As is my usual practice when I receive a private message about Christianity, I am responding via my blog CED, minus your personal identifying information. Please don't send me any more private messages. Thanks.
----- Original Message -----
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Saturday, January 13, 2007 5:56 AM
Subject: your blog
>Steven I just have to hear you say "I believe that Christianity is the one true faith" and that tells me everything about you that I need to know!
Well, since Jesus claimed to be "the way and the truth and the life" and that "No one comes to the Father except through me" (my emphasis):
John 14:6 "Jesus answered, `I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'"
and the Apostles preached in Jerusalem, the capital of another religion, Judaism, that "Salvation is found in no one else" but Jesus, "for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (my emphasis):
Acts 4:12 "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."
and that there is only "one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus":
1 Tim 2:5 "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,"
I do in fact "believe that Christianity is the one true faith."
So thanks for the compliment that, "I just have to hear you say `I believe that Christianity is the one true faith' and that tells me everything about you that I need to know." It tells you that I am a consistent Christian!
>People like you can't be reasoned with
Actually I can "be reasoned with." I just gave my reasons above why "I believe that Christianity is the one true faith": 1) Jesus claimed it; and 2) the Apostles taught it.
I will also quote some more reasons from "Objection #5: It's Offensive to Claim Jesus Is the Only Way to God," in Christian apologist Lee Strobel's book, "The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity" (Zondervan, 2000).
Strobel notes that, "In a day of religious pluralism and tolerance, this exclusivity claim" in "the outrageous words of Jesus Christ: `I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' [John 14:6]" is politically incorrect," and "Many people consider it arrogant, narrow-minded, and bigoted for Christians to contend that the only path to God must go through Jesus of Nazareth". Indeed, Strobel says of himself, "When I was an atheist, I bristled at assertions by Christians that they held a monopoly on the only correct approach to religion. 'Who do they think they are?' I'd grouse":
"To some people, such are the outrageous words of Jesus Christ: `I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' [John 14:6] Many people consider it arrogant, narrow-minded, and bigoted for Christians to contend that the only path to God must go through Jesus of Nazareth. In a day of religious pluralism and tolerance, this exclusivity claim is politically incorrect, a verbal slap in the face of other belief systems. Pluralist Rosemary Radford Ruether labeled it `absurd religious chauvinism,' [Hick, J. & Knitter, P.F., eds., "The Myth of Christian Uniqueness," SCM Press: London, 1987, p.141] ... Certainly an approach like the one expressed by Indian philosopher Swami Vivekenanda is much more acceptable today: `We [Hindus] accept all religions to be true,' he told the World Parliament of Religions in 1893. The real sin, he said, is to call someone else a sinner.' [Copan, P., "True for You, But Not for Me," Bethany House: Minneapolis MN, 1998, p.34] That kind of open-mindedness and liberality fits well with our current culture of relativism, where no `fact' is considered universally true at all times, at all places, for all people, and in all cultures. Indeed, fully two thirds of Americans now deny there's any such thing as truth. [Colson, C., "Introduction," in Zacharias, R., "Can Man Live Without God," Word: Nashville TN, 1994, p.ix] When I was an atheist, I bristled at assertions by Christians that they held a monopoly on the only correct approach to religion. 'Who do they think they are?' I'd grouse. `Who are they to judge everyone else? Where's the love of Jesus in that?' Charles Templeton called it `insufferable presumption' [Templeton, C., "Farewell to God," Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1996, p.27] for the Bible to claim that besides Jesus there is `no other name under heaven ... by which we must be saved.' [Acts 4:12] Templeton added: `Christians are a small minority in the world. Approximately four out of every five people on the face of the earth believe in gods other than the Christian God. The more than five billion people who live on earth revere or worship more than three hundred gods. If one includes the animist or tribal religions, the number rises to more than three thousand. Are we to believe that only Christians are right? ' [Templeton, Ibid., p.27. Emphasis added] Despite Templeton's woeful undercounting of the number of gods worshiped in the world, his point remains. The exclusivity claim of Jesus is among the biggest obstacles to spiritual seekers today. With a subject this volatile, I knew I needed to talk with an expert who has a crisp, analytical mind, a sound philosophical background, and extensive experience with a wide range of different world religions. Those criteria led me to a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia, and the office of Ravi Zacharias, who was born and raised in India." (Strobel, L.P., "Objection #5: It's Offensive to Claim Jesus Is the Only Way to God," in "The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity," Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, 2000, pp.146-147)
>but I would like to give you a quote from my book [...] and blog [...] so that you can see why I believe in God but don't believe in any mainstream religion.
