Tag Archives: Pluralism

Living by What “Seems Right”

There have been certain sins throughout history which have been so wickedly horrific that I’m quite certain the vast majority of people today would not even consider committing them. For instance, can you imagine sacrificing your daughter to an idol by burning her alive? Of course not, and neither could the Israelites when they first entered the Promised Land. And yet, a few hundred years passed, and sure enough…

“When you present your gifts and offer up your children in fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. And shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live, declares the Lord God, I will not be inquired of by you.” Ezekiel 20:31 (ESV)

Such is the shaping power of culture. What was at one time absolutely impossible to imagine…became reality. Sacrificing a child suddenly “seemed the right thing” to do, simply because it was the cultural norm.

God’s Response

What’s fascinating to note in Ezekiel 20 is God’s response to this wickedness. He said they would not be able to “inquire” of Him. In other words, no relationship. And so it was that idolatry, introduced through exposure to a wicked culture, destroyed any meaningful relationship they had with the One True God.

What We Lose by Adopting Cultural Beliefs

Of course, the same thing happens in our culture, only with different issues. The people of God today constantly find themselves under pressure to modify their beliefs and practices toward what “seems right”. But what I have realized recently is that adopting these cultural beliefs and practices has an unintended consequence: the loss of a vital relationship with God. We can no longer inquire of Him. This makes sense considering Israel’s experience under Ezekiel, but also because in order to adopt many cultural beliefs, one must reject Scripture, which is, of course, God’s Word to us. How can I have a vital relationship with someone who does not speak to me?

The Stepford Wives…the Stepford God

The lesson here is clear: while we will all be shaped to some degree by culture, we must be sure to let God’s Word have the final say (Romans 12:2).  Along these lines, one of my favorite Tim Keller illustrations comes from his book, The Reason for God:

“If we let our unexamined beliefs undermine our confidence in the Bible, the cost may be greater than we think.

“If you don’t trust the Bible enough to let it challenge and correct your thinking, how could you ever have a personal relationship with God? In any truly personal relationship, the other person has to be able to contradict you. For example, if a wife is not allowed to contradict her husband, they won’t have an intimate relationship. Remember the (two!) movies The Stepford Wives? The husbands of Stepford, Connecticut, decide to have their wives turned into robots who never cross the wills of their husbands. A Stepford wife was wonderfully compliant and beautiful, but no one would describe such a marriage as intimate or personal.

“Now, what happens if you eliminate anything from the Bible that offends your sensibility and crosses your will? If you pick and choose what you want to believe and reject the rest, how will you ever have a God who can contradict you? You won’t! You’ll have a Stepford God! A God, essentially, of your own making, and not a God with whom you can have a relationship and genuine interaction. Only if your God can say things that outrage you and make you struggle (as in a real friendship or marriage!) will you know that you have gotten hold of a real God and not a figment of your imagination.”

– Keller, Timothy. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

Therefore, only a real relationship with God can save us from being wrongly shaped by culture and what “seems right”. And not surprisingly, such a relationship with God only comes from a thorough commitment to Scripture as authoritative.

For as the history of the Israelites teaches us, if we abandon God’s Word, the fire is never far away.


Posted by on September 20, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Is Jesus the Only Way to Heaven?

One Way - Left - NarrowIt’s a wonder that any Christians ever run for President. There are just too many things that they need to be honest about and that therefore would seem to disqualify them in a pluralistic culture like ours.  And the big religious question that trips up politicians at the national level is this: “Do you believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven?” It’s kind of hard for the Christian to win the Jewish vote when he answers that one honestly.

But we average ordinary Christians feel that it disqualifies us too, even if we aren’t running for office. Who wants to tell their secular neighbor, their football-watching-buddy, that Jesus is the only way? You’re not trying to win his votes, just keep his friendship, and the statement seems so…unfriendly. In fact, saying that Jesus is the only way to God is tantamount to telling a non-Christian that he’s going to you know where, and that doesn’t make such good half-time conversation.

And for this very reason, many people who call themselves Christians have a hard time proclaiming this truth. I know of a Christian mom who just couldn’t bring herself to tell this to her children, so she said…something else, I suppose. I’m not sure why she did this, but I can guess – she probably thought it would turn them off to Jesus.  You see, we have such a hard time with the idea that we begin to wonder if there is another way to Jesus being the only way. We muse, what if we left this part out? Is it that important to the gospel?

Maybe we should let Peter answer the question. In his sermon recorded in Acts chapter 4, the Apostle didn’t leave it out. He proclaimed the truth boldly. But why?

Here’s the simple answer: if you believe that salvation is by faith in Jesus Christ, that Jesus paid the penalty for your sins by taking your place on the cross, and if you believe that God honored and accepted that sacrifice by raising His Son from the dead, then there is no other way to God. To paraphrase Pastor Erwin McManus, “You can believe in another Savior…but no one else is coming for you.”

In his short statement in verse 12, Peter himself gives the rationale:

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 (ESV)

Why is Jesus the only way? For, Peter says, there is no other name. Only Christ has died. Only Christ has been raised. And ultimately, if Islam and Christianity and Buddhism are simply different paths to the same God, then the path of working for salvation is AOK because that’s how all these other religions are planning to attain salvation, or nirvana, or the place with all the wine and “girls”. Then you can indeed be good enough to get into heaven. Just do it the Muslim way, or the Hindu way. Or, why not the “good guy” secular way? Take your pick because apparently…God is not picky.

Or is He? Well, of course He is. And we know why – because providing salvation for you and me came at a great cost – the blood of His dear Son. And though there are many very sincere people trying to work their way to God all over the world, in the end, they too will need the blood of Christ. And if you tell your children that there are other ways, and if you tell your neighbor that there are other paths, then what you are really subtly saying is that they can be good enough to get to God on their own, and even worse, that the cross of Christ was pointless and unnecessary.

And therefore, when you say that there are other ways to God, you deny the gospel; and in the end, you mislead the one you love on the true and the only way to heaven. And when you come right down to it, that doesn’t seem to be a very neighborly thing to do.


For Monday, February 16: Acts 5


Posted by on February 13, 2015 in Uncategorized


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