Note to My Readers: from mid-June to mid-August (6/18 - 8/20), I will be taking a summer break from posting new articles for my Thursday and Friday slots. This will only affect my Thursday series on the global growth of Christianity, and my Friday series, the "Theological Bestiary" of birds, both of which will resume in late August. During the summer, I'll be dusting off some of my best essays from the first few years of this blog (a decade ago), as well as my verse play "Thus Ends the World," and re-posting them in the Thursday and Friday slots. All other weekdays will continue to feature new material throughout the summer.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

95 Theses, #26-27: General Revelation and World Religions

To see the introduction and disclaimers for my 95 Theses, first go to: 95-Theses-Introduction 


(Painting: "Sakyamuni, Lao Tzu, and Confucius," artist unknown, 14th-17th cent., ink and color on paper)

26.) General Revelation in Human Morality - From the beginning of human history, we have evidence of spirituality and, so far as we can tell, a fairly strong consensus on what constitutes the basics of morality. This common core, referred to in tradition by such terms as the “Noahic covenant” or the Tao (as in C.S. Lewis’ use of the term), seems to reflect a cross-cultural consensus on morality. This common core reflects the moral nature of humans as the image of God, and, in a sense, these moral guidelines can be thought of as a gift of God, a nascent “Law” by which to guide human beings into greater conformity with his nature. In a sin-oriented state after the Fall, it would be impossible for humans to truly reach full participation in God’s nature without a special dispensation of grace, but these commandments could at least begin to point them in the right direction and act as a hopeful foreshadowing of the fulfillment of the Law in Christ. 

27.) Non-Christian Religions - As such, we can posit that there is probably some wisdom and truth in many of the non-Christian religious systems of the world; this observation is in fact verified by the wide overlaps of non-Christian morality, spiritual practices, and even metaphysical beliefs with Christian theology. As such, it is quite probable that there are hints of grace in many such religious systems, which God uses to prepare non-Christians for the full revelation of his way through Jesus Christ. Going a bit further, we might say that since they represent a vast part of the human tradition—the traditions of a race which God created “very good”—it would be too hasty to write them all off as simply "false" when compared with the light of Christ. They may not have the full revelation of God in Christ, but they share our experience of the human condition, and may have some wisdom or added perspective with which to enlarge our understanding and to demonstrate from an entirely different angle the all-sufficiency of Christ. As such, dialogue and honest exploration with the other great religious systems must be thought to be advisable for developing a fully-orbed Christian worldview: all truth is God’s truth, and Christians don’t have a corner on the market when it comes to the experience of the human condition. At the same time, however, we must admit that none of these religious systems can in fact bring someone into full relationship with God, except by participation in Christ. Though God himself has granted some grace and truth to be seeded in all human religions, Satan is also able to use his influence to ground people so fiercely in non-Christian traditions that they become hardened against the Christian message, or to twist the wisdom found in those systems and create theologies of bondage and fear. Thus, in interaction with other religions, while there is great truth, perspective, and wisdom to be found, all things must be weighed in the light of Christ.

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