Saturday, 28 August 2010

What About Other Religions?

This is a follow up, with further thoughts, to my previous post. The question obviously arises, "What about good people following other religions -- will they be saved?"

I was once asked, during an Alpha discussion, "Can a good Buddhist be saved?" My answer was this: "I don't think so, but a bad Buddhist might." What did I mean by that?

I believe, as I have stated constantly, that God has revealed Himself to all mankind, throughout all history, both through an inner awareness and external evidence, sufficiently enough that no one has any excuse for not realizing His existence. In fact, I believe that this innate awareness is the basis for all religion. Various religions are either an attempt to reach, or please, or satisfy, or mollify this Entity, or an attempt to avoid Him by focusing on something else often most notably our own inner self or strengths, which is the oldest lie in the book, "...you will be like God,..." (Genesis 3:4). Christianity, on the other hand, I believe is the first and only, "non-religion," completely unique among the panoply of faith or belief systems, in that it is principally a record of something that has happened in history. The term, "gospel" means, "good news," and that is what Christianity is. It is a reporting of what this God has done for the salvation of His people: He has come to us, because nothing we can or could do could enable us to reach Him, and He has paid the price necessary for us to be in a true relationship with Him forever. Yes, there is much theology beyond that, but basically Christianity is a record of how God accomplished something on our behalf that we could never do on our own.

So what about this ,"bad Buddhist"? Well, first of all, let me say that I believe, along with my Calvinist friends, that salvation is all, 100%, of God. God draws us (we could not even seek Him if He didn't) and it is He, and He alone who regenerates us, fills us with His Holy Spirit, and brings us into His kingdom. I don't believe at all in, "decisional regeneration," that by making a decision for Christ, we are saved. I believe the only legitimate decision we can make to follow Him is made after He has already given us new life, in response to our realization of what He has aready done.

But let's say God is revealing Himself to a practising Buddhist, or one of any other faith. Buddhism may be all the religion this person has ever known. He may have been reaise from childhood in it. But if God is truly drawing this person, even though he might continue all the rituals of his religion, he would have to, I believe, begin to have the dawning of doubt that what he was practising was true. I believe he might, after performing the prescribed religious rituals in public, return to the privacy of his room and pray to the God he somehow knows is there, saying something like, "Whoever You are out there, I know that You are something more than what I have been taught. Thank You." In other words, he would have to begin to believe that his own religion, whatever it is, is wrong. It does not have all the answers. It is not bringing him closer to fulfilling his need to know and worship the true Creator of the universe and all that is in it.

Can people be saved through other religions? I would have to say no. People are not saved by religion, but by God Himself. But can He save people of other religions? Why not? I suppose one could say that God can save people out of other religions, just as He can out a wooden and dead professed Christianity.

Now I know I will be accused by some of arrogance for my conviction that Christianity is true and all other religions false. Believe me it is not arrogance, but just the opposite. My true sense is one of great humility and thankfulness. One will remember the saying that communicating the truths of Christianity is just one beggar telling another where to find bread. And that's all it is. I am doing my best to communicate what I believe, and to do it with gentleness and respect, as we are commanded to do.

We can only then pray that those with ears to hear will hear.

Take Care

(h/t G.K Chesterton; The Everlasting Man)

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Inclusive or Exclusive: What about Those Who Have Never Heard?

What happens to those who have never heard the gospel? We discussed This sermon in a recent Wednesday night Bible study. It involves one of the most frequently asked, and hotly debated questions of Christians and skeptics alike. What it comes down to is this:

Is conscious faith in Jesus Christ necessary for justification or can God apply the benefits of Jesus' sacrifice to someone who either has not heard about it, or does not fully understand it?

I'm afraid I take the somewhat inclusive view that perhaps He can. I'm not stating categorically that He does, because I can't say that I know for sure, but I also believe that no one can say categorically that He can't, or doesn't, because neither can they know for sure.

