Why Are Christians Scared of Pluralism?

 

Religious pluralism has existed for thousands of years, but we here in the U.S. have been hearing more about it lately, primarily from Christians. Of course, some other major religions are not necessarily fans of pluralism either, but their voices aren’t heard quite as much in the U.S. So this post focuses mainly on U.S. Christians.


Brian McLaren recently posted a blog about pluralism. A reader had asked him the best way to be Christian but nonexclusive, and to have true, meaningful conversation with someone of a non-Christian perspective. The reader was trying to interact with a Jewish lady about religion, and she said that, even though he (the Christian) was being respectful, she felt that his… “perspective still makes it all about [Christianity], still all about Jesus, which still diminishes her faith in the end and leaves her feeling like I’ve just found a way to let her sit with me at the table.”

In response, Brian breaks it down into two categories, an elitist “strong Christian identity” and a benevolent “weak Christian identity.” He sees problems with both and proposes an alternative, a “strong biblical narrative that truly makes…room for ‘the other.'” Here’s an excerpt:

Do we have a strong biblical narrative that truly makes as much room for “the other” as for “us?” Do we have a strong view of God that begins with love for all people rather than condemnation of all people? Do we have a strong understanding of Jesus as a gift to everyone rather than a proprietary product exclusively franchised to Christians? And so on …

One big problem with a weak benevolent religious identity is that it in some ways requires others to tone down their religious identity … which often ends up becoming a kind of tolerant secularism that only allows a least-common-denominator of civil religion into public life. Another big problem is that it is a good predictor of the end of a religious tradition … which would mean, over time, that benevolent religions would die off, leaving only combative ones!

Without getting too theological about it, I agree with Brian that the “pluralism question” is a big one. It’s obviously not a question as to whether it’s a valid reality of today’s world (it is). The question is what it means to Christians. And he makes a good point that if you’re Christian, don’t be ashamed of it… But I would add that you should not let your Christian identity make you arrogant, which it often does even if you don’t think so.

I think that if you’re really strong and comfortable in your Christian identity you don’t have to show it. It will just show. Then there’s no need to feel like you must “defend the faith” or open the eyes of “the lost.”

Being just barely Christian, I’m one who often hides my tradition for the sake of meaningful conversation with others. Part of this is because the term “Christian” just has so much baggage along with it, and I’d rather just be considered as a fellow human, searching alongside others for love, meaning, and value.

I also do this in reverse: I hide my agnosticism in order to have real conversation with Christians. Like “Christian” does for non-Christians, the term “agnostic” just seems to cause a nervous tick in most Christians, sending them into an infinite loop of internal conversation to figure out how they can get me saved, while I’m trying to talk to them, and they just don’t seem to really listen. …OR…Maybe it’s also me that sometimes gets in battle mode when I’m in a conversation. I admit it.

But lately I’ve become more secure, more comfortable in my relatively new, looser skin of agnosticism, or more accurately agnostic theism. And while I may not outright mention that I consider myself an agnostic, I no longer hide admissions of doubt or skepticism, but I also don’t state it arrogantly. And ironically, this often (not always) leads to a more honest conversation. But I think it also depends on the comfort of the Christian with whom I’m interacting. If it’s a Christian who feels they need to defend the faith or at least open my eyes to the deception all around me, we probably won’t get anywhere.

It’s okay to not hide your faith, or your lack of faith. If you’re a Christian, you can say it. If you’re not, say it. But let’s not allow our identities of faith to get in the way of our deeper identities, as humans. We all hurt. We all have things that give us joy. Just don’t trample on the other just because you feel you have to put a stake in the ground for your team.

My truth is that you can retain your theological distinctives, those things that you love about your faith perspective, and at the same time check them at the door to some extent when you enter into a conversation with someone from outside your perspective. I’m not saying to hide them. Just stop treating them like battle shields and lances (or even the “Sword of the Spirit). Remove your war colors. Don’t give in to the feeling that says you must defend. That way, you might realize that there’s nothing to fear from listening.

That’s why I personally say “Yes!” to pluralism. It can help us all dig deeper, beyond our tired catch phrases and marketing ploys, to the part of us that we all have in common. The part that seeks and listens for truth wherever it can be found.

But who knows, maybe there’s something I should be scared of. Did I miss a memo?

