Kennedy's 'Postcards from
Jonal entry 925 | Wednesday, October 5, 2005
Bill Tammeus, a columnist for the Kansas City Star whom I've frequently read and occasionally quoted approvingly several times on Xnmp, came up with a mind-bending piece on Monday called "Faith-based know-it-alls are dangerous." We hear variations on this line often, especially in this era of heightened Christian baiting and hating fueled by the red-state phenomenon. But Tammeus isn't as shallow a thinker as most of the wrtiers whose editorials, columns, and letters to the editor I check out day after day. The "bend" I referred to in the first sentence is the climax of his essay:
From this, Tammeus jumps to an evangelical pastor in Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley whose star has risen in the conservative Protestant sky for the past several decades as an example of "triumphalism" closer to home than al Qaeda:
To which I retort, both Tammeus and MacArthur are wrong. Tammeus doesn't show any proof that "exclusivist theology" produces dangerous people. It may, but I haven't seen the proof yet. I doubt that the followers of Bin Laden and the suicide bombers in Israel are theological thinkers in any sense of the word; they're just haters out for self-actualization. And though I'm sure MacArthur is well read in theology and articulate in his pulpit, there's no evidence that he has moved anyone to anything bordering on violence.
But in assessing Tammeus' article, the one thing I see as potentially dangerous is its potential to turn more borderline leftists from lethargy to taking up arms against their Christian, not Islamic, neighbors (the latter, of course, would be anti-multiculture and therefore unthinkable to an awakening liberal). The trouble with Tammeus' theory of "exclusivist theology" is that it's an oxymoron. By definition, religion is certitudinal. It's all about the things that are life's greatest certitudes, or certainties. Without certitude that your religion (whatever it is) is true, you may as well be an agnostic. Stop to think about it...in that case you are an agnostic.
Another, and some would say more important, problem with Tammeus' theory is that it makes Jesus Christ a liar. "I am the way, the truth, the life; no man comes to the Father but by me," or words to that effect (John 14:6). And to say that another god, or another "way," can get us to God's presence is, from a Christian perspective, a blasphemy. If there were any other way, how could a loving Father not only allow, but send, His Son to the cross to be the way to our redemption? What would be more monstrous than to send someone to die in order that we may live, if that death wasn't necessary as part of God's eternal plan?
I was for many years a Presbyterian minister (since Tammeus summons that background) and I would say that his idea of God's "freedom" isn't part of any orthodox Christian theology. God has limited himself by His own decrees. He is in a sense "free" to do anything, but He has promised that He won't do anything that's inconsistent with His chosen eternal being as a loving father, and He won't go back on His promises. Our understanding is fallible, but He is infallible.
On the other hand, there's no telling how anyone whoto our perceptionhas never heard of Jesus, may have heard without it getting our attention. And we can certitudinally know that arrogance is a sin, pride is a sin, thinking ourselves better than anyone else because we have "right religion" is a damnable sin of pride. Thinking "that everyone else is wrong or evil or both" and we are not is definitely a sin. To take arms or even show animosity against anyone in the name of a loving God or our superior religion, is anti-human, anti-God, anti-religion. To fail to be good neighbors toward our non-Christian acquaintancesMuslim, Jewish, Hindu, Zoarastrian, paganis to fail the Son who is love incarnate. I agree with Tammeus that we cannot say the things he quotes from MacArthur; we should not. But it's because that wouldn't be charitablenot loving, not because we can't know and have intimate relationship with the Truth, the Way, and the Life.