Then, on Stand Firm I came across This from R.C. Sproul on the very same subject; What about the innocent native? Listen to it all; it is less than 20 minutes.

Sproul makes some valid points;
- that there are no innocent natives in far-off corners of the world. "All have sinned..." of that there can be no doubt.
- that no one is off the hook because they have not heard of Jesus. They may not have rejected Jesus, but they certainly have rejected God the Father.

But here, I think, is where he actually begins to contradict his own position. He cites Psalm 19
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.

and Romans 1
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him,

... as evidence, and quite rightly, that God has revealed Himself to all people everywhere, and no one can claim, when they stand in judgment, they were not given enough evidence. I would add Acts 17 to the body of Scriptural evidence.

But it seems to me that if God has given all mankind enough evidence to condemn those who reject Him in spite of it, He has also given, by corollary, sufficient evidence to save those who might turn to Him and trust Him because of it. And who's to say they can't. Abram did -- and every other 'Old Testament saint,' even those before Abram, before there were 'Jews,' God's chosen people. And those are just the ones we read about in the Bible. Could there have been others, even in other parts of the world? Well... why not?

There can be no doubt that no one can come to the Father except through Christ. That is indisputable. But how narrowly or broadly is John 14:6-7 to be interpreted? Certainly, if not for the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, there would be no hope of salvation for anyone.

But can God apply the benefits of that sacrifice to those who have not heard, but trust Him according to the extent He has revealed Himself? Can He apply those same benefits to those incapable of understanding; the mentally ill or infants?

Again, I do not say that he can't. I like to think I allow God a little more sovereignty than those who claim that He doesn't.

Take Care

(Just a further thought)
Someone might say that people before the time of Christ were saved because they believed in God's promise of a coming Redeemer, and of courst, that is true. But the first promise was given to Adam and Eve, from whom all humanity has descended. So presumably, in addition to God's common evidence of Himself, all their descendents, (and ultimately, all descendents of Noah and his family, through whom the human race was begun anew), which includes all mankind since, has had access to, and awareness of this same promise.

Just thinkin'.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Why?

Giving not just limited to the faithful
Atheist movement encourages generosity Beyond Belief


An atheist, Dale McGowan, executive director of the Alpharetta, Ga.-based Foundation Beyond Belief, wants to encourage his fellow non-believers to give more to charity.

He apparently thinks that the reason people of faith give more to various charities, both religious and secular, is that by giving to their religious institution once a week when the plate is passed, they form a "giving habit" and therefore are more likely to give even to other causes. The obvious question is, "What???" It is as if a person drives the same route everyday from home to work. Then meaning to go the drug store instead of work, they inadvertently turn left instead of right at a given intersection and end up at work instead of the store. So a person of faith who gives to a secular organization, the Cancer Society, let's say, must then pound their forehead in frustration and say, "Opps! I didn't mean to give to cancer research, but I give every Sunday at church and it's just become a habit! I can't seem to break it."

The article closes with Mr McGowan saying,
"The most important human calling is to care for each other, this world, and this life,"
And the obvious question, to me, is, "Why?" On what basis does he make this statement? On what grounds does he consider it to be true? Once again atheists try to whistle past the graveyard. Once again they attempt to pretend that the total illogic of their thinking doesn't exist, or at least will go unnoticed.

There is no objective reason why atheists should think that charitable giving is good. There is no reason why they should think that anything at all is good, because they have no other standard for their opinion than, well,... just that -- their own opinion. Now I'm not saying that charitable giving, religous or secular, is not good. I'm just saying that the atheist really has no basis on which to insist it is good, other than some warm and fuzzy feeling.

In the end, logical thinking is to the atheist as clothes were to the emperor -- just not there.

