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Thursday, January 22, 2009

God of Our Many Understandings?

No doubt many of you heard Bishop Gene Robinson’s prayer at the inauguration on Tuesday. “O god of our many understandings…” Whoever that is, one thing is certain – it is not the God of the Bible.

Honestly, we expect such things from people like Robinson. When it was announced that he would pray at the inauguration, I doubt any conservative evangelicals held out hope that he would pray in the name of Jesus. But what is more troubling is how widespread this notion of one common god has become. Among those who would have no problem with Robinson’s prayer are Billy Graham and George W. Bush. It is now the popular and tolerant thing to consider that there is one god served by many religions, with many roads to this god and his heaven.

But is it true that all religions serve the same god? Is Allah the same god as Yahweh? Is it true that there are many roads that lead to heaven, that lead to God? If we let the God of the Bible speak for Himself, we have to conclude that there is no such thing as a god of many understandings. There is only one God…the God of the Christian Bible.

In Exodus 15, after the God of Israel defeated the Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea, Moses and the Israelites sang a song to the Lord, saying in v3, “The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name.” Whenever we see “LORD” in all caps in the Bible, it is the rendering of the Hebrew name for God, YHWH, or Yahweh. The Jews have always believed the name to be so holy that they refuse to speak it. Instead, as they read the Hebrew text, when they come to the word YHWH, they say in its place, “Adonai,” the Hebrew word for Lord. God has made known His name. It is Yahweh. It is not Allah or anything else.

And some may say, “The Bible uses many names for God.” That is true. But they are all found in the Bible. "Allah" is not found in the Bible. "Buddha" is not found in the Bible.

The notion that there are many valid religions with many modes of worship all serving a common god is abhorrent to the God of the Bible. Indeed, in the Old Testament, God was very particular about how He was to be worshiped. In the books of Exodus and Leviticus, He outlines in painstaking detail precisely how the Israelites were to approach Him. In Leviticus 10, we find out just how particular God is. When two of Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, approached to worship in an unauthorized manner, they were immediately consumed with fire from the LORD. Can we really think that this God is served by all modes of worship in all the religions of the world?

If we accept Robinson’s god of many understandings, we would have to agree that there is no such thing as a false god. But the God of the Bible holds no such conviction. According to the Word, not only are there false gods, but they are dangerous because they lead people away from the One True God. He wanted all worship of false gods to be obliterated. In Deut 12, the Israelites were given orders about what they were to do when they came into the promised land: 2 You shall surely destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3 You shall tear down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and burn their Asherim with fire. You shall chop down the carved images of their gods and destroy their name out of that place.

Talk about intolerant! But that’s not all. According to Deuteronomy 7, the Israelites were commanded to utterly destroy not only the places of pagan worship the pagan nations themselves, lest the Israelites be tempted to serve their false gods.

No doubt someone will say to me, "You are only looking at the God of the Old Testament. The God of the New Testament is a God of love and non-condemnation." Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the New Testament is even more exclusive than the Old. The God of the New Testament is indeed a God of love, but He is also a God who condemns to hell all who do not believe in His Son, Jesus Christ. And in that way, He is as intolerant and exclusive a Being as you will ever find. The exclusivity of Christ is precisely what removes the possibility of the God of the Bible being but one facet of this god of many understandings embraced by Gene Robinson.

Do all roads lead to God? Consider these words:

John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but through me.”

John 3:18, “Whoever believes in him [Christ] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

John 1:12 But to all who did receive him [Christ], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.

John 17:3 And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

If I cited every such verse in the New Testament, we would be here quite a while. But the message is clear: anyone who does not embrace Jesus Christ as God, does not embrace the One True God. By today’s standards, Jesus would be considered the most intolerant person on the planet. Indeed, if He came today making the same exclusive statements that you read above, I have no doubt He would be crucified all over again.

So the question is this: can a God who demands that He alone be honored as the One True God be considered just one manifestation of Robinson’s god of many understandings? As God defines Himself, there is but one legitimate understanding of who He is. He is the God of the Christian Bible and there is salvation in no one other than His only Son, Jesus Christ. He is by His own words a profoundly exclusive God.

So to whom was Gene Robinson praying? According to 1 Corinthians 10:20-21 and 1 Timothy 4:1, if it wasn't to the God of the Bible, it was to demons.

In his attempt to be inclusive, Robinson excluded the only God who could have heard and answered his prayer. His implicit denial that there is one legitimate understanding of God is at the same time a denial that Jesus is God. Robinson’s love for the approval of men brings to my mind Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:32-33, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.”

On the day of judgment, neither Gene Robinson nor anyone else will be confronted with a god of many understandings. There will only be the One True God. And only those who belong to His Son, who have embraced Him alone as Lord, will be welcomed into paradise.

And it may seem foolish, ironic, and intolerant to the world, but that is the most loving message there is.

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