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Posts Tagged ‘exclusive’

A matter of exclusion – Michael Ramsden

March 9th, 2011
  • We are asking why is the Christian faith so exclusive?
  • Whenever you say that something is true, you are automatically saying that any contrary statement is untrue.
  • For someone raised in an Islamic culture, Christianity can clearly be seen as a different message from Islam, however, in the West, many would argue that Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism are basically the same. Maybe we need to allow the adherents of these beliefs to explain their own systems.
  • Surely if God is loving, isn’t being a good person all that matters? Jesus was very clear, all good people are going to heaven. When someone came to Jesus, asking, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered, “Why do you call me good? No-one is good, but God alone” (Mark 10:17-18) If good people are going to heaven, and only God is good, then who is going to heaven?
  • In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus tells a story that is pertinent to our situation, which shows us that there are only two possibilities as to how a person can become righteous, either (1) we make ourselves righteous or (2) someone else makes us righteous.
  • A Phariseeand tax collector were both praying at the same time in the temple. The Pharisee thanks God for making him such a good person, the tax-collector beats his breast – a strong gesture of remorse. The tax collector literally prays, “may this sacrifice be for me“. Jesus has come into the world as the sacrificial lamb which takes away the sins of the world.
  • Richard Dawkins argued after the Asian tsunami that it is morally reprehensible that an innocent man should be sacrificed for the guilty.
  • Why this emphasis on sacrifice, why is the cross at the centre of Christian teaching?
  • The answer is that we cannot separate love and judgement.
  • In Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth Bennett rejects Mr Darcy’s eloquent proposal of marriage, because Darcy states that he loves her against his will, reason and better judgement. He claims to love her though he does not know her.
  • Most of us project an image of ourselves which is better than the person we really are, the danger of this is that people fall in love with the image, not the real person. Love is only truly meaningful if the one who loves us truly knows us, but God sees everything, therefore, his love is truly meaningful.
  • True love can only exist in the presence of judgement, “If you never know truth then you never know love” (Black Eyed Peas, “Where is the Love?”).
  • If your sister is raped, and the judge lets the offender go free, saying, “we must be merciful” then where is the justice? In Christianity alone, God exercises mercy through the exercise of his justice.
  • Jesus, teaches us that the man who prayed, “may this sacrifice be for me” went away having received God’s gift of righteousness. Christianity is radically humbling – not only does it teach that no-one is good, but also that no-one can make themselves good.
  • Jesus’ answer to the question, “don’t all paths lead to God?” is that there are no paths that lead to God, only the path that God has made in coming to us.

Responses to questions

(In response to a question asking why each religion confirms the truth of the previous religion, but persecutes the followers of the religion that came after it) – The first point is not true, the later sayings of Muhammad abnegate the earlier sayings (which are more tolerant of Judaism and Christianity), Buddhism arose out of the rejection of the Vedas and the Hindu caste system. The second point is, sadly, true. People have persecuted others on the grounds of religion, however, Jesus explicitly denies the use of the sword for the propagation of the faith, and Paul argues that the fruits of the Holy Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23) should be what people taste when they bite into the life of a genuine follower of Jesus.

(In reponse to a question asking why, in Romans 2, Paul argues that people will be judged by what they know, and whether this means that people can be saved through Christ indirectly) – We are not saved by an idea, we are saved by a relationship, even if that relationship is confused – is this relationship with God a reality in your life?

(In response to a question, asking that, if love is inseparable from truth, how it is that God can only love us when we have been given a righteousness which is not ours, and is therefore untrue)  – The message of the gospel is more radical than that God forgave us when we begged him for mercy, God loved us and paid the price to make forgiveness possible, long before we sought him, when we were still his enemies. We forgive people when we think that they have earned forgiveness, but this is not the message of the gospel, God is offering us forgiveness BEFORE we repent, our repentance is the means whereby we receive God’s forgiveness and the relationship is restored.

Is Jesus The Only Way to God?

December 8th, 2010
  • Not looking at this question from the Bible as some don’t believe it is a credible source.
  • Every belief system in some way agrees/believes “no” to the statement that Jesus is the only way to God – each believing for very different reasons.

4 different ways of thinking Jesus is not the only way to God:

1. Polytheists – because there are lots of gods

  • How can one person be the way to lots of gods?
  • However, there is no existence for lots of gods and a lot of polytheists don’t think there is either – they just believe it.
  • You need evidence for what you believe – especially claims about God or truth. If people can’t give you any evidence, why should you believe it?
  • Is the polytheistic view then a good reason to reject Jesus as the only way to God?
  • Some believe this way as it’s part of their culture – again, not a good enough reason.
  • We need to look at what we believe – is it valid? Is there evidence?

2. Atheists – because there is no such thing is a god

  • They say it is useless to debate over whether Jesus is the only way to God if there is no God in the first place.
  • Not a compelling reason – whatever evidence for belief in God gets swept under the carpet – e.g. saying real-life miracles don’t qualify as evidence because miracles are impossible.
  • Trying to debate this leads to going round in circles: there is no God because there is no evidence, but miracles wouldn’t be impossible if God existed, but miracles don’t count as evidence, etc.
  • Also – writing off ancient documents as evidence because they don’t understand them.
  • You can’t have a sensible argument with a fundamental atheist.

3. Pluralists – because it’s exclusive, intolerant and will lead to oppression

  • Very common view in Brighton.
  • Yes, believing Jesus is the only way to God is an exclusive belief. But ALL truth claims work that way – truth statements include people who agree and exclude people who disagree.
  • People get scared of exclusive truth claims as they sometimes lead to extremists or oppression, but not always – depends on what the truth claim or belief system actually is – not whether you believe in God or not, but what you believe. If it is ‘kill the infidel’ or ‘people who believe in God are stupid and ignorant’ – both are very exclusive and intolerant and will lead to oppression. But something like believing you should love God and love people as yourself is a different matter.
  • Again, not a good reason for rejecting the belief that Jesus is the only way to God.

4. Monotheists – because Jesus didn’t say he was a way to God, but someone else altogether

  • Saying Christians are wrong about who they believe Jesus was – that Jesus was substituted with someone else on the cross.
  • Muslims and Jews, for example, believe this.
  • This theory came 600 years after Jesus – not very credible.

Christians don’t just believe Jesus is the only way to God – but that he is God incarnate. He is more than just the way – he showed us what God is like. This belief has always been controversial and people have been persecuted for it – but it has persisted. The evidence points this way and is the most plausible and credible explanation.