That biblical Christianity is an exclusive religion clearly distinguished from other truth claims and religious expressions is clear simply from taking the words of Jesus at face value. No one reading the four Gospels without some preconceived agenda can overlook the unique and exclusive message being proclaimed there.
Jesus made it absolutely clear that he alone was the way to eternal life, and he alone was God’s appointed means of dealing with our sin and alienation from God. Yet throughout church history there have been those who have sought to water down this message, and to in fact proclaim another gospel and push another Jesus.
Indeed, this took place from the earliest times. Paul for example had to repeatedly deal with this problem. He had to time and again warn against false messages and false doctrines. In 2 Cor 11:2-4 Paul shares these concerns with the Corinthian believers:
“I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.”
Here Paul warns against those who would present a different Jesus, a different spirit and a different gospel. Things are no different today. If anything, things may have gotten worse. Everywhere we turn we find those who are claiming to speak on behalf of Christ, but who are clearly proclaiming a Christ of their own devising.
That the New Testament writers took this most seriously is clear enough. Many passages can be cited here. Jesus could say, “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect – if that were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time” (Mark 13:21-23).
Paul did not mince his words in Gal 1:6-9: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”
Or as Peter put it, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute” (2 Peter 2:1-3).
Yet other gospels and other Christs keep being promoted by those who have jettisoned biblical Christianity. Consider The Center for Progressive Christianity, an American-based group which has clearly lost the plot big time. Simply using the term “progressive” offers a good indication of where they are going – and it is not back to the Bible.
A brief look at their website reveals the very things the NT writers warned about. It is full of trendy liberal mumbo jumbo concerning the faith, in which key essentials of Christian belief are denied. And it seems to champion all the usual leftist causes and political activism.
We read this on its homepage: “We affirm the variety and depth of human experience and the richness of each persons’ search for meaning, and we encourage the use of sound scholarship, critical inquiry, and all intellectual powers to understand the presence of God in human life.
“We are opposed to any exclusive dogma that limits the search for truth and free inquiry, and we encourage work that eases the pain, suffering and degradation inherent in many of the structures of society, as well as work that keeps central to the Christian life fair, open, peaceful, and loving treatment of all human beings.”
That kind of talk gives you a pretty good idea of where they are coming from. Indeed, any biblical Christian would hear alarm bells going off all over the place. The rejection of “exclusive dogma” is another way of saying they reject the truth claims of Jesus such as found in John 14:6 and in so many other places.
They lay out their beliefs – or lack of them – in what they call “the 8 Points”. Point Two says this: “Recognize the faithfulness of other people who have other names for the way to God’s realm, and acknowledge that their ways are true for them, as our ways are true for us.”
That is something straight out of the postmodernist handbook, but has absolutely nothing to do with the faith once delivered to the saints. Imagine applying this foolishness to any other sphere of life: “Well your honour, I know you and the court subscribe to the view that a red light means’ stop’, but I see things differently. I think it means ‘go’.”
I doubt that the judge will allow the red light runner to get off scot free with that sort of rubbish. There is not an array of ‘truths’ on these matters. There is only one truth. So too in the physical realm. A person may argue that the law of gravity is perhaps true for others, but not true for himself, but let him try that out as he leaps from the top of a 50-story building.
The idea that ‘you have your truth and I have mine’ fits well in a relativistic age which denies absolute truth, but it has nothing to do with Christ and the Scriptures. Indeed, absolute truth is throughout the Bible proclaimed and affirmed. Consider just a handful of passages which shamelessly affirm truth and “exclusive dogma”:
Exo 20:2,3 I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.
John 8:44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.
John 10:7-10 Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
Of course to proclaim such exclusivist truth claims will not be eagerly received by most people today. Even many who claim to be followers of Christ tend to get squeamish about such biblical certainties. Yet we must not shy away from these truths. As Todd Miles says in his new book on religious pluralism (A God of Many Understandings? B&H, 2010),
“The church is situated at a critical stage in redemptive history. The cultural climate is such that bold, uncompromising proclamation of the gospel is looked upon as culturally insensitive, politically incorrect, morally offensive, and intellectually deficient. The world will not offer incentive or encouragement to faithful gospel proclamation. This should come as no surprise since Jesus warned that the world would hate His followers as it had hated Him (John 15:18). Therefore, the Church must be particularly diligent to safeguard her fidelity to her biblical mandate to take the gospel to the nations.”
As the days grow darker and the very notion of truth becomes increasingly mocked, the need for a strong and unswerving proclamation of truth becomes ever more imperative. We dare not resort to another Jesus or seek to proclaim a different gospel. We must preach the biblical Christ to a lost and needy world, regardless of the opposition we may face.
To fail to do so is to fail our Lord, and to renounce our heavenly commission. That we must never do.