Monday, June 23, 2008

New Poll Shows Pluralism Rules the Day

From the June 23, 2008 San Francisco Chronicle (emphasis mine):

Americans remain heavily religious, but their views rarely conform to dogma, according to a massive new survey released this morning.

Seventy percent of religious adherents in the United States believe multiple religions can lead a person to salvation, while 68 percent say there is more than one way to interpret the teachings of their religion.

Those views are at the centerpiece of a survey of 36,000 people released today by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The survey - unprecedented in its combination of survey pool and breadth of questions - reveals that religious beliefs and practices in America defy doctrine.

- 57 percent of evangelical Christians say that multiple religions can lead to salvation, though nary an evangelical theologian or minister would say that.

So what's to blame for this? Poor preaching and teaching from America's pulpits? Christians living more like the world around them than in fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Are many of the respondents people that profess but do not possess saving faith, who are just part of the church crowd but have not put their faith in Christ and Christ alone and repented of their sins?

Perhaps all of the above play a part in this alarming statistic, but if the poll is anywhere near accurate, it should be a wake-up call to Christian pastors to preach the Gospel, and indeed, to insist on the Gospel week after week, Sunday after Sunday, sermon after sermon (emphases mine).

The Apostle Paul made it very clear in his writings (see below) that the Gospel was "of first importance" and something that must be insisted upon in regular preaching and instruction to the church:

3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. [Titus 3:3-8]

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15:1 Now I would remind you, brothers, [1] of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, [I Cor. 15:3-5]

The fallacy of religious pluralism* is just another manifestation of man's sinful, self-aggrandizing heart. This fallacy preys on our desire to be our own god, to live in a moral and spiritual reality largely of our own creation, not in response to God as He has graciously revealed himself. Religious pluralism basically says "I'm okay, you're okay, but when you or I don't feel okay, we can pursue our own separate ways to feel okay with ourselves and God."

In short, the problem is that apart from God graciously moving on our hearts to show us the reality that we are dead in sin, we think we're pretty good people. What's more, if we think we have messed up and sinned, in our deadness to sin we devise ways to work it off, as though it were the Freshman Fifteen and not an egregious act of what R. C. Sproul would call "cosmic treason" against a holy God.

The law of God is perfect and holy, but we are impure, corrupt, unholy, and rebellious (see Romans 7).

This contrasts with the perfect love and obedience of Jesus Christ, who alone can make atonement for sin and indeed did so for sinners at the cross.:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, [1] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, [2] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [Philippians 2:5-11]

| | | | | Christ God was reconciling [3] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. [II Cor. 5:19-21]

Jesus lived a sinless life of perfect obedience, took on the penalty of sin for sinners as their substitute, and was raised to life again and is now seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven, waiting to come back again to bring judgment and justice and establish his kingdom forever with men from every tongue, tribe, and nation redeemed by his blood. He has called his people to be ambassadors of His gospel, bearing the message forth to the whole worth: be reconciled to God through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, and repent of your sins.

That is what needs to be preached, and constantly, not just at Easter and Good Friday!

That's the exciting, powerful, life-changing, soul-saving nature of the Gospel. It is to be heralded boldly every Sunday from the pulpits across the land so that it might sink into the hearts of the faithful and result in ever-increasing worship of the Lord and to zealousness for good works in accordance with the Gospel.

Cotton candy theology won't cut it anymore. Moralistic topical sermons won't feed the sheep or call the sinner to repentance.

It's time we insist on our pastors insisting on the Gospel.

*by this I mean holding a plurality if not all religions as equally valid in their truth claims, not the passive tolerance of persons of differing beliefs. Indeed, Christ calls us to live in peace with everyone and desires us to be ambassadors of his grace, bringing the good news of salvation as a messenger would his intended recipient. We aim to win people to Christ by the preaching of the Word, not by the wielding of the sword.



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