What If We’re Wrong about Christianity? [Questions That Haunt]

Questions That Haunt Christianity

This week’s entry in Questions That Haunt Christianity comes from an old friend. Bill Dahl has been hanging around the emerging church conversation for years (when he’s not hiking, fishing, and playing with his grandkids). He wrote The Porpoise Diving Life, and he writes this intriguing question for us:

What if we’re wrong? What if God turns out to be multi-faceted — one head that has many faces, including the faces of The Buddha, Mohammed, Moses and Jesus, as well as others? What if it turns out that God has revealed his/her essence throughout history in many forms and ways, to various cultures and civilizations, and that the various claims to absolute truth are revealed to be human constructions designed to serve as the basis of power structures in human civilization? What if religions are human constructs, not reflections of the face, heart, feet and hands of God?

This question about Christian exclusivity — or distinctiveness — is tricky for progressive Christians. So please take your crack at it in the comment section below. And submit your own question for a future edition!

  • http://christopherbaca.wordpress.com Chris

    The first thing that came to mind when I read the question was this quote (I think) from Barth:

    “I’m not a universalist, but I hope God is.”

    As far as the implications of such a reality, I’m not sure.

    • http://www.BillDahl.net Bill Dahl

      Dr. Robert A. Burton in his book entitled “On Being Certain” — “Certainty is biologically possible. We must learn (and teach our children) to tolerate the unpleasantness of uncertainty.” P.223.” — for more…go here: http://www.billdahl.net/featured/on-being-certain-by-robert-a-burton-m-d/

      • http://www.BillDahl.net Bill Dahl

        Oops…meant IMpossible in the Burton quote above…sorry…

  • http://scottsimmons.com Scott Simmons

    We are frequently wrong about God… but God is faithful. And in that alone we have hope.

    • http://www.BillDahl.net Bill Dahl

      What does “faithful” mean…in the sense you are using it…and how do you know this for certain?

  • Dolores Travis

    We don’t know. But HE does! Thats all that counts.

    • http://www.BillDahl.net Bill Dahl

      What if He is a SHE…Is taking comfort in the fact that we humans may have God wrong, yet she/he knows the essence of her/himself somehow – strangely a cop-out. What are the practical implications of such an attitude in terms of caring for the world we inhabit? Shouldn’t our purported confession of “knowing God” count for something in this life?

  • Ric Shewell

    I don’t know if this is surprising or not, but my theology is probably christocentric to a fault (which I think is impossible, that’s how christocentric I am). I don’t think anyone has absolute access to truth or reality. We depend on God to reveal Godself. God has done so most fully in Christ (who is Godself). So, we can know God best as we know Christ better. Since Christ was a real, corporeal, material, historical person, it is much easier to know God through Christ than through other forms of revelation.

    We also find out through Christ that God really loves people of different faiths and ethnicities. The Christian tradition affirms that it is through Christ that people are saved. It’s an evangelical (even pelagian) thought that people have to acknowledge Christ for this to happen.

    • http://www.winter60.blogspot.com Lausten North

      So, Ric, what if you’re wrong?

      • Ric Shewell

        If I’m wrong about Christ revealing God, then I suppose I would need to find a new thing to trust, some new archimedian point. A lot of people use the verification principle, which is fine (and probably the best alternative). So, if I was wrong about this, then I suppose I would try to be an atheist and not really care about metaphysics.

        • Ric Shewell

          maybe get a labor-related job. That seems romantic and ethical.

          • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

            I think it’s psychologically healthy to pass through the possibility that we’re wrong about the whole Christianity thing – the abyss. But, I don’t think anyone can survive nihilism permanently. The popular Christian argument that “if there is no god then nothing matters” is great at scaring children into submission.

    • http://www.BillDahl.net Bill Dahl

      Living intentionally with Muslims in my own home for years has provided me with the the first-hand experience of “depending on God to reveal Godself” through persons of other religious affiliations. This is a source “revelation” (to use your term) most Christians cannot imagine. Is it possible that God created “the other” to challenge our tendency to become complacent and sufficient in our ability to grow, change, learn…and love?

      • Ric Shewell

        I think that’s wonderful to hear. I do believe God is revealing Godself in all sorts of ways, including our others. I still think that Christ is the fullest revelation that God has given us. Christ is definitely one of the most challenging revelations, since the revelation of God in Christ pretty much flies in the face of every cultures’ metaphysics, ethics, politics, etc. It’s why we still talk about Christ 2000 years after the event.

      • http://www.erinwilsonstudios.com/blog Erin Wilson

        I was in Kurdistan this summer, and will never forget having dinner with friends and their elderly father. The father, blind and nearly deaf, wasn’t suffering from old age as I’d assumed. He’d lost his sight and hearing during Sadam Hussein’s time, when his soldiers beat my friend’s father so badly with the butt of a rifle he was left permanently disabled.

        We continued to talk, and I could see no anger in this family. No bitterness. Over our meal I had to ask about it, and it was true… there was only forgiveness in that place.

        Religion can’t do that. Only God can do that. That was when I knew for sure that these Muslim friends and I worshipped the same God. It re-oriented my perspective. Now I look for where God is at work… I’ve learned that “reading the labels” first is useless.

        • Chandra

          Erin, that is beautiful.

  • Craig

    The question is particularly pointed when Christians starting thinking and acting in ways that would be positively immoral in the nearest possible worlds in which their distinctively Christian beliefs are false. An analogy: it would be clearly immoral for Abraham to try to kill his son if God didn’t order him to sacrifice his son (or if Abraham was wrong to believe that God would just resurrect Isaac afterwords). Similarly for certain ways in which some Christians apply their religious beliefs about the wisdom of their spiritual leaders, homosexuality, gay marriage, the environment, the descendants of Ham, contraception, the sanctity of life, capital punishment, Israel, etc.

  • leannemcginney

    How could God be otherwise!

  • http://davidellisdickerson.wordpress.com David Ellis Dickerson

    When I was a Christian, I had a terrible moment when one of my Religious Studies professors–a priest I really learned from and admired–pointed out in class that there were a few sensible reasons to doubt the traditional Christian take on hell. I believe he used Romans–”all of creation is groaning in childbirth”–and made the standard “hell/Gehenna/Sheol” translation argument, ending by saying, “I think if there is a hell, no one is in it.”

    I was scandalized for about ten seconds. Because I noticed, oddly, that my very first reaction was, “But if there’s no hell, why am I a Christian?” This after spending years learning Christian theology, studying Christian art and literature, looking for ways to express the worldview creatively and to learn from my spiritual forbears. Was that all for nothing? Ridiculous! So I came to the conclusion: “Obviously, Christianity has more to offer than just a ticket out of hell, but you actually need to ignore hell to notice it all. Therefore, maybe hell doesn’t exist because it doesn’t seem to be a particularly healthy idea and seems to distract from what’s important.”

