Sunday, July 24, 2011

On Christian Arrogance

The modern relativistic approach to religion:

is the refusal to identify the unique historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth with the reality of God, the living God himself, since it is held that absolute being, or the absolute being, can never be completely or finally revealed in history.
Pilgrim Fellowship of Faith, 210

Reflection – Indeed, isn’t it a total act of arrogance of Christians to claim, in the face of the competing great world religions and the hundreds if not thousands of smaller, more localized and personal ones, that our little Jesus, this one little person in the vast history of human persons, is It? Or rather, Him?
How dare we? God, if we allow for one, is clearly universal, eternal, infinite, and all-encompassing. How can we say that this God above all other realities could make himself known fully in a single human life? What about all the Hindu avatars of the deity? What about the revelation to Mohammed? What about the Buddhist path? What about so many other religious lights and insights and beauties coming to us from virtually every corner of humanity?
How dare we say that this little man, this one Jewish carpenter and itinerant preacher from 2000 years ago somehow trumps all of that? Somehow is the final and ultimate revelation of God? Is this even possible?
So runs a typical modern objection to the truth claims of Christianity. It seems like a strong one to lots of people. And of course, a mature Christian faith does recognize the truth present in every other religion, every world view, religious or not. Indeed we have no problem acknowledging there is some fragment of truth present in every human heart.
But we do maintain that Jesus is the fullness of this truth. How can we? How dare we? Well, to start with, it seems to me that the religious relativistic position is based on some concept of God that is a bit… well, impersonal. Like God is some big cloud out there, floating in some spiritual ether.
But what if God is, in some sense, a person? What if this personal God actually wants us to really know Him, really possess as much of the truth of Himself as we can bear in our current state?
Wouldn’t He need to reveal this fullness of truth… somewhere? At some time? And therefore (by strict logical necessity) to some specific people? It’s not like we paltry human creatures are going to figure out this fullness of truth. We needed to be told.
So someone, somewhere got told. Was it Mohammed, or Buddha, or the Hindu tradition? Or did God Himself want to come and tell us about Himself?
Once we put it in those terms, the charges of arrogance and presumption fail. If God is a person and really does want us to know Him, the only question is when, where, and by what means this transmission of knowledge has occurred.
Now, note that this short presentation of our Christian idea of revelation does not mean that there’s nothing more for us to learn about God. I personally hope that in heaven I will continue to learn more about God forever. But that Jesus reveals to us as much as we can grasp now – that’s our idea.
The question really hinges on whether or not God wants to be known, wants to have an intimate personal relationship with His human creatures. If He does, then something like Christian revelation is required. If not, then not.

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