Monday, February 20, 2006

Okay, I'll bite

Well it seems from the comments that I received that there was general interest in my racism post.

Before I tell you what I am thinking, let me say that this is neither theology nor is it doctrine. And this is not how I defend my belief that there is only one way to heaven.

Having said that, I will share my thought, which is not earthshattering. Then you can all tell me what you think.

It seems odd, to me, when I hear a monotheist* say he believes that there are multiple paths to heaven. One of the reasons I find it odd is because of how genuinely unfair that seems to be.

If there is truly only one god, why would he allow some people to struggle so much in their efforts to get to heaven, while others don't have to work for it at all, simply trusting in the death and resurection of Christ.

It seems terribly unjust (to me) for one man to have to work in his own effort to achieve righteousness, possibly never knowing if he is doing enough, yet another man is confident before god that god's righteousness has been imputed to him. And the injustice would be that god himself would look upon that and say "it's all good" even when some of his children are struggling desperately, while others rely on grace. (And then I could ask, if god is unjust, is he really god at all... but I won't go off on that tangent.)

To be certain, we can all choose what religion we want to follow. But the idea that god could approve all such religions implies that he allows some to live in the bondage of trying to gain his approval while at the same time freely giving his approval to others.

It isn't racism per se, because religion is not (inherently) determined by one's ethnicity. But isn't it the same idea? Call it "religionism," maybe. Whatever you call it, it seems to necessarily imply that some people get preferential treatment from god based on the religion they choose.

Or do people choose at all? Does god make different people with different "kinds" of souls that relate to him in different ways? I think a lot of people believe this in their heart of hearts, though they may not articulate it. But if that's the case, that our souls are made differently, then that seems even MORE disturbing, because then god would have DESIGNED some people such that they need not struggle at all, while others would struggle immensely. In other words, we couldn't even choose our way out by following another religion. Some of us would just be left to struggle - with god's approval.

We'd scoff at that kind of preferential treatment if we were talking about racism. But it seems like the same thing when people say that there are many ways a person can get to heaven.

I don't know if this made sense. It is almost 1 am, which probably didn't help. But that's my crazy thought.

Have at it.

*I could make my point with polytheism too, but there is a subtle difference, which you could figure out if you tried. But you get the idea, so I don't think it's worth elaboration.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Cup-a-Joe said...

Interesting thoughts.

If there are multiple paths to God, wouldn't be logical to seek out the easiets route? The path the requires the least amount of effort would then be the most popular religion (Mega-Church models?)

It would seem silly for everyone to overwork by committing to the life of faith which requires self-inspection and constant course correction to maintain our growth toward God.

Secondly, Muslims killing Jews and all stand before the same God? Muslims believe that when you kill an infidel (non-Muslim) in a jihad (holy war) he will be your slave in paradise. If a Muslim killed a Jewish infidel would the Jew (who had done nothing wrong and was Torah observant) be a slave to the Muslim, or would he get his reward for being a righteaous Jew?

It just does not make sense.

P.S. It's not that no one has any thoughts, but it is hard to gather those thoughts and make a coherent comment. By the time one is together, the thread has moved on to chocolatey milk, which is much easier to comment on.

Tue Feb 21, 06:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess I am more confused now than when you raised the issue. I guess I am not a deep thinker ....ya think! Jesus died on the cross for my sins and may acceptance of the sacrificial gift is the only was to heaven. Anything else says no thanks Jesus I can make it on my own.Grace not works is a mind bogggling issue if I allow it to be but it is not worth the mind boggling just accept it and be thankful
JO

Tue Feb 21, 12:52:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Lori - That thing that jumped out at me the most about this blog is that you didn't capitalize God. I have taught my kids in my S.S. class that WHENEVER you write God's name, you capitalize it. Right. All the other stuff is just a little to deep for me

Tue Feb 21, 01:20:00 PM  
Blogger PEZmama said...

On not capitalizing "G" in god.

