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.