There Is a God and He Has a Son

There has been a great deal of discussion among those in the Christian writing community about “Christian fiction,” and now it would seem there is even a discussion of what it means to be a Christian. I ran across an interesting post via Looking Closer Journal, Jeffrey Overstreet’s blog. I’m referring to sometime-Christianity Today-movie-reviewer Brett McCracken’s post Christianity 101: Exclusivity.

In this article McCracken lays out a well-thought explanation of the exclusive nature of Christianity, and don’t ya know, one of the commenters took exception:

For many christians, historically and currently, exclusivism is not a tenable position. There’s a huge body of theological work surrounding this issue

Well, no wonder people become atheists or even deists. I mean, if all gods are the same, and we have these insurmountable problems that we can’t control, and everyone’s in the same boat, then how could you believe in a god who gives a rip.

The claims of Christianity separate from the claims of other religions, not at the cross so much as at the manger, though the two really are a package deal. No other religion has God taking the form of man in order for humans to have a relationship with God.

Some religions think Man can become god-like, some think Man can do what it takes to become presentable to God. What these belief systems miss is how Other God is from His fallen creatures. His holiness is perfect. So is His goodness. And His righteousness. Who is Man to think he can enter into the presence of perfection with his “Yo, God, did ya catch me doling out my change to the Salvation Army bell ringer” attitude.

Man buys into universalism, in my opinion, because he does not recognize his own spiritual need. After all, we’ve grown up hearing “I’m OK, you’re OK.” One thing that almost always raises hackles is the notion that Man is sinful. Sure, no one is perfect, but, hey, we’re all good. Huh? There’s a disconnect between those statements that doesn’t seem to bother anyone. Anyone believing in universalism, that is.

McCracken’s conclusion was right on, I thought:

the final solution, in Christianity’s view, is none other than Jesus Christ himself. Not just the general, social reform causes he championed, but Jesus Christ the man: God incarnate. He offers himself to all—no matter where you where born or what you have done—and in that way he is the most inclusive.

I realize some with Calvinist leanings will differ with this last statement, but the first, I believe, is essential.

I was thinking about this in regards to Dr. Flew who I wrote about in yesterday’s post. Here’s a man who holds to the David Hume need for empirical evidence to support his beliefs. But God gave empirical evidence by sending His Son. He sent corroborating witnesses who wrote down what they observed. He sent a visible representation of His Holy Spirit, and that too was recorded for history. What other god has reached down to Man like that to make himself known?

Of course, the ultimate capper was Jesus The High Priest and King becoming the Sacrifice so that sinful Man could come into the presence of Holy God. That’s what Christianity is all about. As McCracken alluded to, it is not an organized religion advocating that people imitate Jesus. It is a relationship with God that spurs us to the love and forgiveness of others we have first experienced from Him.

So, back to what is Christian fiction. 😀

Published in: on November 8, 2007 at 1:44 pm  Comments (20)  
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20 Comments

  1. Me again, Becky!

    Wow…again!! You really don’t shy away from the hard subjects do you??? Good for you!! Thanks for making all of us who read here think more deeply about the most important aspect of our life, salvation through Jesus Christ!!

    Amen! and Thanks!

    Kim

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  2. Well, I’m certainly of Calvinist leanings and I saw nothing that any good Calvinist would object to in that quote by McCracken. Of course Christ offers himself to all no matter where they are from or what they have done. Not only does he offer himself to all men, he commands all men to repent and be saved.

    Now had McCracken said Christ offered himself FOR all, then you would be right in saying that we Calvinists would have a little problem with his views.

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  3. I take Jesus very seriously when he says he is THE way and THE truth, not a way and not a truth.

    And I take him even more seriously when he says in the gospel of John: “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

    Christ is exclusivist. Therefore, Christians, who by name are followers and disciples and believers in that Christ, must, must be exclusivists. To be otherwise is to make Christ a liar.

    And as far as the “to all” and “for all”. Whatever. Without him and his atoning, propitiating, justifying, sanctifying death and resurrection, you are lost and will remain lost.

    It’s sobering, but truth usually is.