***

A Clarification…

I want to add here, or clarify, that pluralism does in fact include Christians. Including Christians who may be concerned about pluralism. I apologize if I implied otherwise.

It’s easy to say about our conservative Christian friends that “they” are the ones who need to get with the program, and that it’s their fault our world has not progressed beyond exclusive systems. In fact, by blaming those resistant to pluralism, we are perpetuating a climate of fear and accusation.

Maybe we can try to enact the idea that everyone really is welcome and deserves to be listened to. I think all of us have some perspective that can help fill a blind spot for someone else. Not just those of us who think of ourselves as the enlightened ones. 😉

The point I’m trying to make is the importance of not hiding what makes us, us…while at the same time maintaining an open attitude. Openness is the key.

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17 Responses

  1. Hi Dave….don’t know what’s up with the ‘reply’ thing! So here’s my quick (ha!) answer to your quick questions about my kids.

    Short answer: We just recently (within the last month) began going back to a Mennonite church after a 2 year hiatus. We had attended there for 18 months or so after 5 years of not going to any church, became members, then moved north and decided to try the church (Methodist) where my daughter was attending youth group with kids she went to school with. Didn’t care for the country club atmosphere, though she still is heavily involved with their amazing youth group. They do weekly trips to the men’s mission and women’s shelter, do 3 huge inner city missions trips each year, and generally stay away from the whole ‘get your friends saved’ routine. Ok by me.

    My husband and I decided to go back to the Mennonite congregation because we resonate so much with their message of peace, reconciliation, and the works of Jesus. Our congregation leans liberal in politics, conservative in theology (some of which I just plug my ears and sing la-la-la), though the emphasis is on imitating Christ and inviting others into communion and community with others trying to imitate Christ. There are never altar calls. So….we don’t need to de-program our kids from Sunday School. 🙂 BTW, at 44 years old, we are the second youngest couple there….the huge majority of the 100 or so regular attenders are over 70, were conscientious objectors in WW2, still do regular missions trips, and are rather militant about their traditional music (ick). So while the service is boring and hard to stay awake, I am enamoured with the experience and wisdom of these people, and their uncanny ability to cut to the chase regarding Jesus and his call to discipleship. Certainly not perfect, but I’m needing community with relative safety….and the mennonites fit that bill the best with my wishy-washy theology.

    Here’s the lowdown on my kids:
    My oldest son who is 24 is an atheist now. He and his 4 younger sisters were raised being homeschooled, and we were heavily involved with our charasmatic (Vineyard) church all during that time. Dance and worship were huge parts of our lives, and we knew no non-christians to speak of. I was all about protecting them from the big, scary world, raising warriors for the kingdom, and basically living in fear that they would eventually rebel. He was the son everyone wanted….had his first kiss at the altar, obedient, leading the worship team at 16, etc. etc. I just wanted the dude to clean his room and speak kindly to his sisters. *shrug*

    My second child attends the Missionary church where her hubby has attended his entire life. She drives them crazy with her questions about the inconsistencies she sees in christianity. They aren’t crazy about the church, but again, have community there, and folks basically leave them alone about their beliefs….so long as they attend every week *wink*

    Next daughter says she’s a religious person, but basically parties every weekend in less-than-modest clothing with her college gang. She takes ‘hanging with sinners’ extremely literally. 🙂 I worry about her safety, but not her soul. I want her to be kind, but wise. She’s not very wise…that breaks my heart….not her rejection of traditional boundaries of christianity (which I also disagree with.)

    Next daughter down is the one involved with that Methodist youth group…I’d say she has the best grasp of what a healthy faith looks like. We’ve been thru hell and back with her too recently, and the slogging continues, but I think she is the most settled of any of my kids regarding what being a Christ follower is.

    The last two, my boys are 11 and 9. We have struggled over the years knowing they weren’t really being raised ‘in the church’….I feel it’s important to know the bible stories the same way we learn the religious stories of all faiths as we study history in our homeschool. So while we talk about Jesus and his example of mercy, justice, kindness, etc. I steer away from ‘accept with your heart Jesus is lord’ terminology. I use several resources to show them the basic similarities between the largest faith systems.

    Oneness: Great Principles Shared by All Religions (Jeffrey Moses)
    The Family Virtues Guide (Linda Kavelin Popov)
    My Friends’ Beliefs: A Young Reader’s Guide to World Religions (HIley H. WArd)
    World of Faith (Peggy Fletcher STack & Kathleen Peterson)

    Also, we will be working thru The Naked Anabaptist with them as they mature a bit.