I did it on purpose. This post isn't about God. It is about what people THINK him to be... therefore "god."

I, personally, capitalize it whenever I am talking about the God of the Bible. But some people don't. And that isn't such a big thing, in my book.

Not sure who you are, but thanks for commenting.

Tue Feb 21, 02:18:00 PM  
Blogger Addie said...

Hey Lori, I'll try and string a coherent thought together to comment. (My head still feels like it has been repeatedly run over by a school bus.) :P

I wonder about the mindset of most people who say, "There are many ways to heaven". Most likely they don't have a way to heaven other than they may think they are a good person. OR they just don't want to debate so they throw that old cliche out but in reality they feel that they are following the correct path.

Many in our own family struggle in their current choice of religion. They do not trust in grace alone for their salvation. But I seriously doubt any of them believe that there is any other way to heaven.

But I do agree with what you have said although I've never thought about it quite from that angle.

And this could be off topic, but I think that it is human nature to feel the need to work for our salvation.

OK, not sure if this makes sense. In fact I'll probably look at it again in a few days and wonder "what was I even trying to say?!?"

Maybe I should just stick to commenting on day-old chocolate milk the ingenuity of your kids! :-)

Tue Feb 21, 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger Addie said...

I'm sorry, not human nature...sin nature. Really I should not "operate heavy commenting sections" under this cold.

Tue Feb 21, 08:46:00 PM  
Blogger PEZmama said...

Addie, thanks for the comment. you have me thinking about something that I have often thrown around in my mind. You said:

they throw that old cliche out but in reality they feel that they are following the correct path.

I agree. We all have a sense of what is right and wrong, and we all think what we are doing is right, or we wouldn't be doing it. I find that people like to use the reasoning of "doing what is right for you." But they don't realize the contradiction they make with such reasoning.

If we buy into the reasoning of doing what is "right for me," then we'd have to abandon the concept of right and wrong altogether.

Example: it isn't right "for me" to sacrifice children to god. But, if it is "right" for someone else, then we'd have to allow it.

But we don't allow it. Why? - because there IS right and wrong, and kiliing kids is wrong!

What a lot of people don't realize (or want to admit?) is that people don't determine what is right and wrong, God does. And if God determines what is right and wrong, then the reasoning of "what's right for me" is a total wash.

I realize this is not a new idea. There is probably a term from philosophy or apologetics to describe it, but I don't know what it is.

Thanks for engaging in discussion. Maybe in another post I will reveal the kink in the "position" I've presented in this post... or maybe not!

Tue Feb 21, 11:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hear what you are saying, and I must say, I rely on grace a lot. However, I do feel that "paths to heaven" has been vaguely defined. What is the path to heaven that you are talking about? Something I had to come to grips with when in Indonesia after the tsunami and being in an environment where over 100,000 innocent muslim people died, I had to learn how to believe in God as all powerful and loving and just. I have to leave it there. I also have forced myself to realize that I do not know the innermost thoughts of any individual and cannot judge for God. Does this mean I do not believe in the same path as you even though I have the same fundamental beliefs as Jo?

It is unfortunate that many Christians have assumed this role as judge. One thing I can say about Christians, including myself, is that we tend to operate on a principle of exclusion rather than inclusion... I have met several people recently who have previously been driven from the church because of accusatory people, especially homosexuals. If people know inherently there is a right and a wrong let them figure it out in their own time. Do not pressure them to act and feel the same way you do. Let's begin including all people and not forcing our doctrinal beliefs upon them. I have lost all confidence in the cliche "love the sinner hate the sin."

...This is much too complicated to write in a short response.

Angel

Wed Feb 22, 12:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Cup-a-Joe said...

So many streams of thought, so little time...

Angel's post above sparked my brain, and wanted to give my two cents worth about inclusion and exclusion. Keep in mind, that this is not a response to Angel, but more of my thoughts on the inclusion/exclusion of homosexuals and the church.

