On Sunday, God reminded us that all disciples of Jesus are called to FISH - to make more and better disciples of ourselves, our children, our spouses, and our neighbors in every nation and tribe. We saw that this is fundamental to Following Jesus. Disciples Accompany. Disciples Imitate. Disciples Obey. Disciples Reproduce.
During that sermon, I attempted to dismantle two very common myths that prevent people from sharing the gospel with other people. These two myths have become part and parcel to the American Civil Religion and the cornerstone of the hollow “tolerance” preached by agnostics, atheists, and universalists alike. The first myth is The Elephant Myth – All Religions are Basically the Same, and the second myth is The Road Map Myth – All Religions are different ways to the same place.
While these two statements claim to respect all religions, they actually supersede and condescend them. Neither of these myths is more intellectually rigorous or consistent than Christianity, nor do they effectively prohibit evangelism. Instead, they appear attractive and sophisticated, but are ultimately irrational, arrogant, and dismissive. Christian Disciple Making and Evangelism on the other hand seeks to understand the other, to find the common ground God has provided, and to articulate the Good News that human beings can be reconciled to God through Jesus, the rightful ruler of all human beings. Christianity allows each other religion the respect of particularity, meaning that we don't try to tell other faiths what they believe, what they worship, or where they're going (as these myths do). Instead, we hope to spread the Good News by painting a more accurate account of reality and a more beautiful hope of redemption than available via other faiths.
Unfortunately, I was not particularly articulate on Sunday, January 18, 2015, when I preached The Way of Jesus – I am called to FISH. So if you were intrigued by the Christian response to these myths, I’m posting the following excerpts here. What follows are paragraphs from a paper I wrote after visiting 1st generation Christians in Africa and Asia. A complete PDF is available here.
Examining The Elephant Myth
All Religions are basically the same
This is a common axiom for many adherents of different religions and no religion, as well as the synthetic faith promoted by “spiritual but not religious.” It often appeals to an anecdote about blind men and an elephant to explain how different sources of faith can be simultaneously contradictory and true; and thus how proselytizing is unnecessary and destructive. Yet for all its sensible allegory, ultimately the aphorism reinforces the “arrogance”, exclusivity, and contradiction it hopes to harmonize, while encouraging intellectual ambivalence. It does so by claiming a more exhaustive understanding of each religion than its own adherents, an understanding that in reality contradicts and supersedes the respective axioms of each faith. Moreover it ultimately claims that the founders and followers of every other worldview are well-intentioned, blind persons, while those who can see the whole elephant have the gnosis that brings sight.
Finally, while followers of this aphorism bemoan attempts by individuals to change others’ religious orientation, this is itself a proselytizing religion, which either pities adherents of other faiths for their ignorance, or liberates them with a super-religious epiphany. So while proponents lambast evangelizing Christians, they preach their own gospel and argue through their own apologetics. Thus, it fundamentally endorses the legitimacy of making disciples.
 For an initial survey of this widespread allegory, which began on the Indian subcontinent, see: Wikipedia contributors, "Blind men and an elephant," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Blind_men_and_an_elephant&oldid=587101260 (accessed January 13, 2014).
Examining The Road Map Myth
All Religions are unique paths to the same destination
This philosophy of religions looks at a 2D Road Map of the world, and then imagines heaven as a single point in 3-space. Obviously, you need a distinct route from India to that 3rd heaven point and a distinct route from Puerto Rico.
Once again, the philosophy attempts to validate every single religion, but to do so, it ignores their unique goals. While each faith aims at a telos, these are not only different, but several of them are mutually antagonistic. It is, for example, impossible to conflate the corporate, corporeal, Christian resurrection with individual, ethereal, Buddhist bodhi. Therefore, if each faith is allowed to identify its own telos, the ends become impossible to amalgamate. So while, the proverb feigns respect for all religions, it must ignore and supplant each religion’s particular message, hope, goal, and normative truth claims, with a more true, normative metanarrative. So while the message is announced to preclude evangelism, the announcement is in reality evangelism, and thus implicitly legitimates the process of making disciples from other faiths.
Still there are countless Christians that subscribe to this philosophy, on the basis that Christianity describes the one true telos for all humanity, namely recreation and resurrection through Jesus the Christ. All other religions “worship Jesus by another name,” and so upon death, they will recognize in substance what they previously recognized in shadow, and if not, then they will still enter the New Creation through Jesus of Nazareth. Still, this Christo-centric universalism acknowledges Christ as the most substantial, fundamental, and articulate revelation ever given to humanity. All other revelations are somehow equivocal or inarticulate. Thus the faith lived and taught by Jesus of Nazareth is normative for all human beings, beneficial for their lives, profitable for their relationships, and expedient for their conscious contact with the “Most High God.” So, though this Christo-centric universalism is oft cited as a reason not to “make disciples of all nations,” in actuality, the theology implicitly defines the loving action towards others as a sharing of this revelation, an invitation to follow, and an equipping for inviting others to live into this deepest, thickest, animating, resurrecting reality. A failure to do so is to withhold a life-enhancing, life-giving, even life-saving revelation from those in need of such. Thus, an “all roads lead to Christ” mentality compels disciple making.