    This, of course, presupposed that there WAS stuff that’s important about the Christian life outside of hell, and at that point I made my peace with other religions by saying, “I truly believe the message of grace and the teachings of Jesus are MORE LIKE the true story of the universe than any of the other options.” So Christianity was not so much essential for salvation from hell, but it was essential for the clearest understanding of the spiritual shape of the universe. As a writer interested in spiritual themes, being able to claim that truth, in myth and story, was no small thing.

    I’m not a Christian anymore, but that’s how I parsed things twenty years ago. Thought it might help someone here. :)

    • http://www.BillDahl.net Bill Dahl

      David: I think you might be “A Questian”…see http://www.billdahl.net/articles/the-questian-confession-by-bill-dahl/

      Best,

      Bill

    • Craig

      Given what evangelicals have been taught, the following questions should all seem very sensible for about ten seconds. After ten seconds, the intelligent ones should start questioning what they’ve been taught.

      “If God doesn’t exist, why be moral?” (Why, for example, should I keep feeding my kids?)

      “If there’s no afterlife, what is the point of anything?” (What, for example, is the point of not laying in my bed until I befoul myself with urine and feces?)

      “If scriptural discussions of sexuality are influenced by primitive cultural norms, why should I oppose gays and lesbians from marrying each other?” (enough said)

      • http://www.BillDahl.net Bill Dahl

        Craig: “ten seconds?”

      • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

        I think this brings up a great point about how we make any decision. It took me a long time to realize that if the only thing I had to help me make decisions was the Bible, then I was in a pretty scary place. What helped me work through this was realizing that the only people who have “arguments” against homosexuality are certain types of religious people. So, there aren’t any reasonable arguments. None. So, then I had to ask, what if they’re all wrong?

  • Pingback: Bill Dahl » Blog Archive » Featured on Tony Jones Blog Today…

  • http://www.BillDahl.net Bill Dahl

    In Brian McLaren’s most recent book, he asks a terribly important question: “What is it about our faith (and even nonfaith) traditions that we are so uneasy about?” (p.19 – Why Did Jesus, Moses, Mohammed and The Buddha Cross The Road – Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World)…my response is…”That we’re wrong” – The pernicious penchant to be “right” pollutes human history from the days of first human communication…it still does.

    • Chris

      “The pernicious penchant to be “right” pollutes human history from the days of first human communication…it still does.”

      Do you think you’re right about that?

  • http://www.BillDahl.net Bill Dahl

    We are designed to make mistakes – to be wrong – Why is the human conception of God treated as some sort of a supernatural exception to this biologically demonstrable fact?

  • http://www.spiritedcrone.com/ spiritedcrone

    It’s absolutely fantastic to get to this point. I think that’s when the real exploration of what we mean by God, what we mean by being human, how we make meaning, speak of deep stuff etc begins.

    • http://www.BillDahl.net Bill Dahl

      Spiritedcrone: I would also include: it’s the place where we grant permission to begin to explore how our attitudes and values are shaped, prejudices formed, various forms of non-love allowed (encouraged) to grow and become adopted as “reasonable.” — how we humans rationalize our UN-Godlike behaviors attitudes and values.

  • Pax

    You ought to be open to that possibility, but just like with every other truth claim, you’d need reasons to believe it.

    • http://www.BillDahl.net Bill Dahl

      Pax: How about this reason: “God is simply too … too…too… to be confined within the constructs of the human imagination.” We’re just not that smart.

      • Pax

        I don’t understand the argument. Are there religions claiming that God can be confined within the constructs of human imagination? We can’t understand everything about God so therefore everyone who claims something about God is wrong? Or, all are right?

  • MarkE

    Christian’s and non-Christians alike have to struggle with the question “What if we are wrong?” I like what Dallas Willard is fond of saying: “I may be wrong about some of this. If I knew which parts were wrong, I would stop it.”

    If one is wrong about exclusivism, then evangelism – especially cross-cultural – may be problematic, or even counterproductive. If one is wrong about inclusivism, no harm no foul.

    • http://www.BillDahl.net Bill Dahl

      MarkE – Perhaps you’ve hit on a seminal point: Perhaps it’s time for Christians and non-Christians top intentionally come together and discuss this possibility; “What if we’re wrong?” – then “my hostility toward “you” is misplaced…we can be friends, allies, colleagues in something far more important than protecting what we believe we know”…possible? Absolutely reorients the “hostility” Brian McLaren so eloquently describes in his most recent book.

      • MarkE

        Great point you and Brian make. If exclusivity is wrong, then hostility and other non-productive attitudes are additional harms – though one could argue they are harms still if exclusivity is right.

        • http://www.winter60.blogspot.com Lausten North

          Don’t the major monotheisms handle the exclusivity problem by claiming that their goal is to bring people to their god? So you’re not really excluding, just needing to educate. Except of course the versions where the chosen people are pre-selected or otherwise limited, but I don’t consider that mainstream, or worth addressing. Given that, why would one argue for exclusivity?

          • MarkE

            At best, exclusivity may be a psychological mechanism we use to strengthen belief or identity, at worst, to consolidate power.

    • http://www.yeshua21.com Wayne

      I suspect that most of us are familiar with teachings of other faiths that provide evidence for the claim that there is no people and no culture without the light of truth-–both the light shining on the inside (i.e. the Divine presence) AND the light provided by various scriptures and other traditional teachings that point seekers (more or less effectively) to that inner light of Divine presence (which is the Way, the Truth, and the Life). One can acknowledge this without imagining that all religions are the same or of equal validity OR that Christians should abandoned their missionary activities in foreign lands.

      Without a doubt, the advent of Christ in Jesus of Nazareth (as proclaimed in the New Testament teachings and as revealed in some aspects of the uniquely Christian culture that grew out of them) is a clear and world-historic revelation which will continue to offer a unique contribution to the symphony of wisdom traditions that have come down to us from antiquity. Nevertheless, most Christians who truly expose themselves to the teachings of other cultures and other traditions find that they are also truly enriched by them; they find that far from being without God and without hope (as is sometimes said), non-Christian peoples, too, have access to the Way, the Truth, and the Life; and that their cultures, too, offer unique contributions to the symphony of wisdom traditions–traditions that, thanks to the Internet, we can all, to some extent, begin to enjoy!

      http://jeshua21.wordpress.com/interfaith-accents/

  • Jim Armstrong

    It was a question like this, …or two, …or… that finally brought me to an important juncture. Everything within me at the time (then a life-long churchman in relatively conservative orthodoxy) brought me to a particular conclusion of this sort that I could no longer walk away from. That led me to a simple, but profoundly sincere prayer, “If I’m wrong, then I pray for forgiveness and redirection.”

    Redirection never happened, but I did very shortly thereafter come to a new sense of grace. And it was simply this: I was in this moment essentially asking for grace from the divine as I took a potentially consequential step. But I had done that before as a child, also feeling at risk as I had learned and accepted in my faith tradition.

    What came into sudden and sharper focus was that if there was in the background of these decisions a certain peril, then I was then, AND ALWAYS HAD BEEN, living at the pleasure (and grace) of the Divine. In short, in my understanding at the time, this actually strengthened my faith in Divine grace. And this step, taken in trust, born of the best of my understanding, ability, conscience and courage at the time, was taken under that same umbrella of divine grace.

