The God On A Mountain: When I First Confronted Religious Pluralism
Theological conversations often occur in unlikely settings. In the fall of 1994, as a 17-year-old aspiring college athlete on a recruiting visit to a college I was considering, I found myself thrust into a theological conversation that I did not anticipate and for which I was not equipped.
There I was, seated on a stool in a dark, mildew-encrusted locker room receiving theological instruction from another stool-seated gentleman many, many years my senior. This elderly gentleman was a recruiter for the college’s basketball team. He supposed I might be reluctant to sign with his college since I was a Southern Baptist, especially since the college was theologically far to the left.
Playing the sage, the gentleman leaned in close to me and, peering laser-like through his glasses, uttered words I still remember. “Jason,” he said, “I want to talk with you about religion. I understand that you are Southern Baptist and that might be an impediment in our efforts to recruit you. What you need to understand is that you should think of your religion as one of many roads that can lead you to God. You should think of God as on the top of a mountain. Your religion is one road that will lead you up the mountain to God. My religion is another road that will lead me up the mountain to God. There are many roads that lead up the mountain, but they all arrive at the same God who is on top of the mountain.”
Though I was ill equipped at the time for a theological conversation, I was confronted that day with religious pluralism—the idea that there are many ways to God. Religious pluralism is hatched in the incubator of biblical doubt. That is to say, if one denies the inerrancy and trustworthiness of God’s Word, it follows suit to deny Scripture’s truth claims, most especially the claim that Jesus is the only way of salvation.
On the contrary, the Bible repeatedly asserts its own truthfulness, and it prioritizes truth as a whole. Indeed, truth claims are ubiquitous in Scripture. Jesus refers to the Word of God as truth (John 17:17). The Holy Spirit is the spirit of truth (John 14:17). Believers are called to meditate on that which is true (Philippians 4:8) and to speak the truth to one another (Ephesians 4:15).
Jesus declares himself to be the truth (John 14:6), and all those who come to know Christ know the truth and are set free by it (John 8:31-32). What is more, with ongoing consequence the church is called to be “A pillar and support of the truth” (I Tim 3:15).
Believing, teaching, and defending the truth should be a priority for every Christian, at both the lay and ministerial level, and it is the hallmark of faithful theological education. This is nonnegotiable.
The church must be unambiguously committed to the proclamation and defense of the truth of Scripture, and the seminary that well serves the church must share this unambiguous commitment.
To this end, Midwestern Seminary has a sacred stewardship – to train ministers of the gospel capable of teaching, preaching, and defending the truth of Scripture; thereby ensuring that each local congregation is indeed, “A pillar and support of the truth.” This stand is a public stand, as codified in our commitment to the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
The charge to be faithful to Scripture is a sacred charge, but it is an unpopular one. When juxtaposed against our current age of skepticism, evangelical Christians are situated clearly within the cultural minority. Yet, we are buoyed that Christ will prove our strength. To paraphrase Martin Luther, we must take confidence in the fact that come what may, God’s truth will triumph through us—indeed, his truth abideth still.
Whether the arena is a dank locker-room, a confused local church, or the secular public square, Christians must be equipped to defend the truth. You may soon discover that theological conversations often occur in the most unlikely places. Will you be ready to defend the gospel of Christ?
*This article first appeared on 04/20/2015*topicsCulture, Pluralism
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