Sorry, but I have neither the time, nor the inclination, to read why you "believe in God but don't believe in any mainstream religion." Especially since you claim of me, a complete stranger, that, "People like you can't be reasoned with" (because I am a consistent Christian who believes what Jesus and the Apostles taught), therefore I am returning the compliment!
>[...] Paraphrased from M. Scott Peck.
Here is the actual quote by Peck (1936-2005), who was a psychiatrist, not a theologian:
"Perhaps the greatest sin of the Christian church has been that particular brand of arrogance, or narcissism, that impels so many Christians to feel they have got God all sewn up and put in their back pocket. Those who think that they've got the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and that those other poor slobs who believe differently are necessarily not saved, as I'm concerned have a very small God. They don't realize the truth that God is bigger that their own theology." (Peck, M.S., "Further Along the Road Less Travelled," Touchstone, Second Edition, 1998, p.166)
and so his views on "the ... sin[s] of the Christian church" are merely those of "a scientist outside his field of expertise," i.e. "just another layman":
"Practicing scientists are of necessity highly specialized, and a scientist outside his field of expertise is just another layman." (Johnson, P.E., "Darwin on Trial," , InterVarsity Press: Downers Grove IL, Second Edition, 1993, p.13).
Also your paraphrase (so-called) omits to point out that on the very same page immediately prior to the above, Peck wrote that he in fact is an adult convert to Christianity and that he rejects the view "that Christianity was a second-best religion" and " that one religion was as good as another" (my emphasis):
"I would not have become a Christian or have been baptised at the age of forty-three if I thought that Christianity was a second-best religion, or that one religion was as good as another. On the intellectual level, the reason I became a Christian, is that I gradually came to believe that, on the whole, Christian doctrine approaches the reality of God, and reality in general, more closely than the other great religions." (Peck, Ibid, p.166. My emphasis).
Indeed, Peck tried and rejected Buddhism and Islam and "made a firm Christian commitment":
"In one of his books, People of the Lie, he wrote, "After many years of vague identification with Buddhist and Islamic mysticism, I ultimately made a firm Christian commitment -signified by my non-denominational baptism on the ninth of March 1980..." (M. Scott Peck,Wikipedia)
In other words, Peck himself believed that Christianity is the first-"best religion," which means that he also therefore believed "that Christianity is the one true faith"!
So if Peck was only talking about the attitude of some Christians, then I (and most of the Christians I know and have known in my ~40 years a Christian) would agree with him.
As Strobel and Zacharias note, "It's one thing for Christians to believe" "Jesus saying he's the way, the truth, and the life" and "It's another thing to communicate it without sounding smug or superior" although often "it's not the manner in which the Christians try to spread their faith that's offensive" but "people are simply reacting to the message itself" and "Resistance to truth can be so strong that it can still engender violence and hate even when the person has done absolutely nothing wrong":
"`The clear implications of Jesus saying he's the way, the truth, and the life are that, first, truth is absolute, and second, truth is knowable. His claim of exclusivity means categorically that anything that contradicts what he says is by definition false.' 'It's one thing for Christians to believe that,' I said. `It's another thing to communicate it without sounding smug or superior. But Christians often come off that way.' Zacharias sighed. It was a charge he had heard all too often. `Yes, if truth is not undergirded by love, it makes the possessor of that truth obnoxious and the truth repulsive,' he said. `Having been raised in India and having all Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, and Sikh friends growing up, I can appreciate some of their criticisms of Christians. Christianity's history has some explaining to do with its methodology. Violence, antagonism, and hostility are contrary to the love of Christ. One cannot communicate the love of Christ in non-loving terms. `In India we have a proverb that says once you cut off a person's nose, there's no point in giving him a rose to smell,' he continued. `And if a Christian's arrogance turns off somebody, that person won't be receptive to the Christian message. Mahatma Gandhi said, `I like their Christ, I don't like their Christians.' Friedrich Nietzshe said, `I will believe in the Redeemer when the Christian looks a little more redeemed.' Their points need to be taken. `However,' he added, `it is possible to lovingly claim exclusive truth, just as a scientist can very gently say, `This is the second law of thermodynamics' without adding, `Now, can we vote on how many of us can cooperate with it or not?' `So the criticism of Christians is often valid?' `Yes, sometimes we have run afoul of cultural sensitivities. At the same time, however, Eastern religions have a lot of soul-searching to do in this regard today. Clannish and political conflicts aside, I know of no Christianized country where your life is in danger because you are from another faith. But today there are many countries in the world-such as Pakistan, Saudia Arabia, and Iran-where to become a follower of Christ is to put your life and your family at risk.' I had read enough newspaper accounts in recent years to know that was accurate, including in Zacharias' native land, where several Christians have been killed by militant Hindus in recent years. But sometimes it's not the manner in which the Christians try to spread their faith that's offensive. Sometimes people are simply reacting to the message itself. `Even the one whose life was most perfectly lived ended up on a cross,' Zacharias noted. `Resistance to truth can be so strong that it can still engender violence and hate even when the person has done absolutely nothing wrong.'" (Strobel, Ibid, pp.150-151)
