Donahue and JesusDONAHUE AND JESUS
On MSNBC last Tuesday night, Phil Donahue hosted a raucous discussion on the topic: “Is the highway to heaven only open to the Christians? Some say only faith in Jesus will earn you a place beyond the pearly gates. So what about Jews, Muslims, and followers of other faiths?” The panel consisted of three evangelicals, one Jewish rabbi, and a liberal theologian. You could sum up the hour by saying that the rabbi called the evangelicals spiritual racists (and worse), the liberal doesn’t believe that Jesus is the only way to heaven, the evangelicals do believe that, and Donahue thinks those who believe that are arrogant. How should we respond to this charge? By its very nature Christianity is an exclusive faith. When the angel said, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11), that wasn’t just wishful thinking or a nice, squishy-soft, we’re-all-going-to-heaven Christmas card. To say that Christ is the “Savior” means that he came to save us from our sins. To call him “Lord” means that he stands alone in the universe as the only one worthy of our worship. It is not as if he is “one Lord among many” or “Lord of those who happen to believe in him.” He is Lord of all things at this very moment, and he is the Lord over all creation and over all people everywhere, including those who deny him or doubt him or ignore him or, worse yet, trivialize him. We need not be ashamed or embarrassed by anything we believe. In these days of spiritual confusion, it would help if Christians had a good dose of winsome, tenacious courage. That means telling the truth with a smile, not a scowl, never trying to win through intimidation, but simply declaring the truth that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life. In other words, we need to repeat the glad tidings of John 3:16 every chance we get. The door of salvation is wide open to everyone in the world. Anyone can believe, all should believe, and everyone may believe. God is not a respecter of persons. He favors no race or class or group over any other race or class or group. Last week I happened to catch a few moments of an opening prayer by Dr. D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The first line stayed with me: “Only of you, O Christ, could it be said that all the world rejoiced in your birth.” In some ways that seems to be an overly-optimistic prayer, given the hostility and confusion we see all around us. But on a deeper level it is true. The weary world rejoices because at last a Savior is born. Those who believe it discover the truth–Joy to the world, the Lord is come!