Take Care

(Updated to address comment #1, and an attempt to clear up any misunderstanding, based on my comment #2)

I am not saying that atheists do not do good. Many atheists may indeed do more "good" than many Christians. I am not talking about doing good; I am talking about defining what good is, and ultimately, the atheist has no objective basis for his definition other than his own opinion. Without an objective standard; that is, one from an authority above and outside of ourselves, "good" becomes only a subjective concept, subject to individual opinion. If he claims societal standards, these are nothing more than the sum of a number of individual opinions. If he claims "the benefit of humanity" (or the greatest part of humanity), that too is nothing more than an opinion. And without an objective standard, one person's opinion can not be claimed to be any more or less valid than any other.

I am not trying to be arrogant; just realistic.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Thank You Edson, Thank You God

Today was my final Sunday as a regular attendee at Edson Baptist Church. I can still remember the evening, about seven years ago, when I looked in the local paper to find that Edson Baptise held a Bible study on Wednesday evenings. I can remember joining for the first time a group of strangers who would become a new family to me.

Today was a day of mixed emotions. We have sold our house and move back to the Edmonton area this coming Friday, so next Sunday will be our first Sunday back at the church home we left those years ago in Edmonton. I am now officially a senior citizen, so am stepping back somewhat from my current position (store manager here in Edson), even though I expect to stay with my current employer in some capacity back in the Edmonton area. The move back to Edmonton is an answer to much prayer for God's will to be accomplished in our lives, and trust that it would be. Ever since we left, I have been unable to shake the conviction that God still had work for us back there. It certainly turned out to be His timing and not ours, but I am grateful that my wife and I, over about the past two years, actually came to a place of complete trust in His goodness and sovereignty.

I am truly thankful for my time in Edson, especially for my time attending Edson Baptist. What a joy and an encouragement to sit under solid Christ-centered teaching, in a fellowship free of the controversies of creeping liberalism. Now I find myself stepping away from the security of complete orthodoxy, back into a world controversy. Why? I don't know. What are we stepping into? Again, I don't know. But I am convinced that we are returning to whatever it is God has called us to do; however He has called us to serve.

I said to the congregation today, and I hope I was not misunderstood, that little Edson, a small town on the Yellowhead highway in west-central Alberta, and particularly Edson Baptist, is blessed beyond what they may know to have a pastor like Terry Staufffer, who preaches Christ unabashedly and uncompromisingly. One thing I will take from my time here is a reinforced conviction of the absolute centrality of Jesus Christ.

Pastor Terry and I had many discussions on various aspects of theology; Calvinism, election and the sovereignty of God come to mind in particular. I found that such discussions helped either form, transform or reinforce my own thinking in these areas. In some I found my view modifying toward his, in some solidifying my position in some of our differences, but in any case, the interaction was invaluable. I link to both Pastor Terry and Edson Baptist Church at the bottom of my blog, and those links will stay.

So thank you Edson, for my time here, and Thank you God, for bringing me here.

But thank You too, for taking me back home.

Take Care

Islam Means "Peace?"

From the Q'ran,
[Sura 2.256] There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error;

In other words, Islam should be able to stand on its own, in its own defence. There should be no need to kill or convert others by force, or to fear proselytising by other faiths. Muslims must have enough confidence in the rightness of their faith to believe it can stand on its own strength against any attack, or any other belief system...
But apparently not...
Eight volunteer medics shot dead in Afghanistan
Unarmed team called 'Christian missionaries' by Taliban
Gunmen shot dead eight foreign medical-aid workers in the remote forests of north Afghanistan, their charity said Saturday as the Taliban claimed it killed them for being "Christian missionaries."
The bullet-riddled bodies of five men, all Americans, and three women, an American, a German and a Briton, were found in the northeastern province of Badakhshan on Friday, said the provincial police chief.

This action by the followers of the, "religion of peace" makes a mockery of their own holy book. It demonstrated vividly their own insecurity regarding the religion they profess to be true.

These Islamic extremist have been promised paradise, but how surprised will they be to wake up and find themselves in hell.

Take Care