But if Peck was claiming that Jesus and the Apostles were wrong in their claim above that Jesus is "the way and ... No one comes to the Father except through" Him (John 14:6), and that "Salvation is found in no one else , for there is no other name ... by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12) and there is only "one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus"(1 Tim 2:5) (my emphasis), i.e. "Christianity is the one true faith" (to use your words), then Peck would be, at best, an inconsistent Christian.
>In other words; I believe in God, I just don't trust anyone that works for him!
That is either: 1) self-refuting, because you are (or at least think you are), by writing your book and your blog about God, one "that works for him." But then, by your own statement, you would not "trust" yourself (in which case why would anyone "trust" your views on God if you did not trust them yourself?); and/or 2) you have, in effect set up your own religion that claims to be "the one true faith"!
Even the `tolerant' claim that "all religions are true" (apart from it being absurd since they all contradict each other in their central truth claims) is itself an absolute truth claim. Zacharias makes this point that: 1) "Christianity is not the only religion that claims exclusivity"; 2) "truth ... Is, by definition, exclusive ... If truth does not exclude, then no assertion of a truth claim is being made"; and 3) "even Baha'ism, which claims to be a cosmic embrace of all religions, ends up excluding the exclusivists":
"'Forgive me for being blunt,' I said in prefacing my question, `but isn't it grossly arrogant for Christians to claim Jesus is the one and only way to God? Why do Christians think they're justified in asserting that they're right and that everybody else in the world is wrong?' ... `Lee, I hear that question so much, especially in the East,' he said, his voice animated and his eyes looking sincere and concerned. `The first thing I do is try to deal with the misinformation that is inherent in it.' `Misinformation?' I asked. `Like what?' `First,' he said, `it's important to understand that Christianity is not the only religion that claims exclusivity. For instance, Muslims radically claim exclusivity-not just theologically, but also linguistically. Muslims believe that the sole, sufficient, and consummate miracle of Islam is the Koran. They say, however, it's only recognizable in Arabic, and that any translation desacralizes it. And it's not just a basic understanding of Arabic that's required, but a sophisticated knowledge of the language. `As for Buddhism, it was born when Gautama Buddha rejected two fundamental assertions of Hinduism-the ultimate authority of the Vedas, which are their scriptures, and the caste system. Hinduism itself is absolutely uncompromising on two or three issues: the law of karma, which is the law of moral cause and effect, so that every birth is a rebirth that makes recompense for the previous life; the authority of the Vedas; and reincarnation.' I interrupted. `But I've heard Hindus say quite nobly that Hinduism is a very tolerant faith,' I said, thinking of statements like the one made by Swami Vivekenanda near the beginning of this chapter. He smiled. `Whenever you hear that statement, don't take it at face value,' he said. `What it really means is that Hinduism allows you to practice your religion so long as it buys into their notion of truth, which is syncretistic,' he said. Syncretism is the attempt to blend together different or even opposing beliefs. `As for Sikhism,' he continued, `it came as a challenge to both Hinduism and Buddhism. Then there are the atheists-they reject the viewpoints of those who believe in God. And even Baha'ism, which claims to be a cosmic embrace of all religions, ends up excluding the exclusivists! Therefore, the statement that Christians are arrogant by claiming exclusivity ignores the reality that every other major religion does as well. So when people talk of arrogance, this cannot be a logical attack they are making.' I started to formulate my next question, but Zacharias anticipated where it was headed and jumped in to complete my sentence. `You believe that all truth-' I began. `Is, by definition, exclusive,' he said. `Yes, yes, I do. If truth does not exclude, then no assertion of a truth claim is being made; it's just an opinion that is being stated. Any time you make a truth claim, you mean something contrary to it is false. Truth excludes its opposite.' `There are those who deny that,' I observed. `Yes, but think about this: to deny the exclusive nature of truth is to make a truth claim, and is that person then not arrogant too? That's the boomerang effect that the condemner often doesn't pause to consider. The clear implications of Jesus saying he's the way, the truth, and the life are that, first, truth is absolute, and second, truth is knowable. His claim of exclusivity means categorically that anything that contradicts what he says is by definition false.'" (Strobel, Ibid., pp.148-151).
