‘One cannot reduce the whole of religious theology, that is to say the question of how different religions relate to one another, to a yes-and-no question. It amounts to doing violence to a wealth of knowledge and experience that can be found there.’
Before you know who made this statement and on what occasion, please read it again and ponder what you think it means. What could be the purpose for a statement like this one? What does it say about the value the speaker attributes to any religion?
The statement was made by the head of the Lutheran Church of Sweden in answer to a question. Antje Jackelén was asked “Does Jesus provide a truer picture of God than Muhammed?” The quotation above was her answer. That she made this statement while holding a leadership position in an organization which alleges to be a Christian church is disturbing. That the people who were tasked with selecting a national leader for that church chose this woman rather than the bishop who flatly answered “Yes” is extremely disturbing. Any child in Sunday School who knows that Jesus is God in the flesh could answer this question, yet the national leader of the Lutheran Church in Sweden cannot answer it.
Unfortunately, she is not alone.
There are many Christians who would not be sure how to answer that question. Some might equivocate as she did, attempting not to answer it at all. Some might be bold enough to say, “Well, Jesus is only one view of what God is like. Mohammed is another.” Some might say that the answer doesn’t even matter since there are so many ways to see God. These Christians might all be American Christians, too, because statistics bear out what any casual observer might deduce: the fact that someone calls himself a Christian does not mean that the person believes what Christians have historically taught as the core truths.
The Barna Group, which studies the landscape of religion in the USA, identifies 6 teachings that make up a Christian worldview:
- Absolute moral truth exists
- The Bible is totally accurate in all the principles it teaches
- Satan is a real being, not a mere symbol
- It is not possible to earn entry to heaven by doing good works
- Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth
- God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today
It is possible that some Christians would word these teachings a little differently, but 2000 years of writing about the faith would find little to dispute in this definition of a biblical worldview. The one point avoided in the way Barna speaks of a biblical worldview is a statement that Jesus was 100% human and 100% God. It is hard to imagine how someone who was not God could live a sinless life, but there are almost certainly people who would try to make that point. However, people who believe all six teachings will certainly have a distinctive outlook consistent with the Bible.
It would be easy to look at that list and observe that the new Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Sweden does not agree with it. Her statement is that theology cannot be reduced to yes and no answers to religious questions. Right away it is clear that she does not agree that absolute moral truth exists. In the culture of the US there are many people who agree with her, and a large number of those people attend American Christian churches and self-identify as Christians. This despite consistent biblical emphasis on moral absolutes. The statistics gathered in a survey in 2009 are thought-provoking.
- 66% of all adults surveyed believe there is no such thing as absolute truth
- 50% of all adults surveyed believe that the Bible is only a good myth
- 73% believe that Satan is a myth
- 72% of all adults believe that it is possible to earn entry to heaven by doing good deeds
- 60% of all adults believe that Jesus was a good man but not sinless, certainly not God
- Amazingly, only 30% of all adults doubt that God is the creator and still in charge of the universe
The problem with all these statistics is that about 75% of all adults self-identify as Christians. When all the statistics are boiled down, about 9% of adults have a biblical worldview. Among the adults who do not hold biblical worldviews, a sizable number are Christian leaders – pastors, Sunday School teachers, theology professors, and so forth.
It would be easy to laugh at the Swedes for picking a bishop who clearly does not see Jesus as 100% God and 100% human. But 90% of the people in the USA probably agree with her.
That is something to think about for the next few days.