Contra Benedict II: The Scriptural Basis for Multi-Culturalism & Pluralism

23 09 2006

For those of you who have been waiting with baited breath for the next installment of this series, you wait is over (yes, I am a legend in my own mind). First, I want to again make it clear that I deplore those who want to kill the Pope because of a quotation he made from a 14th century emperor critiquing Islam for converting people through the point of a sword. This is madness. God does not need a defender, and it is a sin of the highest order to kill another human being who is made in God’s image. Only God has the right to take life. We demonstrate the veracity of our faith by loving others sacrificially, not by killing those we consider to be infidels. Violent religious extremists of whatever stripe hurt the cause of religion for everyone.

That said, let us move on to the biblical basis for multi-culturalism & plurality. If you listen to the Pope, he would like to make you believe that the postmodern moment that we swim in is just a fad and a phase. That once we get past it, we need to return to the modernistic methods of rationality and reason to prove our faith is reasonable, rational, and true. And that we need to get back to the specific brand of Platonic/Cartesian understandings of rationalism to do this right.

I say this is wrong, and it is wrong on biblical grounds. First, as I said before, God can, and has spoken to each and every culture and social system known to humankind. God is not in a box. We see in Genesis 11 that God is the creator of culture. Yes, he wants unity (more on this later) but at the expense of diversity. God is too big for to squeeze in to just one culture or ethnic group. He wants to be known and glorified in each and every ethnic group.

Second, both the letters to the Romans and Galatians demonstrate to us that you don’t have to become a Jew to become a Christian, but we are all sons of Abraham (including women) no matter where we come from. I think that it would be fair to say that if you don’t have to become a Jew to be a Christian, then you don’t have to become Greek to become a Christian. Nor do you have to become white to get close to God, and so on.

Third, according to 1Corinthians 9:19-23: “19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel…”

It is clear to me from this passage that it is dangerous for the Gospel to be soley be tied to any particular culture. Yes, Christianity is a Western religion, but it is an Eastern one too. The Gospel is for all, it is not only for the West. Truth be told, I am sure that those in the East “get” aspects of the Gospel that those in the West don’t.

Jesus did not come to save only Greeks and Jews, He came to save the world, and to redeem each and every human culture and society that is out there. His image is borne by every person who has ever lived, and hence, He is present in every culture there ever has been or ever will be.

Fourth, it is not human reason that leads men to God, but God Himself. Listen to Paul again in 1Corinthians 2:

1When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

And in the first chapter of the same epistle:

18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

20Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

26Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29so that no one may boast before him. 30It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

Again, it is clear from me in these passages that the wisdom of humanity is not what brings us to God, but rather, it is God Himself who demonstrates His reality to us. It is not reason or rationalism that wins the day, but revelation, and that is something that only God can do.

Finally, as I said, God wants unity, but not uniformity. Genesis 11 demonstrates that God is the creator of diverse human cultures. Culture is not a dirty word to God. God is not against diversity, He is all for it, and He is the initiator of it. But at the same time, God’s ultimate plan is for all these human cultures to eventually form into another God-ordained culture that we see in Revelations 7, a vast human throng made up of peple of every ethnicity, hue and tongue, praising God in a new song with a new rhythm, in a new style, that is shaped by all the different songs and cultures and personalities that are standing before God’s throne.

This is the point of Pentecost in Acts 2. The diverse languages that were created the day the tower of Babel was tossed down by God, has now turned into a new language that all can understand. God has created unity out of diversity, and through it all, a new humanity.

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2 responses

12 10 2006
Matt Stone

“I think that it would be fair to say that if you don’t have to become a Jew to be a Christian, then you don’t have to become Greek to become a Christian.”

Well I’ll be damned. Someone who read the whole speech! I agree with you totally mate.

13 10 2006
marcdav

Hi Matt,

Yeah, most people I am reading online are mostly focused on the Pope’s quote of the Byzantine emperor who was critical of Islam. This admitedly was an important part of the speech, and ist understandable why most of the comments would be focused on that. Yet for us postmoderns, the rest of the Pope’s comments have to be seen as a broadside to our worldview imho.

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