modern mindset, this is not the case. Diversity is excellent just for the sake of diversity. A lot of this flows out of out of epistemology, how we know what we know, and in our post-modern mindset, where tolerance is the prevailing virtue, there is this idea that no one can make a claim to to absolute truth. Most postmodernists don't deny that there is such a thing as absolute truth. But what they do denies that we can be certain of it. I mean, after all, if someone claims to know absolute truth, then they are making a claim to know something that others do not. They have access to information that the others do not. This is very intolerant. It runs contrary to the whole postmodern ethos. There just is no God's eye view of reality. And even if there was a God's eye view, how would we know that one person had it and another person did it? Other than that person standing up and saying, I have a God's eye view of reality, but why should we trust that person? This kind of mindset is also working its way into the church. In a recent Pew Forum in Public Life report based on a 2008 survey, 52% of Christians, those who self-identified as Christians, 52% over half, thought that at least some non-Christian faith can lead to eternal life.

[00:03:59] Of those who responded affirmatively, affirmatively to this statement, many religions can lead to eternal life. 80% of those named at least one non-Christian religion by name, they were choosing between Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, or some sort of secular atheism. And and they wrote down on there. This is, I mean, close to half the people who self-identified as Christians were able to name one other religion other than faith in Christianity, faith in Christ that could lead to salvation. Well, this this notion of all roads lead to God is is very popular. And so I want to walk through just some of the common pluralist arguments, and then I'll then I'll respond to them. Before I do that, let me say this. We're not going to use a lot of the Bible in this session because pluralist frankly, don't privilege the Bible in any way. That's, in fact, one of their arguments. Why should we privilege the Bible? It's the Christian book. We would expect it to be the Christian book, but there's lots of sacred texts out there. And so when responding to pluralist, at least initially, I'm going to. Respond to them at a philosophical level. And I'm going to do that for this reason. And this is the second point I wanted to make at the outset. In my opinion, pluralism, even though it is the dominant philosophy that is out there on the streets, I think that it is the most intellectually lazy and intellectually disingenuous of all the different proposals we're going to look we're going to be looking at. I think universalism has more coherence to it than pluralism, and hopefully that will become obvious. Okay, Major arguments for religious pluralism. And I'm going to look at mainly my Christian arguments for for pluralism here.

[00:05:55] These are going to fall into two categories as I've looked at the literature. Pluralist arguments run in two different ways. The first one is reductionism. The second one I'm calling obfuscation. Reductionism occurs when the claim is made that the major religions of the world are all essentially the same. They ultimately teach the same things. Of course, in order to do that, you have to reduce all the religions down to a basic common denominator and then say, Oh, well, look, they're all the same. You have to reduce them, eliminate those things that differentiate one from another. And then the second one off you scale. And that occurs when an assertion is made that because God is complex and mysterious, any claims to particularity are finally impossible. And each religion they may make such claims, but their claims ultimately are incomprehensible. The doctrines that differentiate one religion from another on analysis, they make no sense whatsoever. And so they can't be true. One individual that I'm going to be interacting with a lot is a fellow by the name of John Hick. John Hick is the poster child for religious pluralism, mainly because he claims that he used to be Christian and he followed a path from from evangelicalism, probably exclusive ism to inclusive ism, then on to pluralism. And this occurred when he met people of other faiths and found that they were indeed pious, nice, devout. And he began to wonder, why is it that the they're saying Muslim or Buddhist and I'm a Christian? Isn't it more a function of where I was born, an accident of birth? Is there really that much that differentiates the religions one from another? Okay. So John Hick is the leading proponent. Let's look at some of the main arguments here.

