It was a good study, with good participation throughout some very stiff parts. In summing up the whole tonight, I pointed out that the writer of Hebrews makes two central points which are difficult to accept in these politically correct days:
1) that Christ is the one, the only, the original way to God, and all other possible ways are, at best, only pale imitations;
2) that to leave Christ for any other comfort is a terrible thing, an awful mistake, an unmitigated disaster.
I asked for their responses.
Well, when you put it that way . . .
Most of them seemed anxious to defend other ways as equal ways to God. "If it works for you" would seem to define what passes for religious Truth. And these are people who, I have no doubt, are sincere in their own faith in Christ. They just think that other people can choose other saviors and get as much as they have in the way of righteousness with God. One lady didn't seem comfortable with that view, and another looked at me with shining eyes as I began to probe and gently challenge this attitude.
I mentioned the missionary (whose name escapes me) who was going to China, and who was asked by a reporter, "Do you think the Chinese will be lost if you don't go?" He replied, "No, I think the Chinese are lost, and that's why I'm going." They didn't get it.
So, just as a practical matter, I pointed out that basically, only those Churches and congregations that are very clear on the need to confess Christ for salvation have a chance to grow. Those who cannot provide a sufficient reason for others to abandon their ways to embrace Christ's Way, will eventually and are now fading away. I could see disbelief on several faces.
Ah, me. The piety of those dyed-in-the-wool is a wonderful thing, but having never been left out in the cold, so to speak, they take warmth and welcome for granted. The Church Orphan (Yours Truly), who found his way to Christ apart from the Church, and who finally had to crash the doors of the Church to belong (which Church would gladly have left him in the wilderness), knows better. If Christ were not The Way™, what would be the point of all that? I could make up a religion that suited me better, which excused all my sins and was easy to follow.
Well, the seed has been planted. We'll get back to this idea again, I'm sure.
Now, I'm not recruiting faction fighters. I'm not trying to start a ruckus. I'm not some sour bigot who has to point out others' wrongness in order to bolster my own rightness. But seriously, if Christ is not THE one and only way -- even granting a wide range of possibilities to the very real question of the Virtuous Pagan -- then why should any of us give a rip about Christianity? And why should I knock myself out to pastor a church, instead of writing fantasy games, campaigning for office, running a restaurant, or any of the other things I've thought about doing?