Sunday, May 04, 2008

Beware Of "Useful" Religion

During "Rev." Jeremiah Wright's National Press Club speech, he was asked about whether or not Christianity claims exclusivism. The question was presented through Jesus' words:

Jhn 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

"Rev." Wright then replied utilizing additional words spoken by Jesus from another Bible verse:

Jhn 10:16 And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, [and] one shepherd.

Here is that portion of the transcript:

MODERATOR: Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh unto the father but through me." Do you believe this? And do you think Islam is a way to salvation?

REVEREND WRIGHT: Jesus also said, "Other sheep have I who are not of this fold."

There are several things to notice. First, the moderator wanted to know whether or not Wright believed in Jesus' claim that He is "the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me." The second part of this question included whether or not Wright believes that Islam is also a way to salvation.

Wright's answer implied that those following Islam might be the "other sheep" that Jesus was referring to in that verse.

If he had answered that the people who formerly followed Islam (part of the Gentiles referred to in the verses you will see below and at the Scripture Knowledge links) but were converted to Christianity, then he would have answered correctly. However, he did not say anything about conversion from that false religion. [Please see Question: Is Allah God? Answer: No!]

Apparently, Wright thought that John 10:16 either trumped or invalidated John 14:6 in some way. Nothing could be further from the truth!

First, look at Blue Letter Bible's Treasury of Scripture Knowledge regarding this verse.

I can post just two verses from that wealth of information at the "treasury" link which will explain exactly what Jesus was talking about.

Isa 49:6 And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.

Jhn 11:52 And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.

Isaiah 49:6 is a prophecy about the coming Messiah - Jesus - as being the "Light of the world" to both the Jews and the Gentiles.

In the BLB Scripture Knowledge section for Isaiah 49:6, we see many verses from John describing Jesus as our Light, and coming to earth for our salvation. Notice the additional Isaiah verses at that link which support the fact that Jesus was referring to the Gentiles as being "sheep that are not of this fold."

Wright is guilty of applying his own opinions to the Scripture verse in question. He is not using proper exegesis, Sola Scriptura, hermeneutics, or, the fact that Scripture interprets Scripture.

There are far too many analytical and interpretation checks and balances in Scripture that can easily be found by anyone who is willing to do the research. This is why those who are steeped in error - through either following or preaching errant theology - are easily found out!

If you have not read my previous post, or have not read Faultline U.S.A.'s excellent blogpost on Revisiting Obama's Liberation Theology, I urge you to read them. Of course, it is up to readers here whether or not they choose to read them before or after reading this new post. Either way, you will find that the errors of Liberation Theology merely leads to a kind of "useful" religion.

Over the past few weeks, I have been reading a fabulous Christian Apologetics book called "To Everyone An Answer: A Case For The Christian Worldview." It is truly an excellent resource!

The back cover of the book states:

In a society fascinated by spirituality but committed to religious pluralism, the Christian worldview faces sophisticated and aggressive opposition. A prior commitment to diversity, with its requisite openness and relativistic outlook, has meant for skeptic, critics and even many Christians that whatever Christianity is, it cannot be exclusively true or salvific.

When "Rev." Wright misused the John 10:16 quote at that news conference, he was broadcasting to the nation and world that HE THOUGHT Jesus was supporting religious pluralism!

In Chapter 17, author David K. Clarke provides a brilliant evaluation that exposes how all forms of religious pluralism are not genuinely superior to Christian exclusivism. Though religious pluralism may appear to be more open-minded, the truth is that pluralism is more subtly narrow-minded than exclusivism.

Clarke describes several different forms of pluralism in this chapter.

First, one form of pluralism interprets all religions as true in that they produce valuable results. This view, as I said above, actually means that religions are useful, not true.

Think back on what I previously wrote regarding "Rev." Wright's misinterpretation of one Bible verse. He took one verse out of context in order to make it useful for his own purposes. The additional Bible verses shared above (as well as at the Scripture Knowledge page links) unequivocally prove that Wright is absolutely wrong in his interpretation of that one verse in John 10:16.

Clarke goes on to state that he once debated a religious pluralist who stated, "most major religions are good because they produce emotionally mature, socially adapted citizens (which any society needs). So the various faiths - Islam, Christianity and Buddhism - are valuable because they develop good people."


I said in return that traditional Christianity doesn't merely produce good citizens in this world, although empirical evidence shows it does do this. The real point of Christian faith is to activate a spiritual relationship with God, beginning in this world and continuing in the next. In response, my friend said there is no afterlife. His comment entails that the Christianity I embrace is not true.