    Over the years, my understandings have changed quite a bit in an evolving faith walk, but that event remains an identifiable, significant and freeing pivot points for me.

  • http://thewearypilgrim.typepad.com/the_weary_pilgrim/ ron cole

    I started my journey upright, head up, full steam ahead…I had it all figured out, categorized, labeled. There was one way, I was on the “right” path. ( Insert 45 years of lived experience, reading the sacred wisdom of other faiths, traveling the global village, research and conversations. I now stumble on my hands and knees, reaching not blindly…but humbly, trying to navigate a landscape covered in divine fingerprints.

    I often think deeply into the depths of the gospels…and one question, like panning for gold seems to appear amid the debris. ” Why is it that if God is so dammed concerned about religion…why is Jesus in the deepest sense birthed outside religion?” He lives on it’s margins, and dies on it’s margins. He is crucified by religion.

    Salvation…or restored life, abundant life…eternal life in Jesus mind was not an exclusive club membership to an eternal retirement home. His equation was the profound simplicity of loving the reality of a divine source of life…and your neighbor. And it was a relationship that had to be lived in balance…your love of God, was only revealed by as much as you loved your neighbor. And your neighbor…not the guy you like next door. It meant everyone, regardless of race, language, religion, color…whether they were good or bad. You loved them, as much as you loved God. This was Jesus revelation of God, and Jesus revelation to humanity.

    The rain, the sun…fall, and shine on the good and the bad. God’s love is indiscriminate it falls on all creation.

    The reality of Jesus life was to show us how to be deeply human…not religious. That’s why Jesus was found on the margins, the fringe of religion…in the midst of humanity. He didn’t tell religious stories…he told profound redemptive human stories, parables. He was here to re-boot the mind of humanity…to imagine a new world, one that was abundantly human. We must again capture the imagination and vision of Jesus…to see a faith that captures all humanity…where every thread is woven back into this divine tapestry called ” life.”

    We can’t miss the profound truth out of the interfaith conversation at the well. Jesus said, ” it doesn’t matter where you worship…whether it’s a temple, or a mountain. ” It doesn’t matter!
    What matters is love, and a spirit of truth. This is what ” God “, creator, supreme being…the source of life is looking for.

    Any religion that can’t embrace, redeem all humanity is worthless. No religion will save, or redeem humanity. But a faith that can be lived being abundantly ” human ” that casts a net over all creation…may redeem something very Jesus-like.

    I am reminded of this story by a Sikh friend…

    Truth is one; only It is called by different names. All people are seeking the same Truth; the variance is due to climate, temperament, and name. A lake has many streams. From one stream the Hindus take water in jars and call it “jal”. From another ghat the Muslims take water in leather bags and call it “pāni”. From a third the Christians take the same thing and call it “water”. Suppose someone says that the thing is not “jal” but “pāni”, or that it is not “pāni” but “water”, or that it is not “water” but “jal”, It would indeed be ridiculous.

    Everyone is going toward God. They will all realize Him if they have sincerity and longing of heart.

    • http://www.BillDahl.net Bill Dahl

      Like…

    • http://www.vickiarkens.com Vicki A

      Beautiful post. Thanks Ron.

    • http://notapastor.wordpress.com notapastor

      I really like how you’ve illustrated the role of language in how we understand God. I like thinking of of religion in the same way we’d think about language. There’s no meaningful point in debating which language is true or right. We just learn language/religion(s) and use them.

    • http://www.nateweatherly.com Nate W.

      Thanks so much for your time in in writing this great post, Ron. Your wise friend’s water metaphor is wonderful. Hope you/he doesn’t mind if I borrow it.

      I would like to understand better when you mean when you say “everyone is going toward God” and that what is needed is “sincerity and longing.” Not that I disagree, it’s just not how I would have phrased it. I would say that everyone is seeking God–that is, seeking ultimate rest, peace, acceptance, love, and joy–but that many are sadly not aware that God is not far off and does not need to be moved toward, but stands silently next to us, in solidarity and compassion with us. It is in faith that God is near, despite his silence, that we are able to stop striving after God and choose instead to empty ourselves in live for others, and it is in self-emptying love that peace, rest, and God become present to us and to our neighbor.

      Based on the rest of your reply I think you mean the same, I just wanted to be sure I understood your last thought.

      Thanks again!

  • Scot Miller

    The question reminds me of a section from J. L. Mackie’s The Miracle of Theism about Pascal’s wager. In his criticism of those who think that it is better to believe in God than not believe, Mackie raises the possibility that God may exist, but it may turn out that the God of Mormonism exists, but not the God of traditional Christianity. All the effort spent by evangelicals and traditional Christians may be misplaced, and their eternal destiny may be in question. (Think of the possibility that it’s not a benevolent God that exists, but a malevolent God who exists, a God for whom lying is a virtue….)

    My hunch is that all religions are human constructions, as are all the gods and all theologies. Nevertheless, these human constructions record what purports to be experiences with the divine. They are finite, historically and linguistically conditioned glimpses of an infinite, eternal, sacred Other, the mysterium tremendum et fascinans.

    • Craig

      I was with you up until the claim that they are glimpses of an infinite, eternal, sacred Other. Why commit to this last bit?

      • Scot Miller

        You’re right, my last sentence overstates the confidence of my position. At best, the extra-mental reality of God amounts to a hunch. Or a possibility. Or maybe it’s just wishful thinking.

        While I am convinced that almost all God-talk can be explained as projections of human consciousness, I do think it’s a mistake to reduce God-talk to naturalistic explanations. I want to be open to the possibility that the human experience of the divine is an awareness of some feature of reality that is independent of social or psychological construction. (Of course, this could all be a pile of bullshit….)

        • Craig

          Now this, I think, is quite reasonable.

          We could append the pile-of-bullshit proviso to everything we say, but this would do disservice. I think it is unlikely that you are bullshitting here. I don’t, for example, find it in any way plausible that an omniscient judge of our thoughts, demanding faith in his own providence, could one day call you to the floor before his throne and declare: “Scot, what you were thinking there was a pile of bullshit–you knew damn well that you were glimpsing me, the infinite, eternal, sacred, Other!”

        • Evelyn

          “the human experience of the divine is an awareness of some feature of reality that is independent of social or psychological construction.”

          I think this reality exists but, like any reality, the way that humans interpret what they sense by observation must be filtered through a theory of being or a paradigm in order for the observations to have meaning. The paradigm is socially and environmentally dependent. Perhaps the “experience of the divine” refers to something that we observe but all the meaning that we give to God is constructed by us. Personally, I think the paradigms (or theories) come from a collaboration between us and God since any new “knowledge” comes through intuitions (inspired by God but based on observations and previously accepted theories) that have to be tested against what we sense to be real and then we have to use reason to decide the validity of those intuitions.

