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Worried Evangelicals (Compromises with Other Religions)
Some truth may be found in other religions, but Christianity makes the radical and necessary affirmation that Christ is Lord.


"Are you a New Age wolf in sheep's clothing?"

Our neighbours bear God's image, too …

The caller was a Christian radio talk show host from an American city I was scheduled to visit in a month. She had gotten a press release announcing my visit to a local school, and she was trying to decide whether to publicize it on her show.

"Dr. Stackhouse, I've been spending most of the day trying to figure you out. You're speaking as a Christian, but you're speaking at a secular school that is notorious for giving Christian students a hard time.

"I've checked your professional credentials, and I'm even more confused. You have a degree from Wheaton College, and I know that's a good Evangelical school, but you also have degrees from secular universities. I've never heard of this 'Regent College' you now teach at. Is it Christian?

"Then I found that your web site makes it seem as if you actually respect other religions and even think they offer us wisdom. So are you really a Christian?"

I assured her that I really am the sort of Christian she could safely put on her show. But it wasn't enough.

She called back a little while later to announce that she had checked with what she judged to be an indubitably Christian agency (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries) that was aware of my work. They had given me their seal of approval. So we went ahead with the interview.

She then confessed that her fellow Evangelicals felt embattled in her town. New Agers were common there, self-help gurus got a lot of media play, and Evangelicals were openly ridiculed by school boards and other public institutions. So they were extra cautious about any sort of compromise with alternative religions, any sort of latitude toward anything non-Christian.

I sympathize with such Christians. I sympathize with them especially in countries in which Christians are in terrible danger—economic, political and even physical danger—because of their faith. We listen to such stories from many of our Regent students. In such a charged situation, polarization is natural.

But that doesn't mean we should allow ourselves to withdraw into a paranoid fantasy of black and white, of "good guys" and "bad guys," of "us vs. them." We ourselves are sinners, so we cannot count ourselves entirely good. Our neighbours bear God's image, too, and are graced by Him with measures of truth, goodness, and beauty that we can enjoy. They are not entirely bad.

For that matter, the history of Christianity has its own some dark chapters—some of them being written today. We dare not congratulate ourselves when we encounter other faiths.

We ought to recognize, instead, two deep truths. First, let us hear Malachi as he echoes a theme of many prophecies: "I am a great King, says the Lord of hosts, and my name is reverenced among the nations" (Malachi 1:14).

Does this mean that all religions are equally good? Of course not! What God says, however, is that He has given blessings of insight beyond the boundaries of the designated "people of God"—whether Israel or the Church.

… we recognize that everything flows from the radically correct positioning of Jesus as Lord.

The second truth is that Christianity is not better than other religions because it alone possesses all that is good and the other religions have nothing of value. Christianity has the "one thing needful": It puts Jesus Christ in the centre. Even as we value the Bible, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and so much more that is wonderful about Christianity, we recognize that everything flows from the radically correct positioning of Jesus as Lord.

So let us continue to offer the Christian message of the centrality of the Lord Jesus to all our neighbours—as I did when I spoke on that Christian radio program and also at that secular school. But let's do so with appreciation both for our own shortcomings and for the gifts God has generously given to others.

John Stackhouse teaches at Regent College, Vancouver, and is the author of several books: Humble Apologetics: Defending the Faith Today (Oxford); Evangelical Landscapes: Facing Critical Issues of the Day (Baker); and Church: An Insider Looks at How We Do It (Baker).

Originally published in Faith Today, March/April 2003
http://www.faithtoday.ca

 

 
 
 
 

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