    I think God is big enough to apprehend our kid’s hearts for his kingdom (meaning: getting them on board with the whole reconciliation, mercy, justice rag) without a bunch of ‘our way is the right way’. My goal for my kids has always been to embrace “it’s better to be kind than right”. My heart is more sick over the selfishness and unkindness I see in my kids than over any lack of religious conviction. But that’s been a long road to travel….I did use to worry about it quite a bit. All I know to do these days is talk it over with myself, my hubby and God…being honest and keeping shame at bay.

    I credit a few people for holding my faith together: Brian McLaren, Donald Miller, and Rob Bell (who BTW, just hired a Mennonite as his assistant pastor). These brave men have modeled for me what humble, intellectually honest Christ followers can look like. When my kids ask questions, I direct them to these fellas.

    Aain, sorry so long. I wrote about my personal journey regarding my journey here:http://trackingtheedge.blogspot.com/2009/03/been-long-time-coming.html (warning: I don’t write there very often anymore, but I used to, and it can get kinda raw.)

    cindy

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  2. This is in response to Cindy’s last post ~ there wasn’t a ‘reply’ option under her post. 🙂
    Cindy, I have lots I’d like to discuss with you about your questions, and your ideas. I’m afraid I’m taking up more than my fair share of this blog space, and possibly annoying the blog author, so if you are in favor, we can email. Mine is waterholic2328@yahoo.com. Or I’m on Facebook under JimmyandCrystalStafford.
    By the way, I looked at your website, Cottage Instincts, and it is just wonderful. No flattery here, I really enjoyed it. I don’t have that decorators gift, so I like to see the creativity of others who can. I saw on your site that you have 6 kids and homeschool…and doula ~ I homeschool also,have 4 daughters, and have had 3 homebirths with a midwife. So it seems like we have many things in common. Talk to you soon,
    Crystal

  3. This is in response to Crystal, not sure it will end up under her posts…there was no ‘reply’ to click under her name 🙂

    Anyway, I don’t know what I believe about Jesus’ death and what it meant. I know it was prophesied in the OT, that he is the ‘lamb’ and all that. I suppose I believe God had a hand in writing the scripture, but I don’t know that God didn’t have a hand in helping with other inspired books. I see the bible as an incredible book of history, poetry, prophesy, literature, etc. I don’t see it as the roadmap or plumbline like I used to. It’s too hard to trust my own reading or that of others about what it truly means. I don’t think it’s a book of promises, that’s for sure. 🙂 I don’t think it’s magic (all the ‘claiming scriptures’ sorta irritates me nowdays).

    For my faith to be coherent, I need to see the big picture. Jesus was the Rabbi and I am a disciple. He said love God and love your neighbor as yourself. I see the ‘golden rule’ as fullfilling both of those. I think turning down the ‘me-meter’ and serving others is a testament to God’s love for mankind, and in so doing, is loving God. I just don’t think it needs to be so mystical and complicated. I don’t think there needs to be rules and bullet points. I don’t think there needs to be ‘in or out’. When Jesus said he was the way, I truly believe he meant his way of life, and following that way of life (loving God, loving neighbor, doing to others…) was the means to living a life without end. NOT Jesus’ death being the ‘way’ to life without end. Anyone of whatever religious or non-religious stripe who is following Jesus way is following the Rabbi’s teaching, and is therefore following the way in my thinking and is a recepient of eternal life (whatever that means!)

    I think it’s more about living an examined life, being aware of the Spirit of Love at all times (communing, meditating, etc.) and responding to life thru that lense. That is the way to peace and contentment and fellowship with the Creator for me. Abraham Lincoln said ‘when I do right I feel good, when I do bad I feel bad….and that is my religion’ (my hacked paraphrase). This is how I live my own life.

    I hope that explains my position better. So much of it is emphasis. I emphasis Jesus’ life more than his death because I think that’s what a child would do, and I seek to be childlike in my faith. Uncomplicated, simple love for God and love for others is a lifelong task. Doing what Jesus did, treating others as Jesus did…..I truly believe pursuing this is what brings the Kingdom to earth. I don’t know about heaven and hell….but I figure if I do what Jesus did whenever I can, and be aware when I fall short, then it will all come out in the laundry. Naive approach in the light of the myraid books on theology…..but it works for me, and I can’t ever go back to ‘believe the correct things’ mindset that just doesn’t jive with Jesus’ teachings as I read them.

    peace.

