What’s the Difference?

difference,saviour

A TIME magazine article by Reynolds Price from November 28, 1999 states that “the single most powerful figure – not merely in these two milleniums [sic] but in all human history – has been Jesus of Nazareth … a serious argument can be made that no one else’s life has proved remotely as powerful and enduring as that of Jesus.”

Dr. James Francis, back in 1926, preached to a group of youth on “the Real Jesus”. The following is an adaptation of his fuller message.

“Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

“He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself…

“While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

“Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.

“I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.”

What is it that distinguishes the founder of our faith from others?

Perhaps, the clearest difference is his exclusive claim not just to be the way to God but to be the God we all long to connect with.

C.S. Lewis, the great atheist turned Christian apologist, states in his book Mere Christianity that

“If you are a Christian you o not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong all through… If you are a Christian you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth… But, of course, being a Christian does mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions, Christianity is right and they are wrong. As in arithmetic – there is only one right answer to a sum, and all other answers are wrong: but some of the wrong answers are much nearer being right than others.”

Barton Priebe, in his book, The Problem with Christianity (p. 111) quotes Albert Mohler from a conference message:

If all we need is a teacher of enlightenment, the Buddha will do; if all we need is a collection of gods for every occasion and need and hope, Hinduism will do; if all we need is a tribal deity, any tribal deity will do; if all we need is a lawgiver, Moses will do; if all we need is  a set of rules and a way of devotion, Muhammad or Joseph Smith will do; if all we need is inspiration and insight into the sovereign self, Oprah will do; but if we need a savior, only Jesus will do.”

Why do you think Jesus is different than all other faith founders? How has this impacted the choices and relationships you make on a day to day basis?

Truth and Culture

Truth and Culture-comforts,values, morals, habits,lifestyles, beliefs

Many of us who are followers of Jesus grow up in a bubble of truth we assume defines reality as it is. To others being nurtured on the sap of secularism the arrogant, or even tentative, truth claims of Christians can only be condemned as intolerant.

The Christian World has just re-energized its foundational beliefs over these past weeks with a focus on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Our music, our liturgy and our focus on the Scripture stories appeal to our soul convictions that we are right in what we ‘preach’ to the world around us.

Our Canadian culture swirls a mix of beliefs, knowledge, laws, social media, art, morals, customs, habits, education, hopes and dreams together to establish what it thinks is acceptable. In this past week, 15 out of 29 members of a junior ice hockey team were killed in a bus crash in Saskatchewan. Only one boy out of the 29 passengers was able to be released from hospital with minor injuries. The whole hockey world deemed it acceptable to pause for moments of silence, for fundraisers, for memorial services, and even for prayers on behalf of the boys and their families.

Humans have a strange habit of dismissing the spiritual realm, life after death and thoughts of eternity as long as life is moving along ‘normally’. It is when something tragic happens that we wake up to something beyond ourselves. Some God-shaped space inside our ‘made in the image of God’ selves wriggles for attention.

Our secular environment has become as normal to us as a fish in an aquarium perceives the water around it. The pollution index and its evidences may be clearer to observers from the outside but for us the norm is what it is.

The one hope that infiltrates our carefully guarded secularism is the immigration of multi-cultural communities working to find a root and an identity in our country, our cities and our churches. Newcomers provide enough of an outside perspective on values, morals, habits, beliefs, knowledge and customs that we are slowly impacted. It might begin with a new food item, a new form of entertainment, a new style of dress, a new expression of music or a new rhythm of relationship.

Our sense of entitlement to the comforts and conveniences of our modern lifestyles is infectious, not only to ourselves, but to newcomers who see and desire. In a world where our mosaic has the possibility of bringing the bright colours of a rainbow, we begin to blend everything into a dull form of brown or grey.

There is a hidden danger here where nothing carries special worth or value any longer. Without a rational basis for holding onto anything as true, humanity has to face up to the numerous empty escapes it perpetuates to distract itself. Relativism captures the laws and moods of our land. Different religions are seen as something like different ways to communicate with a God if such a being exists. This pulls us toward inclusivism which naturally has no room for an exclusive ‘faith’ like Christianity claiming that Jesus alone is the way, the truth and the life.

In what ways do you feel the pressure from our culture in considering that no religious view is better than another? Do you believe something is exclusively true regardless of what others around you say? What basis do you have for establishing your truth as the ultimate truth?