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By David Kowalski
Pluralism, (some people might insists that I qualify the term as "inclusive, religious pluralism" -- by whatever name this is a view I do not hold) which is becoming increasingly popular in some churches, is the view that assents that Christ may somehow be the one ultimately responsible for some kind of “salvation,” but specific belief in Him or what He did for us on the cross is not necessary to receive the benefit of what He accomplished for mankind. All that is required, they say, is sincerity and an effort to be a nice person.
Dallas Willard expressed this view during a question and answer session at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church pastored by John Ortberg, who lent his approval to the statement. Willard insisted that neither Christ nor His salvation is limited to the confines of Christianity. He said Christians are no more saved than others:
“Being a Christian does not mean you are saved any more than anyone one else either from another religion or from no religion at all. Salvation is being a nice person and it has nothing to do with what you believe.”1
Christian particularism is the view that I hold to and will argue for here. It is the view that salvation is only found within the boundaries of a particular belief system regarding who Christ is and what He did for us on the cross. Kevin Allen Lewis expresses it this way:
“Jesus Christ proclaimed, ‘I am the Way, and the truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me’ (John 14:6). The Apostles echoed this claim, stating, “And there is salvation in no one else; there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). This doctrine is known as ‘Christian Particularism.’”2
Pluralists say that to proclaim specific faith in Christ as needful is to “judge.” While we are not the ones who ultimately judge, the Bible tells us that judgment is the Lord's and we are to announce this to others -- not pretend we have no unique message. God wants to forgive and restore people but he can only do so when his justice is satisfied on the basis of a person's faith in the shed blood of Christ, and this message is unique to Christianity.
"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:23-24)3
Ephesians 2:8 says it is by grace we have been saved through faith. Faith is not just a subjective feeling; it has specific, intelligible content. It involves believing in and relying upon the sacrifice of Christ on the cross as the basis of our salvation.
"That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, 'WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.'" (Romans 10:9-11)
Certainly there are things about God that are beyond our comprehension but God has revealed comprehensible things in his Word. Among those is the fact that this faith that believes the Gospel message about Christ and his blood is the only way to receive salvation.
"Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.' (John 14:6)"
And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
Religious pluralists who quote the Bible do so very selectively in an effort to "show" that Christianity does not purport to be superior to other belief systems. The Bible, however, says the world is in darkness.
“And I said, 'Who are You, Lord?' And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 'But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to things in which I will appear to you; rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’ ‘So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.” (Acts 26:15-20)
In biblical terms, this means the world cannot see the truth since it has not been revealed to them by preaching and by the Spirit.. The world’s blindness to truth is accompanied by an inclination toward works of moral darkness.
“But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober.” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6 )
“But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:8)
The Bible then teaches that the Church is supposed to be the light in this darkness. We are commanded to shine as such. This means we should unashamedly proclaim the truth to the world which does not have it and that our lifestyle is to starkly contrast the ways of darkness prevalent in the world. Being light in the darkness presupposes that we do not condescend to any kind of pluralism or relativism. We have God's absolutes.
"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)
“Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.” (John 4:23)
“So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, ‘If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’” (John 8:31-32)
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
“The night is almost gone, and the day is near Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.” (Romans 13:12–13)
As we address the world, we are to call them to repent and believe.
“Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” (Acts 2:38) “And after he brought them out, he said, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household. And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.” (Acts 16:30-32)
“Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds.” – 2 John 9-11
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
The faith that believes the unique, Gospel message also disbelieves contradictory teachings found in other religions. Pluralism is not a biblical concept and any attempt to fit Christianity into a cultural mold that embraces pluralism is intellectually dishonest. Were the whole church to embrace pluralism, we would certainly gain popularity with the world, but we would disobey the One who has commissioned us to be heralds of His good news, and we would do eternal harm to those who do not believe the saving gospel of Jesus Christ. I say that Christian particularism is the view clearly taught in Scripture.
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