One facet of Christianity that rubs hard on many twenty-first-century minds is summed up tightly in this word: Exclusivity.
In a world of nearly infinite options, it seems unthinkable to some that one should feel “pigeon-holed” when it comes to the salvation. And so we hang on the walls of our minds scenes of mountains with multiple paths of ascent or heavenly cloud-scapes reached by seven billion-plus uniquely crafted ladders.
In a sense, our hearts long for a return to the Tower of Babel, a design-as-you-wish blueprint that, if you are faithful in your efforts, will surely deliver you to whatever awaits “up there”. “All roads lead to God” is the common tongue of every labourer on this scaffolding.
But as in Genesis 11, the word “gibberish” is quickly associated with this scenario.
In a twist on this discussion, Vinoth Ramathandra (a man to whom Timothy Keller introduced me) addresses an associated critique of Christianity, one that depicts religion as being dissociated from the “real world”, as being obsessed with the “spiritual” and out-of-touch, even inappropriately unconcerned, with the here-and-now world.
Ramathandra’s response will induce a pause for both hearty believers and hardened skeptics:
“Christian salvation lies not in an escape from this world but in the transformation of this world. You will not find hope for this physical world in any other religious system or philosophy. The biblical vision is unique. And that is why if someone says, ‘Surely there is salvation in other faiths,’ I always ask them, ‘What salvation are you talking about?’
Not this salvation.
No faith holds out a promise of eternal salvation for the world like the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ do.”
Christianity, if personified, is not the arrogant or presumptuous jerk that some portray, despite the fact that you may have met arrogant and presumptuous jerks with Bibles in hand.
Rather, Christian doctrine is unique by its very nature. You can narrow your gaze on a concept like love or goodness, and then preach on the “common truth” that underlies all religions and philosophies, but you will only be adding to the static. An observation like Ramathandra’s tunes in tighter to the signal and in turn, heightens the dialog.
For Christian fundamentalists, it highlights the care of God toward His current creation. Unlike humanity, God is not always racing ahead to “what’s next”. He deeply loves “what is” and is working for its redemption. For cynics of Christianity, such doctrine at least forces a reconsideration of the concept of hope.
What well do you draw yours from, not just for yourself but for the world in which you live?
Is there any?
Is it wrapped solely in the evolution and development of humanity? Strictly in scientific discovery? An alternative philosophy? A different religion?
YOUR TURN: What do you make of Ramathandra’s assessment of Christianity’s unique tone of hope for this world? Christian or not, what are you striving to do/be as an agent of hope in our world? Your input makes this post better!
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