          • Craig

            Evelyn, I can understand thinking that this is a possible feature of reality, but I don’t understand why you take the further step in thinking that it is an actual feature. As I asked Scot, why commit to this last bit?

          • Evelyn

            Because I don’t think we know everything and I believe that human beings evolve socially, physically, and internally. I believe that we experience epigenesis and development throughout our lives – we are not preformed beings. Some things stay the same, some things change, we grow, and God is beyond our ability to know. The world will be much different in 200 years than it is today and hopefully it is moving in a “good” direction.

            In the words of William Shakespeare: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

          • Craig

            Evelyn, the considerations you list give reasons for thinking that there are features of reality that we don’t know about. Among these possible features could be God. The considerations you list don’t provide reasons for thinking that any specific possibilities (in particular, that God exists) are more than possibilities (for thinking, in particular, that God actually exists). So the considerations you list don’t provide reasons for your commitment to that last bit, where you say, “I think this reality exists.”

          • Evelyn

            Yes, you’re right. I know this reality exists because I had an objective experience of the paranormal. It wasn’t like the levitation experiences that a couple of people have claimed in the past few weeks or a consciousness-obliterating possession experience like Jaye described in his comment under Tony’s post about why Christians still believe in the existence of demons. I don’t tend to tell people about it because people get superstitious and form crazy cults around these kinds of experiences but I don’t think it was awesome enough to capture the imaginations of most people so I’ll tell you the story: I had recently gone to a professional meeting that involved airplane travel. A colleague from work had also gone to this meeting. I didn’t return back to my home town on the same plane as my baggage so I had to go home without it and return to the airport to pick it up. When I went to the airport to pick up the baggage, I had a feeling in my gut that led me through the long-term parking at the airport to a car that was the same make and model as my colleague’s car. It was in section B-13 of the long-term airport parking and the long-term parking lot is quite large so it is highly unlikely that I could have led myself to this car on my own. I had an intuition to copy down the license plate number of this car so I did so (I did not have previous knowledge of my colleague’s license plate number). I went in to the airport to get my baggage, noticed that there was a plane arriving and had an intuition that my colleague might be on that plane so I sat in the airport for a half an hour or so before leaving with my bags. When I had collected my bags, I got my car from the short-term parking and drove over to the long-term parking and saw that what I thought was my colleague’s car was gone (he had arrived on the plane as I had intuited). I still had the piece of paper with the license plate number written on it. I checked the license plate number against the car the next day when I was at work and it was the same car.

            This objective experience was tied up with a lot of intuitive experiences that I had around this time period and from time to time I still have objective experiences. That’s all I really want to say. You don’t have to believe me nor should you believe me, just like I don’t believe in claims of levitation because I’ve never seen it, but that is how I know.

            Does this mean that God is infinite and all-powerful and just the way Jesus says in the bible? No it doesn’t. But my one poignant experience coupled with others that I have leads me to believe that there is a reality beyond the one that most people agree on.

  • Curtis

    How can the culture one is raised in be wrong?

    I guess it could be abused, such as used to harm others.

    But besides abuse, how can culture be wrong? And if the culture contains a clear instruction to not harm others, I guess a person can’t go wrong with that.

    • http://www.lara-thinkingoutloud.blogspot.com lara

      If your culture tells you it is good to burn yourself if your spouse dies I would say that is wrong. If your culture tells you happiness comes from buying stuff from stores I would say that is wrong/not true/scientifically proven to be false. You wouldn’t say this?

      • Chuck

        I would say that if anyone thinks that people do not get happiness from buying things they are back in the stone age when there was nothing to buy. Now, if you say the culture say that permanent happiness comes from shopping, ok that culture is probably missing the mark.

  • Ric Shewell

    I just wanted to say, “Holy crap, 105 comments on that Billy Graham post!”

  • http://www.christylambertson.com Christy

    Personally, I think all religions are human constructs – which doesn’t necessarily mean that all religions have no value, just that different people in different cultures during different time periods have told their stories about how the universe and God works in different ways. Some of those ways are more productive than others, and every religion has a substantial amount of both crap and wisdom in it. Theology is written by the victors, so yes – religion is frequently all about gaining and maintaining power. (but then – isn’t practically everything?)

    I think if you recognize that and if you take hell out of the equation, then the question changes. Instead of having to determine your own or someone else’s potential eternal destination, you can instead ask yourself, “Is your current spiritual path or religious affiliation helping you become more compassionate or wise or peaceful?” If not, it’s probably time to do some re-thinking. If it is, great – go with God (whoever She is.)

    • http://www.BillDahl.net Bill Dahl

      Christy: Thank you…

    • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

      IF ONLY more evangelicals would ask this question. I think many Christians’ primary idols are church, God, and…wait for it…Jesus.

      • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

        And all idols disappoint and ultimately destroy us.

    • http://notapastor.wordpress.com notapastor

      Hi Christy. I agree, it’s a good question for Christians to ask ourselves: Would we still follow Jesus if there is no heaven or hell? Personally, I like John Lennon’s answer in “Imagine”, if we dropped religion then we’d have heaven.

      I also like Peter Rollins’ “what if” illustration of what happens when we go heaven. In his story, we end up at the throne of heaven and instead of Jesus, the Devil is there. Lord Satan proclaims that he has won the war for heaven and has thrown Jesus into hell to suffer for all eternity. He then offers us a choice, to follow Jesus into hell or to accept Beelzebub as our lord and savior and receive eternal life everlasting.

      • http://www.winter60.blogspot.com Lausten North

        Are you listening to some back-masked version of John Lennon? The song starts with “Imagnie there’s not heaven”.

        • http://notapastor.wordpress.com notapastor

          Hi Lausten, my bad, I meant we’d have “heaven” on earth, a world of peace and compassion, without binary separations between people (like Jew versus Gentile, man versus woman, slave versus free, etc…), and where we live in the abundant present instead of the past or the future.

          • http://www.winter60.blogspot.com Lausten North

            Yeah, I figured as much, but words carry weight with them. When you say “heaven”, in America at least, most people think of Christianity and the requirements of getting there. When Lennon says, “imagine no heaven”, he doesn’t mean imagine a world that isn’t heavenly, one that isn’t beautifal and ideal. He means imagine removing the rules, imposed by a hierarchy, created by men, intended for domination. Get rid of those, and you’ll find that many of the promises of “heaven” were right here all along.

          • http://notapastor.wordpress.com notapastor

            I agree. I was a little clumsy, but that’s what I was trying to point out: the irony of dropping religion in order to get what religion is promising.

        • Chuck

          Imagine no John Lennon, music not destroyed, no bad god-awful preaching…

    • http://www.winter60.blogspot.com Lausten North

      “If it is, great – go with God”
      And as some say, “Go with God, but go”. The problems begin when people start saying that others must follow, that if they don’t believe the same, then they are dangerous, and must be dealt with. This leads to getting children to memorize phrases in songs that they don’t understand. It leads to a lot of resources being put into gaining followers and not so much into actually healing.

      If we can see that there is some crap and some wisdom, why don’t we just get rid of the crap?

