Thursday, November 27, 2008

An Objection to Christianity (Part 1)

A couple days ago I came across this quote from our president-elect, Barack Obama (the numbers in the parentheses are mine):

(1)“I'm a big believer in tolerance . . . I'm suspicious of too much certainty in the pursuit of understanding just because I think people are limited in their understanding . . . (2)there's an enormous amount of damage done around the world in the name of religion and certainty . . . (3)I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and prostelytize. (4)There's the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven't embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they're going to hell . . . I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell. I can't imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity. That's just not part of my religious makeup.”

I want to anazlyze these words of president-elect Obama from a biblical point of view. I've inserted numbers in parentheses in order to organize this analysis. First, let's look at Obama's suspicion of certainty: "I'm a big believer in tolerance . . . I'm suspicious of too much certainty in the pursuit of understanding just because I think people are limited in their understanding . . . ."

One of the problems with the idea that we cannot know the truth with certainty, is that this belief is self-defeating. The same people who say they cannot be certain, make assertions that contain the very certainty that they decry!

2 Timothy 3:7 describes a class of people who are "always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth." As Christians we believe that truth is knowable --- that we can "arrive at a knowledge of the truth." Jesus Christ himself is the truth, and the gospel is the means by which we come to know him. This gospel comes to us in words. It is a knowledge we can rely upon because it comes from the God who does not lie.

I know that we will never know with the same sort of certainty that characterizes God's knowledge. The way God knows and the way we limited human beings know is different. But just because God's knowledge is archetypal and our knowledge is ectypal, does not mean that we cannot know the truth. Jesus, our Lord, expresses confidence about knowledge of the truth that we should share as his disciples: "For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice" (
John 18:37).

The other thing to notice about the president-elect's words are their false humility. It appears to be humble to say that I cannot come to a knowledge of the truth because of my limitations as a human being, but in reality this is just another way to avoid submitting to God's Word! Rebellion against the Word of God can be camouflaged in humility, but the bottom line is listening to Christ's voice, and then trusting and obeying.

If I tell my son, "Today, I want you to mow the lawn," and I come home from work and the lawn is not mowed, it is not a sign of humility if he says to me, "I wasn't sure what you meant by today!" No, humility is to love and obey your father's/Father's words. Similarly, humility in the triune God's world (and it is his world!) is measured by our response to his words.

Tomorrow, I will continue this analysis of this quote from Barack Obama.

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