Thoughts on the Exclusivity of Christ in a Relativistic Culture

April 30th, 2010 § 4

This is a hard topic.  One I have been thinking about quite a lot lately.  I wrote a book which will be forthcoming when I am good and ready.  The book deals with death and dying, but it also deals with liberty, freedom and true humanity.  I allowed a friend to read the proof copy recently.

Obviously, there is no way to address these topics without addressing them as they relate to the King.  I believe that true freedom and liberty can only be reached when we live out the humanity we were made to live out as loyal subjects in a kingdom.

My friend is a wonderful artist.  Made in the image of God, she reflects his glory in so many amazing ways.  Her daughter, whom I have gotten to know, is 23 and honestly a special person.  Well rounded and educated, she is a shining testament that my friend cares about good things.  She has raised at least one child so that I can personally see how her influence on this earth has been good.  It is not as if it is up to me to approve of her and her life, but in many ways I do.  She is a terrific individual worthy of great respect.

The thing is, she talks like a universalist.  She believes there is a “Christ in all of us”  and that all of creation is filled with God.  Personally I don’t exactly disagree.  I think that all of His creation echos his name and his glory.  So it is easy to see where she would say God is in the trees and the hills.

At any rate, she had some thoughts on my book which were well received and I am contemplating.  She basically said I might want to make it more accessible to readers who are not openly Christian.  Her words were not “tone down the exclusivity of Christ stuff.”  But I think it is fair to say that is what she was getting at.

Herein lies the tension.

We live in a relativistic culture where people are happy to accept my point of view if I don’t question theirs.  And I have no desire whatsoever to question their point of view.  I think each and every human being has something special to share with the world and their opinions and perspectives should be valued and listened to.  So I don’t want to challenge them, I want to listen respectfully to what they have to say.

The problem is that I live as a subject to a king.  If my neighbors were openly plotting rebellion to the US government and shipping secrets to the Islamic Fundamentalists, shouldn’t I in the very least challenge their thinking and remind them that they are subjects of the US and could be tried for treason and executed?

Since Voltaire, the French Revolution, the Declaration of Independence and a thousand other small events in human history, western individualists have lost an understanding of what it means to have a king.  We believe in personal sovereignty.  Our ancestors understood Monarchy in a much different way than we do.  Once upon a time, you had a King who fully controlled your life.  You could only hope that he was a good king and not a tyrant, because you were completely at his mercy.

This Jesus I am talking about, he is a good king.  But he is still a king.  Rebels to his authority will not be tolerated forever.  He will subdue his enemies just like any king would.  But he is good to his people.

This is a hard thing to understand and to teach in a relativistic world where everyone’s opinion should be valued.  I do however, think it is the only hope we have.  I cannot long tolerate a world where each individual is their own sovereign ruler.  I need a king, because frankly I am an idiot and so are you.

I believe that we were made to live in perfect harmony and beauty with each other and with the world (like the Navi on Avatar), but our ancestors made some decisions that screwed us over and now we have wars, death, poverty, oil spills and illegal immigration issues.  Honestly, just think about it.  Doesn’t that idea of harmony and perfection resonate with something inside you?  Doesn’t it make sense that we were made to enjoy that?  That our purpose is somehow not being fulfilled?  I think this king who leads us has the answers to the deepest longings of all our hearts.  The only way to live out true humanity is to recognize the king and bend the knee to him.

It is clear to me that I am not good enough to be my own king.  I need one more powerful.  Does that mean I am weak?  Yes it does.   But I am no weaker than anyone else.  So far in these thousands of years of history, no one else has solved these problems.  I don’t suspect that I will either.   I simply have come to the point where I have been forced to recognize my own weakness and inability to create much of anything pure around me.  Thankfully I have a king who does that.

Each one of us is a subject of the King from Nazareth.  Loyal or disloyal, we have a king.  What you do with the King is up to you, but it won’t keep him from being King.

I see my responsibility as a servant of that king to recognize the beautiful and unique way he has made every person on the planet.  I should honor them since they reflect the image of God, but I must also make sure I let them know that they live in a Kingdom.  And whether they know it or not, there is a King.

So the question is, where do I draw the line on how “accessible” my book is to those who do not recognize the authority of the king?

§ 4 Responses to “Thoughts on the Exclusivity of Christ in a Relativistic Culture”

  • Justin Sembler says:

    Jared, to your final question, you have just drawn the line in all that you have said. You have demonstrated great care for all of us who are made in the Image of God and yet you have not compromised your duty to be subject to the King, Jesus. I look at it like this, when relativists are espousing their views, they are not, nor do they have any desire to soft-sell us on what they believe to be true about the world and their own sovereign kingship. In many cases, it is a much more harsh than what thoughtful Christians have communicated in return. You have not undercut their uniqueness in what you have just said and you have honored them as the Image of God that they are. Well done. I look forward to reading the book and borrowing money from you if it does well.

