Pluralism vs. Pluralistic Environmnent

In my years being in the Army I have met many people from a great diversity of backgrounds. The amazing thing I find as a chaplain is the great variety of spiritual beliefs that these soldiers have. As a chaplain my privilege is to protect their 1st Amendment rights and to either perform what they need or provide for them; meaning that, if I cannot personally help them in their spiritual needs I can find someone who can do so.

As awesome as this privilege is, from the Classical Christian perspective which I believe in, this can be a very troublesome task. I see people everyday that do not have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and based off of his teachings contained in the Gospels if they die without placing total trust in Christ they will spend eternity separated from God. I do not have to tell you how troubling that knowledge is.

Here is one example; I have a great coworker who is a Jewish Rabbi. He and I have often studied the Old Testament together and agree on a great deal. What we do not agree on is who Jesus is. I say he is the Messiah sent by God to save us from our sins and he says that Jesus was just a man. This disagreement means that as incredible of a person he is that if he dies without placing total trust in Jesus he spends eternity in Hell. (NOTE: Salvation is a topic for another Blog post but if you want to chat about it email me at jamesljohnson8@gmail.com and I’ll be glad to get with you).

This issue has caused the vast majority of Christians in America to do one of two things: believe in false doctrine or hide their heads in the sand. Most Christians I know have become very good at isolating themselves from those who do not believe as they do. They may see them on television or read about them online but their daily interaction with non-Christians is little to none. They have created a happiness buffer that relieves them from the obligation of sharing the Gospel.

The other group that is worth mentioning is those that subscribe to Pluralism. Theologically speaking, pluralism is the belief that all religions eventually lead to God and that there is more than one path to salvation. Pluralists would say that both Jesus and Mohamed save alongside of Joseph Smith, Jr. and Buddha. What this allows them to do is worship the God of the Bible without the fear of anyone else they care about going to Hell. Everyone wins as long as they truly believe what they believe.

There is just one problem with this: the Bible does not teach that doctrine. In fact, quite the opposite is true. While there are many passages that teach that Jesus is the only one (also known as Exclusivity) here are two that show what Jesus and the Apostles taught:

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

And Peter taught:

[10] Let me clearly state to all of you and to all the people of Israel that he was healed by the powerful name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, the man you crucified but whom God raised from the dead. [11] For Jesus is the one referred to in the Scriptures, where it says,

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

[12] There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4: 6-12 NLT)

 

These two examples are a good representation of the type of salvation taught in the Bible. It is found in Jesus Christ alone. This means that anyone, including my good friend the Rabbi, will spend eternity away from Christ if they fail to place total trust in Christ. Pluralism simply does not work with the doctrine of salvation taught in the Bible. We must stay away from isolation and instead get out and make disciples as Jesus commanded. This is our Big Truth for this week:

Believers Respect Others to Earn an Opportunity

You may be asking, isn’t what you do in the Army count as pluralism? No. The difference is that while I do not believe in Pluralism, I work in a Pluralistic Environment. These two sound the same, and get mixed up with each other, but they are not the same. In a pluralistic environment people work together respecting each other’s beliefs while still being true to their own convictions.

This means that I do not cast aside a person who disagrees with me; instead I respect their views and love them anyway. We do this for two reasons: to show love and to earn the chance to share. First, we do so because Jesus commanded us to. In Matthew 22 Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan to illustrate how we must love even those we hate. He commanded us to do the same. If we fail to love even those we disagree with we fail to obey Christ.

Second, we show respect to earn a seat at the table (so to speak). In the past (during the Modern Period), a person would listen to your views about God just because you were willing to share. In this Post Modern period we have to show respect and build relationships in order to get a true hearing. In the Army, we call this earning a seat at the table. This means that we have built a relationship in such a way as to earn that person’s honest respect and willingness to listen.

Living in isolation does not work with Jesus’ commands to love others and to share the Gospel. If we fail to obey we do not truly love him. For some, this means getting our heads out of the sand and living life around others who are not Christians. If you cannot name a friend who is a non-Believer you probably need to examine your life and see if you are obeying Christ.

If you are subscribing to Pluralism you I would encourage you to dig deeper into the Bible. Email me and we can chat more about this topic because it is deep and not fit for a blog. I would submit that Jesus clearly set the standard for salvation. And personally, I’m going to trust the guy who rose from the dead. I encourage you to do the same. This week, remember our Big Truth:

Believers Respect Others to Earn an Opportunity

It is my heartfelt prayer that you would examine your life and see if you need to change. I know I need to be more careful in this area myself.

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