Thursday, August 10, 2006

a second look

To be honest, I was a little disturbed at Care & Share Group last night. Somehow the little theological debate that took place on who gets into heaven, and who doesn't, got me a little sick to the stomach. It just all sounded so exclusive. Like we're only interested to know whether our Buddhist neighbour across the street is invited to the party, or not.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not pointing fingers because it's nobody's fault, really. Most Christians have indeed been brought up with these foundations that we have built our Christian faith upon. I was once like that too. Actually, I see myself straddling both sides, with one half of me still holding on to traditional Christian foundations, with the other side reaching out in search of answers to questions that had never been answered satisfactorily.

Once again, I have to blame Brian McLaren for this. I've just finished reading The Last Word and the Word After That for the second time (I really had to) and my head is still spinning as I struggle to digest everything. The scary thing is that I agree with the way he sees things!

To put it very simply, it bothers me to use exclusive and Jesus in the same sentence. Reading about Jesus' life and His teachings in the Gospels seems to imply that He was about inclusion, not exclusion.

And before anyone starts to write me off as a heretic, here's what I believe...

I believe that Jesus is the only way, that He is the embodiment of truth and of life as God had purposed for mankind to live. And I believe that He IS the only way for us to come into an interactive relationship with God.

But to say that you have to believe in Him in a certain way in order to gain access into the "in" club has just been something that I cannot comprehend. To me, it actually sounds like what the Pharisees would say.


udonotknowme1 said...

is it fear or ignorance that brings no replies to this post?

discordant_dude said...

"Actually, I see myself straddling both sides, with one half of me still holding on to traditional Christian foundations, with the other side reaching out in search of answers to questions that had never been answered satisfactorily."

Hey JV, I can so relate with your statement above... maybe we can form a "straddler's club" or something like that in PJGH ;)

The question of hell is bugging me too but I think my response depends on WHO ask the question and WHY it is asked.

So did you voice out your concerns in C&S group?

yv - your cous said...

hiyee couZ!!
i'm doing fine here @ my new work place..u take care yah?
see ya soon ^__^

jv. said...

udonotknowme1: you know what...i don't know. but i do know who you are ;)

dude: no i didn't. didn't know how "safe" an environment it was to air what i was thinking. plus my thoughts were really all over the place then and i needed time to sort them out a little. oh well, if they somehow read this post, maybe an interesting dialogue could ensue! =p

yv: the other "v" in the block! hallo! send me an email with your new work contact details.

udonotknowme1 said...

You know, these questions have been asked but people keep beating around the bush, making lots of theories that often lead back to the fact that our minds can't completely understand God's plan or see the big picture.

I hope to get answers. Still, I do believe that God is fair and it is for Him to judge, not us.

Keith said...

The question for me is what is the "certain way" of believeing in Jesus? Doesn't believing in Jesus mean believing in Jesus. The point is as we can see many people who are sincere about believing in Christ desire to follow Him according to the Bible. So if they follow the Bible I don't think there's an issue lah. That's what confuses me over McClaren is that it's quite vague. Put it this way. Would a gay person who wants to be a Christian, but still wants to keep his sexual orientation go to heaven. or how about this one, Will Sue Thomas (if she were really sincere about her faith) go to heaven even if she is teaching heracies? Interestin to think right? But what does the bible say?

Keith said...

Or Maybe I'm looking at it the wrong way. Maybe it's this. In terms of Non-christians becoming Christians there always seems to be conditions for becoming a christian rather than just accepting that the person wants to be a christian. It's not explicitly pointed out but basically every one knows I have to stop smoking (for example cos I want to be a christian) or i mustn't be gay anymore in order to become a christian. What if the person is still gay or what if the guy still smokes? But what if it was the other way around. I say I want to be a Christian regardless of what my life is like at the moment. I say I want to begin following Jesus and have a relationship with Him and then that transforms me into the person He wants me to be regardless of what I was before. Am I making sense? Isn't that what it is in the first place? Do you think we have put Earthly conditions that stand in the way of people following Jesus? By that i mean the gay guy doesn't want to become a Christian because Christians don't like gay people or he is not willing to stop being gay to become a christian. I could accept that as being exclusivist. Because I could accept that this guy is on a "jouney" lah. I believe at some point he'll say i can't be gay anymore because Jesus said go and sin no more. Ok Maybe this hypothetical question instead. If a Buddhist guy comes along and says I want to know who this Jesus Christ is. I want to know his teaching because he is a great teacher(note he doesn't refer to Christ as God)and I want to follow Him. Does this make this Buddhist a Christian? Usually we say no he's not. He's maybe seeking or just interested or just being the Buddhist that he is, tolerent of all religions. Does Brian McClaren think that this guy is a Christian already because he has started down this road? I believe that if the Buddhist is sincere enough that fella will one day say yes Jesus is God and Lord just like Peter said "away from me Lord for I am a sinful man" or how Thomas said "my Lord and My God", or like countless others who have experienced Jesus for who he really is. Our response to that?

jv. said...

A lot of good and relevant points there. To be frank, I don't really know how to answer some of them. Well, you are right. sometimes, there are a number of grey areas and I'm not absolutely sure how things will work out in the end.

I'm sure of a few things however. Firstly, I believe in the insurmountable goodness of God and that He Himself IS love. I think our present framework of belief can never fully comprehend the inner workings of God and I truly believe that God is better than we can ever make Him out to be.