Notice what happened: my friend began by offering the attractive thesis that all religions are true. But truth, it turned out, doesn't mean literally true but merely useful. When I asked him whether my faith - a faith that billions of Christians have followed for centuries - is deeply true, he said it isn't. Now he could be right. Maybe billions of Christians are wrong. I can accept that. What I can't accept, because it seems deeply confused, is this combination of claims: my faith is literally false, my faith is useful to society, and he's open-minded because he thinks all the world's religions are true. I'd rather he admit he thinks my faith, as I hold it, is just plain false. But here's the rub: that honest admission would involve abandoning pluralism.

Clarke describes the second form of pluralism as being one that accepts the truth of all religions, but only after they are properly interpreted. He gives the example of the "husk and kernel" analogy; claiming that the husk on the outside (each religion's doctrinal teachings) differs among faiths, but the kernel inside (the deeper meaning) is identical. Thus, the philosophy maintains that at a deeper level, all religions agree and are true.

Clarke reveals the fact that the pluralist "edits" each faith in order to get it in agreement with his own personal beliefs. Therefore, the "deeper-meaning-of-all-religion" is what he believed all along, while what he doesn't accept ranks as the "leftover husk."

What does all of this mean? Simply this: the pluralist does not take the Christian faith seriously. He says he agrees with the religion, but in reality, he only accepts an edited version of the Christian faith so that it ultimately ends up looking just like his faith!

Readers, you are already seeing the problem with such a view! But it gets even worse!


Then, on the grounds that his faith and his edited version of my faith look the same, he said all religions are identical. And he took credit for being open-minded. I, apparently, am narrow-minded. I felt as though I've been colonized by an imperialist power. He rejected my faith as I hold it. Then he reinterpreted it so it says what he believes and claimed we're on the same page. We're not on the same page. We hold different religions. And we should honestly acknowledge that. Again this would involve denying pluralism.

The third form of pluralism says that God is completely infinite and therefore unknowable. The author states that this deftly defended stance could, quite literally, fill a book! Clarke shares four brief points:

1. Many real religions do assert that certain concepts do properly apply to God. (Many say "love" properly applies to God but "terrorist" doesn't.)

This shows that not all religions are true and many are literally false. In fact some are downright dangerous (e.g. radical Islam).

2. If no concepts apply, then how can we know that the object of religious experience is good and not evil? How do we know we're encountering God and not a demon?

This is most obvious when cults are exposed. The recent exposure of the polygamy compound group whose men claimed a "spiritual" marriage to many women - including having sex with, and impregnating young girls whose ages are below the state law of consent - is an example of evil masquerading as a religion.

3. Pluralists often break their own rule regarding applying concepts to God. Just speaking about Ultimate Reality (as these pluralists say) applies the concepts ultimate and real to God. This seems inconsistent.

An example of such inconsistency being exposed was during a debate between Christian Apologist Greg Koukl and New Age guru, Deepak Chopra.

My previous reaction to that debate:
This broadcast was absolutely fabulous! Greg Koukl pointed out the fact that people can have differing beliefs regarding faith, but that it is logically impossible for them all to be true at the same time. His trust in Jesus Christ and God's Word stood in direct contrast to Deepak Chopra who admitted "embracing his uncertainty." Koukl's view demonstrates a steadfast and true faith where Chopra's view can only lead to theological oblivion.

4. Finally, why worship a God when we can't apply concepts like goodness, interest in us, or ability to overcome evil to that God? Isn't it morally repulsive to worship something as "ultimate and good" when we have no way to know whether that thing really is ultimate and good?

The logical inconsistency of religious pluralism is very obvious. If "Rev." Wright was ever in a debate with a learned Christian Apologist like Greg Koukl, the errors that he made during the National Press Club interview would be exposed for what they are - lies!

Clarke concludes:

I've focused on our topic by emphasizing the truth question. But pluralists want to focus on the salvation question. By ignoring the truth question, they can push aside pesky differences in truth claims. They can focus on the spiritual quest. But what's that? It's getting in touch with God. But what is God like? Is it personal (Islam) or impersonal (Buddhism)? It's overcome with human predicament. But what is that? Is it ignorance (Hinduism) or moral failure (Judaism)? It's pursuing spiritual life. And what is that? Is it a love relationship (Christianity) or a metaphysical absorption (Hinduism)? Is it finding our truest selves (Christianity) or extinguishing our truest selves (Buddhism)? These truth questions are unavoidable.

Saying that all religions help us achieve the spiritual quest is too vague. What is the truth about that spiritual quest? What is the true Summum Bonum - the Greatest Good? Religious analyses contradict. But getting the analysis right is important, for every practice depends on the truth of analysis. Should I take antacid or chemotherapy for my stomach pain? That depends on a truth question: Do I have heartburn or stomach cancer? Should I become a good citizen for today's society, as my pluralist friend encourages, or should I also prepare for the afterlife? That depends on a truth question. The truth question is unavoidable.

