Commissars of Religious Pluralism

Dean Scotty McLennan, of Stanford University, defends a view of religious pluralism that prohibits any expression of exclusive truth. In his sermon “Religious Pluralism as the Truth” ¹ he advocates for religious pluralism that allows faith only in a subjective personal sense. He seems to have no desire for objective truth, and is willing to stifle any discussion of exclusive truth claims in order to bring harmony and cooperation to an interfaith community. However, this is an unreasonable thing to ask any person of faith since all religions claim to have the truth, even newly invented ones that deny truth. Tolerant only of inclusiveness McLennan and his contemporaries become intolerant of truth except their own.

McLennan begins by agreeing with a misinterpretation of one verse and a denial of the other. “In my Father’s house there are many mansions” John 14:2, does not describe many paths to God as McLennan would wish. It more likely describes a dwelling place God has prepared for believers. McLennan rejects Jesus’ claim to be “the way the truth and the life” John 14:6, because it is exclusive truth. He does admit that this claim is true for him but not for all because it goes against his determination that religious pluralism alone is truth. The fact is, there is no other religious figure or philosophy that presents us with an effective solution to our problem of sin, confusion and death. Instead of acknowledging that fear, hatred, and violence, are consequences of our sin condition and we need a savior, he attacks the objective, exclusive, truth, Jesus Christ.

McLennan applauds the work of Eboo Patel, the Muslim founder of Interfaith Youth Core in Chicago, who believes that objective truth claims and religious exclusivity breed bigotry, fear, hate, and violence. Patel’s answer is to encourage “proactive cooperation that affirms the identity” ² of the faith communities while silencing any talk of exclusivity. Any out working of faith is to be confined to a prescribed format of activity and conversation without mentioning exclusive truth. Patel and McLennan forget that truth is by nature exclusive. To them, truth is the cause of all religious and political unrest. Rather than promoting study, and dialogue in the free market of ideas, they would deny us the opportunity to search out, reason from, and express truth.

Patel acknowledges that all religions have exclusive claims but focusing on them is not fruitful. He asserts that “each religion has something unique to say about universal values”³. Finding middle ground between religious pluralist and religious totalitarians, Patel proposes a third way to build community, peace and harmony within religious pluralism. He has created a “safe space” where young people could talk about faith. Moving away from “mutually exclusive discussions” like who is going to heaven and who’s not.

It is unlikely there would be a discussion of sin and salvation and the efficacy of Christ. The group would be guided “to conversations about shared values,” (like hospitality, compassion, and cooperation.)” These are legitimate topics for people of faith to address, but not under compulsion and the suppressing of truth. Ravi Zacharias writes that “to deny the Christian the privilege of propagation is to propagate to him or her the fundamental beliefs of another religion.” McLennan and other advocates of Patel’s third way of religious pluralism, are proposing that it become what it supposedly opposes “religious totalitarianism”.

“You lock people out of the kingdom of heaven. You don’t enter it yourselves, and you don’t permit others to enter when they try.” Matt 23:13

¹Scotty McLennan, “Religious Pluralism As The Truth” – Sermon May 22,2011

John 14:2

John 14:6

²Eboo Patel, – “Acts of Faith” (Boston: Beacon Press,2007)

³Ibid., pp.164-167

Ravi Zacharias,- “Jesus Among Other Gods” p.158 (Word Publishing 2000)

Matt 23:13 – “GOD’S WORD” Translation

“The Enlightenment” Version 2.0

All of my life I have been surrounded by beliefs and worldviews that helped shape my own. “LIFE magazine”, and “National Geographic” published images and stories of people with strange beliefs from foreign lands. The television that broadcast the U.S. moon missions, would present weekly episodes of “Lost in Space” and “Star Trek”, each a brief lesson in the possibilities of what awaits us in technology, space and within ourselves. The 60’s music would drive the beat of a new age into my consciousness. I sang along with the “5th Dimension” about the “Age of Aquarius”. The social/cultural upheaval I witnessed appears to have produced counter cultures. Two of these were the “Jesus Culture” and the “New Age Culture”, the distinctions of which were not always obvious.

Years later in college after hearing the “Doobie Brothers” song “Jesus is Just Alright” I turned to a friend and asked her if she believed in God. She responded that “God is everything and everything is God”. Puzzled, I asked “how do you relate to a God who is everything?” “God is within you and me” she said “in order to know God you have to become more aware of yourself by meditating and becoming one with the universe within.” I began to encounter more of this type of language as I continued to search for God.

New Age thinking became more prevalent in literature, television, film and music. The “Star Wars” saga appeared and multiple generations were mesmerized by the power of “The Force.” Similar films like “Star Trek” , “The Matrix” and others exploited our fascination with discovering new realms of the physical and spiritual universe.