[00:07:48] First, arguments of reduction. The first one, the transcendence of God, leads to different, often divergent human conceptions of him, the transcendence of God. He is so wholly other. He is so awesome that it is not surprising that there would be differing ideas about who he is. John Hick has his thought about who God is, and as he looks at all the different proposals out there, he thinks it's ultimately impossible just to to say anything about God. All the we have our our, our different perspectives and some of those perspectives are offensive to others. And so at the end, John Hick doesn't even call God God any more. God is the real to Him because God is a name which which implies that God's personal but other religions have different perspectives of God where God is not personal. And so He prefers to call God something like the ultimate or the real. Now we can't worship the real in itself. What we do is we worship particular manifestations of the real two different human groups the Heavenly Father of Jesus's teaching our Law of Islam, Order and I, of Judaism, that sort of thing. So the second one follows from the first. The world religions are really just different receptions of and reactions to the same ineffable God. This God whom we really can't say anything about, we can't can't name him. Many pluralist will refer to the now popular parable popularized by a John Godfrey Sachs poem, The Blind Men and the Elephant. And here you have multiple blind men who've never seen an elephant, and they don't know that there's an elephant in the room. They go up to him and they touch certain parts of him and they describe the elephant according to their experience.

[00:09:42] But they're touching different parts. And so so the man who walks up to the the and who walks up to the elephant touches the sides of the elephant, describes the the elephant as a great wall. One person goes up and touches a task and he feels the sharp end and he thinks that that's kind of like a spear. Another another man grabs the elephant by the tail or by the trunk and thinks of the the elephant as something like a snake or a. Or a piece of rope. The point is, is that all all of them are coming with their own experiences and they're touching different parts of the elephant. And so they're describing them according to their experience, their past experiences, and then their present experiences. All of them are right. All of them are right. This the man touching the sides, he feels something that is like a wall. And that's different than the man who is touching the task. And so the idea behind this is that our finite ness and our perspective, it limits our understanding of God to some particularity that may be accurate and true, but will be different than that of others attempting to describe the same exact God. Furthermore, a human capacity to respond to any stimuli is going to be conditioned by culture and by circumstance, by our background, by our education tradition. What we ate for lunch. A host of factors are going to alter our perspective. And so pluralist suggests that the great religions of the world are culturally conditioned human responses to one ultimate reality. God is known to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and others as different manifestations of the real to humanity. But this is what's key for the religious pluralist.

[00:11:35] When the cultural veneer, language, background concepts, liturgical actions, ethos, all those things of each religion are stripped away, then the differences between the religions begin to shrink into significance. You end up with basically the same thing when you strip away the cultural non-essentials. Third argument is that salvation has to be redefined, and this is the strangest of the arguments. But as a Buddhist would talk to a Christian who would talk to a muslim, you end up with very different ideas about what salvation is. And so what some of the plurals have done is they look at kind of the basic of salvation and they try to come to a common denominator, and when they do, they redefine salvation as the something like the transformation from centered ness to other centeredness or self-centeredness to reality centeredness. You know, self-centeredness results in all sorts of human evils, reality centeredness over other centered. This happens. It might be what Christians call the fruit of the spirit or what other religions might name differently. But at the end, we can all agree on this common thing. Fortunately, religious pluralism there to tell us what we really believe. The fourth argument is that there's really little ethical difference between the different participants of the different religions. Pluralist submit some really, really nice and pious Christians and probably some very creepy Christians as well. They've they've met some nice Muslims and some in some rotten Muslims and some and some kind Buddhists and some and some terrible Buddhists. And and the the ethical differences are pretty minimal. Nice people are sprinkled through all the religions pluralist are also fond of arguing that that evil and natural disasters are seem to be ignorant of the different religions. It's a equal opportunity destroyer.

