The day began on a note of sadness. Last night the youngest son (19 years old) of Mark Chavez, who I had met the day before, was killed in a hit and run accident. Mark is on his way back to Pennsylvania to be with his family, but will not arrive until late tonight. Pray for him and his family as they grieve this loss.
Dr. Robert Jenson was the guest speaker this morning. He addressed the commonly held view today that “all paths lead to the same destination (e.g. God and salvation).”
He first declared that it was impossible to actually do this since each religion is like a mountain on its own. Each mountain represents a point of human aspiration and mountains do not converge at the top. However, the idea that all paths could lead to the same mountain or the same God could be forced if someone first started with that goal in mind. In that case, these paths are forced to merge where there really is no common junction.
If one studies religion though, each religion is a separate mountain and the only way to connect them is to build paths between them, but never with the possibility of a common path or common goal for all.
Dr. Jenson then posed the question: “What makes Christianity’s relationship to other religions unique?”
First, he indicated that Christianity is a missionary religion proclaiming a unique message among all other religions. It is not the Christian worldview or lifestyle that is unique, but our claim that God came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ, died and was raised to life. This message has been given to a community of believers to declare to the world, rather than to individuals. This message is strange to those who hear it; a message that is intended to engage the questions of life that people face every day.
Second, although God’s revelation is plain for all to see and there is something of God’s natural revelation in all religions (Romans 1:18-32), it is only through God’s revelation in Christ that we truly see God for who and what he is. Outside of God’s revelation in Christ all that is worshiped are idols.
Dr. Jenson then addressed Islam and commented that he believed Mohammed to be a false prophet and that Islam and even parts of Christianity have focused on worshiping a book of the word rather than the person who is the Word. “Rather than trusting a divine book,” he said, “we have been called to trust a divine human: Jesus the Christ.”
In the question and answer period that followed there was discussion about “What is an authentic church?” Dr. Jenson felt that Luther had adequately defined it in this way:
- These Christian, holy people possess the Word of God.
- These Christian, holy people are recognized by Baptism.
- These Christian, holy people are recognized by the holy Sacrament of the Altar.
- These Christian, holy people are recognized by the Office of the Keys exercised publicly.
- These Christian, holy people are recognized by the fact that they consecrate Ministers.
- These Christian, holy people are recognized by prayer, public praise, and thanksgiving to God.
- These Christian, holy people are recognized by “the holy possession of the sacred cross” (suffering).
For an expansion of these marks see the following article: Luther on the Marks of the Church.