The “New Age” philosophy or religion finds its appeal by asserting that there are many ways to know truth or God. New Age adherents borrow from many religions to create their own. My college friend expressed views of monism (all is one) and pantheism (all is God) drawn from Hinduism. Is it possible that God, whom I know as the creator, created Himself into all things? Is anything that I learned from my school and church true? Apparently according to this reasoning my way of understanding God is just as relevant as hers. What was I to think about Jesus though?

In my youth I attended Catholic Mass and heard the Liturgy read in Latin and French and then finally English. In all languages it was a beautiful expression of spirituality that grabbed at my heart but left me with an empty lingering of incense. My friend mentioned she practiced meditation and mind control for spiritual enlightenment, which is borrowed from Buddhism. Perhaps I should search within to find God or at least a sense of His presence.

I justified my failure at this discipline by reasoning that if what she said was true it did not matter which method I used to approach God. I could invent my own way and it would be just as valid or perhaps just as futile. This idea of moral and ethical relativity was again borrowed from Chinese philosophy. Taoism is the teaching that all things are constantly changing in a process called Yin and Yang which means there are no absolutes. Is God an absolute?

If there are many ways to find God, why would Jesus die in the most agonizing way that He did? Why would Jesus bother to teach what he taught at all? In order to understand anything about God I would have to answer these questions and get to know Jesus.

Is Ricky Reasonable?

In December 2010 comic and actor Ricky Gervais, explained his un-belief in an article titled “Why I’m an Atheist”. His claim “there is no God” falls apart in at least two places. One, he ignores the scientific evidence that supports the Cosmological Argument for the existence of God. Secondly, Ricky uses moral arguments that contradict his premise, ignoring evidence that supports the Moral Argument for God’s existence.

His first statement;

“I don’t believe in God because there is absolutely no scientific evidence for his existence and from what I’ve heard the very definition is a logical impossibility in this known universe,” Ricky Gervais¹

To the contrary, the Cosmological Argument reasonably explains the possibility of a creator. Many scientist have confirmed the argument for a causal universe.

The Cosmological Argument follows as such;

Whatever begins to exist has a cause –

The universe began to exist –

Therefore the universe has a cause.

Everyday experience and scientific evidence confirm the first premise that all physical things have a cause. If something begins to exist it must have a cause. It came from somewhere.

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics states the universe is slowly running out of usable energy. This law points us to a universe that has a definite beginning. Albert Einsteins Theory of Relativity opened the discussion about the history of the universe. Alexander Friedman and George LeMaitre in 1927 proposed a theory of an expanding universe which later became known as the “Big Bang Theory”. This was proven in 1929 by Edwin Hubble who measured the red shift in light from distant galaxies. The evidence confirmed the universe had a single starting point in time. Recently three leading cosmologist, Arvind Borde, Alan Guth, and Alexander Vilenkin concluded that our expanding universe had a beginning.

Since the universe cannot cause itself, its cause must be space-less, timeless, immaterial, un-caused and powerful. Perhaps, Ricky has not considered “The Cosmological Argument” which gives us a reason to believe that God exist.

“The existence of God is not subjective. He either exists or he doesn’t. It’s not a matter of opinion. You can have your own opinions. But you can’t have your own facts” Ricky Gervais ²

Ricky claims there is no God – yet claims His existence is not subjective and not a matter of opinion but of fact. According to his own statement therefore, his claim “there is no God” should be based on fact and not subjective opinion.

He appeals to morality by pointing out the bad things that some people do in God’s name. He appeals to an objective morality in a selective way with no understanding of the Moral Argument.

The Moral Argument states;

If God does not exist, objective moral values and duties do not exist.

But objective moral values and duties do exist.

Therefore, God exist.

God is good. God’s nature provides an objective moral reference point, a standard against which all actions and decisions are measured. We can all agree that rape, child abuse, murder and theft is wrong, affirming that objective morality does exist. There are objective moral values and duties.Therefore, God exist.

Ricky fails to provide a foundation for the objective moral reality we all experience daily. He is glad however,to appeal to an objective morality to argue against the existence of The Objective Lawgiver Himself.

Ricky should go back to contemplating Jesus as he once did as a child. Perhaps he may come to understand that Jesus is God and loves us and came to become one of us to redeem us from a world of confusion, sin and death, and is restoring us to a right relationship with Him in clarity, righteousness and life.

¹ Ricky Gervais:Why I’m an Atheist – Wall Street Journal Dec19,2010

² Ricky Gervais:Why I’m an Atheist – Wall Street Journal Dec19,2010

Ricky Gervais: Why I’m an Atheist