    • FYI, Crystal, you mat not have received an update email because, after completing your response, you may not have checked the little check-box that says “Email me when there’s a Reply” or whatever it says. I wonder if that’s also why there isn’t a “Reply” option underneath your name?

      Anyway, thanks to both you ladies.

      I had one tiny comment when you (Crystal) said, “If the scriptures are written without Divine Authorship … we should not be reading them.” And “…Either their claim is true…or they were all nut-case lunatics hallucinating something notoriously false.” I personally think we can get a lot out of the scriptures even if we don’t believe they are literally, infallibly the direct words of God. I also think that the “truth or hallucination” positions are not the only ones available. There’s also the possibility that some writers were using literary devices, or telling their stories via metaphor or symbolic meaning, or some other method. Of course, hallucination may also be a possibility. (I know I would have frequently hallucinate if I were stuck on an island, deprived of proper nourishment, and getting really old. (Patmos)) Either way, none of these necessarily discredits the importance of the books within the bible. Every day, someone bases their way of life on something they read in a book that touched them deeply, whether that book is directly from God or not.

      • Dave,

        on the Divine Authorship point, I think I should have done a bit more explaining. Sometimes I take it for granted people know what I mean, when its not clear. In the Bible, around 400-500 times through all 66 books, the authors say “This is the word of the Lord”, or “Thus Saith the Lord”…or “The Lord said to me”, etc. Meaning, they knew God was speaking to them, and they made note of it as they wrote. So this was the reason for my saying, if there is not Divine Authorship in the Bible as it claims over and over by these statements, then why would anyone be reading a book that says over and over, “God spoke this…” if in fact, you believe he did not. If he didn’t something was really wrong with all of them. If He did, then all it’s statements are Divine. That is what I was trying to say there. Sorry for the lack of coherence there.
        And as you say, books do touch people deeply. But it would be very troubling to me if a book claimed to be from God, and while at the same time claiming that Jesus is the only way to God, people said we’ll read the book and be touched by it , and we’ll reject the foundation and purpose of the book. To me, there is a vast difference in being inspired by the Scriptures to do good, and being transformed by them.

    • Cindy,

      I see alot of great points you make here, and I agree. The Bible isn’t a book of promises, or of magic tricks. Rules without relationship is no good for anything. I Agree with you. Mysticism and complicated religion seems like smoke and mirrors to me. There has to be something pure and not corruptible to live by.
      Jesus said things that seem to be so startling to me. Like John 10. ~
      1 “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but they did not understand what he was telling them.
      7 Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

      11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. …. 14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

      And then John 14. ~
      1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
      5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

      And lest I take up too much more space, I won’t write out all the times he said he was God in the flesh. All that to say, he doesn’t seem to be telling his disciples he was one of many ways. Nor that he was a way of living. But I keep seeing him say, He’s the vine, He’s the gate, He’s the door, He’s the light of the world, etc. All others being thieves and robbers. It makes me wonder how/why people change his self-descriptions into a different Jesus.

      In John 11:25 Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
      27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
      And last of all, when the Jews kept asking Jesus if he was the Messiah, the Savior to come, John 10:24 mentions that the Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
      25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
      31 Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
      33 “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
      Forgive my longevity in this response. I’m trying to distinguish between what I read Jesus saying he was, and what a different Jesus is taught or idealized.
      thanks for sharing your comments with me. I agree that there are not a list of check marks with God,as religions have set up, but rather a transformation by knowing Him. What freedom there is in that.

      • Great scriptures…makes me want to follow his way even more. I understand that you are using these examples to show that Jesus himself seems to be saying he is the only way…I happen to see they have no incapatablility with the idea of pluralism.

        If a muslim, buddhist, hindu or any other person is following the Shepherd’s ‘way’, I would have to say they are disciples of the Jesus. It seems the analogies Jesus offers of being a shepherd, a vine, etc. are all invitations to partake in his way of life…that of laying down our lives, serving others, loving justice, seeking mercy, and walking humbly before God.