[00:13:48] And the argument works this way If God actually favored one religion over another, wouldn't he bless one religion better or more in terms of safety, health, prosperity than another? But disaster and prosperity seem to be evenly distributed throughout the religions. Okay, so those are the arguments of reduction, the arguments of of obfuscation. These are aimed at specific doctrines of each religion. And so I'm going to look at the two arguments leveled at Christianity. There are there are some Christian doctrines which, if they are true, they would elevate Christianity above all the other religions of the world. And these are primarily the inspiration of Scripture and the doctrine of Christ. These Christian formulations are inherently non pluralistic inspiration, that the Bible is the Word of God, that that inspiration is a concurrent act between a Holy God and a sinful human, where the Holy Spirit so moves the human author that God gets exactly what He wants without destroying the personality of the human author. So Peter sounds like Peter and Paul sounds like Paul and John sounds like John and Moses sounds like Moses. And yet every word of it is exactly what God wanted the word of God. Well, if this is God's Word as it claims to be, then Christianity takes on a whole other level of exclusivity, because that means that everything that's written in the Christian Holy book is right, including the Doctrine of Christ, which asserts that the actor, the person of Christ, which asserts that that God is incarnate in his son, that that that the Jesus Christ, the Son of God is in fact fully divine, went while at the same time because the incarnation fully human. Now, if Jesus Christ is fully divine in a way that no other creature, no other human, no anything is, then Jesus has to be elevated in our stature, in our opinion.

[00:16:12] Well, these things don't work for the religious pluralism. And so so what they say is that that doctrine of inspiration that I just argued for is really nonsensical. It makes no sense. So therefore, it can't be true. I mean, how could it be that a human could freely write the very word of God? Inspiration must mean something else, like moved by a religious experience to write something nice about God in the same way that a a song might move a person or a poem might move a person experientially the doctrine of Christ. How on earth could Jesus Christ be fully human and fully divine? That hyperspace? ADIC union two natures in one person. That's so ridiculous. It couldn't possibly be true. And that's so. So there's their argument against it because they recognize that if if, if the doctor, the person of Christ, the doctrine of inspiration or true, then Christianity on its face is superior to the other religions of the world. Those are the main arguments. Those are the main arguments for religious pluralism. How do we respond to them? Well, let me at the beginning say the Bible is really not surprised by the reality of religious pluralism. If the Bible is written in the context of religious pluralism, the Old Testament, the people of Israel were surrounded by religious others in the New Testament, Jesus Christ and the apostles preach the good news to people who believed in someone other than the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. What was the biblical response to the question? What about religious? Others proclaim to them the good news of Jesus Christ. That's what we find the Apostles doing in the New Testament. Now, in its most basic form, the assertion of pluralism is that there are many paths to one God.

[00:18:02] According to the Christian Scriptures, though, what we find is this There are many paths to many gods, but there's only one path to the one true and living God. Okay, how do we address reductionism? What do we say about that? Well, I think it's absolutely intellectually dishonest to intentionally discard or reconceive of every distinctive Christian doctrine that preserves the identity of Christianity. And also, in all fairness, to do that to Islam, Buddhism and what other religion trim all those things away that make them different and then say, Oh, look, they're all basically the same. This is a Christian reduction to where all you're left with at the end are some ethical teachings that may or may not be attributed to Jesus, depending, I suppose, on if you've been listening to the Jesus seminar, but little else that resembles orthodox historical Christianity. The most famous proponent of religious pluralism, John Hick. He's reduced all the major religions of the world down to what he considers to be a common denominator. But it's really a lowest common denominator and something that for all the world to me looks like a watered down Buddhism that no self-respecting Buddhist would even adhere to. I mean, if you think about it, Hick is trimmed off so much about who God is that at the end he's left with just the real the this this ultimate reality. But what is the pluralist conception of the real have to do with the God and father of Jesus Christ in the concepts of God and the different religions are not just differences in name or perspective, but they're essential differences in being. It's not fair. It is fundamentally, intellectually dishonest to trim these things away. I mean, in the pluralist zeal to find commonality in all the religions, it's not Christianity that's ultimately related to the other faiths of the world.

