October 15, 2010

"Extremist" is a Theological Category

American culture seems to be most interested in who God isn’t. Many hold that claims made about God put him in a box and because we really can’t know anything about him (so they say) we should avoid claiming any knowledge of or about him. Of course, that argument works for less than 10 seconds because to say we can’t know anything about God requires some knowledge of God—and that is where such claims reduce to silliness.

On The View yesterday, America’s love affair with religious pluralism took the conversation in a direction that deserves further reflection. During the show, Joy Behar and Whoopie Goldberg took issue with Fox’s Bill O’Reilly, stomping off the stage in protest after he explained that 70% of Americans are against the building of the Mosque near Ground Zero because it was Muslims who attacked America on 9/11/2001. In all the clamor, O’Reilly defended his statement with a follow-up rhetorical question, “were they not Muslim?” On his own show last evening, however, he capitulated and said that he assumed the ladies on The View would get that he was referring to the Muslim terrorists who are also extremists, but Muslim nonetheless.

If you ever watch The O’Reilly Factor and have a basic knowledge of Christianity, you probably know that Bill O’Reilly is not a theologian. He proved this recently as he defended Christians in an interview with Bill Maher. O’Reilly explained to Maher that Christians don’t really believe that the story of Noah and the flood is to be taken literally but that Christians still deserve to be heard. This is just one of many uncomfortable moments in the interview that reduced it to the status of train wreck. Certainly the world of politics can not avoid the world of religious ideas, but I would highly recommend that O’Reilly remove himself from theological dialogue at this point…or get a tutor.

October 1, 2010

Choosing Christianity

“That's just how you were raised!”—a common argument used to dismiss Christianity’s claim to absolute truth. A variation of this argument goes something like this: "If you had been born in another country, you could just as easily have become a Muslim or a Hindu. What you believe is determined by how you were raised—your environment—not by any over-arching truths." And who can argue with such sophisticated argumentation? After all, that is exactly how many of us were raised. We regularly attended Sunday services, the Wednesday evening Bible study, and summer vacations were always scheduled around Vacation Bible School. We were taught that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, that Jesus was born of a virgin and that he died at Calvary as a sacrifice for our sins. Heavens to Betsy, we also view the account of Noah and the Ark as a literal, historical event.

Sadly, however, many Christians have surrendered to this argument, concluding that it is only by chance—as opposed to the work of the Holy Spirit—that they are followers of Christ. Their views of truth and ethics have been reduced to personal preference, leaving them paralyzed to say anything objective about the world in which they live. When confronted with the absolute truth claims of Christianity, they are willing to embrace them, but only for themselves.