Friday, August 5

Are Christians Afraid of the Exclusive Gospel?

Truth forces people to take sides. Most today don't like that and even imagine those evil who try. Pilate asked basically the same question postmoderns have posed, "What is truth?" Worse, it seems, they say there is no truth to be known (keep reading). This is not a new concern. Michael Horton, in his endorsement of this book writes: “Although religious pluralism is often treated as a ‘postmodern’ phenomenon, it has always been the world’s most fundamental challenge to the gospel." True, and each generation of warriors must take up the sword afresh to fend off such evil.

Learning On Vacation
While away on vacation last week, I made good use of my new Kindle and read Only One Way: Reaffirming the Truth Claims of Christianity. It is a compilation of addresses given to the 2005 Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology (PCRT). I heartedly recommend the entire book. Here, I am focusing on one chapter that caught my attention, the address given by Philip Ryken, "One Truth." He surfaces an alarming statistic from George Barna, a Christian market researcher with an emphasis on religious points of view. He states that only 9 percent of evangelical students now believe in anything called "absolute truth." Really? How can that honestly be? Isn't that about like football players arguing over the existence of a football?! If you've got no truth, you've got nothing. Os Guinness, Ryken points out, has also observed, "A solid sense of truth is foundering in America at large. Vaporized by critical theories, obscured by clouds of euphemism and jargon, outpaced by humor and hype, overlooked for style and image, and eroded by advertising, truth in America is anything but marching on." Then Guinness draws this "telling indictment": "With magnificent exceptions, evangelicals reflect this truth-decay and reinforce it. . . . Contemporary evangelicals are no longer people of the truth." He has a point.

What We're Up Against
Postmodernism doesn't just affirm that truth is a matter of our opinion (subjectivity), they go further and claim "that there is no truth, with a capital T." Now this is not news to those who study this subject, whose eyes are on the religious horizon. Numerous books are on the market whose titles alone make this evident: Whatever Happened to Truth by Andreas Kostenberger, Truth Decay: Defending Christianity Against The Challenges of Postmodernism by Douglas Groothuis, and Alister McGrath's A Passion For Truth: The Intellectual Coherence of Evangelicalism, to name a few. To all of this we defenders of the faith echo the cry of the Psalmist, "If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?" (Ps. 11:3). Ministers need to be, among other things, capable builders who understand the basics of their trade. Foundation and edify, along with building a house are terms applied to the church, terms with which we must not only become familiar but erudite . . . and unbending.

When reading this book, one discovers that the problem throughout is not one of intellectual non-feasibility, but one of will. I hear in my ear that defiant cry from long ago, "We will not have this man to rule over us." It was the cry of the Garden of Eden, it was the cry of Israel in desiring a king, and it certainly was the cry of the chosen when they rejected Jesus Christ. So, while we may grow alarmed (hopefully) at the vortex that threatens to suck all of us in, we take great hope in the fact that if and until man is drawn by God, he will not be able to see nor believe the truth (John 6:44). The first century was not a Jesus-friendly atmosphere, nor were the Athenian philosophers clammering after "the Truth" in the person of Jesus the resurrected Son of God. Oh, no! But many were saved just the same. We also, if we keep Jesus Christ front and center will likewise find godly success. 

I conclude by stating two things: 1) Recognize the seriousness of the error we face today, but also 2) Embrace the clarity of the Gospel message as it is found in Jesus Christ. Those who do are not wanting in success, . . . God's success.

1 comment:

Pastor Bob Leroe said...

Without absolutes, all we're left with are arbitrary preferences. Tolerance means accepting people who we firmly believe are wrong; we don't accept their ideology. Yet too many people today who say they're "tolerant" are really just indifferent. And as for the exclusive and unique claims of Christ, that's simply how the Good News works. The bad news is that those who reject life in Christ suffer the consequences of unbelief. No Christian can say they're happy with this, but we're not about to make Jesus one of many ways. The Bible doesn't leave us that option.