[00:20:00] But a parody, a caricature of the living faith that's based more upon the presuppositions of 21st century Western postmodern than upon any historical reality of Jesus Christ. It's ironic, isn't it, that in this age of tolerance, religious pluralism have ignored their own criticisms of the intolerant faiths, and they've established themselves as the evaluators of truth claims of other religions. But I mean, think about it. What is their vantage point that privileges their judgments? I mean, on the basis of their model, it's not the individual religions that have access to the truth, but ultimately it's the Western religious, pluralist who insists that each religion be seen in the context of others before it can be validated. What this means is that the Western doctrine of pluralism is defined as the only valid standpoint for evaluating individual religions, including Christianity. But why should Christians accept that definition? It's just a naked assertion. It's a naked power grab, usually clothed in some sort of intellectual elite ism that they know better than you silly Christians or you silly Buddhists or you silly Muslims. The simple reality is that the different religions of the world have very different conceptions of God and this cannot be explained away. These conceptions are oftentimes contradictory, utterly incompatible. I mean, Christians believe that God is inter-personal and relational. They're bad. Theravada and Buddhists, on the other hand, who are atheists for all practical purposes. They reject that most basic assertion of a personal god. Christianity and Judaism. Islam. They're committed to monotheism. Hindus, Mayan, a Buddhist. They'd never affirm. Monotheism. Christianity, Judaism. Islam may be committed to monotheism, but. But but Judith, Jews and and Muslims deny the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Let's let's make this very simple. There are some religions that affirm the existence of God.

[00:22:04] Christianity, Judaism, Islam, while there are other religions that are decidedly non theistic, like certain strains of Buddhism. Isn't it absurd to say that a religion that says there is no God is compatible with a religion that says there is a God? How can you say this and act with a straight face with any sort of intellectual credibility at all? And then this whole idea about redefining salvation pluralist say it's not fair that that Christians should define salvation in their way and on that basis reject all of their forms of salvation. But isn't that precisely what pluralist are doing? I mean, pluralism, redefine salvation is some sort of transformation from self-centeredness to reality centeredness. So and then the pluralist will evaluate each religion according to that criteria, and they'll trim away particular doctrines that exceed the definition, many of which are absolutely essential to that particular religion. And then at the end claim, hey, look, they're all the same. Well, of course they're all the same at that point, because you've trimmed away every single thing that is essential to it that would differentiate one from another. But that is fundamentally unfair and it is intellectually dishonest. It is what philosophers and logic analysts would say, begging the question. It's a logical fallacy. You're assuming your conclusions from the very outset. Then this whole idea about other people from other religions being just as moral, just as moral and ethical as others. What are we supposed to do with that? Well, even if that were true, and I'm not so certain that it is, but even if it were true, the unique superiority of Christianity does not rest in the moral superiority of Christians, but it's founded on the moral character of Jesus Christ who is unique and who is superior.

[00:24:08] Tim Keller often quotes or often notes when addressing this argument that, Well, Christians are the ones who realize that they need a savior. Doesn't it make sense that those who are most in need of moral help would come to Jesus? There's probably something to that argument as well. How do we address the obfuscation? Well, I think what we as Christians can do is we need to continue to affirm the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. I mean, and again, I'm just going to say that they're assertion that that the doctrine of inspiration is untrue because it's ultimately not understandable, is intellectually dishonest. It can't hold up. I mean, since when does the test for any truth claim rests upon one person's ability to understand that truth claim? I mean, why should we abandon a doctrine just because some non-Christians don't get it? Furthermore, I think that that the doctrine of the hypothetical union that Jesus can be fully human and fully divine. At the same time, I don't pretend to be able to explain every nook and cranny of how that is and how it came to be. But I do know is that it's not contradictory, that that that it is logically possible and that that I'm not believing an impossible thing and that I don't have to submit my faith to the intellectual capacities of certain individuals. The same thing would go for the doctrine of inspiration as well. And then there's this whole idea of of pluralist that that the anybody who would make a truth claim about God is, boy, that's just really difficult to do. I mean, you can't make truth claims about this ineffable, superior God who is so transcendent to us all we have as our own experiences, and we use our human language to try to make assertions about this most holy God.