  • Chris Hill

    I think the question posed possesses an inherent beauty of its own. For my part, religions and other philosophies for life serve as skillful means towards meaningful ends. Whatever seems beneficial to my idiosyncratic eyes I allow to have its effects upon me, and disregard the rest, that is, at least for a time.

  • Luke Allison

    This question is pretty much the premise of Neil Gaiman’s book “American Gods” from a few years ago. A very interesting and entertaining look at what happens to all the deities when we stop worshiping them in exchange for more necessary “gods.”

    But seriously, I wonder if a better way to ask this question is simply: Aren’t there nice, gentle, kind, loving, and altogether wonderful human beings practicing in every world religion? Why all the division?

    That’s the driving force behind a question like this….unless you are seriously willing to entertain the notion of a massive pantheon and Jesus being equally true revelations of the same thing. That’s a cosmological nightmare.

    Like so many of the other questions in this series, this one presupposes a very specific branch of Christianity: one that is rigid, concerned with eternal salvation over and above all else, and willing to speak out against all the other world religions. This would be a very viable misunderstanding, since most radio/popular books/music in the Christian world seems to demonstrate this particular stereotype.

    But the fact is, I’m not all that concerned with Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists, because I’ve come to place Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom of God above the “Romans Road” or “Sin & Redemption” model created by various theologians and teachers over the years. Like that bastion of conservative American evangelicalism, CS Lewis, I believe that serving the way of love and self-sacrifice is living the cruciform life, which is in turn living the Way of Jesus. The Way and the Kingdom are far bigger than we dare to dream.

    • http://www.BillDahl.net Bill Dahl

      Luke: LOVE your line: “The Way and the Kingdom are far bigger than we dare to dream.” Perhaps even wide enough to accommodate ALL God’s creatures??? – As you state above, “Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists” as well as Rastafarians, Confucians etc. and people of nonfaith etc. etc…what about Reggie…my Black Lab…

      • Luke Allison

        How about the planet too?

  • John Sinclair

    Your question supposes there is such a thing as rationality. The great religions contradict each other. I choose Christianity because it is true to what I know of human nature, including my own.

    • http://www.BillDahl.net Bill Dahl

      To “know one’s own nature” presupposes a rationality as well…and perhaps the ability to be “master of one’s own domain” (which history clearly evidences our inability to manage as a species). It is not the contradictions between religions I am concerned with in my question (as most of those are man-made) but the adherents to those religions – where we might pause – and find what we have in common – and celebrate that – together…

  • http://www.morasophia.blogspot.com Ian Campbell

    I think there are two kinds of responses a Christian can take:
    Option one is a ridged fundamentalism: Jesus said: “I am the way the truth and the life and nobody comes to the Father except through me,” therefore, I’m going to ignore everything else because Jesus told us he’s the only way, and I believe him.

    In other words, option number one is to ignore the possibility that God is working redemptively in other religions. To take this stance, one has to “bite the bullet” when it comes to other religions; one has to be willing to admit that their Jewish, Islamic, or Buddhist friends are strait up wrong.

    Option two (which I take) is to admit the possibility that God works redemptively in other religions. I certainly don’t think that Jesus was speaking of other religious groups in John 14:6. And I don’t think the view that God works in other religions is necessarily inconsistent with the Christian faith. What is unsatisfying about this option is that it is very close to, if not identical with, a kind of relativism: Jesus is the only way for me, but there are other ways for other people.

    But at the end of the day I’m not sure we are able to say more than this with any kind of certainty. All I know is this: something about Jesus really has a hold of me, and it is a hold that I cannot shake. There is no way for me to think of Jesus other than as the Way the Truth and the Life. This is a truth that deeply resonates with who I am. That is necessarily the way I understand Jesus.

    I don’t know whether God is working redempively through other religions because I have no experience of any other kind of redemption than that which comes through Jesus. But I really hope (he) is.

    • http://www.BillDahl.net Bill Dahl

      Ian: If you were born into my “son” Mustafa’s family in Afghanistan – the odds are you would be a devoted Muslim today. Perhaps, one’s beliefs about God are primarily (initially) socialized into us from our birth families – and the respective “dominant view” that such a culture might possess at the time…just a thought. As “something about Mohammed really has a hold on Mustafa.” I too hope that the human experience/existence – wherever one might find oneself – is subject to the redemptive influence of God…in fact, how could love express itself any other way…

      • http://www.morasophia.blogspot.com Ian Campbell

        I don’t want to deny that that one’s beliefs about God are initially “socialized” into us. The fact that I have chosen to follow Jesus is necessarily a product of my situatedness. I think too it is important to draw the distinction between an inherited faith, and a freely chosen faith (which i think you were getting at by qualifying with (initially) in your response). Now one could say, that on the deterministic landscape, even my “free choice” was due to a certain social disposition. I don’t know, thats up to metaphysics, and none of us live on a metaphysical landscape. But phenomenologically, I experience my choice of Jesus as a free one.

        Also, you mentioned in one of your comments above:

        “Living intentionally with Muslims in my own home for years has provided me with the the first-hand experience of “depending on God to reveal Godself” through persons of other religious affiliations. This is a source “revelation” (to use your term) most Christians cannot imagine. Is it possible that God created “the other” to challenge our tendency to become complacent and sufficient in our ability to grow, change, learn…and love?”

        This really caught my attention. Have you written anything more about this? I’d be very interested in reading about your experience/ what this looks like for you.

        • http://www.BillDahl.net Bill Dahl

          Ian: No – not really. Most people are simply not interested or treat it as an obscure attempt to be unique or missional. I can assure you our motivation has absolutely nothing to do with the latter. Frankly, it has been a multidimensional, unexpected blessing for not only my wife and I, but friends, relatives, neighbors etc. — the same has been true for the young adults who have lived with us…

  • Jim Armstrong

    I don’t want this to sound like some sort of screed, because conventional conservative Christianity is my heritage, and indisputably laid the groundwork for where I am at present. But there is SUCH legitimacy to this particular question. On the other side of the equation, though, is the power of tradition, as well as the intrinsic characteristic of congregations/denominations to teach and expect, …maybe more to the point, to even measure one’s faith by the degree of conformity to those beliefs and practices held in common by that particular entity.

    But the bases for raising such a question are myriad (as they are for most any belief system – I guess I am ignostic), just made less visible by those factors just mentioned. But one might ask why it is that followers of Christ as a people splinter into a near-fractal-pattern groups down to the home church and small group level, nearly all of whom have some to great difficulty accepting and and fellowshiping and cooperating with one another.

    If a spiritual audit of most(?) Christian churches and institutions were conducted in behalf of, or by, Jesus, would we be shamed or defensive of our teachings and practices, and especially their translation into a changed – or at least impacted – world.

    How is it that we have come to have as a central celebration, a Eucharist which emulates the drinking of blood when such a practice remains constantly to this day abhorrent to Jews?

    Surely some credibility has been surrendered by Christianity’s growing resistance to earth-shaking discoveries about God’s extraordinary and unbelievably elegant Creation and its workings.

