thinking.jpgShouldn’t Christians just leave people alone? After all, if all religions feel fulfilling to those that follow them, why try to get people to change their beliefs? You may have heard people say that there are many roads up the mountain, but they all eventually lead to the same point at the top.

I guess it depends whether religion is like insulin or ice cream. For example, I prefer chocolate ice cream, while you might prefer vanilla, or butter pecan, or strawberry, or … great, now I’m hungry. But regardless of what your favorite flavor is, there’s nothing wrong with choosing one instead of another; it’s a personal preference. If someone told me they liked mint flavor best, I wouldn’t respond by saying “What the heck’s wrong with you?” or “How dare you choose mint instead of chocolate, you big jerk!”

The point is this:
That’s the beauty of ice cream – you can choose what you prefer. When it comes to medicine, however, it doesn’t make sense to choose what you prefer. Rather, it’s essential to choose what heals. It would be silly to choose NyQuil over penicillin simply because it tastes better. (Greg Koukl)

When choosing ice cream, you choose what you like. But when you choose medicine, you choose what heals you. Religion isn’t like ice cream, where you should choose whatever “tastes best”. You need to choose what’s true. The truth is often tough, but that doesn’t mean we should just ignore it and choose what we like.

Jesus didn’t claim Christianity is ‘true like ice cream’. He didn’t say “Come, follow me, it’ll be fun!”. He in fact claimed something very specific, contradicting every single religious (or non-religious) person who lived before him. He claimed that it’s impossible to “earn” our way into heaven, and in fact need to trust in God (who Jesus himself claimed to be in human form) instead of trusting our own failing efforts.

But isn’t that pure arrogance? Isn’t that intolerant? Doesn’t it sound presumptuous for Christians to claim they have “the truth” and all other religions are wrong? Well, only if truth is like ice cream. If someone is dying and needs medicine, you need to give them what will heal them, not what they like best. In the same way, Jesus gives us what we need, and ultimately what is best for us.

There are many different paths, but they don’t all eventually lead to the top of the same mountain. Some veer off to the left and the right; others climb entirely different mountains! And if God is real, truth about God is not like ice cream; it’s like medicine, and only what is true can heal.

O RLY?A great blog by Tom Gilson, Thinking Christian, has an equally great post dismantling a Washington Post article that epitomizes the double-standard of "tolerance" applied against the Christian faith (and often other faiths too, but most often the Christian faith) in modern western society:

“All Beliefs Welcome, Unless They are Forced on Others”

There is a weasel word used here: "forced". The original article title mentions "forcing" beliefs on others, while the article itself is really talking about when people "take their theology out in public". Of course we would never want anyone to try to "force" their religious beliefs; but what's wrong with sharing our faith (in love) with others?

If Christians truly believe we have found the greatest love, greatest hope, and greatest truth in the world, why would it be wrong to winsomely share that faith? I might argue it would in fact be wrong to keep such a wonderful thing secretly to ourselves!

The title of Thomas Harris' still popular book "I'm OK, You're OK" came to mind today. (I can almost hear my high school English prof: "OK is not a word! The word is spelled OKAY!") I have never read the book, but according to the always reliable (*coughs*) Wikipedia entry (linked above) the four basic "life positions" explained in the book are:

  1. I'm Not OK, You're OK
  2. I'm Not OK, You're Not OK
  3. I'm OK, You're Not OK
  4. I'm OK, You're OK

Which of these life positions best describes the various world religions?

One of the most prevalent today, IMHO, especially in secular society, is #4: I'm OK, You're OK. This is the pluralist approach … all roads lead to Rome, all paths lead to the top of the mountain, etc. "You believe in and worship Jesus?" someone might say, "That's great … for you." Or "You believe in Muhammad, Krishna, or Adi Da? Wonderful … for you." This life position often takes the colloquialism "Whatever makes you happy …" Of course, even here there are limits … ex, "You believe and worship Satan? … Um. That's … um, great … *cough* … <changes subject>"

#1 is less prevalent but still abounds: I'm Not OK, You're OK. This is a self-depreciating position. It imagines that everyone else is good, and I am markedly inferior to them. I must admit sometimes I fall into this sort of thinking myself, and this sort of unhealthy guilt is sometimes unfortunately common in Christian circles. After all, doesn't the Bible even say "consider others better than yourselves"? (Philippians 2:3) More on that in a moment.

#3 is also prevalent: I'm OK, You're Not OK. In fact, this is the view of most religions in the world. There is a specific set of requirements that you must pass in order to qualify. If you do those things, you pass the test and are "in". If you, for example, pray the confession, pray five times a day, tithe 2.5%, fast, and go on the pilgrimage, you're in! At least, pretty sure you're in. Kinda sure. Well you don't really know but you hope you are. And this view is seen as being pretty "intolerant" and not at all politically correct, not to mention it's not exactly very humble.

#2 is probably the least prevalent: I'm Not OK, You're Not OK. This, in fact, is the view of biblical Christianity, where we read that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23) and "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves" (1 John 1:8) … moreover, "everyone who sins is a slave to sin" (John 8:34). Wow! Isn't that just excessively negative?

Actually, I'd say #2 is accurate. Real Christianity does not encourage people to wallow in self-pity or negativity, nor is it encouraged to gloss over our sins and failings, nor is it taught to think we're "all that" (OK) and point the finger at others (not OK). Instead it recognizes that we're all in the same boat. At least, initially.

The full text of the verse which contains the previous quotation ("consider others better than yourselves") actually reads "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves." When we are honest with ourselves, we know that we don't even meet our own self-imposed standards of morality. (See "Good People?" for more about that.) How much more do we not live up to God's standards?

But that is only stating the problem. God also provides the solution: Jesus. Christianity is utterly unique in that we are not saved because we are "OK". We are saved by our acceptance of the fact that we are NOT, and our acceptance of the One who is strong enough, and merciful enough, to carry the weight for us that we cannot bear on our own, as Paul explains: "God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners." (Romans 5:8)

Are we all OK? No. We're all NOT. As John Piper might say, "John Piper … is … bad!" And that includes me. But I hope I never become complacent in remembering the price that Christ paid for my freedom from sin, not by my own works that I might become conceited and prideful, but instead entirely by the grace of God. And that makes the Christian message unique, and uniquely true, among all world religions and "life positions".


(Image credit: striatic, who of course does not necessarily endorse any of the content of this post!)

Recently Dr Henry Morgentaler was awarded the Order of Canada, which is the highest civilian honor Canada awards, recognizing "a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation."

Today I read an editorial in The Calgary Herald titled Morgentaler deserves Order of Canada by Catherine Ford, ostensibly about the award, but in practice a summary defense of abortion. Let's examine her arguments to see whether they make sense.

(Click below for my commentary; it's a bit long to put on the blog's front page)

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