Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Scandal: Pluralism #3

Pssst! Have you heard about the “scandal”? All curious ears, listen in.

The Scandal of Particularity: Is there really only one way?

Yes, it is the greatest “scandal” of all. Theologians have called it the “scandal of particularity”. In a particular time. In a particular place. In a particular person. God spoke. God acted. Who is the scandal about? Simply put. Jesus Christ. There is just no other way around Jesus. This is indeed a scandal to a post-modern culture that resists particular truth claims. It sounds so exclusive. So intolerant. And that doesn’t sound so good. Right?
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Cherry Picking Kierkegaard

The Coffee Gathering Pombo

“La tertulia del café de Pombo” by José Gutiérrez Solana, 1920

Generally I’m more apt to hang out with grill-in-the-driveway, figure-it-out-yourself, change-your-own-oil, workaday kind of guys than intellectuals. When I was younger and thought I knew what was important, I developed an anti-intellectual prejudice that continues to the present day. But as Tim Keller says, “You cannot be a Christian without using your brain to its uttermost,” so game on.

Many of us have a tendency to read Bible passages simplistically, without empathizing or thinking beyond the sacred page. Teachers like Michael Card encourage reading “at the level of our imaginations,” but that takes time and work.

Take the story of the testing of Abraham in Genesis 22 for example.  Danish philosopher, theologian, and Lutheran ethicist Søren Kierkegaard thought about the anguish that Abraham felt while walking for three days to Mount Moriah to sacrifice Isaac.  To Kierkegaard this is not a simple story to be read dryly or mechanically from one punctuation mark to the next.  Kierkegaard thought about the huge weight being placed upon Abraham’s conscience, and posited ideas about the teleological suspension of the ethical.  This isn’t (actually) a post about Kierkegaard, but just to help set the background, here are a few of his quotes: Continue reading


Conflict Avoidance: Pluralism #2

OK. I admit it. I hate conflict. John Paine does not like it either, so I am glad I am not alone.

Cowboys or the Redskins? Duke or North Carolina? Red Sox or the Yankees? Me? I’ll just watch the ball game, thank you. Some love a feisty contest. But it is one thing to engage in competitive sports talk. Conversing about “God” in a pluralistic culture is a much more serious ball game.

Nothing like some good ole’ competition!

There is much at stake when it comes to conflicting truth claims regarding religious belief … or “non-religious” belief … let us not forget atheism. The consequences are great. Eternal matters hang in the balance. Heaven and hell. Life and death.

Imagine you are at a water cooler somewhere in corporate America, and the topic of religion comes up. A disagreement emerges. You feel the tension in the hallway as the conversation heats up. Someone tries to resolve the tension in the conversation and says, “You know, I believe that all religions basically teach the same thing.”

The “conflict avoidance” part of me wonders….”What a powerful and attractive idea”…..
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Common vs. Saving Grace: Pluralism #1

Perhaps you have been around this “conversation killer”. You are at the water cooler with a group of co-workers and the subject of “religion” comes up. Someone jumps in and declares, “You know, all of the great religions of the world teach basically the same thing. There are many different paths to God. No one path is better than any other”. A second person responds with, “But the Bible says that there is only one way to God. Jesus said ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by me‘ (John 14:6)…. Christianity beats any other religion. All other religions are false, demonic lies!”

Bumper Sticker Theology for a New Age…. To borrow from Rodney King during the 1992 Los Angeles riots, “Can we all get along?” … How does the Christian apologist respond to the challenge of religious pluralism?

Silence enfolds the water cooler. Awkward glances abound. A couple of folks begin to straggle off back to their offices. Another person tries to break the silence with, “Did you see the Virginia Tech game last night? How ’bout them Hokies??” The first person turns away and mutters, “Christians. They are such narrow people. Why do they think they always have a lock on the truth?”

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Respecting Disagreement

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12 (NIV)

Two Apostles

Two Apostles by Carlo Crivelli, 1475

The apostles Peter and Paul had some famous disagreements.  Ultimately however, it was their shared, unswerving love for Christ that propelled their ministries.

I recently attended a lecture by Dr. Ian Hutchinson, a scientist with impressive technical credentials—and a Christian.  His topic addressed science-faith issues, and concluded with his belief that a Christian worldview is consistent with, and complimentary to, a scientific worldview.  I agree and am thankful that there are scientists of Dr. Hutchinson’s caliber who are willing to share their faith in public forums.  (Let’s be real—who am I to disagree?)

The first question from the audience at the end of the lecture involved the age of the earth and the six ‘days’ of creation.  Dr. Hutchinson’s response was along the lines that the universe is very old (13.7 billion years, again I agree), and that he believes we should not take the creation account in Genesis too literally—that the text is ‘figurative’.  And here we have a fork in the road.  I think it is somewhat dangerous to give up on the text in Genesis too easily, and to ascribe a figurative intent on the part of the author (Moses) when in fact there may be more to the inspired text than meets the eye.

In addition to his work at MIT, Dr. Hutchinson is also a lecturer for the BioLogos Foundation, founded in 2007 by another prominent Christian, Dr. Francis Collins.  These brothers and sisters in Christ adhere to the idea of theistic evolution, which—rather than have my take on this topic—you can read about directly from the BioLogos website.  There are many wonderful Christians who ascribe to the ideas of theistic evolution.

I’m just not one of them.  After studying the matter in detail, I have a different understanding.  I ascribe to old-earth creationism.

Hugh RossDr. Hugh Ross and his colleagues at Reasons To Believe have a great deal to share on this topic.  First, Moses never wrote that the universe was created in six days.  Excuse my provocative statement, but I did it to make a point— ‘day’ is an English word.  Moses did not write in English (which has a million or more words), he wrote in Biblical Hebrew (which only had a few thousand words), and the word that was written was ‘Yom’, which clearly has multiple meanings including the idea of an epoch or age. Continue reading


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