If you were able to listen to podcast #6, you may remember that I began with the following quote from Jerram Barrs’ book, The Heart of Evangelism:
Because people are made in the image of God, they have his nature stamped indelibly in their hearts. In addition they live in God’s world, for there is no other universe than the one God has made. These two realities constrain the thinking of every man and woman on the face of the earth, so that even when they do not bow before God, truth will make itself known in their ideas (203).
This got me thinking: no wonder pluralism is so attractive! But first, if I may, let me explain what I mean when I say the word ‘pluralism.’ From my understanding, it is the idea that any individual’s belief is correct; that all religions lead to the same God. It is what most people probably think of when they see the popular ‘coexist’ bumper sticker on the back of someone’s car (even though ‘coexist’ is VERY different than ‘all religions are correct;’ but that is for another discussion).
So what am I trying to say? Ultimately, it makes sense why pluralism would be such a common-held belief today – people see in all cultures and religions some aspect of truth. And as Barrs reminds us, they should! Whether one wants to accept it or not, he/she was made in the image of God and he/she lives in God’s universe. Therefore, every aspect of the human race will embody some aspect of truth, even one’s religion.
I, myself, fell into this trap in high school. Due to my lack of understanding of Christianity, I figured all religions believe humans are basically good, all say to pray or meditate, all believe there is some sort of spiritual component to life, all believe in some sort of repercussion for doing something wrong, etc. You get the point. Maybe you have been there yourself. Thanks to Jerram, this makes sense as to why we may feel this way. There are things that should be commended from every culture and religion because these cultures and religions were made by people who were created in the image of God and live in his universe!
Here are just a few great examples of people, who are not Christians, who have said some remarkable things:
“There is no disaster greater than not being content; there is no misfortune more painful than being covetous: hence in knowing the sufficiency of being content, one will constantly have sufficient.” –Te Ching by Lao-Tzu
“…the secrets of the universe are imprinted on the cells of your body.” – The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman
“Two things awe me most, the starry sky above me and the moral law within me.” -Immanuel Kant
Now each of these quotes, though not written by Christians, speak some element of truth. Here are the Bible verses that come to my mind when I read them (they correspond in the same order):
“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for God has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.'” -Hebrews 13:5
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, and our likeness…'” -Genesis 1:26
“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” -Psalm 19:1, and “For when Gentiles who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires…they show that the work of the law is written on their hearts…” -Romans 2:14,15
Just as Lao-Tzu spoke of the importance of being content, the Bible clarifies that we can be content because we know our Father has said he will never leave us nor forsake us. Just as Dan Millman spoke of the secrets of the universe being imprinted on the cells of our body, the Bible clarifies that we were created with a purpose, after the image of the infinite God of the universe. Just as Kant was awestruck by the beauty of the world around him, and the weight of his conscience, the Bible clarifies that it is because God’s creation declares his glory, and that the law is seared deep within our hearts even though it has been tainted by the fall of Adam and Eve.
Moving forward, how does this practically help us as believers in Christ? We can speak into every persons life. We do not have to feel as though we are so distant and disconnected from whomever we are speaking to. Every person, place, culture, and religion has an element of the truth being proclaimed. We can commend these gifts of grace from the Lord and begin to build bridges with those around us.