    Baruch haShem.
    Mir

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  4. I believe the rub for those who question or challenge Christian claims of exclusivity is the problem created by those claims. For instance, if Jesus is the only way to God then billions of souls who’ve never heard of Him, people born into pagan systems, are condemned to hell. If no one can come to the Father except through Christ then EVERY Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, humanist and pygmy is automatically doomed. The problem for me is not necessarily the claims of exclusivity, but how they are communicated and applied. I’m just not ready to consign every Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, humanist and pygmy to Hell on the basis of exclusivity. God bless, Becky!

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  5. Heh heh heh, no ones ever accused me of being shy about voicing my opinion, Kim. 🙂

    Thanks for the doctrinal correction, Sally.

    And Mir, you explained the exclusivity of Jesus very well.

    Which is why I was doubly surprised at your comment, Mike. How is it that you see the exclusive claims of God being presented? I mean, Mir quoted one particular passage that Jesus said. Was he in error to make such a declaration? Or to say that no man comes to the Father except through Him? My point is, these are Jesus’s claims, not someone else’s.

    How do I resolve these claims with the billions of people who never heard of Jesus? Believing in a sovereign, omniscient God eliminates the issue for me. He can send a David Livingston to Africa or a Jim Eliott to Equador or a Don Richardson to New Guinea. He can raise up a computer geek named Ken and have him develop Bible translation software that will reduce translation time by decades. And when the people, those who heard and those who didn’t, die in their sins, it is grievous. GRIEVOUS. But more so for the God Who knows them by name, Who loves them as only Creator God could.

    Jesus lamented over Jerusalem because He wanted to gather its children together “the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were unwilling.” How did he know? Did He go to every one of the people living there and ask them? He knew because He is omniscient. And He lamented.

    As to consigning anyone to Hell, Mike, even the angels don’t do that.

    What we are to communicate is what Jesus had to say. The “application” is really up to each individual. I certainly can’t apply Jesus or my faith in Him or my belief in the truth of what He says about being The way to God, for anyone else.

    How do you understand what Jesus had to say, Mike?

    Becky

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  6. I happen to believe that those who never heard of Christ at all will be judged rightly, and God is just. So, there is a question mark there.

    HOwever, given the global media, I suspect that the majority of people in the world have heard of Jesus, if not favorably disposed to him. Ignorance is no excuse of the law, even under a flawed man-made system. If someone hears the gospel on the radio, the television, in a magazine, through a missionary, and turns away. Well, hey, they can’t say they never heard.

    The ones who actually never heard, but lived up to the light they had, I think there is more than enough mercy with the Lord for such.

    Anyone in this country, shoot, has no excuse. The gospel goes out through airwaves, on the internet, on television, in magazines, in books, on street corners, in songs. This nation is saturated with the gospel. I’m afraid the condemnation here will be great for those who turned up their noses at The Way.

    Mir

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  7. I would also add that I am not the Creator, and I do not know all the plans of His agenda. I have, however, to accept that He who created and owns is He who has the right to do with his creation as He pleases according to his complete knowledge and desires and character.

    The instances in the Bible where God exterminated entire cities or towns or families in wrath tells me we better be careful making him too soft and cuddly. He will destroy whom He wills, just as He will raise up and bless whom He wills according to his total, uncorrupted knowledge. Our rules don’t make it so. Our ideas of justice don’t make it so. God makes it so.

    Mir

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  8. Quote: No other religion has God taking the form of man in order for humans to have a relationship with God.

    ` Hmmm. I just HAD to say this; actually, there have been plenty of God-men who were a lot like Jesus, being conceived by a holy spirit and not a man, an attempt to kill him as an infant, warnings to take him away, not much known about him as a child, performing miraculous healings and resurrections, defeating a king, being crucified at the top of a hill between someone going to heaven and someone going to hell, body isn’t buried in the ground, he’s resurrected, ascended into heaven, no known descendents, etc.
    ` Those are all common themes in God-man stories. And, even the ways of worshipping Jesus were similar to the Pagan religions, i.e. holiday dates, eating bread and wine as body and blood, similar types of baptism, speaking in tongues, etc.
    ` Some early men of the Church believed it was because Christians were copying the pagans – others believed that the devil made up these religions in anticipation of Jesus, in order to turn people away from him.
    ` Among the god-men are Aion, Osiris and Horus, Attis, Bacchus, Antiochus, Dionysus and Asclepius, Mithras and Adonis.
    ` Osiris might be the oldest one – records of him date back to before 2,500 BC!

