Thrive
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In today’s pluralistic world, it is not uncommon to hear that Christianity is just one religion among many in the world and therefore we represent just one of many different paths to God. This position is known as “pluralism.” However, the church throughout history has rejected this position. Why? There are many reasons, but I will highlight three of them.

First, we believe in revelation. This means that we believe that God has self-disclosed his purposes and his redemptive plans. This has happened in three main ways. First, creation itself (both the outer created order and our own inner conscience) has revealed that God exists and that He is the creator of all that exists (see Psalm 19:1-6; Rom. 2:15; Heb. 11:3). This may not separate us from Judaism or Islam, but it clearly sets us apart from non-theistic religions or movements like Buddhism or atheistic secular humanism. There is much that we cannot know through creation, but we can know that God exists and we also know, through our consciences, that there is a moral order to the universe. Second, we believe that the Bible represents an infallible, written record of God’s redemptive purposes (2 Tim. 3:16). The Bible contains 66 books, but, from the big perspective, it is really a remarkable, grand story of redemption which is beautiful and coherent. It is in the Bible that we learn the unique role of Jesus Christ, as the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity who lived, died and rose for our redemption (Rom. 5:8; I Cor. 15:17). Third, we believe that Jesus Christ is the greatest expression of God’s self-disclosure since the incarnation is the story of God “in the flesh” teaching and showing us the way to God. If Jesus had not died on the cross, we would not have the forgiveness of sins (2 Cor. 5:21). This alone separates us from all the other religions since no other religion has fully grasped the true dignity and distinctiveness of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ, the ultimate example of God’s self-revelation.

Second, we believe in history. Christianity is rooted in real acts of God in history. This is important since Christianity is not merely a collection of morals, commandments, or fascinating stories. We do not worship a Christ of faith which has been dislocated from the Jesus of history. The Christian faith is rooted in historical events – acts of God in real history. This is about a first-century Jew named Jesus who truly suffered, was crucified and buried and bodily rose again. When we recite the Apostles’ Creed we may wonder why it included the phrase, “he suffered under Pontius Pilate.” But, this is a crucial phrase which reminds us that the great redemptive events associated with Jesus Christ happened at a particular juncture in human history. To separate the life of the church in any way from the historic Jesus Christ as proclaimed by the Apostles – incarnate, crucified and bodily risen – is to miss the importance of events which took place in real time and in real places. The important point to realize is that once we recognize that Christianity is rooted in history, not merely disconnected religious ideas, then it is inherently unique because history involves a range of specific unrepeatable acts of God who has revealed himself, and accomplished great redemptive acts in real history for the whole world.

Third, we believe in the universality of the gospel. We believe that the gospel is for all people in all time. In the early phases of Jesus’ revelation of himself, his followers assumed that he was merely coming to fulfill Jewish hopes and Jewish messianic expectations. But, gradually they realized that Jesus had come for the entire world. This is why Martin Luther called John 3:16 the “gospel in miniature”: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” His death and resurrection were not simply to secure Jewish hopes, but to offer salvation to the entire world (Titus 2:11; Acts 17:30).

In short, we have a universal gospel, rooted in real history, and revealed by God Himself. This is why we must proclaim this good news to every person on earth (Mark 16:15, 16). It is in the light of the resurrection that the early disciples proclaimed on the Day of Pentecost: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). This is a powerful statement of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. God reveals it. History attests to it. Scripture proclaims it. So, let us rejoice that we have been summoned into this great mystery, and let us never forget the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the privilege which is ours to bring this good news to the ends of the earth. This alone is why Asbury’s founders had the audacity to enshrine as our founding motto, “the Whole Bible for the Whole World.”


Interested in studying World Christianity with Dr. Timothy Tennent? Request more information about enrolling in our degree programs at Asbury Theological Seminary: 

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