The Problem of Exclusivity

The 2nd message in our series The Problem of God. We are preaching on Faith to build your hope. Find all the Problem of God messages here and build your faith, so you can be filled with hope!

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There was some really tragic news this past February.JNCO Jeans are going out of business.If you don’t remember JNCO, let me show you a picture of the jeans they were known for…These were a hit in the late 90’s.They were a fad, honestly I was amazed to learn that they were still in business. When I heard they were going out of business I was actually pretty impressed they had hung around this long.

These were a fad, much like the jeans or pants that some of you that are more experienced might remember- Bell Bottoms.

What’s funny about Bell Bottoms is that the first time I ever saw a a pair of Bell Bottoms was when I was kid watching star trek with my dad- It was a star trek that had been made in late 60’s and early 70’s and the show portrayed someone hundreds of years in the future wearing bell bottoms.

Everyone thinks that what is popular when your young will be popular forever, but trend come and go.

This is especially true in fashion, but it is true in all facets of life.

The cultural moment that we are living in right now has trends in thought. The trend right now is radical inclusiveness.

This trend is no doubt in response the discrimination, racism, repression, and abuse of authority that we experienced in the “modern” age, so post modernity is swinging like a pendulum to the other extreme.

In an age of extreme inclusiveness or “metaphysical pluralism” the exclusive claims of Christianity are problematic for many people.

It’s seen as out of step with culture- it’s like wearing a pair of JNCO jeans today- it seems out of place.

Christianity makes many exclusive claims, and for many people who like Jesus, they think his teaching is helpful, and they would like to follow him, they hesitate because of the exclusive claims…

I’m not going to pull any punches, Jesus is incredibly exclusive.

Let me read you some of the most exclusive words Jesus said.

John 14

1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

5Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?

6Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.

There are many people who view Christianity as bigoted, religiously racist, and culturally intolerant.

In a poll done by Maclean’s magazine in Canada published that 30% of Canadians were “most uncomfortable” around evangelical Christians, which is close to the figures they found for drug addicts and child abusers.

Our culture influences us. The current cultural trend is toward the extreme inclusivity which says that all religions are true, and the overwhelming impression is that Evangelical Christians are exclusive and therefore not tolerant.

Christianity is not the only religion that is exclusive.

Muslims don’t think that I’m going to heaven.

Mormons don’t believe I’m going to heaven.

Hindus don’t think I’m going to heaven.

Buddhism is considered to be the most inclusive religion, but it split away from Hinduism and rejected major tenets of Hinduism and established it’s own monks and belief system.

Buddhism couldn’t abide with Hinduism so it established it’s own path…

Lack of religion doesn’t lead toward inclusivity either…

The original title of Charles Darwin’s book was 

On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

“Man scans with scrupulous care the character and pedigree of his horses and cattle and dogs before he matches them but when it comes to his own marriage he rarely, or never, takes any such care…both sexes out to refrain from marriage if they are in any marked degree inferior in body and mind.” – Darwin

Eugenics – Margaret Sanger – Nazi Germany

In response to these horrors, our culture has responded with a pluralism….

“My position that all the great religions are fundamentally equal.” -Ghandi

“One of the biggest mistakes humans makes is to believe there’s only one way. Actually, there are many diverse paths leading to God.” -Oprah

This is our current cultural moment.

A culture of Metaphysical Plurism.

Last week I challenged atheism which says all the religions are false, today I’m looking at Metaphysical Pluralism.

Now, I’m going to get there but this is different from saying that all religions have some merit or that all religions are welcome or that everyone is allowed to believe what they wish, Metaphysical Pluralism means that all religions are true.

Cultural Pluralism is the acceptance of different races and religions in society.

Metaphysical Pluralism holds that all religions are true.

There’s an important distinction… I’m going to try and help you make this distinction.

Cultural Pluralism holds that people of all types are welcome and have a role in society. Cultural Pluralism requires us to be welcoming of others who think, act, look, speak, and live differently than us.

Metaphysical Pluralism requires us to accept relativism, that what’s true for you is true for you and what’s true for me is true for me.

Its’ metaphysical pluralism because it’s beyond the laws of physics and logic- it requires opposing ideas to be simultaneously be true.

Before I point out how this is problematic, let me say that I can relate to the desire that drives this…

How many of us enjoy going to the dentist? I didn’t like going to the dentist- I really dislike it, but as mush as I dislike going to the dentist, I’d rather go to the dentist than take my kids to the dentist. It’s not that the kid’s dentist is mean or cruel, in fact the kids love it.

The trouble is that every time I go I feel judged.

You sit there while the kids teeth are being worked on and they ask you about the thinks your kids eat and drink…

Are we letting them eat fruit snacks, dad?

