Pluralism, Secularism and the Problem of Exclusivity
John 14:6, ‘Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’ How do people respond today to the statement that Jesus is the only way to heaven? Here is an excerpt from the Phil Donahue Show, where he is interviewing conservative Evangelical scholar, and principal of the Southern Baptist Seminary, Albert Mohler, along with Rabbi Shmuley Boteach,
DONAHUE: Well, Dr. Mohler, sir, nice to see you again. You’re how many strong these days, the southern Baptists?
REV. ALBERT MOHLER, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER: About 16 million members, Phil, and about 40,000 churches. It’s good to be with you tonight.
DONAHUE: Thank you. Do these 16 million people believe Jews can go to heaven?
MOHLER: Southern Baptists, with other Christians, believe that all persons can go to heaven who come to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And there is no discrimination on the basis of ethnic or racial or national issues, related to who will go to the Scriptures. It’s those who are in Christ. The defining issue is faith in Christ.
DONAHUE: So a good Jew is not going to heaven.
MOHLER: Well, all persons are sinners in need of a savior. Jesus Christ is the sole mediator. And the gospel, we are told by the Apostle Paul, comes first to the Jews and then to the gentiles. And salvation is found in his name, and in his name alone, through faith in Christ.
DONAHUE: So if a Nazi killed a Jew, a good Jew, practicing Jew, the Jew goes to hell, but the Nazi still has a chance to get to heaven. That would be the consequence of your position.
MOHLER: Well, the gospel is not just for the worst of us. The gospel is for all of us. And the scripture tells us the hard truth, that all have sinned. And that Nazi guard is going to be punished for his sin, and it will be judged as sin. His only hope would be the grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. And the profound truth of the gospel is that the salvation that can come to any person who comes to faith in Christ-can come to that Jew who was killed and to that guard who does the killing. That’s the radical nature of the gospel.
DONAHUE: Well, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach is with us. You’re author of “Judaism For Everyone.” You know, Reverend Mohler, this is such a vast organization. You have so many wonderful members. This just breeds anti-Semitism. I am sorry. You cannot possibly look a person in the eye and say, if you don’t come to Jesus, if you don’t change your faith, you’re not going to heaven. Reeks of prejudice, and also stirs the soul to evil behavior, in my opinion.
MOHLER: Well, if the church had just come up with this in the 20th century as a novel idea, perhaps it should be subjected to such a critique. But this is the gospel that has been received from the Lord Jesus Christ himself, who said he came, first of all, for the people and children of Israel, and then also for the gentiles. And he himself declared that he is the way, the truth and the light, and no man comes to the Father but through him. He spoke as a man born of the Jewish race, but who was also the son of God.
DONAHUE: Well, three cheers for the Catholic bishops. And it’s been a while since anybody has given them cheers. Well, Rabbi, it took us long enough, but we are no longer calling upon our faithful, Catholic faithful, to evangelize and convert the Jews. Praise the lord for that, whichever lord may be your favorite.
RABBI SHMULEY BOTEACH, AUTHOR, “JUDAISM FOR EVERYONE”: Amen. John Paul II is one of the great friends of the Jewish people. Christians are our brothers and sisters, but they have to finally acknowledge that there is a 2,000-year repulsive, malignant history of the church, of trying to spiritually annihilate Jews by removing every last Jew on the face of the earth and converting them to Christianity and Jesus. And Reverend Mohler, however intelligent of a scholar he may be, he is a spiritual Neanderthal with repulsive, revolting views. Because we know in history that Christian, anti-Judaism has always led to racial anti-Semitism. This is the modern equivalent, Phil, of spiritual terrorism. ….” (Quoted from John Hendryx, Is there only one way to God? www.monergism.com).
Here we see that it is considered, ‘spiritual terrorism’; ‘anti-Semitic’; ‘repulsive’, ‘revolting’ and the view of a ‘spiritual neanderthal’. The teaching that Jesus is the only way to God is not popular or politically correct. Today this is one of the biggest objections to Christianity, its exclusive claims. Globalization has introduced us to millions of others who believe differently to the way we do, are we willing to say that everyone of them is wrong and I am right?
Pluralism and secularism have arisen to deal with the problem of exclusive religions. Pluralism says that all roads lead to Rome, or at least all truth claims have to be treated as equally valid. Secularism says that religion is destructive and should be taken out of the public arena and made private. On the one hand we face the danger of being made to be like everyone else—pluralism; and on the other we face the danger of being marginalized—secularism.
Today we want to make our response to pluralism showing that its basic assumption that all religions are the same is incorrect. Secondly, we want to take on Pluralism which insists that all religion is the same and secularism which seeks to remove religion from the public square and show how it cannot survive its own critique, and then we will close looking at the alternative of Christian tolerance.