        Whether he was the son of God…well, I just don’t know that I can make that leap. I just can’t put that much faith in what men wrote many years after walking with Jesus. I’m just being honest. I’m sharing my own struggles with how I relate to the bible. I can’t continue to have faith in something that doesn’t have continuity. Which is another whole conversation. 🙂

        My hubby says if Jesus is who he said he is, then his life and death were enough for everyone. The invitation isn’t ‘accept that he died for your sins’, but ‘come and partake in the kind of life I’m modelling’…which would include giving your life. Whatever deep magic was wrought by his coming, his life, death and resurrection…accepting those things are not the key to true life. Living life as he did is what brings true life (at least for me….I’ve kept the me-monster more in check since dropping all the theology and just trying to live as Jesus did, particularly regarding the Sermon on the Mount.)

        It helps me to remember ‘sin’ isn’t a buzzword, it’s any thought or behavior that causes a rift between me and my spiritual connection to God. In following Jesus’ way, I am ‘saved’ from the guilt and shame by recognizing I was out of sync with what his example was. I’m just getting back into talking with God again (won’t use the word ‘prayer’ because it conjurs too much baggage for me). So I talk to God about being a dolt. Again, very childlike and simple.

        I’m rambling….thanks for engaging me. I don’t think we disagree about much except what conclusion the scripture comes to regarding pluralism. 🙂

        • Crystal

        , it’s interesting that, before we started on the talk about the Bible, I’ve been writing a post about that very topic (which I’ll be posting soon). So it has been top of mind for me lately. Just thought I’d mention that.

          Cindy

        , quick question, if you don’t mind me asking: Do you attend a church? And if so (or even if not) I’m curious as to how you talk about religion, Christianity, and the Bible and such with your children. If you go to church as a family, do you ever find yourself competing with the messages your children learn in church (if they go)? For me personally, (I don’t have kids yet), in the past I would have been so concerned with my children’s salvation and preoccupied with the thought of them going to hell (or heaven), I think I may have tried to make sure they believed rightly. Now, I’m thinking I’m going to try to let them find their own way…but not sure how that will work itself out in real life.

  4. To answer the question/title of the article, I don’t think Christians are scared of pluralism. We see the contradictions in it. Here’s a great article that explains them.
    http://www.probe.org/site/c.fdKEIMNsEoG/b.4227365/k.72A3/Christianity_and_Religious_Pluralism.htm

  5. It sounds nice to say “Remove your war colors”, but would that be wise if there were a war? Not all wars are physical. And they’re not against flesh and blood. Ephesians 6:11-17
    Lest I be easily misunderstood, a disclaimer: It is simple common courtesy to listen when discussing. But listening on a cruise to Hawaii, is different than listening on a warship. Either the whole world is, as you say, on a cruise to paradise, or as the scriptures reveal, on a warship. And it brings us back to the place of saying that both cannot be true. If pluralism is true, that is, all paths lead to God, then the Bible really is one big hock of a sham that we need to burn. We need to laugh at it. We certainly don’t need to read it, because it says the polar opposite.

    • I have come to a place where I don’t see scripture as overriding the words of Jesus. And this shift has had a paradigm smashing effect on my understanding of ‘the Way’. I also deeply respect those like yourself who examine scripture and come to a different conclusion…who’s understanding and interpretation of it lead to a belief that there cannot possibly be many paths to God.

      Unfortunately, I’m finding much of my issues with Christianity come down to a fundamental difference in opinion on what the whole of being a Christ follower means. The dependence on scripture (and it’s varied interpretations) has become the sticking point for me. When I stick to the ‘main and plain’ words of Christ, they sound universal to me. Not exclusive. If he is the center of our faith, and even he didn’t say “you must confess with your mouth I am Lord” or make the many people he interacted with agree to some list of bullet points to prove they were ‘saved’….I just don’t understand anymore why Paul’s words or Timothy’s words or James’ words hold so much more weight. The formulaic way in which you become a christian seems, well, formulaic.

      Jesus made it sound as though entering the Kingdom of Heaven (here on earth and where God dwells) was simply doing to others as you want them to do back at cha. No more complicated than that (though taking a lifetime to practice). If that is true, then I certainly don’t want to be told by someone that my very personal beliefs and spirituality don’t measure up based on ancient writings, inspired or not. Since I wouldn’t like it, I don’t do it. And since I’m a mere human, just like those who wrote the scriptures, just like those who translate the scriptures, just like those who interpret them from the pulpit or the living room couch…..it seems so presumptuous to say “Hey I know THE correct way to God”. I just don’t. I’m not even sure what the scripture actually means to say about it. Call me a dumb sheep 🙂 I follow the Shepherd and his ways and call it a day. I don’t roam to much into other pastures to be sure other dumb sheep are following the shepherd. I kinda leave that to the Shepherd.

