I like playing soccer. But playing pick-up soccer is pretty difficult when you do not have any goals. Sometimes you have to improvise with a pair of shoes, a few backpacks, or if you are really lucky, a set of orange highway department cones.
Mmmm…. those look like some mighty fine cones ….. perfect soccer goals!
If you want to mess with the opposing soccer team, just move those improvised goals when they are not looking. When on the opponent’s side of the field, sneak that one cone farther apart from the other one to make that goal wider. Then just wait a few minutes. Pretty soon, you’ll be hearing, “Morledge! What are you doing messing around with the goals?! You can not make the goals wider for you!”
There is always a temptation to try to widen the goals. But it does not just happen in soccer. It also happens when we think about God and salvation. How wide is God’s mercy when we consider who will be saved and who will not be saved? What a troublesome question! In an age drawn more to the love of God as opposed to His justice, does human sentimentality confuse us in our understanding of the parameters God has set for salvation?
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?
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”…..
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?”