[00:26:11] And and they're all going to fall short. Well, I'm not going to deny that God is holy other in that our language is barely able to to describe who he is. I do not think that we can ever know God exhaustively, but that doesn't mean that we can't know God truly. And it is a post-modern lie that if you can't know something exhaustively, you can't know it at all. I think we need to reject that. And then beyond that, let's just think of the reasoning. God is so ineffable that nobody could make an absolute truth claim about Him. Really. That claim is ultimately self refuting because of. God is truly unknowable. He's so above us that truth claims about him cannot be made, and we couldn't know that he's unknowable. If we know that God's unknowable, then he's really not unknowable, is he? I mean, after all, we know at least one thing about him that he would be unknowable. But of course, that would be impossible to know. He was unknowable if he actually were unknowable. The the pluralist who wants to go down this road, he really puts himself on the horns of a dilemma. I mean, if God is unknowable, then we can't know that he actually is. And then that assertion is impossible. It doesn't make any sense. But if we can know something about God such as that, he is unknowable, then he is knowable, at least to a degree. And then the purest assertion is false as well. Besides, if God were unknowable, how would we know that we can appeal to religious experience? Can we? I mean, if God's unknowable, why would we trust our experiences? Why would we trust our senses? Plurals is reduced to speculation at this point that God is unknowable or that the unknowable God is revealed to humans that He is unknowable and either option leads nowhere really quick.

[00:27:56] I remember that John Hick suggested that revelation is rooted in its religious experience. That's really what revelation is. Inspiration is it's to the pluralist. It's all about religious experience. This isn't what the Bible says that revelation is, and it's not fair for someone to define revelation as one thing and then dismiss other proposal because it doesn't match your own definition. It wouldn't be fair for the Christian to do that as the book of Koran. It's definitely not fair for a pluralist to say that of the Christian doctrine of inspiration. We need to listen to what each religion claims their understanding of revelation is, and then proceed from that point. We have to listen. We analyze the claims of different religions. Intellectual integrity demands. We pay attention to how each sacred text presents itself. Bible zone presentation of itself has to be the starting point of any discussion on its own veracity. It claims to be the Word of God and plural. We have to deal with that. They can deny it, but they have to have reasons for denying it. Not just that it doesn't suit their fancy it. It's offensive to their sensibilities. That's not an argument. That's just whining. Complaining is not the same thing as an argument. Granted, our Bible was written prior to the scientific revolution, but that doesn't mean that what it says about the miracles are necessarily false. I mean that to listen to the these intellectual snobs who pass themselves off as pluralist, you would think that finally we've arrived, that all those people in the past were just unsophisticated, superstitious idiots. But the Bible doesn't present the miracles as common occurrences. They were shocking precisely because people knew these things don't happen. I mean, think about it this way.

[00:29:44] Mary did not have to live through the sexual revolution of the sixties to realize that people don't have children without sexual intimacy. She didn't have to live through that to dismiss the supernatural elements of the Bible as some pluralist do on the basis of scientific negativity. That's to engage in chronological snobbery. We could say the same things for all their claims about who Jesus was as well, and the doctrine of the incarnation. I mean, the doctrine the Incarnation testifies that the Eternal Son of God took on a human nature into his one person without laying aside his divine nature. How the infinite can combine with the finite without swallowing up the finite. That is a profoundly perplexing question, and the doctrine of the person of Christ does not pretend to plumb the depths exhaustively of this Union of divine and human in Jesus. But it's not a nonsensical formulation either. It doesn't. It does pass the test of intelligibility. The inner relationships are difficult, mysterious. That doesn't mean that they're contradictions. Now, religious pluralism, their arguments. Ultimately, as I said before, I think they're lazy. I think they are. I remember a few years ago, I did a debate at Oregon State University on whether there are many paths to the one God. And my, my, my opponent in the debate claimed she was not much of a theologian, but she she had a PhD in rhetoric and she understand words. And her proposal was that God purposefully uses words because words are always subject to interpretation and He can inspire, reveal certain words of himself to different religious groups. And then based on differing interpretations, we can come to a better, well-formed understanding of who God is. But is that really is that really the case? Is it really the case that one person can say one thing about God and it's just as true as the statements of another person? The Bible does not present God as indeterminate or subject to interpretation, subject to the ruminations of the sensibilities of humanity.

