, , , , ,

{This is the closing post of a series. See the first post for an overview.}

Something that has become clear to me is how similar our twenty-first century world is to the first century world. The recent rise of pluralism actually brings us closer to the world of the New Testament. In two thousand years we have come full circle, and are living in a time that is remarkably similar to when the Christian faith was initially inaugurated. Christianity was birthed, grew, and thrived in a highly pluralistic culture, yet the apostles unashamedly and boldly proclaimed the exclusive message that salvation could only be found in Jesus Christ.  They did not water down the message or try to accommodate it to the pluralistic culture around them. The Bible is more relevant than ever.

However, there are some differences between now and then.  The early Christians were no doubt aware that Christianity was making exclusive claims in their pluralistic culture, yet they were likely attracted to Christianity precisely because of the “unsavoriness” of ancient pluralism. While today, Christians are disillusioned and full of doubts because of the bewildering number of religious perspectives. The sociological underpinnings of our day do appear to be different and must be taken into consideration. In addition, we have a secular component that was not present then. In ancient Greece and Rome, everyone believed in the supernatural – gods were everywhere. There was not an atheistic/materialistic/naturalistic contingent.  Today there is a strong voice for a purely secular approach to life that often tries to downplay the role of religion or even aggressively silence or discredit it.

As Christians, I think we must accept that no matter how you look at it, Christianity is indeed an exclusive and restrictive message. To be a Christian requires that we place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation from sin. This is always going to be offensive to some people. People will either submit to the gospel’s exclusive message or be hostile to it. In fact, if we are not bringing offense to some, perhaps we are not proclaiming the orthodox Christian faith. Pluralism and inclusivism may win you more friends, but I have doubts that it will bring you more converts.

However – in other ways, Christianity is very inclusive! You can be a Christian no matter your race, country, sex, social status, income level, etc. Whosoever will may come to the Savior. Christianity is for everyone. This was more revolutionary when Christianity was a new faith in ancient Rome. In ancient Rome there were very pronounced class and social distinctions. Yet, with Christianity, people of all backgrounds and classes were mixing together in the house churches. This was counter-cultural and progressive, and not regressive or discriminatory as some claim the Bible to be.

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”   Galatians 3:28


** (6/21: Well, those were the concluding thoughts! But I felt the need for some further clarification on an exclusivistic view: Being exclusivist does not mean…)