Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Our Common Altar: Worship in the High Church of CNN

[N]obody knows what's in God's mind. He doesn't have a cell number. Or if he does, it's not connected, and nobody has spoken to him personally. Nobody can say, who's going to be admitted in heaven and who's not going to be admitted. Judaism believes that it ought to be based on deeds, not dogmas. --Rabbi Marvin Hier
The above quote is taken from a transcript of the CNN talk show, Larry King Live. The Rabbi was participating in a roundtable discussion which included a Muslim scholar, a CNN correspondent, a conservative Christian pastor [John MacArthur], and another gentleman who calls himself a Christian but does not believe that the Bible is the word of God or that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died for man’s sins and physically rose from the dead. Please understand, I don’t begrudge this gentleman’s right to believe as he chooses, but I do wish he’d refer to himself as something other than “Christian” and refrain from wearing the title “Reverend.”

Lest you think me to be uncharitable, consider this. Suppose I had been able to ask our Muslim scholar friend the following question: “Can a person deny that the Koran is the word of God and that Mohammed is his prophet, and still be considered Muslim?” What do you think the answer would be? Of course, the answer would be a resounding “NO.” Such denials preclude one from the Islamic faith. In like manner, rejecting God’s word, the Holy Bible, and His Son, Jesus Christ, bars one from the Christian faith. You see, both historic Christianity and classical Islam are deeply committed to the concept of objective, transcendent, absolute authority; while our so called “reverend” is committed to nothing but his own subjective, personal preferences.

To be sure, Christianity and Islam are very much disagreed as to what this objective, transcendent, absolute authority is or consists of, or where it is to be found; but they do agree at least that this authority does exist and that it has been revealed to man. The exclusive truth claims of Islam and Christianity cannot both be right, i.e. Mohammad cannot be God’s prophet if Jesus is God’s Son. Or it cannot be true that God is a Trinity and that He is not a Trinity. It cannot be true that the Koran is the word of God and also that the Holy Bible is the word of God. And so on.

That Islam and Christianity cannot both be right is evident to plain reason. That is, truth is necessarily absolute and non contradictory. If this is not so, then all knowledge has perished and life is meaningless. But we know better. Plain reason dictates that man does not live, because he cannot live, devoid of all knowledge. How can one purposefully live meaninglessly? This is a contradiction. Adhering to conflicting truth claims, the Muslim tenaciously obeys Mohammad and the Christian wholeheartedly trusts Christ. Meanwhile, our so called “reverend” friend tenaciously obeys and wholeheartedly trusts himself.

Into this caldron of competing truth claims jumps our aforementioned Rabbi friend. We gather from his own words that he is Deistic [that is, he believes in a god who is entirely disconnected]; and correlatively, he is also agnostic [that is, he knows that he cannot know]. Hence he offers, “Nobody knows what's in God's mind...Nobody can say, who's going to be admitted in heaven and who's not going to be admitted.” Our Rabbi friend knows that he cannot know. He then proceeds to tell us that whoever does get into heaven will get there by “deeds, not dogmas.”

Two things stand out here. The first is this: How can the Rabbi--who is convinced he cannot know God’s mind [and I infer that if one cannot know God’s mind in any sense, one cannot know God]--possibly know which deeds are “good” and which deeds are not so good, according to this disconnected and unknowable God? How can he know which deeds meet God’s approval? The second problem with his assertion, is simply this: His assertion is an assertion. In other words, he dogmatically asserts that we get to heaven by “deeds, not dogmas.” This is a contradiction [sort of like the Christian whose creed is, “I have no creed but Christ!”].

Now we come to the CNN correspondent. The correspondent came to the table under the pretense of neutrality. I call this “neutrality” a pretense because all such "neutrality" is merely pretended. When it comes to God there’s no such thing as genuine neutrality. Even the most sensitive and self conscious correspondent cannot be rid of his/her own set of presuppositions. No matter how meticulous the reporting, the presuppositions bleed through.

The correspondent strove to convince herself and her audience that each of these religious perspectives were equally true and valid and to be equally esteemed. To do this, of course, she had to equally devalue and equally dismiss all other religious perspectives in order to uphold her own religious perspective of pluralism. Basically, our pluralist friend says to all religions, other than her religion of pluralism, “You guys are all wrongly saying the same wrong things and are going about the same wrong things in the same wrong ways, but are too wrongheaded to know this.” All pluralists say this, in one way or another.

More could be said, but I close with our conservative Christian brother. One thing separates him from all others at the table [or shall I say "the altar"]: his allegiance to Jesus Christ and to Him alone. In the final analysis, everyone else [including the Muslim scholar] places their hope in themselves; in their mechanical obedience to a set of standards, or in their enlightened humanism, in their ancient traditions, or perhaps in their attempted goodness according to their own conscience. In the eyes of God all of these things are utterly insufficient to save man. Thankfully, God’s unmerited favor and the sufficiency of Christ alone make all the difference.
I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord...that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness...but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith. (Philippians 3:8,9)


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