Oprah Winfrey has asked how can there possibly be one way to God? Is God more concerned about how our hearts are or if we call his son Jesus? What about jealousy? How can God be a jealous God? After all, Exodus 34:14 says his name is Jealous.
Let’s notice something first. The number of people on the planet has nothing to do with the number of possible ways to God. What if we changed some words?
“With 6 billion people on the planet, there can’t possibly be only oxygen that keeps us alive!”
“Are you going to tell the person who has never heard that murder is always wrong?”
“It is judgmental of you to think that we are all carbon-based lifeforms.”
Most of us would at least accept statements 1 and 3. If you don’t accept 2, please go get counseling. Why do we accept them? Because we know they’re truth claims. Truth claims are either true or false as I’ve said in the blog on Eckhart Tolle on truth. I urge the reader to go see that blog if they haven’t for I have no intention of repeating myself here.
This isn’t just Oprah’s idea though. While not using the same terminology, Eckhart Tolle seems to come from the same kind of pluralistic view point.
Let’s remember this to begin with. This is a truth claim. The claim can be understood and makes sense. Let’s take some presuppositions of Oprah’s in the claim of hers about 6 billion people and one way to God.
First off, it does not follow. How many ways must there be for each, say thousand people? One way? At what point do two ways show up? What is the connection?
Second, is she presupposing also that God wants people to come to him? How does she know there isn’t some sick and sadistic god up there who is just toying with everyone?
Third, is she not presupposing truth doesn’t matter to this God but only conduct? How does she know this about him?
Let’s look though from a Christian view. Also, keep in mind that Christianity is NOT the only exclusive religion. Islam is exclusive. Judaism is exclusive. Hinduism is even exclusive and Buddhism was founded on the exclusion of Hinduism.
Can Christianity defend its claim though?
The Christian claim is not that you go to Hell for not believing in Jesus.
Some of you may be shocked by that.
The Bible makes it clear what you go to Hell for. Your works. They’re not good enough. God demands absolute perfection and if you don’t have perfection, then you’re not in. It’s the only fair way for God to judge you. Now Jesus is the way out of that judgment. When you accept Jesus, you get his works instead of your own and God judges you based on what he saw in Christ. If you don’t have Christ, then in Christian though, you must be absolutely perfect.
I don’t know about you, but it’s way too late for me on that one.
This is not God being fussy about a theology exam. Now someone might ask “Well that’s understandable, but Oprah does ask about those people who’ve never heard. What about them?”
Frankly, we don’t know for certain. We do know though that Revelation 7 tells us that a great crowd will be there from every people group out there and Christ tells us that many will come from the North, South, East, and West to the marriage supper of the lamb. Thus, whatever conclusion we reach, it will have to account for a large number of people.
What’s my stance? Romans 1 speaks of God’s existence being made clear from all that there is and some of his attributes are known. Romans 2 speaks of the moral law written on our hearts. We all know that some things are right and we all know that some things are wrong. My conclusion with that data then is that God judges people rightly on the light they have. However, considering they don’t have much really, I greatly push the Great Commission to get the gospel to as many people as possible. In the end though, I am confident no one will walk away from judgment day saying “It wasn’t fair” and I believe that if anyone out there is truly seeking, they will get that light somehow.
“But isn’t right conduct important?”
Of course it is. The problem is, it’s not good enough. What you do should flow out of what you believe. God’s standard is perfection. That’s not arbitrary either! What would be arbitrary is if God said “Each good act is worth X points and each bad one takes away X points and the value of X depends on the act. If you get to judgment with Y points, you win!”
For Christians, I do believe how we live on Earth will determine our rewards in Heaven. It won’t determine whether we get to Heaven or not. We live right though simply because of Christ. He died for us so we are to live for one another. That also includes taking that one way to everyone that we meet out there so they can know him as well.
“Okay. That’s sensible. What about God being jealous though?”
First off, there is some jealousy that is good. Gentlemen. I want you to picture yourself newly married on a honeymoon with your bride. You are walking down the beach holding her hand and some guy comes up to you who you don’t know and says “Hey! Your girl is hot there! Do you mind if I take her with me for awhile and have some fun?”
Whatever you take “having some fun” to mean, and I think most of us know what most guys would have in mind, I would hope you would tell the guy to get lost. Why? Because this is your lady and you have a right to be jealous of her.
The Handbook of Biblical Social Values edited by Pilch and Malina says the following on page 210 under Zeal/Jealousy:
Zeal/Jealousy refers to the concern for maintaining possession and control over that to which one claims to have honorable and exclusive access.
So when God says he is jealous, it’s not an unloving thing but a LOVING thing. It is even stronger than the man with his new bride. Every man should be jealous for his wife. He should want that exclusive intimacy he shares with her not an action that is cheapened by being shared with anyone else. He alone has the right to that kind of love from her.
That is what God is saying also to Israel. He doesn’t want them with other gods. He alone has exclusive rights to her. He wants to love her with all he has and doesn’t want her to run after other suitors. In doing so, she doesn’t hurt God. She hurts herself. Those other suitors are no gods at all and they cannot give the love that he can give.
Sadly, what Oprah saw as unloving was one of the most loving at all. God loves so much that he used the cross to illustrate that and Ephesians 2 promises us God will spend the rest of the ages showing us how much he loves us.
I realize for a lot of people, this won’t answer the claim entirely about exclusivism. I will say in Christianity, God has a specific nature and he has a specific requirement and he’s made it very simple to get to him. It just simply requires that we give up being god. We just fall down and confess that only Christ can save us and not we ourselves and we will trust him with our eternity. In doing this, we live accordingly. For those interested in the journey, I recommend getting a copy of “Basic Christianity” by John Stott.
So where do I think Tolle went wrong ultimately? That will be answered tomorrow.