[00:32:01] When Paul used the term God, he was referring to the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, God who is the Creator of the heavens and the Earth, who is separate from His creation. God is independent as well as grounded in who He is not not what we could know of him. God is God. And He made all things and this creator creature distinction that God is God and everything that He made is not God. It's fundamental to Christian theology. Any departure denial of the creator creature distinction is inevitably going to lead to confusion and error. Furthermore, God is personal and He speaks. He acts. He reveals himself to some, and as a personal being, God is particular. That is his one way and not another. The biblical presentation of God speaks to this particularity of God and God spoke to Moses. He commissioned him to approach Pharaoh, and he gave very specific and particular instructions. He commanded Moses to perform specific actions. He was to speak a specific message. God is in angered at the Israelites a little later when they engage in idolatrous worship of the golden calf. And his reaction is particular and specific. He's he's angry. He's not simultaneously angry and happy. His response is not open to interpretation where all are equally valid. He's mad. Humans as personal beings are particularly one way and not another. For example, my wife is a particular and personal human being. Imagine if in my quest to know her, I just made up facts about her and then pursued her based on that fantasy in my mind. You know, is she going to be honored in that approach? I may have admirable motives in doing so, but my wife's not going to appreciate that.

[00:33:45] She's probably going to feel dishonored that I haven't taken the time to listen to who she actually is. I've ignored the reality of her being, and I've chosen to pursue her on the basis of my own idiosyncratic speculations and desires, not who she is. I mean, she's a real person. And as such, I can be right about her or wrong about her. God is a particular being as well. We can be right about him. We can be wrong about him. Just the declarations of God's jealousy throughout Scripture teach that because God is particular, we ought to know specific things about him and then approach him in a specific way. When people pick and choose what of God they like and what of God they don't like, or what they want to believe or don't want to believe, they're engaging in what the Bible calls idolatry. They're creating a God in their own image. God's not an image that humans can create. He has an existence in and of himself that doesn't derive that existence from human thoughts. The risk of simplification, oversimplification. God is who He is, regardless of how or what I think about him. I don't think come into existence, nor do I have the right to pick and choose what I like about him when that's done. What's worshiped is not a real transcendent God, but an avatar, a virtual God gods, the pluralist zone making before whom He worships. But a God of human making is not a God at all, certainly not worthy of worship. The Biblical polemic, the argument against the dollar tree that we covered in previous sessions is applicable to pluralist constructions of who God is. The Bible indicates the Supreme God is dishonored when we approach Him on our terms or by means of our own.

[00:35:31] Choosing to suggest otherwise would fly in the face of the biblical presentation of God. So what's the Christian response to pluralism to be? We need to steadfastly proclaim the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. We need to proclaim the Gospel. That's what Jesus did. That's what Peter did. That's what Paul did as missionary to the Gentiles, who was confronted with religious pluralism. And he never let the sensibilities of those to whom he was preaching stand in the way of his assertion of the truth. Remember what we looked at in previous weeks? Compassionate confrontation, compassionate confrontation. And that is precisely what we need to hang on to. And we need to proclaim the resurrection as well. Pluralism falls apart in the face of the resurrection. We see that in Paul's message to the Athenians at the Acropolis. The reality of the resurrection demands that Jesus be heard and that his claims be taken seriously. Let me quote Tim Keller. He writes, The resurrection puts a burden of proof on nonbelievers. It's not enough to simply believe Jesus did not rise from the dead. You must then come up with a historically feasible alternate explanation for the birth of the church. You have to provide some other plausible accounts for how things began. The pluralist has to deal with who Jesus was, who Jesus is, what he said, what he did before. He can be dismissed as just another wise teacher. We need to proclaim Christ and we need to be steadfast about it. Jesus requires ultimately that every person close with him, that every person answer the question. The very same question to ask the disciples. What about you? Who do you say that I am? Apostle? Peter gave the only acceptable answer. You're the Christ, the Son of the living God.


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