Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Interview

I read the transcript of an interesting interview a few weeks ago. The religion reporter from a newspaper was asking a person in her town about his faith. What was unusual was that she didn’t just ask a couple of basic questions. She started off by asking the interviewee point blank what he believed. Like most people he answered that he was a Christian, but she wasn’t satisfied with a pat answer.

Most people accept an answer like that as a true profession of faith, but to this reporter’s credit, she didn’t. She wasn’t looking for a religious label, so she followed up by asking in-depth questions about his beliefs. She asked him about the content of his belief, to which he responded that he had a deep faith and he draws from the Christian faith. He added that he is rooted in the Christian tradition. He attempted to add credibility by claiming a historical connection. He testified that his grandfather was a Baptist and his grandmother was a Methodist and then included the fact that his mother was a deeply spiritual person.

He continued his testimony by telling the reporter that he was a member and regular attendee of the local church where he had committed himself to Christ many years before. That sparked another question from the reporter. She asked him, “Did you actually go up for an altar call?” He responded, “Yes, absolutely. It was a daytime service… and it was a powerful moment….” The reporter followed up, “So you got yourself born again?” He responded, “Yeah….”

The interview went on and he confessed to regularly engaging in prayer that he called, “An ongoing conversation with God.” He discussed the importance of maintaining his moral compass and the necessity of doing the right thing. Reading the Bible and following the guidance and teaching of his pastor were essential parts of his life. He even gave account of his faith and personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Based on those excerpts, it sounds as if that man has a wonderful testimony. After all, it is filled with churchy words and Christian language. If that interview was broadcast on television, many people might think the Gospel was being preached with that testimony. But before we get too excited, we need to examine some of the other things that were said.

This was a good reporter and deserves to be credited as such. Unlike many reporters, she wasn’t satisfied with sound bites or labels. She wanted to know what this man really believed. It was as if she was opening an evangelistic dialogue when she asked, “Who is Jesus to you?” The answer was typical of our postmodern society: “Jesus is an historical figure to me…. One that I think is powerful precisely because he serves as that means of reaching something higher.” “And he’s also a wonderful teacher.”

When probed about the prayer that he described as his ongoing conversation with God, he elucidated: “throughout the day I’m constantly asking myself questions about what I’m doing, why I’m doing it…. Those are the conversations I’m having internally. I’m measuring my actions against that inner voice that for me at least is audible, is active, it tells me where I think I’m on track and where I think I’m off track.”

His garbled theology was further revealed when he discussed the content of his belief. He stated that he is suspicious of dogma and is uncomfortable with the concept of absolute truth. Instead of believing that his faith is transferable to others, he believes in tolerance. He said, “Religion at its best comes with a big dose of doubt. I’m suspicious of too much certainty….”

His belief denies that people will go to hell if they don’t believe in Jesus. He skirts around the interviewer’s question about heaven by saying, “Whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning of myself to my faith and my values is a good thing.”

He did say that he believed in sin, but his definition of sin was heterodox at best. Sin to him is, “being out of alignment with my values.” And the consequence of sin is, “If I’m true to myself and my faith that is its own reward. When I’m not true to it, it’s its own punishment.” Most telling of all was this statement: “I believe that there are many paths to the same place and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.”

Of course there is no mystery as to who the interviewee was. The interview was conducted by a Chicago Sun-Times religion reporter on March 27, 2004 as she sat down in a local coffee shop with then State Senator Barack Obama. So why do I bring that up on his Inauguration Day? Because if nothing else, it should serve as a clarion call to pray for him. We should pray for him because no matter what label he attaches to himself, if he still believes that way, he’s lost. He might call himself a Christian and speak “Churchese”. He might even throw in the name of Jesus every now and then. He can describe how he walked the aisle during an altar call and was born-again, but so can a lot of people.

The fact is, if a person believes that there are many paths to God, then that person cannot be a Christian. Because believing that there are many paths to God is in essence calling Jesus a liar. Jesus Himself said in John 14:6, “I am the way the truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father but by me.” There is only one way. There is only one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, and if you get that wrong, you are not a Christian.
May God save the President.

1 Timothy 2:1-6


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