 While offering some sympathetic resonance to the above ideology, this is actually a distinct thought.
 Heaven is here a conflation of all the different goals/salvations of different religions. As such it includes, but is not limited to, nirvana, moksha, Bodhi, jannah, resurrection and tian.
 Some portion of Christians throughout the centuries since Christ have held this belief, though it has always remained a peripheral view, more dependent on theological frameworks and speculation than on particular pericopes of Scripture. Personally, I believe this philosophy is neither a persuasive nor a faithful construal of Jesus’ teachings specifically and the Bible’s teachings generally. It appears to know more about salvation and redemption than the “author and perfecter of our faith.”
 Christianity can still be normative even if universalism is true, and if normative, then making disciples of Jesus becomes a necessary act of love, while failing to do so might be akin to a doctor refusing to treat a minor infected wound, because, “Well, everyone has to die of something, you’ll just get there first.”
 For a more centrally orthodox Christian understanding, this compulsion is even stronger, because the stakes are much greater. A failure to warn and prepare others for the coming judgment is to prepare them for damnation, which is an inherently unloving and even damnable offense (cf. Ezek 33).
QUARTERLY FOOD DRIVE
Collecting Non-Perishable Foodstuffs from January 18 to February 1
Urgent Need for:
Mac & Cheese
Nonperishable food should be placed in the Fellowship Hall or taken to the Church Office. All donated food is taken directly to Saint Ann’s Church Food Pantry where it is distributed weekly.
Weekly Reading Plan
This sermon series includes a weekly Bible Reading Plan. Each week we read in preparation for the sermon coming next week. Next week we will discuss The Way of Jesus - I am called to LOVE, so this week we will be reading about love, using this WEEK 3 READING PLAN. Tips and suggested questions available on the PDF.
Over the last few Sundays, we’ve talked a lot about what it means to Follow Jesus. That Jesus calls us, “Come, follow me.” We’ve also been reading the Bible together via a Bible Reading Plan distributed weekly in the bulletin and attached online to the sermons. For many of us, this is the first time we’ve ever tried to read the Bible on our own and with our children. To make sure you don’t feel abandoned, I’ll occasionally post mediations taken from some authors much smarter than me to help you think through the stories.
Last week, we read John 1:29-42. After meditating on the same passage, the Blackabys write:
“There comes a time for each of us when merely talking about the Christian pilgrimage is not sufficient. We must actually set out on the journey! We can spend many hours debating and discussing issues related to the Christian life, but this means little if we never actually step out and follow Christ!
For generations, the coming of the Messiah had been pondered and predicted by the nation of Israel. Perhaps no topic garnered more discussion among Jews than the nature and work of the Messiah. Andrew had listened to John the Baptist and had heard of the coming Messiah. Now, suddenly, he was face to face with the One he had yearned to see! Andrew’s mind was filled with questions he longed to ask. Instead of entering into a theological dialogue with Andrew, however, Jesus turned and began to walk. Andrew’s questions would not be answered by discussion alone, but by walking with Him.
Christianity is not a set of teachings to understand. It is a Person to follow. As he walked with Jesus, Andrew watched Jesus heal the sick, teach God’s wisdom, and demonstrate God’s power. Andrew not only learned about God; he actually experienced Him!
Moments will come when you stand at a crossroads with your Lord. You will have a hundred questions for Him. Rather than answering the questions one by one, Jesus may say, “Put on your shoes, step out onto the road, and follow Me.” As you walk daily with Him, Jesus will answer your questions, and you will discover far more than you even knew to ask.”
From “January 24: Come and See” in Henry T. Blackaby and Richard Blackaby, Experiencing God Day-by-day: the Devotional and Journal (Nashville, TN: B&H Books, 1997), 24.
Keep reading my friends, and remember, Daniel-Son didn’t learn Karate in a day.
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
$5 per person, no more than $12 per family
Menu: Sausage, Sausage, Sausage, Pancakes, Grits, OJ, Milk, and Coffee
The Gospels are full of stories about Jesus eating with people. Jesus ate because he was human. Jesus ate with people because he was good people.
Every other month, Oakland gets together just to eat each other's food and listen to each other's stories. You've got to eat dinner somewhere, so why not eat in good company.
FEBRUARY 1ST IS SOUPER BOWL SUNDAY
(there’s also a football game that day)
The Oakland Youth will be dishing up delicious, nummy soups after Church on Sunday, February 1st to raise money for their upcoming 30-Hour Famine Project. Bring some extra cash and an empty belly to enjoy a quick lunch and good conversation and leave plenty of time to get home for the big game.
If you’re interested in donating a pot of soup email Michele, email@example.com.
Oakland is hosting the FINANCIAL PEACE UNIVERSITY!
Wednesday Nights @ 7:00PM – January 14 – March 18
Free Childcare Provided.
Cost: $93 per couple, which includes all books, materials, and a lifetime membership to the F.P.U.
REGISTER ONLINE or call the office, 919-934-5476 to reserve your spot today.
Still trying to decide if the Financial Peace University is for you, check out this preview: