apologetics, Discipleship, spiritual formation

Monday Rewind: Buffet Religion

Is it arrogant to believe in one truth? Can we say that any religion is more true or valid than the others?

A common assumption of Canadians is that religions are essentially the same and are each searching for the same outcome. As a result, if anybody says that one religion is more true or valid, they are speaking from a position of arrogance.

Because we homogenize our religious narratives, the result is we have essentially become religious pragmatists. In other words, we don’t ask whether something is true or not. Instead, we ask whether something works or not. If somebody follows a different religion, we’re very quick to say, “Well, if that works for you and makes you happy, then that’s all that matters.” Truth takes a backseat to function (and sometimes even fashion).

We’re also willing to mix-and-match components from the different religions to suit our personal needs. After all, if they’re essentially the same, why should it matter where you draw your truth from? The end result is we are now able to create our own customized religion that suits our interests or temperament. We approach religions like shoppers at the mall. This undercurrent of consumerism cannot be ignored. In the end, what we have is “buffet religion” or “build-a-bear” religion. And who doesn’t like smorgasbords, right?

You can see this religious pragmatism played out in the movie, “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.” Ricky Bobby, played by Will Farrell, is a professional race car driver who’s rising to success. There’s this brilliantly funny scene where Ricky Bobby rolls his car in a professional race. When he’s pulled from his overturned vehicle, he’s so delusional that he thinks he’s on fire. He does everything he can to escape the flames. He  tries the “stop-drop-and-roll” technique. He strips to his underwear and flails his arms like…well, like a man on fire. When all else fails, he calls out for supernatural assistance.

His words have been quoted and remixed in hundreds of memes:

“Help me, Jesus! Help me, Jewish God! Help me, Allah! Help me, Tom Cruise! Use your witchcraft on me to get the fire off of me!…Help me, Oprah Winfrey!”

The irony is that Ricky Bobby is portrayed as a man who’s only vaguely religious. But when he’s in trouble, he reaches out to whatever god is available. The issue for him isn’t what’s true. The issue is what works.

This is our cultural religious landscape. So it’s not surprising that when Christ-followers claim that there is one truth, one God, or one pathway, people tend to get a bit uptight: “How can you say that? How can you make exclusive truth claims like that? Seems kind of arrogant…”

My goal here isn’t to answer these questions. If you’re curious, I’ve provided a link to a recent podcast where I do a deep-dive into this topic. You can check it out at the bottom of this post.

Instead, I’ll counter with some clarifying questions:

First, if we objectively look at the fundamental differences between the world’s largest religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism), can we really say that they are essentially the same?

Second, do YOU really think that all religions are equally true and valid? What about the Jonestown Massacre? What about the Branch Davidians under David Koresh? And the Ancient Ammonites who sacrificed humans (maybe even babies) on fiery altars?

Third, if you concede that some religions are not equally valid, haven’t you conceded that there are criteria for what’s in and what’s out? The moment you begin to insert criteria is the moment the pluralist position begins to fall apart. It becomes logically inconsistent.

This is a rewind to one of my recent teaching messages at Crosspoint Church. You can hear the full message here.

 

apologetics, Discipleship, spiritual formation

Monday Rewind: Reasonable Cause

Everything which begins to exist has a cause. Or restated, everything is the result of contingency.

You exist, so that means you were caused by something. I’m betting it was biological procreation between two homo-sapiens. This means there was a point in time when you didn’t exist and then a point when you began to exist. But something CAUSED that to happen. It may have been influenced by dim lighting, a bottle of wine, and classic eighties love songs (feel free to insert your appropriate decade here). And then your parents got busy.

In the same way, your parents exist because they were caused by something, and so did their parents before them. You can follow these causes all the way back to the first humans. As it turns out, this causation is true of all things, both living and non-living. Everything that exists was caused by something else.

Things don’t come from nothing. Things come from something. You can’t say that something came from nothing. It’s a contradiction in terms. This is indisputable in the realm of science. It’s the principle of cause and effect, action and reaction. Science has never documented something that came from nothing.

So when we look at the universe, it can be understood as a linear regression of cause and effect relationships. In other words, you can trace everything back to a beginning. It’s what philosophers call the “first cause” or a singularity. Somehow, at one specific point, the universe began to exist.

The question is…where did this first cause come from?

Now, some have argued that the universe doesn’t need to have a beginning. Couldn’t we assume that the universe has always been, that there’s just an infinite number of cause and effect relationships rolling backwards, ad infinitum (or to quote Buzz, “to infinity and beyond!”)?

For much of history, it was difficult to dispute this line of thinking. But everything changed in 1929. Edwin Hubble made one of the greatest scientific discoveries of the twentieth-century as he scanned the skies through a 100-inch telescope. In layman’s terms, he affirmed that the universe is rapidly expanding. The implication is that it had a beginning, something that’s famously been called the Big Bang. If this is true, then the universe has not always been. There was a first cause.

Again, the question is…where did this first cause come from?

This is a rewind to one of my recent teaching messages at Crosspoint Church. You can hear the full message here.

Discipleship, spiritual formation

Monday Rewind: Doubters Welcome

Doubt much lately? If you have, you’re in good company.

The late Dr. Billy Graham once said: “Doubts are a normal part of life. We doubt things on earth, so it’s easy to doubt things of God.”

There have been numerous times in my faith journey when I’ve experienced doubt. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Like most people, I want certainty. There are days when I wish the skies would part or a scroll would drop from heaven. I’d like the sun to stop for an hour. I want my own undeniable miracle, like a burning bush experience, or the Riders winning the Grey Cup in 2018. Give me something to show me that the object of my faith is real, beyond a shadow of doubt.

Thomas the disciple doubted. But he wasn’t the only one. One of the verses that helps me not lose perspective, in my doubt, is Matthew 28:16-17:

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

This scenario fascinates me. Jesus had already risen from the dead. He appeared to his disciples, and just before ascending into heaven, he gathered them together to give them some final instructions. But even after all his incredible appearances – from materializing suddenly in locked rooms to eating a fish in a body still punctured with wounds – the disciples doubted.

Some doubted.

Doubt is normal. No matter how smart, how talented, or how self-assured you are, you will experience doubt during your lifetime.

But Jesus welcomes doubters. When the disciples told Thomas about Christ’s resurrection, he was skeptical. He demanded tangible, physical evidence. A week later, Jesus showed up and gave him precisely what he needed. He didn’t rebuke Thomas for seeking evidence. Besides, didn’t the other disciples already see Jesus? Instead, he met Thomas in his doubt.

If you are wrestling with doubts today, know that Jesus welcomes doubters. He invites you to investigate, explore, reason, and wrestle. He will meet you where you are at, in your doubt, if you are willing.

My church family (Crosspoint) is striving to be a community where it’s safe to investigate and explore the Christian faith. We like to say it’s okay to ask questions, wonder, and doubt. We’ve got people at different places in their spiritual journeys. Some are investigating, others discovering, and still others pressing into the new life that Jesus offers.

Can I encourage you today? If you’re exploring faith, inspect the evidence. Kick the tires. Look under the hood. You might be surprised what you find.

But most of all, remember that Jesus welcomes doubters.

This is a rewind to one of my recent teaching messages at Crosspoint Church. You can hear the full message here.