Some days you get the darnedest things in the mail.
A few of my more liberal friends are always complaining because they keep getting what they call “propaganda” from highly conservative action groups. Well, they can relax. I get the same thing, too – only from highly liberal action groups.
One such example came in the mail a few weeks ago near Thanksgiving. The newsletter is called Connections and is written and published by Barbara Wendland, a United Methodist lay woman. You can read the full newsletter here. The part that caught my eye was this:
Apparently, one day Mrs. Wendland was driving down the interstate and saw a sign that read: “Jesus is the only way to God.”
She recoiled at the sight of it and thought, “How can anyone believe that?”
The article then goes on to argue that the Bible is unreliable because it is the later creation of a Christian community bent on myth-making. Science and history have disproved such outdated Christian beliefs as the virgin birth, the Incarnation, and the Resurrection. And anyone who still believes such clearly mythical dogma is either uneducated, conforming to unquestioned tradition, or seeking an escapist comfort in an afterlife.
Rather, the author contends, a true modern, progressive Christian should acknowledge the Bible as mere myth, stop looking for divine encounters in this life, recognize that all religions lead to God, and focus on improving this world as it is by embodying Jesus’ real message: compassion, mercy, justice, and nonviolence.
I hope I am not being uncharitable in my summary. Mind you, it’s not anything new. I’ve read dozens of books that outline the same very liberal beliefs.
However, I did find it rather dismissive and patronizing of my beliefs as a Christian. Apparently, I am either uneducated or escapist. Otherwise, I would embrace her vision of the church.
The sticking point here is our view of the Bible. Mrs. Wendland views it as a merely human endeavor to understand God. For her the Bible is clearly a religious anthology of our best thoughts about God. Some right, some wrong. Read it, take it for what it is, leave what you don’t like – or, as she is so fond of putting it, what you find “unconvincing” or “unbelievable.”
I, on the other hand, view the Bible as revelation from God. Perhaps I am naive. I accept the traditional view of the church that, while these books were written by human beings, it is God who has inspired them and is speaking through them. Therefore, these writings are not just their personal opinions. They are revelation from God. Not words about God, but the Word of God.
As a result, when the Bible says that Jesus declared, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6), I accept that not as the opinion of a later religious community, but as God’s revealed truth for all time.
So, while I respect other people’s points of view and religious beliefs, I believe that if they do not accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are misguided and wrong in those beliefs. Jesus is the only way. Why? Because that is what God has declared in the Bible, the source of God’s revealed Truth.
Perhaps I am too simplistic. Likely I have not studied enough. If only I had more faith in scholars, historians, and scientists, I would see the error of my ways.
However, I am stuck. I see the Bible as God’s revealed Word conveying God’s Truth for all time. So, for me, yes, Jesus is the only way. Salvation is through Him alone. And there is more to the Christian faith than helping people and doing good in this world, as noble as that is.
We need a personal transformation that can only come from the Atonement of Jesus Christ on the Cross through the forgiveness of sins and the sanctification of the human heart.
If that’s archaic and naive, forgive me. That’s what I believe. It’s what gets me up in the wee hours on Sunday morning to go preach the gospel yet again in church. If I didn’t believe that, why bother?
Otherwise, why not join Habitat for Humanity? If it’s just about helping people, that would be a better use of time.
Church only makes sense if the Bible is true, Jesus’ atonement on the Cross is real, and the Resurrection is our genuine hope. That’s my view, at least.