Cropping out Pluralism

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Last night’s sunset was breathtaking in its splendor. I was late to an essential oils party because I HAD to stop and try to capture it. 

There are many times that I want to stop and capture images because something about them capture me.

I really like photography because, in a way, as the photographer I get to manipulate reality. Using my zoom lens, I can cut out all the distracting elements that otherwise clutter the scene. If I’m using a fixed lens, I can cut out the distracting elements later, using the ever-helpful crop tool.

Sometimes I wonder if God intentionally crops our lives so as to eliminate the cluttered, distracting elements or to help our eyes focus on that which is good for us to see. I’ve had a taste of this cropping or narrowing of focus recently through a message at church about pluralism.

Pluralism is the idea that all religious claims are true or at least are different aspects of a bigger truth.  This concept is illustrated in the poem by John Godfrey Saxe called The Blind Men and the Elephant. Six blind men each grasp hold of a different part of an elephant and proceed to argue and bicker over the nature of the thing they are touching.  The one holding on to an ear thinks the elephant is like a fan.  The one holding on to a tail thinks the elephant is like a rope, and the blind man touching the tusk thinks the elephant is like a sword.  The point of this poem about pluralism is that in a world where wars are fought over a nation’s idea of God (or gods), we humans who disagree are really just seeing different aspects of the same deity.

To some extent, this pluralistic idea had taken root in me because I believe mankind can’t possibly understand the greatness of God.  How can we who are so human even fathom the majesty of our creator?  And who are we to say what God is like, anyway?  Yet logically, though, pluralism can’t be correct.  Consider this train of thought:

Atheists believe there is no god. Hindus believe there are many gods. Muslims, Jews, and Christians believe there is only one God. Christians believe Jesus is God, while Jews and Muslims believe Jesus is not God.  We cannot logically ALL be correct. 

I believe there is only one God, and I believe Jesus is this one God, because I have been convinced this statement is true based on eyewitness accounts, repetitive statements in literature, and personal experience.  Here are some of the statements Jesus himself made that claim He is the only way to life that never ends:

John 14: 6 – Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

Luke 12:8 – “I tell you the truth, everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, the Son of Man will also acknowledge in the presence of God’s angels.

John 3:18 – “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.

John 8:24 – That is why I said that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.”

Here are some statements eyewitnesses to Jesus’ resurrection made about these claims of Jesus:

Acts 4:11-12 (Peter) – “For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says,

‘The stone that you builders rejected
    has now become the cornerstone.’

There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”

Acts 16:30-31 (Paul and Silas) – Then he brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.”

1 John 2:23 (John) – Anyone who denies the Son doesn’t have the Father, either. But anyone who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

1 John 5:11-13 (John) – And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life.

 

 I don’t like thinking that my family members and friends who do not believe in Jesus are doomed to hell, do not have life, or will die in their sins. It’s a hard thing to tell someone you love,

“Excuse me, but because you reject the claims of Christ, God has said you are going to hell, a place where there is a lake of fire with eternal suffering.”

Yet that is precisely what Jesus himself said, and it is because I love you — you know who you are, reading this — that I write this post boldly.

Because Jesus overcame death itself and reappeared to at least 500 eyewitnesses, I choose to believe Him when He says that He is in the Father and the Father is in Him.  Because I have experienced the Holy Spirit filling me with indescribable joy in the face of incredible pain, I choose to believe the one who orchestrated last night’s sunset also orchestrates me.

One of my hero authors, C.S. Lewis, once summed up this idea combining logic with the claims of Christ:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

I write this post in love, not hate. The good news is that although the path to eternity has an exclusive doorway (believing in Jesus as Lord), the doorway itself is flung wide open. All are invited! 

This week I invite you to use your zoom lens to examine the claims of Christ against the backdrop of the cultural pluralism that surrounds us. I leave you with one more quote from Jesus, who seemed to know that 2013 years in the future there would be people zooming in on and questioning his claims:

11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.

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