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Exclusivism
October 19, 2008, 1:46 pm
Filed under: Christian Doctrine | Tags:

 

I’m a Christian exclusivist.  That is, I hold to the doctrine of Christian exclusivism.  I take it that one holds to the doctrine of Christian exclusivism iff one is both aware of serious alternatives to Christianity and yet maintains that there are certain important respects in which Christianity is right and therefore the alternatives are false.

In which respects?  On what matters?

 

Food?  Is there a Christian bread recipe that is preeminent over all others?

Of course not.

What about clothing?  Is there a Christian way of dressing that is preeminent over all others?

Of course not.

What about exercise?  Is there a distinctly Christian exercise program that is preeminent over all others?

Of course not.

What about relaxation techniques?  If you are Christian exclusivist, must you believe that there are special Christian relaxation techniques that are preeminent over all others? 

I say no.  My thinking here follows the same pattern as the previous 3 examples.

 

What about morals?  Here I have in mind the kind of basic moral rules and values that govern how we live together in our neighborhoods and cities.  Must we believe that Christian morals and values are preeminent over all others?

Yes and no, I say. 

Yes, in the sense that where Jesus’ teachings differ from those of others, as when he calls us to a higher standard, the Christian will say Jesus is right and the alternatives false.

No, in the sense that the work of the law is written on the hearts of everyone, and so the moral law is not exclusive to Christians.  (See the first chapters of Romans.)  Here I take the “work of the law” to refer to both the condemnation and acquittal of ourselves that goes on everyday in our moral reasoning.  That’s what the law is supposed to do.  It is supposed to make sin exceedingly sinful and bring condemnation to all.  (Again, see Romans.)  Were it not for the effects of self-deception we’d all be able to see that, according to our own moral reasoning, we are not as we ought to be.  Many of us are able to admit this to ourselves in moments of moral clarity.

 

Basically, I’d say that being a Christian exclusivist does NOT require one to believe that Christianity is the most advanced moral system, preeminent over all others. Maybe that is true, and maybe you do believe that.  But being a Christian exclusivist doesn’t require this.  That’s not what Christian exclusivism is about.

The point of Christian exclusivism, as I understand it, is that where the alternatives disagree with the revelation of God in Christ they are wrong.  The point is that the Gospel is something you can only get from the Bible reading and Gospel preaching Church.  (Unless God decides to reveal it to you in a very unusual way.)

It would be no scandal for the Christian exclusivist if she were to find out that the Buddhist has something helpful to teach her about relaxation or developing compassion towards others.  It may be that these teachings would have to be somewhat altered to fit into the Christian story.  But, in any case, this would be no scandal. 

It would be no more a scandal than discovering that Muslims have something to teach Christians about urban design or the brewing of fine coffee, or if Hindus have something to teach us about the healing benefits of some vegetable we don’t know about.  These would probably require less modification in order to fit with the Christian story.  Probably no modification whatsoever. 

Christian exclusivism doesn’t require one to think that Christians are right about everything, are the best at everything, or have exclusive information about everything.

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