    ` Anyway, just thought you might think that was interesting!

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  9. Mir said, “The ones who actually never heard, but lived up to the light they had, I think there is more than enough mercy with the Lord for such.” I agree. This is what Romans chs. 1-3 teaches, that all men have the Law written in their hearts and will be judged by their response or non-response to it. But if no one comes to the Father except through Jesus, yet those “who actually never heard” of Him can still find “mercy,” this creates a challenge for our understanding of exclusivity. Unless we can harmonize this “mercy” with Christ’s claims of exclusivity, we’re left to believe that, along with Satanists, atheists, blasphemers and reprobates, God allows all those who’ve never heard of Him — including infants and “good pagans” — to burn in fiery torment, forever, and ever and ever. Not only am I not there, I don’t believe the Bible is. Grace to you all!

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  10. Mike, I think the reason you’re not there is that you think there is such a thing as a good pagan. From our viewpoint there certainly are good pagans. I know some nonChristians who are much “gooder” than some Christians. But from God’s holy viewpoint it’s just not so.

    Without faith it is impossible for a man to please God. Our righteousness is as filthy rags.

    Why?

    Because we all fall short of the glory of God. Our best works are not holy. At our best we are still not worthy to enter God’s presence.

    There is a huge gap between man and God, but God, in his great mercy, sent Christ to reconcile us to God. We were sinful–all of us, even the good pagans among us–and were at enmity with God. Christ’s blood covers us, washes us clean, and brings us to God.

    There is nothing else available to save us.

    So while we see good pagans, innocent children, friendly atheists, God sees only those in Adam and those in Christ. We are born in Adam–he begot children after his own kind. When we are adopted into God’s family we are then made new creatures. We are then in Christ. Without this new birth in Christ, without this adoption into God’s family, we are still in Adam and we are dying and going to hell.

    God, as Becky said, is able to send missionaries to any pagans who want to be saved. It is not like the pagans are begging him for light and he refuses. It’s not like they are longing for him to tell them how to be saved and he won’t speak to them. He longs to save people. He loves to save people. He so wants to save people that he sent his only begotten Son to die for the sins of his enemies.

    Note well, though, that he didn’t so love the world that he said, I’ll save you as long as you live by the light you have. He didn’t so love the world that he will forgive us of our sin even though no payment has been made. He so loved the world that he sent Christ so that whosoever believeth should not perish but have life.

    Infants and those who have never heard of Christ? God is perfect in mercy and justice. I’m with Mir. I can leave them in his hands.

    I think it’s dangerous and unscriptural to assume that they all go to heaven. If that is the case we should stop sending missionaries out and start aborting all our babies. Why preach the gospel to the tribesmen? Why let the babies live? Why take the chance that they’ll reject Christ?

    I know that probably makes you mad. But I think it’s the crux of the whole thing. I look at people as being born under original sin–in a state of enmity with God. Born under wrath. I see them as guilty and going to hell. They need to turn and accept Christ to be saved.

    You seem to look at people as being born good, being born innocent, and going to heaven. You seem to be saying they need to hear about Christ and reject him in order to go to hell.

    Or am I totally misinterpreting you?

    sally

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  11. Sally, while I appreciate the lengthy reply, you’re making lotsa assumptions about what I do and don’t believe. You said, “Infants and those who have never heard of Christ? God is perfect in mercy and justice. I’m with Mir. I can leave them in his hands. I think it’s dangerous and unscriptural to assume that they all go to heaven.” I agree. But it’s equally dangerous to assume all go to hell.

    You’ll notice I put the term good pagans in quotes in my post. Why? Because no one’s perfectly good. It’s a figure of speech describing one’s BEHAVIOR, not their NATURE. So does someone go to hell because of their behavior or their nature? My nature is inherited and I cannot change it. Do people go to hell based upon something they have no decision in and cannot change? My behavior is something I can control. (The only exception is when a jug of Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk is in the freezer.) Likewise, we incarcerate people not because of WHO THEY ARE, but because of WHAT THEY DO.