Secondly, I believe that we cannot stay put with our present understanding of what is like be a Christian. Does a person need to fit into our "Christian mold" before he is considered a Christian? And like what you mentioned, so what about gays, prostitutes and murderers? Are they cast out of the kingdom of God with no hope of redemption whatsoever? Jesus hung out with these kind of people and I see Him accepting them without being judgemental.

I thought what you mentioned about the Buddhist guy pretty interesting. Here's what I think. In that scenario that you mentioned, I wouldn't be too quick to write him off as a Christian. What is a Christian? Acts refers to the disciples of Christ. If this Buddhist (is he still a Buddhist then?) guy lives his life in the ways of Christ, doesn't that make him a disciple of Christ? Note that nothing is mentioned about saying the "sinners' prayer"! ;)

Btw, who's Sue Thomas??

Keith said...

ooops sorry I meant Choo Thomas the woman who wrote the book about heaven. Yah see the sinners prayer thing.... Anyone can say the sinners prayer but really it's the fruit that comes out of a life lived for Christ that will show that the person has really become a Christian.
Sometimes thinking about it too much also complicates things. The Bible is clear it does tell us to repent and be saved. But it doesn't say if your a buddhist this is how you are to be saved. Or if you are gay you must be saved in this way.
The way we are saved is when we repent and we no longer want to live our way but Christ's way. By saying that and believing that(or being in the process of believing that)We then become reliant on Christ for salvation because nothing we can do or say(even the sinner's prayer)can ever grant us Salvation. Although we cling to this theology and know it to be true, in practice we sometimes basically glaze over that fact and go straight into placing emphasis on the sinner's prayer and go "ok you're a Christian" after they say it. Maybe it's not so clear cut sometimes. But maybe it is for others. We're human beings not robots. There can never be a cookie cutter type formula for becoming a Christian. Many people we think shouldn't be in the kingdom might throw us a suprise curve ball and end up there. Maybe they'll be those people who say "Lord when did we clothe you when you were naked and feed you when you were hungry and so on so forth....(disclaimer: that last sentence is not official interpretation of the passage found in the Bible so if I have made a mistake in interpreting it that way somebody please correct me) I donno just thinking out loud.

jv. said...

"Many people we think shouldn't be in the kingdom might throw us a suprise curve ball and end up there. Maybe they'll be those people who say 'Lord when did we clothe you when you were naked and feed you when you were hungry' and so on so forth...."

Isn't that an interesting proposition? I think there is a similar story in one of the Narnia books where this person (I can't remember who it is) who has been following this "pagan god" all his life, faces Aslan in judgement at the end. As he shivers in fear before Aslan in realisation that he had been on the wrong side all the while, Aslan says something like "while i reject all the evil that you did during your life, i accept all the good that you have done for all the good you did during your life, you did it in my name (whether realising it or not), for all things good come from me."

adrian said...

I quote: "But to say that you have to believe in Him in a certain way in order to gain access into the "in" club has just been something that I cannot comprehend. To me, it actually sounds like what the Pharisees would say."

I pray you will comprehend this, that the bible emphatically teaches that we are to come (and must) come in a certain way. While we proclaim that Jesus is the way, we still have need to fully grasp the meaning of it. JESUS is THE way certainly means exclusivity (i have put both words in the same sentence). You can't come to God by the way and manner of your choosing, no matter how sincere or right you may think you are. Salvation is of the Lord. The true WAY is of utter dependance upon the efficacy of Christ perfect substitutionary death, sought through true godly repentance in faith. It is an appeal to the mercy of God of which we have no claim of entitlement to, apart from His divine grace.

David repented before the Lord and sought mercy, Psalm 51:1,2 "Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin."

Without genuine repentance & faith, what kind of salvation is it? That is why not many who call Him "Lord, Lord" will find entrance into heaven. Sadly, it is often men's cheap manipulation, by trying to quickly 'seal the deal' and having them mouth out a callous "sinner's prayer" that i fear will condemn many souls to the fires of hell. It must be sought through repentance and faith upon the work of Christ alone.

I have picked a few verses for consideration. See for yourself, the biblical principles of so called 'exclusion' and 'inclusion'. The entry requirements into heaven as taught in Holy writ, you can see are inflexible. God does not bend His back to accomodate or relax rules. That is not what grace is.

Mat 7:13 "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."

Joh 14:6 "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."

Joh 10:9 "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture."

Luk 5:32 "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance."

Rev 20:15 "And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."

While it is true that we can come to God in whatever vile sinful state or condition of life we're in (for God accepts the repentant sinner), we most certainly cannot come in simply any way we see is fitting. Let us not usher seekers through the wrong door by mean of a defective preaching of the gospel.

No fence stradling on this one i'm afraid.

Er Lern said...

The post reminds me a lot of this video of John Macarthur.

Notice he uses exclusive and Jesus in the same sentence, without flinching. :)

jv. said...

Adrian and Er Lern:

Please see my post entitled "good news".

Er Lern:

Well, I am not exactly sure what Bishop Talbot meant when he said something the effect that We are not to convert other religions but we are called to live the Christian faith in the light of those other religions. If that statement is taken to suggest a passive role for Christians in relation to other religions, I would have to disagree with the Bishop.