This is "the boomerang effect that the condemner"of the exclusive truth claims of Christianity (like you) "often doesn't pause to consider" that the rejection of the claim "I believe that Christianity is the one true faith," is itself exclusivist (and therefore self-contradictory)!
The bottom line is that while "Anyone can claim to be the only path to God" (including you, in effect), "the resurrection of Jesus established him as being the son of God" and "If that's true [which it is], then all other faith systems cannot be true, because they each assert something contrary to his divinity":
"Anyone can claim to be the only path to God. In fact, quite a few crackpots have made that assertion throughout history. The real issue is why anybody should believe Jesus was telling the truth when he said it. `On what basis do you believe this claim by Jesus is true?' I asked Zacharias. `Ah, yes, that is the heart of the question,' he replied, his head nodding. `On one hand, you can say that the resurrection of Jesus established him as being the son of God. If that's true, then all other faith systems cannot be true, because they each assert something contrary to his divinity. And of course, the historical record concerning the Resurrection is extremely compelling.' ... `Finally, destiny is based on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the historical event that proved his divinity and that opened the door to heaven for everyone who will follow him. Where else do you have anything that comes close to claiming this? ... Because the Resurrection is an actual historical event, we can be forgiven, we can be reconciled with God, we can spend eternity with him, and we can trust Jesus' teachings as being from God. ... That's why the apostle Peter said, `We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.' [2 Peter 1:16] `He's saying, `This is true. This is reality. This can be trusted.' And, yes, this truth excludes that which is contrary.'" (Strobel, Ibid., pp.151-153).
>If you really are open to any outside ideas then have a look at my [...] or take a look at the PDF copy of my book which I have included here!
Sorry, but I have deleted your ~2Mb PDF file unread. I suggest that if you want people to read your book, you try a different approach to sending unsolicited ~2Mb files to complete strangers, accompanied with the statement, "People like you can't be reasoned with"!
As for if me being "open to any outside ideas," there are far more "outside ideas" than there is time to consider them. Therefore we all (including you) have to chose which ones we are no longer "open to" (I myself was once an atheist, then a deist before I became a Christian). As the late, great Christian apologist G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) observed, "the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid":
"But I think he [H.G. Wells] thought that the object of opening the mind is simply opening the mind. Whereas I am incurably convinced that the object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid." (Chesterton G.K., "The Autobiography of G.K. Chesterton," The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton, , Ignatius Press: San Francisco CA, 1988, reprint, p.212).
and like Chesterton, I have made my choice (in 1967 - 40 years ago this year) that Christianity is true. And despite reading many "outside ideas" and debating against all-comers on the Internet for over a decade (1994-2005), I am even more convinced 40 years later that my choice way back then was the right one. Along with Zacharias I can affirm that, "Jesus ... is not only the way, the truth, and the life; he is personal to me. He is my way, and my truth, and my life":
"I have traveled the world. I have searched high and low. I have found nothing that satisfies my mind, my heart, and the deepest longings of my soul like Jesus does. He is not only the way, the truth, and the life; he is personal to me. He is my way, and my truth, and my life-just as he can be for anyone who reaches out to him. "Because remember what Paul told the Athenians: `He is not far,' he said, `from each one of us."' [Acts 17:27]" (Zacharias, R., in Strobel, Ibid, p.166. Emphasis original).
Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
Genesis 47:28-30. 28Jacob lived in Egypt seventeen years, and the years of his life were a hundred and forty-seven. 29When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, "If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, 30but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried." "I will do as you say," he said.