    So behavior does count for something in God’s economy. The apostle Paul said: “For when Gentiles, who do not have the Law, BY NATURE DO THE THINGS CONTAINED IN THE LAW, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves” (Rom. 2:14 NKJV). The apostle Peter preached to Cornelius, a God-fearing Gentile centurion, and his household: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and WORKS RIGHTEOUSNESS is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35 NKJV). Anyway, there’s a lot of verses that highlight one’s behavior and applaud the simplest steps of faith — even the misinformed and naive.

    Obviously, this debate treads into well-oiled theological systems and could go on forever. Sorry for hijacking the post, Becky. Can I send you a jug of New York Super Fudge Chunk to make up for my thick-headedness?

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  12. “So does someone go to hell because of their behavior or their nature?”

    Well, I obviously believe we go to hell because of who we are, not because of what we do.

    If my behavior is going to buy me a place in heaven or hell, it will buy me a place in hell for sure. My behavior is always falling short.

    My nature, however, no longer falls short. Christ has given me a new nature (1 Cor. 5:17)

    Yes, it is possible for unsaved people to be very moral (be a law unto themselves). Keeping the law will not save anyone, though, Jew or Gentile (Romans 3).

    None of us has ever kept it perfectly, anyway. Only Christ. He has to be the lamb sacrificed in our stead or we are lost.

    Cornelius embraced that truth when he heard it. Cornelius was one of God’s own and God made sure he heard the gospel message.

    And I’m not sorry for hijacking Becky’s thread. =0)

    What better things do we have to talk about?

    I am sorry if I’ve assumed things about your beliefs that are untrue, though. I’m not trying to hang you, Mike. I don’t want to win the argument. I’m simply thinking this is a discussion worth taking some time for.

    sally

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  13. Doh! Speaking of not being perfect. heh heh

    My scripture references above were for 2 Cor. 5:17 (not first Cor.) and for Romans 3:20.

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  14. Hey Becky, first time visiting your blog. Great stuff! This is a very thoughtful post. My favorite pastor always says Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. Anyway, I’ll definitely come back to your blog.

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  15. ` What horrible things are you doing to get yourself into hell? Eating shrimp? (My fav abomination.)
    ` BTW, I DID write something up there if anyone wants to read it!

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  16. hey Spoony. I saw your comment. Sounded very interesting. I don’t have time right now to look into it all, but I’m glad you got involved anyway.

    Good to meet you. =0)

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  17. Spoonyquine, thanks for your persistence. Your post was significant, and I might have let it get away from me. I wanted to do a little checking on what you wrote, but one thing led to another … 😮

    First, I do find the information interesting, but I don’t think this changes the truth of my statement about Jesus being unique. First, he was an historical figure, written about by extra-Biblical writers as well as by Biblical ones. Any other person living 2000 years ago having 8 witness or more writing about him would be considered foundational, not suspect.

    In addition, his claims were unique—that he and the Father are one, for instance, or that he was the way to the Father and no one could come to him except by coming to Jesus. The claims of his disciples are also unique—that he was sinless, for example.

    The basic point is, however, the purpose of Jesus’ coming to earth. He, and he alone, came as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, to provide forgiveness for all who believe. Maybe those other gods could claim a death—not sure about that, I didn’t find enough information on them—but nothing I read seems to indicate there was anything akin to the perfect sacrifice Jesus provided.

    That’s the unique point. I can’t die for anyone else because my own life is forfeit. I am as guilty as everyone else. Except Jesus. He alone is qualified to be the sacrifice for anyone else because he alone was without the nature that condemned him to separation from God. He alone could become the “spotless lamb” to take away the sins of the world.

    Becky

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  18. Rachelle, thanks so much for stopping by. You caught us in a two-pronged discussion here. Feel free to jump in any time. Hope you’ll visit often.

    Becky

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  19. […] clipped from rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com […]

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  20. […] clipped from rebeccaluellamiller.wordpress.com […]

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