    We also broadcast widely the most central tenet of God’s love for man, …and Scripture’s admonition to follow suit without reservation, yet find reasons to exclude various and sundry people groups from fellowship, often on the basis of writings we hold sacred.

    We now know that we are not the center of all Creation, and we are still adjusting to this fact. Little – for example – is asked/discussed regarding about the profound implications as to the nature and source of what we call evil.

    Why is Christianity so different from Judaism, given that we are followers of the Jewish Jesus?

    But for this soul, these questions – and many more (it is a slippery slope …which is another discussion for another day) – are the reason this particular seasoned layman finds himself presently on the progressive side of Chistian life and practice, …and asking this particular question himself. I’m not sure but what a question like this one posed by Tony makes me a better follower (ducking for cover now……).

    • http://www.BillDahl.net Bill Dahl

      Jim: Thank you for your contribution. It resonates with me.

  • Moulder

    What a great question this is if asked seriously.
    I really believe that it’s not something that can be easily debated. There’s to many opinions and egos in the way to get any meaningful answers. I think, and it’s just my opinion, that if you are really going to ask this question you need to go and find the answer yourself or be prepared to come to your own conclusion about what you think the truth to be, assuming you believe that Christianity is the only truth.
    Having said that the foundation for answering the question is: Is what the bible says about Christianity and it’s theology really the truth?
    I’m not going to give my answer to that as I’ve had to look into the answer myself and I feel adding to the many other fine answers here will only muddy the waters.
    I am however comfortable (after a long and exhaustive search after a non-Christian friend died) comfortable with the idea of mediums and psychics being used to gain spiritual wisdom about the validity of what is laid out in the bible.
    From Borgia’s Facts:
    ‘What is this?’ I can hear someone declare. Are you suggesting that Jesus of Nazareth did not teach the ‘truth?’ Most emphatically I am not suggesting such a thing. He told the absolute truth, but it remained for those who humbly professed to be his followers in after years to do just the opposite.
    What has been set down in the four gospels is but a tiny fraction of the great body of teachings that were originally given forth. They have been inaccurately set down they were not—and are not—the inspired word of God.
    Once again you really have to search and come to a conclusion for yourself.
    For me, I’ve found lots of other information (through mediums), that refers to Soul Contracts/Life plans, No Judgement, No Hell, The bible being edited for political and financial fear and control and lots of other cool stuff that would indicate that Christianity may not be what it seems… Once again though, you really need to come to that conclusion yourself.

  • http://www.theupsidedownworld.com Rebecca Trotter

    Hmmm . . . syncronicity. I’m working on a podcast that touches on this issue precisely. Here’s my understanding. I believe that as scriptures say, creation testifies to God so loudly that no man has an excuse. I believe that we are created in God’s image and there is something deep in us that seeks after the original that we are a reflection of – the divine. I believe that anyone who seeks after the divine will find some portion of the divine. The religions themselves reflect the truth to a greater or lesser extent. To the extent that any person is devoted to love, they are devoted to God. To the extent that any person is willing to suffer in service to love, they are following The Way of Christ.

    Paul credited the Athenians with worshipping God when they worshipped the unknown god. He quoted their own poets to them – essentially saying, “you know truth already to an extent. You have sought after the divine and found God who is never far off. Now, let go of all the falsehoods you have mingles with those truths.” He condemned idol worship as silly and pointless, but credited to the Athenians what they had right. He found those points of agreement and connection which existed in two spiritual systems as different as could be and started there.

    But in the end, as much as I respect other faiths and as much as I sometimes read a Sufi poet or hear a profound buddhist teacher speak truth, I keep my faith in Christianity because more than any other faith, it is transformative. I don’t think it’s any accident or coincidence that the free-est, most tolerant and humane parts of the planet are those places where Christianity has deep roots. And although I do meet people from other faiths who speak of and live their faith in ways that make me realize that they know the same Love that I do, beliefs matter. Yesterday Timothy Dalrymple put up a post by his father about his work in India with untouchable children sold into sexual slavery. This sentence struck home: “She learned that she had immeasurable worth because she was made in the very image of God, that God loves and cherishes her.” That’s what I want for all people – to know themselves as made in the image of inexhaustable, unfailing love that will stop at nothing to redeem them. And this is the message which Christianity brings to the world which I would be fantastically happy to see all of humanity devoted to.

    • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

      That message can be experienced with zero reference to orthodox Christianity. Check out Paul Tillich.

    • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

      Or someone like Michael Dowd.

      • http://www.theupsidedownworld.com Rebecca Trotter

        Ok – show me the towns, regions and countries being changed by these men’s teachings. Show me the people willing to die following their teachings. Show me the people willing to give up comforts big and small in service to their teachings.

        • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

          For every example of what you perceive as the positive benefits of your understanding of Christianity, there are negative things that one could point out.

        • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

          I don’t think anyone can deny the benefits that CAN BE seen from participating in certain Christian communities. But, your argument only reveals how big and powerful Christianity has been – not that believing certain things or doing certain things will necessarily result in what you see as “transformative.”

    • http://www.winter60.blogspot.com Lausten North

      Rebecca, if you are going to use something as evidence, you have to look at the actual facts. Christianity does not have a record of being the most tolerant, most free places in the world. In some cases, sure. Sometimes quite the opposite. I assume you will explain this by saying, “well, those places aren’t doing Christianity correctly.”

  • Bill Dahl

    Rebecca: In terms of your “transformative” comment, The Barne research Group’s social scientific research results contradict your assertion in its entirety…see their work.

    • http://www.theupsidedownworld.com Rebecca Trotter

      Seriously? Look at history. Look around the world. Every culture where Christianity has taken root has been transformed over time for the better. What any one generation much less one person’s life accomplishes rarely amounts to a hill of beans. But I guess in our hyper-individualistic, narcissistic culture it makes sense to think that a religion like Christianity can be defined by surveys from one generation in one part of the world. But in the scheme of things, this thinking is more than a little absurd. Even today there are many parts of the world where we can watch the transformative power of Christianity at work. We westerners are hardly the be-all and end all of existance or even the Christian faith.

      • http://http://winter60.blogspot.com/ Lausten North

        Yes that’s true. If you ignore everything that happened for the worse. Starting with the expulsion of all non-believers from Constantine’s Kingdom, to the crusades, to the Spanish Inquisition, to the slaughter of indigenous people in North America, to witch burning. It was reasonable people who fled these situations and fought against them that tamed those cultures and brought peace and justice to them.

  • NateW

    I would say that if we were to find out that we are wrong, if God does end up being multi-faced and all religions are simply human constructs, then we would need to give up our rights to hostility, stop judging people for the content of their beliefs, start associating with those who we used to see as competitors, listen to and understand others before speaking to them, stop treating people as evangelistic projects (that is, objects), and start unconditionally loving those who believe different things than us.

    Gee… aren’t these the same things that we’re supposed to do if we’re “right”?

