Believers today are under a bright, unforgiving spotlight. The culture seems more and more curious to know why we believe what we believe, and when we answer, we can expect contempt, mockery, or even unadulterated attacks.
Playing the victim isn’t the answer, and good grief, we’ve no right to compare ourselves to Christians experiencing bonafide persecution in other nations. But there’s no denying a growing intolerance in the America of 2017 for the expression of the absolutes of the faith.
Four of those in particular are under fire: the sinful nature of humanity, the definition of marriage and family, the existence of hell, and the exclusivity of Jesus as being the only way to God. I’m especially interested today in the fourth, because it’s become a source of growing hostility between Bible believing Christians and modern culture.
We believe there is only one way to both know, and be right with, God. Therefore, it logically follows that we also believe (though we’re loathe to say it without provocation) that every other religious system claiming another way to God is wrong. In so believing, we discriminate between a right way and a wrong way, exposing us to charges of — well, discrimination.
That’s become quite the dirty word. A few years back a popular liberal campaign was titled Would Jesus Discriminate? The idea promoted was that He welcomed all people (true) and never judged (way untrue).
Yet in fact, His teachings were both exclusive and exclusionary, delineating between who would and wouldn’t enter the Kingdom with lines drawn unmistakably and repeatedly.
The most obvious example is His statement “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) Not much wiggle room there, nor in Acts 4:12 when Peter affirmed “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” John’s likewise specific when he writes “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (I John 5:12) And the issue of whether or not one has that life is eternal and critical, as Jesus made clear to Nicodemus: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3) and Revelation warns that “whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Revelation 20:15)
Pretty discriminatory stuff, black and white, in or out. Of course the invitation to life is broad, but the terms are narrow: Faith in the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world is the only way to eternal life, a way provided to all and chosen by some, but the only way nonetheless.
Yet the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church claimed a few years back that it’s “limiting to God” to say that Jesus is the only way.
Likewise, a hugely popular evangelical author wrote:
I think there are Muslim brothers and sisters who are willing to say, ‘You live up to the truth as you understand it. I will live up to the truth as I understand it, and we will leave it up to God on judgment day.’ There is much in Christianity that would suggest exactly the same thing…I’ve got to believe that Jesus is the only Savior but being a Christian is not the only way to be saved.
And the well-known son of one of the Church’s finest Bible expositors posed a question that was astonishing to those who’d cut their teeth on his father’s teaching:
Is the Christian experience better than the experience of any other religion? Who can say? … It is quite possible that we cannot—at least at this time—know if there is a qualitative difference between the Christian and non-Christian spiritual experience.
They’re not alone. Pollster George Barna noted back in 1991 that “more than half of born again respondents (to a survey of Christians) believed there’s no such thing as absolute truth.”
If high percentages of born again believers no longer believe truth exists, they can hardly be expected to know what truth is. And to me, that’s scarier than economic downturn, high gas prices, or the state of affairs in DC. Because, as cult expert Ron Rhodes warned,
“When the Church begins to look and sound like the world, then there is no compelling rationale for its continued existence.”