What kind of drinks do they drink at home?

Last time we went, they asked this drink question and before I could say, milk, juice, water, and soda on special occasions Lincoln interrupted with “SPRITE!”

In our effort to be nice, accommodating, and welcoming, we’ve gone to the point that beyond being kind, we’re being intellectually dishonest by saying that everyone is right!

No one is wrong!

Now this comes from a good place, where want to show others kindness and hospitality.

Metaphysical Pluralism partially springs out of our desire to be accommodating and inclusive.

Being inclusive is not bad. It’s not wrong to be welcoming to other cultures….

In fact, believers are instructed to do this.

In Jeremiah the people are instructed to seek the Shalom or the peace of the city in which they live- even though they were captives in a foreign land, among people who weren’t their race or practiced their religion, they were to work to produce flourishing.

God’s word calls us to seek the good of our society and culture, and we can do that without saying the beliefs of another religion or worldview are valid.

I work with people I disagree with all the time…

There are often moments where Christians, Mormons, and Muslims can work toward common goals….

We can work together, we respect one another, but that doesn’t require for us to agree on everything.

Our current culture thinks that for us to be agreeable that we have to always agree…

One of the greatest contributions we can make to our culture our society our community is if we show the world that we can disagree sharply, think distinctively, but still treat one another with love and respect.

We can peaceably live in a culturally pluralistic society without falling for metaphysical pluralism.

We can welcome and respect people of differing faiths without accepting their beliefs as truth.

Our culture believes that if I disagree with you that I hate you…

I disagree with a lot of people that I love…

Metaphysical Pluralism is very problematic.

While it comes from the good place of a desire to be accommodating, it also comes from a place of arrogance.

Now that might seem counterintuitive to you, to say that a person who doesn’t tell anyone they are wrong and says that everyone is right, that they are being arrogant, but let me show you how this works.

One of the major illustrations that people who believe that all religions are true use is the 3 blind man and the elephant.

3 bling men come upon on an elephant- one grabs the elephant’s tail and says, it’s a whip! Another blind man reaches out and feels the elephants side and says, it’s a wall!

The other grabs hold of leg of the elephant and says, it’s a tree trunk!

The moral of the parable is that the 3 blind men are all explaining what their limited abilities allow them to experience, but that all 3 are pointing to the same thing, so all the religions of the world are pointing to the same thing, just giving us the best they can understand of what is unknown or unknowable.

This story is always told from the perspective of the narrator who can see the elephant and knows more than the three blind men who are grasping the elephant.

To hold the position that all the religions of the world are the same, they just can’t see it, is to put yourself in the position of the only person who can see it all while the religious people of the world are only grasping for what they can…

It’s an arrogant position to say, everyone is right because you’re saying I know more than rest of you…

Metaphysical Pluralism also comes from a place of pride which says I know the truth everyone is attempting to find.

Do you know how offensive it would be to go to people in the Middle East who have lost loved ones because of religious wars and say, listen don’t worry about. You’re both right.

Well, you’d probably say, well people who kill in the name of religion aren’t right?

Where do we draw those lines? Because certainly not all the religions of the world are right.

Not Islamic Jihadist, not primitive religions that sacrifice humans and even children, not Jim Jones or David Koresh…

But who? Religions that won’t let women drive? Religions that don’t allow women to uncover their face?

Someone will have to step up to the plate and decide which religions of the world meet the qualifications of being included.

We all recognize that some ideas are better than others, we make distinctions all the time, we make choices all the time…

If you go to the grocery store later and need to pick up some meat and there’s some green meat because it’s gone bad, you’re not going to buy that, because there’s better meat than that…

We know that there are better ideas, but we’ve taken this middle of the road, let’s not rock the boat, so that no one feels judged and everyone get’s along…

Jesus steps up to the plate and says, I’ll tell you. I’ll decide.

Not only that, I’ll back it up.

In the time of Christ, there were people who were making major movements forward in philosophy and they recognized that there were laws of nature and physics that seemed to operate the world. There was wisdom to be observed and discovered and understood.

Some would refer to this as the LOGOS, the truth, the word of wisdom.

John writes his gospel and says, the WORD the LOGOS, he showed up, he came to be with us. He has always been, he was in the beginning and he has come to be with us, and to as many as believe in him he gives them the power to be children of God.

Why does Jesus make the exclusive claim? Because he is the Son of God… He came from God. He came and claimed to be God.

You can’t believe that all religions of the world are right, because Jesus came and said He is the only way…

Either he’s good or he’s crazy or he’s conman.

Jesus is either a lunatic, a liar, or Lord.

Why does it matter? Why do I have to believe in Jesus, He’s the only one who died to pay for your sin… He’s the only one who went to the cross for you…