Tuesday, October 13, 2009

American Christianity vs. God’s Christianity?

Such is the undercurrent of a very telling article written on the USA Today website in which the specter of the exclusivist “evangelical” Christianity movement is suspiciously evaluated within the context of big time American sports. To be sure, the author is clearly not being objective in his representation. Despite his “credentials” as a presumably objective journalist, the fact of the matter is that Jesus’ claim that "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV) leaves no room for objectivity. Either you believe what Jesus says or you don’t. Of course you could try to avoid having to choose by “believing” that Jesus never uttered this declaration. However, at least for the USA Today writer, he decides not to try to be evasive or "clever" on the issue. He clearly feels that if Jesus made the statement, then He must have been wrong. The author writes:

These sports stars, like all Americans, have a right to express their faith. Evangelical players and ministry representatives in sports aren't out to harm anyone, of course. On the contrary, they see themselves as fulfilling the Bible's Great Commission ("Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," Matthew 28:19). In this sense, their mission is pure altruism: They seek to share the gift of eternal life…But there's a shadow side to this. If their take on God and truth and life is the only right one — which their creed boldly states — everyone else is wrong...It's not just non-Christians who might have a thing or two to say about this exclusive theology. According to a December 2008 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life, 65% of American Christians believe that many religions can lead to eternal life. Our pluralism is a defining and positive reality of American life — but not one that is much valued by those who define the faith coursing through the veins of sports culture.

Look, as I stated in my opening paragraph, we all have a choice on Jesus’ declaration in John 14:6; the reasonable options are:

a) Jesus was lying in John 14:6

b) Jesus never said what was claimed that He said in John 14:6

c) Jesus said what He said in John14:6 but He was ultimately wrong

d) Jesus made the statement in John 14:6 and it is the Truth

If you select option (a), you have no other credible person or source in human history who would agree with you that Jesus Christ ever lied. If you select option (b) you have no other credible person or source in human history that claims that Jesus never made the statement. If you select option (c) you’ll likely find no other credible person or source in human history who will agree with you that Jesus ever said or did anything wrong.

Many sports athletes believe option (d); I happen to also believe option (d). However, among the many great things about God is that He gave us all free will. We are free to choose whether we believe John 14: 6 or not. We can even choose to believe that we do not want to “come to the Father” as Jesus puts it. For those who die and end up anywhere else but heaven, Jesus made it certain that they would have chosen to go there. Christians are also choosing to be theoretically wrong on our choice. Exclusive claims go either way. Either you are right or you are wrong. I have yet to hear a non believer of Christ's claim in John 14:6 say they are ready to be wrong on this issue the moment after dying when that choice is irreversible.

To be clear, believing that Jesus is the only way to the Father does not make a person perfect. Christians are certainly far from perfect. It is a stick via which many non-believers beat Christianity over the head by pointing to our sometimes lousy example of Christ. This is a problem not because it legitimizes the argument made by those in opposition to Christ’s message, but because it hinders many others from being open to receiving Jesus’ free gift of salvation (free to us but certainly not to Him). Jesus said to Christians: You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV) I’ll say this to every reader who may not yet be a follower of Jesus the Christ. Don’t let the poor example of some Christians stop you from choosing Jesus for your life. Choose Jesus because He alone is worthy. He alone is perfection, and it is His perfection that substitutes for your sins and allows you access back to God in Heaven. That is why Jesus said: "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV). You will be granted access back to God through Christ alone. Not through the many theories of fallible, weak human beings.

A God who sends people to Hell?