Sunday, November 16, 2014

"Reconciling Paul," Jesus Christ lord, the only way

Jesus warns his disciples that some are only hired hands working for wages while they watch the Master’s sheep. But Jesus is the good shepherd, the one who lays his life down for the sheep. The hired hand is not the owner of the sheep and he leaves the sheep to be torn by wolves (John 10:11-12). Paul in the book of Acts warns of the “savage wolves” among the under-shepherds who will not spare the sheep but scatter them.

 Presbyterian Women through Elizabeth Hinson-Hasty, the author of their latest Horizon’s Bible study, “Reconciling Paul,” are claiming that other religions reveal the fullness of God. Hinson-Hasty, in her blog posting on the third lesson, continues to push the idea that there are other viable paths to salvation.

While I have already written about the third lesson with my posting “The 2014-2015 Horizon's Bible Study "Reconciling Paul" - a continuing review # 3,” I want to once again address this issue since Hinson-Hasty continues to deny the foundational truth of Christianity that Jesus is the only way to God. She attacks this essential Christian truth in several ways. One way is by using a question asked by a woman who attended one of the Horizon Bible study workshops. She writes:

“One friend who I met at a workshop in North Carolina asked, “How would my faith look and be practiced differently if my belief in Jesus as the only path to salvation changed?”  Her thoughtful and serious question is worthy of attention.” 

Hinson-Hasty wants to use Paul’s writings to affirm her own position and in doing so to lay out a way to live the Christian faith while still believing that other faiths are equally the way to God. Strangely she sees Paul’s insistence that although he is a Jew, Gentiles can also be Christians, as an example of how one could see the fullness of God in other religions. Hinson-Hasty writes:

“Paul, representing a more progressive Jewish voice in his time, errs on the side of inclusion. Why? He writes “all of us … are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another ...” (2 Corinthians 3:18).  Paul enlarged his understanding of the community of faith by crossing well-defined boundaries of religion, race, and ethnicity.  That was certainly surprising for his time.”

Well first of all, Paul was not a progressive Jew, he was a Jew, who like the Pharisees, which he had been, believed in the bodily resurrection, believed in the returning Messiah, believed in the supernatural.  And secondly, he saw all of this fulfilled in Jesus his Lord. And that is the crux of the matter, Jesus the final revelation of God. Paul crossed the boundaries because of Jesus, God’s only revelation.

Hinson-Hasty attempts to use God’s covenant and the cross as Paul sees it as a way of affirming pluralism. She writes:

“Ultimately, I think that what Paul is preaching among the Corinthians and to us is Jesus’ message of the cross; of the vulnerability of love and priority of reconciliation. For Paul, the crucified Jesus reveals God’s nature and the fullness of human nature that all are called to be. To say this, however, does not have to create a point of division among faiths.  We can draw upon Paul’s writings to affirm God’s nature of loving kindness and openness to vulnerability while affirming the fullness of God in other religions.  The way Paul wrestled with and affirmed different ways of practicing one’s faith in the ancient world can invite us to cross well-established boundaries of creed and clan.”

If one examines Hinson-Hasty's statement, Jesus dying on the cross is only held to be an example, not a sacrifice for sin. Bodily resurrection is unimportant and the uniqueness of the Incarnation means nothing. But the question must be asked, without Jesus, without a personal God, without the Trinity how could the fullness of God be possible? Paul writes in Colossians that in Jesus was the fullness of God. “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him.”  

And how is the woman’s question answered? How would her faith look if she no longer believed that Jesus was the only path to salvation? Quoting Fr. John Pozhathuparambil of India, Hinson-Hasty writes:

“If you are Christian, be a good Christian.  If you are Jewish, be a good Jew.  If you are Hindu, be a good Hindu.  If you are Muslim, be a good Muslim.”

So just be good.

But you cannot be a good Christian unless you love Jesus above all ‘so-called lords.’ You are called to leave all other lords, to see them as false gods, and proclaim Jesus the Savior and lord of life. In the midst of pluralism, called to follow Jesus, you are to worship only the one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.


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