  • admin says:

    thanks dude…. and by the way … don’t count on the money ;)

  • jared says:

    The Following message was emailed to me in response to this post, from the individual who I was speaking about…

    Jared, my message was about how you show the love and sorrow and acceptance of death that you and your family went through. I think that those human experiences and lessons are not unique to Christians and specifically Christians who are familiar with the vocabulary that you use. Let’s say, for instance, that a young man, who was Buddhist, went through the same sad dying experience with his beloved mother and family. And through, this passage he and his family found peace and acceptance of death. Let’s also say that he described his feelings in much the same way as you do.

    Could this story of his not be a convincing lesson in life, love and compassion? Would the reader not find a common ground with which they could relate to his sorrow?

    I was thinking that your story has a universal appeal, of course, and if you feel compelled to place your experience in the context of your beliefs, that’s fine also.

    I just think that many people will not necessarily understand where you are coming from. I was raised in a very conservative Catholic faith, at least for the first 16 years of my life. There was very fleeting mention of God as “king” and us as “loyal subjects” and none of “sovereign kingship” (what does this mean?) These were usually in reference to Old Testament stories. Christ was explained as present in all of us and we should find that spirit alive in every human. At least, that’s what I heard. I’m just saying, that though we were Christians, the vocabulary was somewhat different.

    Mass-market publishing may have the same questions. That’s why I suggested looking at some of the more specifically Christian publishing companies.

    “We live in a relativistic culture where people are happy to accept my point of view if I don’t question theirs. And I have no desire whatsoever to question their point of view.”

    I am not sure what you mean by “relativistic culture” but I know that there are aspects of our culture and others that are unethical, misogynistic, racist, hateful and unyielding to other points of view. When basic human rights are at issue, I would not ever accept the points of view that support them. I feel responsible to stand up against those kinds of injustices. And, I should do so more often. So, my interest is not in being in tune with all the possible interpretations of faith that are out there. My interest and life beliefs are in trying to find the essence of the sublime in all humans, even our enemies. Here’s a definition that works for me.

    “The sublime refers to a greatness with which nothing else can be compared and which is beyond all possibility of calculation, measurement or imitation.”

    This may seem a little loopy and far-fetched, but here I am.

  • jared says:

    Friend,
    I understand what you mean about universal feelings and understandings of life and death. I can make no argument there, other than to say that the idea of the book is true freedom and in many ways I don’t think true freedom is accessible apart from the king.

    What you said about your upbringing. I think you put your finger on the problem. Raised in a church, you got very little exposure to Christ as King and his “Sovereign Kingship.” I think this really speaks to the real problem.

    As I said, modern westerners find it difficult to either accept or comprehend the gospel, because it has been so fundamentally altered by an individualistic church.

    Jesus arrived at a point in history when “Ceasar was LORD.” In other words, his word and his decision was law. He owned everything and commanded everything. The “good news” went out to the land when this king defeated a foreign army and dragged the bloodied body of its leader through the streets of Rome.

    The early church turned this idea on its head saying that “Jesus is LORD” and they proclaimed the good news that Jesus had defeated his enemy the devil.

    They were saying that despite the world they lived in, there was a much more significant and important reality – the reality that I call the cosmic story. This is a larger narrative that I believe everyone in the Universe lives under. This narrative tells the story of a King who is making things better again. From the very beginning, there is an antagonist and a protagonist and the story climaxes at the cross when Jesus once and for all claims victory. And we wait for him to make all things new again.

    The whole dichotomy of Old versus New is a completely new and erroneous teaching common in the church. The whole thing is one story that makes sense of every action and event in the Universe only when you take it as a whole.

    I believe this common teaching you described (which is certainly not unique to the Catholic Church) is one reason the west is rapidly turning away from the Christian faith. It has no real meaning and it offers no purpose. But rightly understood, this story gives hope, purpose and true freedom.

    As far as the aspects of our culture that you mention. I could not agree more. These things you mentioned are all consequences of “the fall.” When Adam and Eve ate the fruit they brought death and a host of other ills into the world. These things are some of the very reasons that Jesus died and rose again. These are the things that we can look forward to being completely eliminated when “he makes all things new.”

    As for the idea of the sublime you speak of. I think I would call that the image of God which we are all created with – each and every one of us. And I do believe your definition is a good one. We cannot describe it, nor really understand it, but we all possess it. The problem is, we are also broken. Jesus died to put us back together again and set things back to the way they were supposed to be.

    I hope that helps make some of what I said earlier a bit more clear…

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