A few weeks ago I was talking with someone who has embraced an American Indian philosophy. He told me all about sweat lodges and the symbolism involved in them. He excitedly claimed that the trees and the animals are our brothers. On the one hand, he expressed his suspicion of Europeans and “their religion” because of their track record. On the other hand, he appeared to make an attempt to be magnanimous and to build legitimacy for his Indian philosophy by claiming that we are both working for the betterment and healing of people. He said he could accept me as being in a different path toward the same goal.
While many people today might not share all of his beliefs, I suspect that a large number of people do evaluate just about everything based upon whether it is broad-minded. Accordingly, I would suspect that many would gravitate to his claim that different religious paths can be equally viable. As we dialogued, a number of thoughts and questions cascaded through my mind. A couple of these were:
“I wonder how my fellow Christians would have responded to him?”
“How can I show this person, who is obviously sincere, that true Christianity is not just another philosophy of life among equals?”
At the onset, we should at least acknowledge what the Scriptures claim. The message they were intended to communicate do not permit a view of Christ and serving him as simply being another ethically beneficial philosophy among equals for living life. You can start with the crucifixion of Jesus.
Scripture claims that all the peoples of the world are guilty and stand in need of being declared righteous before God. And furthermore, there is only one solution to this problem – Jesus’ death on the cross on our behalf and our subsequent incorporation into Christ (Rom. 3:23-25).
The story of Jesus presented in the Bible is not a tidy little message which can be contained in a box that will sit nicely on a shelf as merely being an equal among other religions. The gospel calls people to respond to Jesus or be lost. Clearly, the gospel’s intended message is that whether someone admits its truthfulness or not will not alter the fact that Jesus is the only way to the Father and our only hope (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
But do these claims have any teeth? Are they merely assertions or is this the way that things really are? The shackles of merely being another ethically viable philosophy fall off of containing Jesus and his message by his resurrection from the dead. This was God at work! His resurrection verified that his death was indeed a sacrifice for all of humanity. From a human perspective, Christianity either rises above all other religions or falls down to simply being another humanly contrived path among equals depending upon whether Christ historically rose from the dead. The evidence reveals that the tomb was empty Sunday morning, not because someone stole his body but because death could not hold him.
Since the message proclaimed by Christ and about Christ is reliable, all of humanity has a responsibility to respond to it, since God will judge the whole world by the One whom God raised from the dead (Acts 17:30,31). What will matter for my Indian friend, and for all other people one day, is whether they have trusted in Jesus by obeying the gospel.