      It seems much of the Church today has more faith in a book than in Jesus’ words and example. Jesus just didn’t make people jump thru hoops unless they were oppressing others…

      Not sure I’m making sense, and I’m hoping my words are being read with no intent to be unkind or judgemental. I’m just trying to point out why some conversations about pluralism aren’t going to get very far once the bible is set up as the final authority.

      These are simply my own thoughts as I continually bump into folks with a more traditional view (on pluralism especially). It’s my way of recognizing that much of all this emerging conversation will always come back to what place one puts on scripture. And I usually then add “this is where we must agree to disagree.” 🙂

      peace.

      (and my apologies to the blog author for my ramblings….)

      • Cindy,

        thanks for commenting… It’s good to hear your thoughts. (I didn’t get a notification of your response, or I’d have read it sooner.)
        I have a few thoughts on your thoughts.
        😉
        You made a mention of what it means to be a Christ follower. You find that the words of Christ are universal, and non-exclusive. Jesus said, if any man wants to be my disciple, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. This has great depth of meaning if we understand the torture and suffering of a crucifixion and a cross….something to think about. Denying ourselves, well that is not something anyone really wants to do either. This is what I love about Christ. He doesn’t fluff icing and whip cream into people’s ears, saying words that sound pleasing all the time. He gives the reality of following him.
        Self-denial, suffering, and intimate relationship.
        If the scriptures are written without Divine Authorship, as they claim to have, then we should not be reading them. If the book says it is God’breathed, and that it’s authors were (such as Isaiah) woken early every morning by God, so that he could give them a trained ear and hear his teaching, then either their claim is true, and they were hearing from Yahweh as they claimed, or they were all nut-case lunatics hallucinating something notoriously false. I mean, it’s a climactic choice, because if the scripture is going to be credible, the claim has to be tested. I understand your query about it.
        I myself looked into the prophecies of scripture, and studied many, because it is claimed that all of them have been fulfilled. This study proved to be the most eye-opening experience for me into Scripture.
        If anyone studies Bible prophecy, it becomes clear that no human could foretell everything the book foretold. The chances are beyond statistically impossible. (more on that later I suppose).
        I don’t wish to remain on this point though, because you can throw out the book, and just as if neither you nor I could read, the book would be useless to us, we would still be able to search for and find truth without it.
        Because as you say, and I like this point, that people seem to worship a book, instead of the creator. He is the one we are after, not the book about him. Jesus said, “I am the way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father but by me”. Knowing him is knowing the way to life, and you’re right when you say that a book is not the way. He is.

      • Cindy,

        I also wanted to touch on the point you made concerning the Kingdom of Heaven… You mentioned that to enter the Kingdom of heaven, we should do unto others….this is the 2nd commandment. When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He said – You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. It interests me to know why the 2nd commandment is more descriptive to you of following Christ, than the greatest commandment He mentioned. I’m seeking to understand, not to argue.

  6. Count me as one of those weakly ones. I find though, that I don’t mind being weak, because it allows me to better learn from other faiths. I have noticed myself getting irritated with any ‘radical’ of any religious persuasion….reminds me of those in the political realm who constantly draw lines in the sand, not because of some sacred belief they feel strongly about, but because they want re-elected.

    I love your comment about ‘deeper identities’, although I can already hear the ‘But our identity is in Christ’ argument that presumes to support the ‘get folks to believe like us’ perspective.

    Will the circle be unbroken, by and by?

    • excellent points, cindy!

  7. I think religious tolerance and REALLY listening are vital for the 21st century.

    There are those (perhaps I was one of them once?) who feel threatened by this, and consider it something “liberal”, being unfaithful to the “true faith”. In addition, evangelicals have a culture that sees everyone outside as a potential ‘scalp’. I know I was one of those once.

    At the moment I’ve been wondering how to get the rigid people to move beyond their thinking. Given that they see anything that is not orthodox as being the start of a slippery slope downwards, I don’t have many ideas.

    • Thanks Jonathan. I actually added a note in my post in response to your comment. It’s all pretty tricky.

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