Thursday, February 11, 2010

Pluralism, proclamation and politeness

There probably isn't anyone in Singapore who hasn't heard of Pastor Rony Tan being called up by the ISD (Internal security department) then having to make a public apology for his offensive remarks about Taoism and Buddhism.

I don't know what Pastor Rony said in his videos and I haven't any idea if they really are all that offensive/rude but the news coverage of the affair gave rise to concerns about our society's unthinking embrace of a pluralistic worldview and the inaccurate depiction of Christianity as just another religion amongst all the others. I didn't start the day with any notion of blogging about it; current affairs commentary is scarce around here, if you haven't noticed.

But today, I read my pastor's blogpost which addressed the issue and agreed deeply with what he had to say, both about the issue and then some. Here it is:

As Christians we believe in only one true and living God. We believe He is the creator and ruler of everything, of the universe itself. Our faith does not point to us how to live a morally upright life but it points to us that we are all morally corrupt. It further points to us that no amount of moral living can lead us to salvation. It points to us our rebellion against God by rejecting Him and His rule in our lives. It reveals to us that we are all condemned for eternity and the penalty for our sins is death. The death we speak of is not eternal sleep but an eternity spent in hell. We believe that Christ died for our sins at the cross and deliver us into victory through His resurrection.

Our gospel is offensive in many ways. It tells people that we are all sinners, it tells everyone that we are all going to hell without Christ. The fact that we believe in the Triune God and acknowledge only one true God, we are implying that all other gods are not real. This is the truth we hold and a denial of these truths will be as good as denying our faith. Does that therefore imply that the sharing will always be offensive?

The message we share in its entirety is offensive and that is why many attempts have been made to sweeten the gospel and minimized the offence. Is that the solution which we should pursue to avoid being offensive? My answer is an emphatic NO.

There is one thing we must understand; our message is offensive in as far as it is confrontational. However what our truth confronts goes beyond culture, religion, society.
Our message confronts the heart. It confronts the heart that has been in rebellion, a heart that has totally denied God.

We do not and must not sweeten our gospel to make it less offensive but we must not share in an offensive manner. We are fortunate to be living in this nation where there is no restriction of religion. However it does not give us the right to be arrogant in our belief and look down on everybody else who does not believe Christ. It does not give us a right to feel superior because we believe in the One true God. It does not give us the right to be self-righteous, thinking of everyone else as sinner but ourselves.

It is not our brilliance or intellect that has brought us to our faith. God is not a Being whom we have exclusive claim to. All of us belong to Him and not the other way. We are all sinners and the only righteousness that we can boast of is Christ’s and not ours.

I don't know what Rony Tan said; it could well be that he utterly crossed the line in his preaching. But I do know that monotheism in general is unappealing and Christianity in particular is thoroughly at odds with the pluralistic, liberal worldview so prevalent today.

Eilonwy once said something that shocked me to the depths of my liberal pluralistic silly little mind. She told me that 'to be a Christian is to be a bigot. By saying that we believe Christ is the way, the truth and that God is the only true God, we are effectively saying that all the other ways are wrong'.

She was and is still right. That IS what we're saying. It's offensive and confrontational but it is the gospel. So if you're reading this and you think, oh I'm christian but actually I think this is just one of the many ways to God or I'm Christian but all religions are the same in teaching you to do good/participate in social justice causes, then hear me on this: You are NOT christian. You are NOT Christian if you do not affirm that saving faith in Christ is the only way to salvation and restoration of our broken relationship with God.


The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him (John 3:35,36)

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