Those who try to focus only on the salvation question in fact assume background answers to the truth questions. (And often, these unstated assumptions deny traditional Christianity.) It's unreasonable to say that all the religions are true paths to the spiritual quest, meaning that every religion is a true path to whatever that religion defines as the spiritual quest. There's just too much variation on the truth question. Saying that all religions have it right, even though they're all literally false, creates rational tension. I submit that people who claim every religion is true paint themselves into a corner. In the end they will tend to believe their own religion is deeply true, and that other faiths are true to the degree they agree with theirs. And that, of course, is not pluralism.

Book Quotes Source: To Everyone An Answer: A Case for the Christian Worldview
Intervarsity Press, 2004 by Francis J. Beckwith, William Lane Craig, and J.P. Moreland. pp. 301-303

HT: NY Times
Faultline U.S.A.
Blue Letter Bible
Book: To Everyone an Answer


Anonymous said...

I hadn't seen Wright's comments on those verses. Thanks for pointing those out. Not surprisingly, he gets them horribly wrong.

I'm always amused when liberal theologians try to dismiss John 14:6. They make mistakes along the way, but the biggest one is that assuming that this verse is the only one they have to deal with. As Greg Koukl pointed out in his pamphlet "Jjesus the only way," there are one hundred passages that make the same point!

I just blogged on a couple of them today in 1 John 5: "Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. . . . And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life."

Pluralism that teaches that all religions are valid paths to God is a lie of Satan.

Keep up the good work!

Christinewjc said...

Hi Neil,

Wouldn't it have been great if you were the moderator there? Then you could have countered Wright with your second paragraph!

It seems that the liberal (or, in Wright's case loonie) Christians get to spew their errors via T.V., while the sane, intelligent, and biblically accurate apologists do not get such an opportunity to share the truth.

At least we have the internet!

I've been busy this weekend so I will now go over and read your blogpost on 1 John 5. I always learn so much from you!

You wrote: "Pluralism that teaches that all religions are valid paths to God is a lie of Satan."

That it is! It surely is one of the many lies from Satan - designed to take our eyes off of the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Just shows how very important it is for Christians to know Jesus and study the Bible! No longer can people just rely on preachers and reverends who are busy building their own egos (and in Wright's case - a huge million dollar home!) instead of building God's kingdom!

Thank you for your encouragement! I really appreciate it!

Christinewjc said...

Wow! Readers here need to go to Neil's blog and read his terrific post on Bible Study Tips - 1 John 5,

My comment there:

This is excellent Neil! Thank you for telling me about your post over at my blog. It has really enhanced the point about the lie of religious pluralism.

There are so many Christians who are being led astray these days by errant theology. The Bible study tip you have shared and the comments you made regarding this portion of Scripture are invaluable tools for followers of Christ to avoid heresy and errant theology.

21 Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.

It seems that today, people can turn almost anything into an idol! As believers, we need to be aware of what can lure us away from loving and worshiping God. Keeping ourselves away from idols and sin keeps us on the path of obedience. Why do we want to be obedient? Because we love the Lord and are eternally grateful for what He has done for us!

Jesus said, "If you love me, keep My commandments."

John 14:15 "If you love Me, keep[fn4] My commandments.

Notice the footnote:

14:15 NU-Text reads you will keep.

Next, Jesus tells us that He will pray the Father to send another Helper:

Jhn 14:16 "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever--

Jhn 14:17 "the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.

New King James Version, © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

The fact that Jesus indwells the hearts of believers through the power of the Holy Spirit is awesome! When we listen to the Spirit's leading, he leads us away from sin and idols. When we don't listen and backslide by following wrong fleshly desires, then we need to repent of those sins.

God's salvation and promises through Jesus Christ deserves our praise daily!

Thank you again Neil! Awesome post!

God bless in Jesus,

Anonymous said...

No one with even a modicum of common sense can hold to pluralism.
Even a cursory glance at different world religions reveals they each make mutually exclusive truth claims, therefore they cannot all be true at the same time. I love pointing this out to my liberal, non-believing friends who claim to be "spiritual."

I always use this example:
Christianity says Jesus is God and the unique Son of God, He took our sins upon Him, paid our sin debt (which we couldn't pay) by dying on the cross, and He raised Himself from the dead in a final vindication of His deity. Islam says not only is Jesus not God, but he's also not the Son of God, and he never even died. Buddhism says there is no God, only an uncaring, impersonal "cosmic consciousness" which they call "The Only Mind." Pantheists say God is water, dirt, you and me.

Then I ask them to explain how all these mutually exclusive belief systems can be true at the same time. I tell them they can all be wrong, but logically they can't all be right, which is why each religion must be evaluated by investigating the evidence undergirding it.

I've found this to be a very effective way to stun the person who believes "all religions are just different ways of worshiping the same god." It makes them realize their claim is ridiculous.
-Bill Sikes