Friday, April 27, 2007

Exclusion

People will say that their biggest obstacle to believing in Jesus, right after the “problem of evil,” is the exclusivity of Jesus (John 14:6). Is Jesus the only way to God? I overheard an interesting conversation of late where a professor argued that Jesus’ assertion “No one comes to the Father except through me” was not a statement of exclusivity (with the emphasis on only) but a statement of uniqueness (with the emphasis on me). Then, with a deft hermeneutical move over into Matthew’s gospel, the professor identified the “me” of Jesus as his solidarity with “the least of these” (Matt 25:40). Since “the least of these” (the outcast and the excluded) are thereby included, Jesus is saying that the only ones ever excluded from the kingdom are excluders. Granted there is a flaw in logic here: If indeed Jesus excludes excluders, that makes Jesus an excluder and he thereby excludes himself (but I digress). Christians struggle as much as nonbelievers with this claim of Christ. Is he simply saying that saying that salvation is only possible through him (an ontological claim, Acts 4:12)? Or is Jesus also asserting that a person must know him to gain access to God (an epistemological claim and the cause of much missionary anxiety)? I heard another workaround that went like this: “Jesus is the only way to God, but there may be many ways to Jesus.” Author Annie Dillard told the tale of a missionary who approaches an Eskimo and shares the gospel. The Eskimo asks, “Are you saying that my rejection of this message constitutes my damnation?” The missionary responded yes. The Eskimo replied, “Then why did you tell me?” Christianity is based on the reality of God incarnate in Christ. This is how God so loved the world (John 3:16). But some will wonder: Is it love if most of the world has historically been unable to know it?

3 comments:

Steven Peters said...

I've always wondered how Acts 10:34-35 fits into this discussion, "that God does not show favoritism, but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right." This seems like a less stringent path to salvation than expressed in John 14:6.

vegetarian said...

I thought the problem was the Resurrection.

Jacob & Kiki said...

This post seems to contain some musing but no concluding. I'd love to have a followup where you discuss/share the reality of the exclusivity or Jesus, why it's necessary, and why God wasn't lying when He declared the sacrifice of His Son to be "love".