I was talking to my girlfriend last night about the issue of the exclusivity of Christianity. I have moved from seeing belief in Jesus as the only way to know God, to a more inclusive position, where I see God as present in every culture, expressed in a variety of narratives. Her primary objection was that Jesus spoke of himself as the only way to God, and that his coming seemed to be the absolute primal narrative by which God would intervene with every human being. This is conservative christianity’s central claim of superiority over all other religions.
I now believe that such a view is a misunderstanding of what Jesus was trying to say, and a misapplication of subsequent apostolic teaching. I arrived at this position because I had raised a serious question of my belief in hell. In A New Kind of Christian, Neo, who is one of the central characters, speaks of the process of turning the lense towards yourself and your way of thinking. When you do, asking questions of your worldview rather than simply assuming its truth, you can be quite shocked at what you see. I had assumed a rather straightford, Calvinistic interpretation of hell as the deserved judgment of the world. Some were elected to mercy, and some were left in the state of damnation. This is a horrible notion, a terrible way of viewing God. It was listening to R.C. Sproul that led me to this position, and later reinforced by John Piper. Both are well-respected, bright and articulate communicators who strongly hold to the Calvinist position.
I had to reject the position on the grounds that I could not conceive of a God who would create people to be eternally tormented. These are fickle people who can easily make mistakes. Why are we to blame for the sin problem? And how can our eternal future rest on accepting the Christian position on Jesus, whatever that is? Much of evangelical Christianity promotes this mentality, that all we really need to do is get people to pray ‘the sinner’s prayer’, which then guarantees them eternal life. So preaching works to stir listeners into such an emotional state that they say these words, and once they had done so, welcome to the family, come join our church. At a later time I’ll post up my story of faith, as it was not conviction of sin or speaking words that led to my conversion.
So I come to reject hell, and as a consequence begin to raise questions on every part of my belief system. I’ll continue this dialogue in another post soon.