Saturday, October 15, 2005

Are We Becoming Afraid to Say What God Says?: The Truth About Theological Particularism

I ran across Jeremiah 12:14-17 the other day, and it got me to thinking. The passage is a little hard to grasp at first because of the use of pronouns in most translations, but paraphrases and some contemporary translations make it clear. The Message puts the pertinent part like this:

Once I've pulled the bad neighbors out, I will relent and take them tenderly to my heart...Then if they will get serious about living my way and pray to me as well as they taught my people to pray to that god Baal, everything will go well for them.

The point of this passage is the truth about the particular nature of the Gospel message. God does not tell Jeremiah He will show compassion upon their pagan neighbors if they return to their lands, learn to dialogue like civilized (postmodern) people and worship their gods sincerely. God (and the prophets, the apostles, the wisdom literature, etc.) is not shy about the particular nature of the Gospel-there is no god but God and He is the only way to salvation.

Many today express distaste for words like “particularism” and its ugly cousin “exclucivism.” They say the words and theologies behind them are too unkind, restrictive, and not generous enough for a loving God. But certainly a couple of realities have been missed, not least of which is who or what is being excluded. To listen to the critics of the orthodox position of the unique nature of the Gospel, you would think it was designed to exclude people from the Kingdom. Nothing could be further from the truth-it excludes false Messiahs.

Another reality that seems to be missed is that God is not afraid to talk in these terms. Quite obviously, God thinks that worship outside His revelation is idolatry and that idolatry destroys souls.

So what are we to make of current pop-theologies that are afraid to speak in terms of the truth of the Gospel as revealed in Scripture, or afraid to speak in terms of true and false religion generally? We are to conclude that they may lack the courage of Scripture and the courage of their own faith.

The generosity of the Gospel is not shown in demurring about truth, but in its call to “whosoever will.” Even in Jeremiah, in the midst of so much lamentation and impending doom and judgment, God calls out to the pagan nations to receive His eternal compassion and become members of His kingdom.


David Beck said...

Hi Phil Steiger,

I like to browse Christian blogs every once in a while, and I am always amazed by how many speak about how much the church is failing. I agree. But no one ever knows why. They all just complain about it.

I must say I disagree with you that God calls out to pagan nations. He calls individuals to be members of His Kingdom, and sadly even the ones who name His Name are so grafted to the pagan nations that there are laments like the ones in your last two posts.

May I offer something to consider. If your worship community is a 501c3 and gives to Caesar what should be God's, then you just have a division of the Catholic Church -- a nice religious club. Most every "church" is.

When people who name His Name, that is, who claim to be Christian, start living by His love and under His provision instead of by fear and under the World's provision, we'll keep going 'round and 'round wondering why we're making no progress.

Just some thoughts. Thank you for letting me share on your site.


Phil Steiger said...

David-thanks for taking the time to write. I am not exactly sure what you are worried about with your statement, "I must say I disagree with you that God calls out to pagan nations. He calls individuals to be members of His Kingdom...." The passage I quoted from Scripture uses the language of God calling out or "plucking out" pagan nations to call them to Himself. I am not arguing that God literally calls nations, but that according to this, and many other metaphorical passages, in Scripture, God calls people out of pagan nations.

Additionally, I am a little unclear as to what you are getting at with the 501c3 comment. Would you be able to explain some?

Catez said...

Good stuff Phil. Featured this at BlogWatch

Phil Steiger said...


True to your nature, you are too kind.