Saturday, June 22, 2013

"I can't imagine that God...!"

     Anytime I hear that opening, I cringe;  rather than humbly looking to our Creator to define the
God does what???
good for us, the speaker (usually unconsciously) is basing what God should and shouldn't do on his/her personal morality, which is cultural and highly subjective. A coworker hit me with it recently, and this is my response:

     I want to capture your original thought, and my best recollection of your exact words is:  
 "I can't imagine that the people who faithfully follow other religions, doing good, that they'll get to heaven and Jesus will tell them 'Get out!' "       
     Is that close? So if you'll bear with me, I'd like to show you God's reaction to other religions in the Old Testament and then in the words of Jesus Himself. One of the first, side-by-side contrasts between the distinct faith of Israel and other religious practice was the attempt of what's called syncretism, the combination of elements of 2 faiths. Nadab and Abihu, Aaron the High Priest's sons, must have thought similarly to you, that there was a basic commonality between religions, and that the worship of Israel could be built upon and supplemented by other traditions. So they brought "strange fire" to the altar of the Lord in Leviticus 10:1 "which He commanded them not." Some scholars think this practice was Egyptian or Canaanite, but definitely outside the practice specifically given to them at Mount Sinai... how does God respond?
"And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD." (Lev 10:2)
      Hmmm... well, that was pretty early in the Bible; maybe God hadn't got the memo on acceptance yet. Here's another one: Elijah, a prophet of Israel's God, arranges an "interfaith conference" with the prophets of Baal, a Canaanite storm deity, atop Mount Moriah. But his intent isn't to discuss worship methods, or exchange notes on prayer techniques... he wants to prove to the people, once and for all, which God is the one, true God, the sovereign king that commands their allegiance. Elijah gives his 450 "colleagues" a head start and ample opportunity for their god to demonstrate his power, but nothing happens! Then Elijah prays to his God and fire shoots down from the sky, visible to all and proving that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob alone is genuine. So in a spirit of brotherhood and unity, after the dust settles, Elijah gives all those prophets of Baal a pat on the back and wishes them better luck next time, right?
"And Elijah said to them, "Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape." And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there. " (2 Kings 18:40 
There's plenty of other evidence in the Old Testament of God's utter hatred of all religion save His own (Deut 13:1-18, 18:20, Josh 24:20, 2 Kings 17:7-23, etc.); but surely Jesus, who loves everybody, takes a different approach?  Not so much... operating from the basis already laid down and accepted (that all other gods/idols were false and God hates them), Jesus clearly delineates the only path to acceptance with God, the only way that God will tell people at the pearly gates "Come in!":   Himself.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Matthew 11:28
“Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. “ John 14:6
      Jesus's followers affirm Him completely and also agree precisely with each other on this vital point...
And there is salvation in no one else [besides Jesus], for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12
“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” 1 Timothy 2:5
      So if you're using the Bible as your authority, as your source of truth, you have to answer the question "Can a person get to God/heaven through Muhammed/Buddha/whoever?" with a resounding "No! Only through Jesus!" My fear for you is that the Bible is not your authority; perhaps you have come to believe that there are genuinely good people in all religions (refuted in Romans 3:10), or that our sins really aren't that bad (not according to Gen 6:5), or as one woman told me “It's God's job to forgive!” (proven wrong in Exo 20:5). I'll leave you with one more verse that defeats universalism all by itself:
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” (John 3:36)   

Photo courtesy of quinn.anya

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