Community Group Questions 4/28/13

Evidence Series Artwork [vimeo 64985861 w=500 h=281]

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Sermon Title:Evidence, Part 4: The Case of Many Paths to Heaven

Main Text: Acts 4:5-22,John 14:6

Topics:

  • One of the common questions asked of Christianity comes in many forms. It shows up in questions like:
    • Isn’t it narrow minded and offensive to believe there is only one way to heaven?
    • How can you be so arrogant to say that your way is right and everyone else is wrong?
    • Isn’t religion the cause of all kinds of conflict and wars in the world?
  • At the core of this question is a belief in inclusivism and a suspicion of exclusivism. Inclusivism is the conviction that all belief systems are right, at least at some level. Exclusivism is the conviction that only one belief system is correct.
  • How does Christianity respond to this. It is a bold claim to say that Jesus is the only way to heaven. It does feel sometimes like it is arrogant and offensive to say that sometime. Isn’t inclusivism a more loving way to view the world?
  • In Acts 4, Peter and John are arrested for teaching about Jesus and healing a man. They are brought before the Jewish council of religious leaders. They ask Peter, by what power did he do this miracle. God gives Peter the strength to give a powerful response. He says:
    • The man was healed in the name of Jesus
    • Jesus died on the cross and was raised again from the dead
    • There is salvation in no one else
  • These were bold statements before the council who a few months earlier had crucified Jesus. Would they crucify Peter and John too?
  • But when they looked at the man who was healed, they had nothing to say. How could they deny, the good that these men had done in the name of Jesus? So all they could do was warn them not to speak about Jesus anymore.
  • But Peter and John said that they could not listen to the council over God. They said they cannot deny what they have seen and heard from Jesus. They said they have to share it.
  • And the council let them go because all of the city was praising God for what had been done to heal the man. Their loving healing works won the day.
  • In this passage, Peter and John boldly claim that Jesus is the only way to heaven. And this passage gives the framework to discuss this question about the exclusivity of the claims of Christ. This isn’t the only place where Jesus is proclaimed to be the only way to heaven. Jesus, Himself says it:
    • John 14:6, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
    • Jesus says, that He is the only way to God.
  • But isn’t that offensive to say that Jesus is the only way? Isn’t it unloving and maybe even hateful? Wouldn’t inclusivism be a more loving accepting practice? Let’s consider inclusivism:
    • An inclusivist says, can’t everyone’s way be true?
    • Inclusivism is really an illusion. Exclusivism is unavoidable, because truth by definition is particular. When one thing is stated as true it, by definition, necessarily makes something untrue.
  • But maybe someone is willing to sacrifice logic to be an inclusivist. They say, “ok, I know it may not reconcile logically, but my inclusivist beliefs transcend logic.” The response to that is, that most likely at some point you probably exclude someone.
    • Do you believe jihadists are also right? Or in your belief system is killing innocent people to get to heaven acceptable?
    • What about those at Westboro Baptist Church who picket the funerals of those who died in battle, and call it Christianity? In your system of thought is that true? Or do you think they are wrong?
    • Jim Jones the cult leader who led to the mass suicide of all his followers including children. You are ok with him being right too?
    • No one can logically be an inclusivist. And no one is practically an inclusivist. So at least have the intellectual honesty that you are a selective exclusivist.
    • And if you admit that you are an exclusivist, then exclusivism in and of itself is not offensive. It is how someone handles their exclusivism.
  • Peter and John boldly represented the exclusivism of the Gospel.
  • Ok but maybe it’s just the level of allegiance people have to their particular religion. It is extremism that gets people into trouble. It’s the extremists about their religion that get them into trouble.
    • That all depends what someone is an extremist about. And when it comes down to it, everyone has an ultimate ideal. Everyone has something of which they are extreme about. Even someone who is suspicious of extremists are that way because their ultimate ideal is tolerance. They are extremists about tolerance. But then they will act unloving towards intolerant people.
    • Any extremist will bring conflict into the world. Everyone at some point will come against the enemy ideal and conflict cannot be avoided. Every kind of extremism is destructive... except one kind...
    • Martin Luther King Jr. said, "So the question is not whether we will be extremist, but what kind of extremist we will be. Will we be extremists for hate, or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice, or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?"
    • Being an extreme Christ follower, means following One who was so radically loving that He sacrificed His life... for His enemies. He forgave His crucifiers while on the cross, and He told His followers to love their enemies. This kind of extremism is a radical force for good in the world.
  • We can see how this plays out in the story of Peter and John. The council couldn’t deny the love and healing they had shown to the man that was healed.
  • Ok but at least we have to admit that it is kind of arrogant to assume that Christ is the only right way to heaven? Consider the alternative.
    • If someone wants to believe that multiple ways to heaven, what are they basing that belief on? They are choosing to believe the universe works that way because that is what makes sense to them. That is what sounds good to them.
    • The Christ follower, on the other hand, is not picking and choosing what she wants to believe. She is conforming her mind to what the Bible claims (Romans 12:1-2). So the Christian submits her thinking to a belief system.
    • Which is a more humble position: to believe that you can create in your mind how the universe operates, or to submit yourself to a belief system you believe is larger than yourself?
  • This is what Peter and John said when they simply said, we can only say what God has shown us. They submitted themselves to God.
  • They key is thatwe can hold our beliefs with conviction but we need to handle our beliefs with humility.
    • If we are following after Christ, then our lives should be radically self-sacrificing. We should be radically loving. We should be radically selfless.
    • That kind of attitude will be healing to the world. And when we bring healing into the world it will be hard to deny the God’s work, regardless of its exclusivity.
    • This humility and selflessness should spread into how we communicate our beliefs.

Key Questions:

  1. How do you think the people in your life (family, coworkers, friends) would respond to the Bible’s claim that Jesus is the only way to be saved?
  2. Read Acts 4:5-12
  3. What stands out to you the most out of what Peter said?
  4. Read Acts 4:13-22
  5. What impact did the healed man have on the reaction of the council?
  6. Define inclusivism and exclusivism in your own words.
    1. An inclusivist perspective believes that there are many right religions or many ways to heaven, or that all religions lead to heaven.
    2. An exclusivist perspective believes that there is only one correct religion, or only one way to heaven.
  7. Why do some people see exclusivism as arrogant?
  8. Why is inclusivism an illusion?
  9. Why do some people think that all extremism leads to conflict and destruction?
  10. Why does extreme Christlikeness actually lead to healing and not destruction?
  11. Who is someone you know that lives a life of extreme selflessness like Christ?
  12. What does it look like when a Christian talks about their beliefs arrogantly vs. humbly?
  13. What are some things we can say the next time someone says to us, “Isn’t it arrogant to believe Jesus is the only way to heaven?”

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