Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.
(Hebrews 1:1-2 ESV)
This past Sunday we looked at how the Gospel answers the pluralistic worldview of our culture. Pluralism is the belief that every religious worldview is equally valid and equal, and therefore each religion must be accepted as true. This goes far beyond the idea of living in tolerance toward people of other faiths and supporting their religious liberty. Pluralism calls us to assert the truthfulness of all religions and embrace them all as equal. The pull of this is powerful because when we do not embrace the pluralistic view our culture quickly labels followers of Jesus as bigots and egotistical. The challenge, as it always has been for those who know Jesus, is to hold the truthfulness of the Gospel with grace and truth.
The danger of pluralism is that when we begin to drift toward this view we will inevitably begin to lose a central Christian truth, that Christianity is a revealed religion. This means that at the core followers of Jesus believe that God is a personal God who has spoken and has chosen to reveal Himself in ways that make him knowable and known. At the heart, pluralism denies the knowability of God, and rejects that there is really any truthful revelation. There is no such thing as Truth (with a capital “T”) revealed by God, rather, there are truths that are discovered by us as humans. And while your “truth” and my “truth” may be in contradiction, pluralism says since we don’t ultimately know for sure we must embrace all of these “truths” as equal and valid. This is exactly why followers of Jesus cannot embrace pluralism. God has not left us to ourselves to find our own path to our own set of truths to believe. God has spoken. He has stepped in to our story and has made Himself known. We are not left guessing as to the character and nature of God, because God has spoken.
Pluralism declares that since there is so much disagreement about God, this must be evidence that God cannot be ultimately known. But the Gospel shows us a speaking God who has not left us guessing. And while God is always larger than our intellect can conceive, He has chosen to condescend Himself coming near to us so that we can know Him. But we cannot know the One True God by shaping Him to fit our concept of God. Rather, if God has spoken the task we have as people is to open our eyes to see and our ears to hear what He has said, and then bow our knee to the God who is. Yet, herein lies the problem. In our sin our eyes are blind and ears deaf to the God who exists and created all things. Blind eyes cannot be made seeing, deaf ears hearing, and dead hearts are not made alive by the pluralistic view of God. Rather, it actually adds layers of scales to blind eyes and wax in deaf ears so that those who hold this view are more unable to see the True God who saves.
The Gospel begins with the God who is and tells us that this God has spoken, made Himself known. The Bible affirms that God has spoken in various ways. Paul tells us that God has made his existence and nature visible in His creation (Romans 1:19-20). God also speaks to us through our conscience (Romans 2:14-15) as He has written the Law on our hearts. Theologians have often called God’s revelation in creation and the conscience general revelation, because God has made himself known to all people in these ways. But the Scriptures also show us that these forms of revelation are not sufficient to lead us to salvation, because our response to general revelation is to change the nature of God to fit our desires rather than seeking God and repenting. So God also spoke through the formation of Israel as a special people in the Old Testament and by giving us the Scriptures that show His character. In the Old Testament story God speaks to these people through the prophets telling all of us exactly who He is, that He is One God, holy, just, righteous, loving, powerful, creator, sovereign. Furthermore, God shows us His character as He interacts with His chosen people, the Hebrews in the Old Testament. We see his justice and grace at work among these people in real ways so we can know God by His acts. And we also see God’s redemption plan on stage before our eyes as God continually promises a redeemer who will rescue and restore God’s people and the world. The New Testament tells us that God has come into the world Himself in the person of Jesus. Jesus continually told people that if they wanted to know who God was and what God looked like they should look to Him, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father (John 14:9).” The wrath and grace of God are on full display as Jesus dies on the cross, as God pours the entire cup of His wrath out on His Son giving him the justice that was due us, and then giving grace to undeserving people. The story of Jesus in the New Testament is a truthful record of God’s speech through His Son sent to the world. God has spoken, He has given us His perfect Word and has sent Jesus into the world. God is not silent, He has made Himself by speaking in His Word and through His Son. Then God gave the Holy Spirit to the church, the active voice of God who speaks to us as we look on Jesus, read the Scriptures, and live on mission.
The danger of pluralism is that at the very point I begin to embrace this view I begin to deny any of this as revelation. Either God has spoken, or God is a distant mysterious figure who cannot be known. If God has spoken our task as humans is to hear what He has said and respond with worship and obedience. If God has not spoken our task is to discover truth as best we can. The beauty of the message of the Gospel is that God has not left us guessing. He has revealed Himself, He can be known, and to know God is to be made right and full. But this truth, that the Gospel is a revealed faith, should always push us away from pride. You didn’t discover Christianity and the Gospel because you are smarter than everyone else, or because you went on the best journey of faith. Rather, we know that God chose the fooling things of the world, and chose to make blind eyes see, deaf ears hear, and dead hearts alive. We can’t hold the Gospel in a prideful way, just not possible. So when we speak to those of other religions we must care deeply and interact with great love and grace, never trying to take a position of superiority. But we also cannot deny the Gospel that is rooted in God’s revelation. Because only the Gospel can do the same for your Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, or pluralistic friend what it did for you.