Monday, August 23, 2010

Gleanings from the Pastor's Perspective: Pluralism and Christianity

The Pastor’s Perspective
“Pluralism and Christianity”
First Published: April 20, 2004

Many of you have commented appreciatively about the remarks in last Sunday morning’s sermon relating to Marcus Borg’s assertions about Christianity. We were working our way through 2 John 5-13, and had come across John’s exhortation to Christians to be watchful in the truth and to remain faithful to the biblical witness about the person and work of Jesus. John says there “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds” (2 John 7-11).
We learned several things in our study of this passage. (1) John is simply following Jesus’ warnings about false teachers (cf. Mark 13:22-23). (2) This false teaching to which he is referring strikes at the very heart of the faith – it does not acknowledge the incarnation of Jesus the Divine Messiah. These false teachers do not embrace the biblical teaching about Jesus person and work. This is quintessential heresy. (3) Not surprisingly then, John is unequivocal in his denunciation of this teaching – it is the work of Satan the deceiver and is antichrist. Consequently, John warns Christians to be on guard against the deception of this teaching lest we become spiritual losers. (4) John elaborates his description and his denunciation of the false teachers. They claim to be taking Christian knowledge to a new level, “going beyond” the old and outmoded. But when one leaves the unchanging truth of Christ, one not only loses Christ, one also loses God. Reject the Son – lose the Father too. Embrace the Son and you have the Father. (5) Finally, says the Apostle of Love, these false teachers are not to be welcomed, shown hospitality, or afforded respect in the Christianity community, but rather shunned. John is so emphatic that he says that any show of hospitality makes one an accomplice of the false teacher.

The timing of our study of this passage and last Saturday’s Clarion-Ledger story on Marcus Borg was impeccable. Borg is a religion professor at Oregon State who has gained notoriety through his own writings and through his affiliation with the so-called “Jesus Seminar.” Three of Borg’s views highlighted there caught my attention: (1) his pluralism – that is, his denial that Christ is the exclusive path to God. He says “I could not be a Christian if it claimed that” (an ironic statement, if ever there was one!); (2) his new paradigm – that is, his proposal that there are two forms of Christianity, which he calls the “earlier” and “emerging” – he is a proponent of the latter paradigm; (3) his declaration about the mainline churches – that “the leadership of all mainline denominations is committed to the emerging paradigm.”

Several observations are in order. First, Borg’s pluralism will find no support in Jesus’ own teaching. Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). New Testament Christianity follows Jesus in lock-step on this issue declaring that “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Second, Borg is honest enough to admit that the emerging paradigm leaves behind close to 2000 years of Christian belief, including that of the earliest Christians and the earliest Christian writings. The only issue is, does anything that does that qualify to be called “Christian” in any meaningful sense? Third, while Borg wants to reach out to those leaving the mainline churches in droves, and views his new spin on Christianity as the answer, he fails to realize the implication of his own admission that the mainline churches’ leadership already embraces his paradigm – if people are leaving the mainline church, it is not because the new paradigm has not been tried there, but rather that it has been tried and found wanting. In short, the new paradigm is the perfect first catechism for paganism. Embrace Borg’s views and there is no further need to hold on to the title of Christian – there’s no substance left anyway.

Your friend,

Ligon Duncan

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