    Maybe the issue isn’t what we all believe, but HOW we believe it. The root of following Christ is the cross. Self-emptying love specifically for those who are alien, different, or “other”. Forsaking our need to find identity by joining with like minds against those who are different. Christ isn’t an object that we know to be saved. The cross isn’t an object to hold cognitive beliefs about so much as an event that changes the way we hold all of our beliefs. Christ is not a new identity, but a leaving behind of all identities other than that of self emptying love.

    • http://http://winter60.blogspot.com/ Lausten North

      Nice

    • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

      Amen!

      But (playing a bit of devil’s advocate against what I actually agree with), are there “beliefs” that are dangerous/toxic no matter HOW they are held? I could think of a few that might fit this category. For example, I could believe that I am a worthless, terrible, evil person who has no hope of anything changing. That belief itself is unhealthy, no matter how I hold it. And, most likely, if that belief is sustained for any extended period of time, it will lead to a much worse situation.

      So, maybe it’s more of a sense of priority (how before what) rather than a dichotomy (how versus what)…?

      • http://www.winter60.blogspot.com Lausten North

        NateW doesn’t mention belief at all Rob, so I don’t get your point. Nate takes away all that religion does to maintain its structure and leaves us with just the lesson, the message. We can discuss the message, refine it, seek understanding, but let’s stop claiming that “because Jesus said” is a part of that discussion. Instead say, “Jesus said, and this is what I heard, this is how I know choose to live. I believe things will be better if I do, and here is why.” The “why” part then requires more than just scripture to justify it.

        • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

          “Maybe the issue isn’t what we all believe, but HOW we believe it.”

          ?

          • http://www.winter60.blogspot.com Lausten North

            Okay, bad wording. He says beliefs are NOT the issue. He talks about love, understanding, listening, letting go, NOT believing in objects, or clinging to beliefs that don’t benefit us. Then you ask, “but aren’t there bad beliefs?”. Yes, there are, let go of them.

      • http://www.nateweatherly.com Nate W.

        @ “For example, I could believe that I am a worthless, terrible, evil person who has no hope of anything changing.”

        If you believed that, but yet chose to love others instead of working to gain worth and good for yourself, would you not still be following Christ?

        Or, inversely, if you believe that you are good in God’s eyes, loved by Christ unconditionally, assured a mansion in heaven after death, and certain that all things happen for a reason, but become defensive and argumentative when these beliefs are challenged do you really believe?

        • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

          I would make a distinction between belief as intellectual assent and belief as “faith that causes one to act.” In my posts here, I have only been referring to the latter.

  • http://gregorycrofford.com Greg Crofford

    I would recommend Al Truesdale’s With Cords of Love: A Wesleyan Response to Religious Pluralism</i? (Beacon Hill Press, 2006). My review of the book can be found here.

    Truesdale skillfully uses John Wesley’s concept of prevenient grace as a way of understanding what God us up to in non-Christian religions. Provided by the Cross of Christ (John 12:32), prevenient grace is a metaphor for the work of the Holy Spirit universally. The yearnings for the Other that we see in many religions are signs that God is wooing humanity. What is good in all faiths is not to be denied, yet these “glimmerings” of light (John 1:9), as Wesley called them, are not of themselves saving. However, when unresisted, God gives more light. Prevenient grace leads the unresistant individual to repentance and to Christ, the only One in whom salvation can be found (Acts 4:12).

  • http://whoisrobdavis.wordpress.com Rob Davis

    A few years ago, I proposed a reverse Pascal’s Wager similar to this question… What if this life is all there is? What if we waste our lives doing a lot of ridiculous things in the name of “religion”? I’d much rather take that chance than the reverse.

  • Ted Seeber

    Nostra Aetate. Go and read it.

  • Simon

    What if we’re wrong? What if someone somehopw proved there was no God, no Heaven? Well we’d just have to get out some bread, pour out some wine and share it with the broken world, inviting them into a story that is achingly beautiful and meaningful beyond mere correspondence. And we’d agree to go out and do some stuff as best we can, and come back and do it again.

  • pete zimmerman

    I forget some people still have not given up on christianity. please do. I have something better for you. Christianity is a failed status quo project, that did produce some communities of jesus followers, but those were few and far between. I am a member of the united church of christ, but I have rejected christendom and historic christianity as systems and traditions. A better “foundation”? I am a science based humanist, a postmodernist, and I try to follow the gospel of jesus. my authorities are reason, logic, compassion, love, the voice of the marginalized, my own experience, intuition, dialogue with others. the historic person of jesus is my inspiration. the cosmic christ is my lived into hope. the gospels and the fallible church written NT and the fallible hebrew scripture writers give me insight and context into this Jesus. at a functional level, I can committ to the sciptures as sacred scripture but I know they are no more sacred than the bhagavad-gita. because the sacred text of my faith is the person/life/reality known as Jesus. He is the revelation.

  • jeremy

    all these responses remind me about the magi in the Gospel of Matthew. Who were they and how did they come to know about the birth of Jesus before the people who were awaiting is coming. They were successful in finding him not by searching the hebrew scripture but only by finding his star in the sky. who were these people, and what does it say about they’re relationship with God. Is

  • http://PrairieTableMinistries.blogspot.com Scott Frederickson

    As a Trinitarian Christian, the question has never been a driving one for me. Since the unity of God has some distinct difference (the doctrine of the Trinity, no matter what version you take, seems to highlight that basic point), how are other religions considered “off-the-table?” For me, it would make no sense to worship a Triune God, and not–at the same time–value and cherish other religious expression as legitimate. What’s the point of having a belief in a Triune God if you are going to reduce all religious expression into one venue?

  • http://www.ronnadetrick.com Ronna Detrick

    What if?!? May it be so.

  • John Copenhaver

    I do think Christian exclusivism is mistaken, but I don’t think that means Christian revelation is false. Other religions have valid revelations, but the Christian story of incarnation, passion, suffering, and triumph is probably the most profound witness to UNCONDITIONAL VULNERABLE LOVE being the heart or ground of the universe. It is a message for the globe, as are the other revelations.

  • http://carm.org Joe Christian

    This question doesn’t haunt me for a second. Jesus plainly said, “NO man comes to God but by Me”. Likewise, He said, “except you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have NO life in you”. We are born spiritually dead, guilty of sin and doomed to hell. I do acknowledge that people may enter eternal bliss with God without joining the Christian religion or saying a Christian prayer, yet “neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” This isn’t a hard question at all. It’s the old sophomoric question about “what about those who never heard, yet lead ‘good’ lives”.

    Once there was a good man, Cornelius, who prayed a lot and gave offerings to God, and an angel appeared to him to announce that God had respect and love for this man, BUT in order for him and his family to enter God’s kingdom he was instructed to call for a Christian preacher. Even the angel apparently was not allowed to share the gospel with him, let alone just to believe whatever religion he liked. God has His program. I’m sure we only have a glimpse of it, but we are responsible for what we know, not what we don’t know.

  • http://www.davidlose.net David Lose

    Thanks for raising these great questions, Tony.