Think the boy scouts. If you are into being outdoors, camping, making fires, dressing in weird clothes and saluting with two fingers (where DID that come from anyway??) then you are IN.
You belong to a group not because you have a membership card, but because you share common beliefs and values with the group. If you think that the "Great Outdoors" is the home of all that is buggy, dirty, and uncivilized then you are OUT. You don't share common beliefs and values with that group.

Now back to Churches. What is a church? Some may try to define it various ways but Biblically speaking, the church is the assembly of believers in Jesus. When Paul uses the term in the New Testament, he literally is calling believers the people of God, the same term that the Jews had used for themselves as a nation of people called out and separated for God.

What beliefs and values then does a church, or assembly of believers have in common?
Well, first would be the belief that Jesus was and is the Messiah, the promised savior of Israel; the Son of God who would bring salvation to the Gentiles (a very short list of who He is).
Second, would be that God created the universe with a certain order. He did not say that men and women should go with whomever they choose; but he said and created human beings in such a way that men and women together create children and no other way. In case there was confusion about this issue, He stated directly that homosexual behavior was a no-no.
This is not to say that homosexuality is bad and other sins like adultery are good, because God clearly said those things are no-no’s as well, and that believers should not hang out with those who are doing these things unless they repent and change their behavior.

Now, like the Boy Scout example, if you can't agree with the beliefs and values of a group, why would you want to join them? Also, why would you expect that you would be welcomed?

If I showed up to the Harvard debate club meeting, and asked to join but said that I thought that debate was a waste of time I should not expect to be given membership. It just doesn’t stand to reason.

Of course having said this, I know that there are groups of CRAZY people who wander to and fro from college campuses and now military funerals to shout hateful statements. Let us be clear, they are NOT Christians; they are lunatics.

Wed Feb 22, 06:56:00 AM  
Blogger PEZmama said...

Angel - you bring up a good point. I guess I don't know how to define "paths to god" because it isn't really something I say. Rather, it is something I hear other people say, so maybe I should have asked them to clarify. I guess I took it to mean the means of getting oneself to heaven.

You all know where I stand on that, I think. My purpose in this post was to point out what I think is a contradiction when people say "do whatever works for you" or "there are lots of ways to get to god." It doesn't make sense to me. And this is just me. Like I said, this is neither theology nor doctrine, just an odd thought I've been mulling over for a few years, actually. This post, in fact, would not apply to people who believe differently than me, if they also think their faith is the only way to "get to god."

And Joe, we have to take into consideration that many people don't want to be part of "our club." So they aren't really concerned about whether their beliefs line up with ours.

All told, I have no idea where this conversation is going. But thanks for making me think. Anyone else want to join in, here?

Wed Feb 22, 09:43:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It does not matter what people think it only matters what the bible says; Jesus is the only way people can get to heaven. People who worship other things have been fooled by the deciever. I did not write the book I just believe it. We should not pacify others who don't believe in Jesus as we are only greasing their road to destruction.
JO

Wed Feb 22, 04:52:00 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

Need to think on this one.

And this is a question I am dealing with: Can Jesus be "the way" to someone that does not know him (you know the person in the Congo, who lives Christly but never hears of him?). Did his sacrifice provide the atonement for all sin?

One of the suggestions by Christians in the Emerging Church movement (and again, I'm not really sure what I think at this point.) is that Heaven would seem like Hell to those who live lives filled with deceit, lies, jealously, vainity, lust, etc.

More importantly, can we still ask these questions in church? Is the church a safe place to doubt such pillars of our faith?

All I can say is that right now I'm not willing to say that I have all of this figured out.

Thu Feb 23, 12:59:00 PM  
Blogger PEZmama said...

These are some good thoughts y'all are throwing out here. Making me think. Just to be clear, this post was in no way meant to be an expression of my beliefs about what happens to people who don't know of Christ (like the example Leslie gives of the guy in the Congo.)

