Tuesday, December 22, 2009

On the "Intolerant" Exclusivity of Christianity--Is it "arrogance" or is it "revelation"?

I am a graduate of Columbia International University (Columbia, SC). One of my favorite professors there was Dr. William Larkin. He has written a number of books on the Biblical message as it interfaces with divergent cultures.

I recently received the December 2009 letter from CIU's president, Dr. Bill Jones. In it, he shares a portion of an op ed piece in the State newspaper, as Dr. Larkin responded to another writer's thesis, that "a variety of paths lead to the same Divine Truth."

Christians who believe that the Bible is the very Word of God sometimes appear to be intolerant. John 14:6 and Acts 4:12 are rather narrow. If a Christian accepts Scripture as revelation, such texts do not allow for much wiggle room.

I liked the portion from Dr. Larkin's piece so much, that I wanted to share it here. In his introductory letter, Dr. Jones said, "What better time to discuss the exclusivity of Christianity than at Christmas."

Here are the two main points from Dr. Larkin's article:

1.) Exclusivity is revealed in the Old and New Testament.
God has a salvation plan with a universal scope. God’s call to Abraham clearly
communicates that universal scope: “in you all the families of the earth shall be
blessed” (Genesis 12:3). Joel’s invitation, repeated by Peter and Paul (Joel 2:32, Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13), echoes that opportunity: “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

In the Old Testament, at the very heart of covenant obligations, is exclusivity. In the first two Commandments God commands “You shall have no other gods before me” and “You shall make no carved idols” (Exodus 20:3-4).

In the New Testament, Jesus and His followers taught exclusivity in terms of salvation accomplished and applied, though they asserted it should be offered to all. While Jesus said to make disciples of and teach all nations and ethnic groups, He also said, “I am the way the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

At CIU, we do not debate Christian exclusivity. Our doctrinal standard centers
on the person of Jesus Christ. In fact, we only admit students for degree
candidacy who affirm this Scriptural truth. Christian exclusivity means that much to us.

2.) The source of Christian exclusivity is revelation, not arrogance.
Left to ourselves, we are those blind individuals feeling various parts of the elephant and coming to our conclusions about God’s truth. But if God’s message is that He has provided one way of salvation, then the exclusivity of
its truth claim is not a matter of the “fundamentalist” Christian’s desire to be right, but of humble obedience to the Good News he has received.
It has been said that sharing God’s exclusive message is simply “one beggar telling another where to find bread.” Admittedly, we can hold to this exclusivity in arrogance, self-righteousness and smugness. But this is not the stance Jesus commended—or commanded. Throughout His ministry, Jesus challenged such attitudes among the religious leaders of His day. A quick scan of the Gospels
reveals this.
Jesus IS the reason for the season. We live to know Him and to make Him known.

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