Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Isn't Christianity arrogant to claim to be the one way?

"Christianity's central assertion is that God has uniquely visited our planet in the form of Jesus of Nazareth and that by Jesus' teaching, character, life, claims, miracles, death and resurrection, he has established himself as the definite revelation of God and the only way for us to be brought into an eternal relationship with God."

"Most sceptics have traditionally argued that these Christian claims are false, but in doing so they assume they know what the truth of these matters is, because just as the phenomenon of blindness assumes the existence of sight, and evil presume a standard of goodness, so the sceptics' cry of 'error' presupposes the existence of truth..."
It's not just Christians claiming to know the way.
  • There is pluralism - we live in a context, like much of history, where different ethnicities and worldviews live side by side.
  • There is tolerance - plurality of beliefs creates the possibility of "intolerance and friction. While some people see tolerance as the only virtue, Christians should acknowledge that all people are made in the image of God and therefore deserve acceptance, respect and courtesy, regardless of their religious beliefs."
  • There is relativism, claiming there is no absolute truth and belief is just a by-product of background.
For all the scepticism - some things are true and many true things can be known. Today is Wednesday and tomorrow is Thursday and I can make plans based on that. Likewise, and more significantly:
We know Jesus was born and died under Pontius Pilate in the first century.
And thousands of Christians claim he rose from the dead and claim to know Jesus today.

An appealing side step is to then say - everyone has a path up the mountain, one for the Christian, one for the Muslim and so on. It claims all paths are the same though the Muslim seeks women and wine in paradise without their god,  the Mormon his own planet, and others seek non-existence, the atheist hates the god of Islam, while the Christian follows Jesus to have Jesus. The Relativist claims humility but is remarkably arrogant... relativising everyone else's claims to just be a path while claiming to be able to see the whole mountain.
  • Is relativism coherent? Trying to protect all views by making them all relatively valid is an incoherent mess. You can want to live in a both/and universe at times, but when you cross the busy road you don't think - both me and the bus, you know it's either you or the bus. 
  • Does relativism correspond to reality? Some relativism is fine but it begins to fall down when it becomes an absolute approach. 
  • Is relativism relevant? Again, there are things to treat less absolutely, and a tolerance isn't so bad. Tolerance seems to now mean we have to say everything is right. It used to mean: I think you're wrong but you're free to be wrong. The older idea is better isn't it? And complete tolerance is really intolerable... no-one wants to say everything is ok...
Relativism can be a bewitching stupor that numbs us to the claims of public truth. It closes down conversation with an apathetic 'whatever' when there are so many fascinating things to talk about. It blurs the differences by assuming that all worldviews mean the same thing and say the same things - when a little engagement reveals that different worldviews are at best superficially similar and substantially different.  Relativism distracts from the questions I want to ask.

And then down the mountain.
Into human history walked a person.
JESUS. Hello world.

Adapted from The Arrogance of Christianity by Richard Cunningham. Available for £1 from Think IVP.

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