    On this one, I’ll follow C.S. Lewis who once observed that while Jesus says, “No one comes to father except through me” (Jn. 14:6), he does not say that the only way for the Father to reach us is through Jesus.

    This raises for me the distinction between “particular” and “exclusive.” We proclaim a particular means of salvation – faith in Jesus – because we’ve experienced the abundant life he offers. We do not, however, need to amplify or bolster our faith by claiming it is exclusive. Simply because God is God, it seems to me, we should admit that God is capable of reaching out to us in manifold ways – by reason, nature and, yes, other faith traditions.

    We witness to Jesus because God has reached us through him. While we may admire what reason, nature, and other traditions have to offer, we have not experienced God as fully through them as we have through Christ. And so we speak of what we know. But that’s different than denying the possibility that God can speak to others in different ways.

    I think the heart of the issue is that we are just insecure enough that we defend the integrity of the means by which God has reached out to us by denying the integrity of any other way. Is that understandable? Maybe. Necessary, I don’t think so. Perhaps if we were more confident of our own faith we’d have less reason to rule out the validity of all others. So preach Jesus, I say, and leave the rest up to the Holy Spirit.

  • Sharon Joseph

    Thank God for grace! If we are wrong about religion–and I think we are–we can always cling to grace.

  • Pingback: Questions That Haunt Christianity: If We're Wrong, It's No Big Deal

  • jerry lynch

    If we take Christ as our essence, the exact and unique nature of who we are, only through coming to realize this essence at the hearth of our being, by whatever name (it would smell as sweet), is to know the Eternal. Opening to that Original Self is finding the heart of God. This involves the lessening of the false self, or what we have made of ourselves, something considered so precious for any number of reasons it is quite nearly impossible to surrender even though it is actually the source of all our earthly woes. Losing the importance of our individual story (the successes and failures, wounds and burdens, and so forth) is the path and can be undertaken even by atheist. It is only when a soul is well along on such a path that the commonalities begin to emerge: sacrificial love, compassion, mercy, other-centeredness or the character of the Eternal.

    Ireneaus said, “The glory of God is a human being fully developed.” C.S. Lewis said, “The more God takes us over, the more our true selves we become.”

    • jerry lynch

      The opening sentence can also read, “If we take Christ as the unitive essence of humanity, the source and direction of being at-one, it is coming to realize the uniqueness of our Original Self that draws forth the character of the Eternal.”

      • http://www.yeshua21.com Wayne

        Just wondering, Jerry — are you on Facebook and/or do you have your own blog?

        • jerry lynch

          Yes to both, Wayne, although I am not a frequenter of either. And thank you.

          At wordpress, my name is rumitoid (meaning, a crickety old mystic with perhaps too many aches).

    • http://www.yeshua21.com Wayne

      Well said, Jerry!

      • jerry lynch

        Thank you, wayne.

  • http://www.yeshua21.com Wayne

    Traditionally, most Christians have been taught that (in the wake of Adam’s sin) the light of nature is enough to justify the condemnation of those outside of Christendom, but that those same peoples would need to hear and believe an explicitly Christian gospel to be saved. But think about it… Is it really possible that a just and loving God would provide all peoples with enough light to condemn them, but deny many of them– possibly most of them –enough light to be saved!? To say that this seems unlikely is an understatement. Just think of all those, past and present, who have never been exposed to the New Testament gospel, but who have been truly devoted to God according to the light that has been given to them… Is not God able to bring whosoever will to a saving knowledge of his truth!? If not, why not? Is the Word of God not universal–-is He not the light that lights everyone who comes into the world!?

    A persuasive argument has already been made for the universality of the truth of Christ in a way that is inclusive of other faiths–not exclusive (see “The Universality of Christ” under “Interfaith Accents” at Yeshua21.Com).

    http://jeshua21.wordpress.com/interfaith-accents/the-universality-of-christ/

    In this article, it is clearly shown how the truth of Christ can at once be both universal and inclusive (i.e. whosoever will may come, whatever their faith and circumstances), but also how it is nevertheless correct to say that there is only One Way (i.e there is a sense, indeed, in which no one comes to the Father but through Jesus–i.e. through the “I Am” presence which IS the living Christ).

    • jerry lynch

      Lest we forget the present evangelical position of exacting exegesis as the surest means to proper interpretation and good faith, ergo certainty and the claim of spiritual correctness…except for so many for so many centuries that had no Bible available or could not read, as is still true today. A somewhat elitist attitude, que no?

  • Ryan

    I was reading your posts from 2005 to get a grasp for practical theology and eventually found my way here. I’m not surprised that you became a universalist.

    Thank you for showing me where and how practical theology can turn into heresy.

    • http://www.yeshua21.com Wayne

      “After the guardians have first made their domestic cattle dumb and have made sure that these placid creatures will not dare take a single step without the harness of the cart to which they are tethered, the guardians then show them the danger which threatens if they try to go alone. Actually, however, this danger is not so great, for by falling a few times they would finally learn to walk alone. But an example of this failure makes them timid and ordinarily frightens them away from all further trials.” ~ Imannuel Kant
      http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/kant-whatis.htmlhttp://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/kant-whatis.html

      • jerry lynch

        As the elephant teethered by heavy chains, when adult and only tied by string, does not seek or believe itself capable of freedom and thus remains a prisoner of assumption and nothing stronger.

  • jerry lynch

    The basic problem with trying to discuss a universal Christ or an Eternal All may sound like a gnostic ritual into truth. Although we will freely defer to a learned physicist about the nature of quantum mechanics, we are not so willing in the spiritual realm to concede. In every area of science we most usually accept the expertise of those particularly and thorughly schooled in that subject and working in the field. In those things of the heart and Eternal, a monk should be our professor. Or a priest. Or a pastor. Yet throughout the centuries we have seen too many maniacs, who still persist to this writing. Their positions might be a sinecure.

    How can we document truth? If one was to try and prove the efficacy of the Bible, Koran, or Vedas, what could they bring as evidence? The humanist may feel they know what is best for a peaceful mankind: avoiding all that the the major religions hold in faith as well as faith. Faith is the basic problem. Stick to facts, let Reason rule, and before long we will be fine. Except that that requires faith.

    “The proof is in the pudding.” This was a favorite saying of my mother, along with this: “Everything works out for the best.” And there it was, the sword for the Gordion Knot: does everything always work out for the best in your life? Does it feed greater freedom and deeper joy? Do you thrive?

    It would seem that such considerations in the above paragraphs are universals all but the truly deranged would favor. But being truly deranged is being “normal.” This may be apocrryphal but I heard that a young elephant is tied to a post by heavy chains, so that when it is an adult, a rope it could easily break holds him captive, enslaved by eperience and assumption. The same is true of you and you and you…and me.

    The Way to our greatest freedom and deepest joy is radically different than conventional wisdom and contrary to worldly values. The gifts of this path would often appear as the worst thing that could happen. Can we witness to such a process? “Yes, this is wrong but then it turns good and then it is of no use; do you follow?” Paradox is the native tongue of truth.

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