BUT, whatever "the way" is for that guy, it will be in keeping with whatever God has determined it will be. (And I will admit, I don't know the answers to how God determines that stuff.)

The important point is what Leslie mentions when she says that he lives Christly. In other words, he doesn't just get to do whatever "works" or is convenient. He doesn't get to determine what will be enough to please God. God determines that, and Christ will be the standard.

I am intrigued by the comment you make, Leslie, about the emergent church. How does that shed light on this topic in particular? (Speak slowly, I can't think fast.)

And, I am concerned about the church being a safe place to explore these things. It seems like anyone who has honest questions gets "shut down" quickly with pat answers that can be very unsatisfying. I think it turns more people away than draws them to Christ. That's why I like to talk about stuff here.

Thanks to all for letting me "work it out" with you.

(Do I use quote marks "too much?")

Thu Feb 23, 06:21:00 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

Hey is cup-o-joe knockin' mega churches! I belong to a mega church!

It's hard work! ;)

I have been in many different churches and there are committed Christians in all that I have been in. Large, small, mega, doesn't matter.

In the end, I remember it is about the relationship with Christ. John the Baptist questioned Christ's claim as the messiah and they were cousins so I figure He can handle any questions I might have.

Anyway, it is late, so I'll have to post more later.

Thu Feb 23, 11:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Cup-a-Joe said...

Leslie,
Sorry if I offended,
I am working through Mega-Church hangover. We were part of a Mega-church and I, personally, have found the whole model has problems (gee, what group of assembled human beings doesn't).
The biggest problem I found was that there was a great deal of activity but not a lot of relationship. On the whole, the mega-church model struggles to foster the type of sincere, committed Christian friendships that are needed for individuals to live authentic lives devoted to Christ (working out our salvation with fear and trembling). That's all. It was far too easy to hide in a crowd and not be held accountable for growing and being obedient to Christ.

Sorry for the confusion, this is the context of my comment and you could not have possibly known that. :+)

PS "I" never "noticed" that "you" used "so many" quotes. I say it's "ok" as long as you don't do the "quote thing" with your fingers when your proof reading ;-)

Fri Feb 24, 06:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Cup-a-Joe said...

I must say, it is nice to hear people wrestling with things from a Christian perspective. Ii is far too easy to simply surround yourself with the same doctrinal groups
Once saved v. Lose your salvation | Culturally relevant v. Counter-Culture | big v. little | North v. South | A-millenial v. Post-millenial v. Pre-millenial | Baptists v. Methodists v. Episcopelians v. Catholic v. Church of God v. etc. etc. etc.
The perspective of the Lordship of Christ is the same, the standpoint on issues is different and it all makes me think. How would I explain my standpoint? Is it correct or am I just repeating what I have been told?

Good stuff everyone.

RARRKUTGW!
(Rattling Around Really Rocks Keep Up The Good Work!)

PS One of my students used Proly on an essay. It was all I could do not to explode laughing right there in class.

Fri Feb 24, 06:57:00 AM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

I am really enjoying this conversation. Everyone has really made good points and I agree...it is nice to talk about these things and get the perspectives from other Christians. These are pretty much all things I've thought about a lot. You guys have all helped me to deepen my thoughts on the subjects discussed and given me some things to look up and ponder!

I wish I could put my thoughts together as the others that have commented but I have a hard time putting my innermost thoughts down on paper so suffice it to say that I'm grateful for the differing views and the knowledge you all have shared.

Fri Feb 24, 01:33:00 PM  
Blogger Leslie said...

Cup-a-joe,
Understand your thoughts completely. We were small group leaders for several years but we recently stepped down.

I think God is going to do some amazing things in His church. Honestly, I expect the entire landscape of the Christian faith to change in the near future.

And on another note . . . I watched "what's up?" go to "wassup!" to "sup!" in my student's journal entries when I taught. It was hard to see progression as an 8th grade English teacher.

Fri Feb 24, 02:22:00 PM  

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