Pastoral Musings from Rain City

it's about 'what is church?' it's about whether 'emergent' is the latest Christian trend or something more substantial. it's musing on what it means to live the city, in America, in community, intergenerationally, at this time in history...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Real Issue: Response to Revelation

Jesus talks quite a bit about the surprises that are in the future, when the sorting takes place between sheep and goats. He tells us that not everyone who calls Him “Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven. He also tells the religious elite that they will be surprised because there will so many Gentiles gathered there ‘from the east and west’, while some of the people to whom he was speaking, who prided themselves on their religious stature, had so missed the point and so rejected truth that they wouldn’t be there at all.
I’ve been pondering this as I prepare for teaching this Sunday on Luke 7. In applying the principle taught by our Lord in its broadest sense, it seems that Jesus is saying that our response to revelation will be more significant than whether or not we have heard or spoken the particular name of Jesus. Romans 1 is very clear on this matter. This isn’t talking about some mushy universalism whereby all people who are sincere go to heaven, because there is sincere rejection of Christ, both by some who know and some who don’t know his name. But it is saying that the real crux of the matter in life is what I do with the light I’m given – and even more, how it changes the way I live.

The same doctrine is articulated by CS Lewis. The following is a quote from CS Lewis’, "The Last Battle," from the chapter "Further up and Further in."

"Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath's sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted. Dost thou understand, Child? I said, Lord, thou knowest how much I understand. But I said also (for the truth constrained me), Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days. Beloved, said the Glorious One, unless thy desire had been for me thou shouldst not have sought so long and so truly. For all find what they truly seek."
Whether articulated by Christ, or Lewis, this teaching is both liberating and sobering: It’s liberating in the sense that I can go forth into the world knowing that God is already revealing and people are already responding. It’s sobering because it changes the field of play from the mind to the arena of daily living and relationships. It is there, in the bedroom, and boardroom, and playfield, and minefield, that my faith will be revealed.


At 14/6/06 09:34, Blogger Laura said...


You won't remember me because I'm just one of the many Caperwray Harbour student's you taught a few years back(2002/2003), but that excerpt from C.S. Lewis' "The Last Battle," has always not sat right with me. What I mean is, it seems to be saying that all the "good things" we do, regardless of what "god" we did it for, will be counted as good things done as unto Christ. What confuses me about it, is that it seems to fit with the "new age" train of thinking where you can "just live a good life" and the nice good God will let you go to heaven, and shame on Him if He thinks otherwise. It takes Jesus the ONLY way, out of the picture. I'm not criticizing your thoughts, but just found it interesting that you are seeing something different in that story, and I was wondering if you could expound upon it more for me, because I'm still not sure I get it. Thanks.

Laura Ginn

At 14/6/06 14:34, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

First of all Laura, thanks for your question, and know that you're welcome to criticize my thoughts - I actually hope you do!

And now on to the issue of "Tash". Of course, all of us are interpreting Lewis, and I am by no means a Lewis expert, so don't claim that how I read the matter is how he intended it to be read. But as I see it, there are two significant truths reinforced through this little piece of Narnia literature:

1. General Revelation is powerful enough to save a peron. This makes sense to me because in I John 2 we're told the Christ's death offers the 'satisfaction' for the sins of the whole world. So God isn't mad at anyone. Thus the basis for oondemnation can only be our refusal to receive the gift of Christ. If I insist on standing on the ground of my own merit, so be it. But I can either receive or reject revelation regarding the nature of Christ w/o ever hearing his name, for God is preaching through the testimony of creation so that all the world 'KNOWS' and is therefore without excuse.

2. How we live DOES matter. It's not really enough to let the name of Jesus roll off our tongues while continuing to have unresponsive hearts. The real issue, as I see it in the Bible is this: What do I do w/ the light I've been given? And what I do needs to be about how actually live, not just what I say I believe.

Sorry for the length of the response, but I'm guessing you're not the only person with the question. Hope this helps.


At 16/6/06 09:18, Anonymous Lisa said...

Thanks for responding, Richard. I think Laura brings up a big question for many of us who are attempting to reconcile our childhood's faith with what we're seeing around us in the form of non-Christian friends and loved ones who clearly exemplify the love of Christ. Laura and I seem to come at it from different angles but this is a pressing conversation for me.
Laura, do you have any follow up thoughts?

At 18/6/06 21:36, Blogger Laura said...

Yes, thank you for your response. I've been away for a short while, and have not had access to my computer, so didn't reply until now. I think, I don't know for sure though, but I think in the cases of say, distant jungle tribes that have not heard the name of "Jesus" but recognize that God exists and follow Him to the best of their ability without His written word that God would very much be like Aslan in this case and not reject them (salvation wise, I mean). Sometimes I even wonder that if when they die, do they maybe get the truth then, and may choose to reject it or not, kind of like those before Christ in Abraham's bosom did. But anyway, back to the topic, I, personally, don't think that those who have heard the name of Jesus and chosen another 'new age' god, or what-have-you will "get in" because they follow "a" higher power and were "good." Those are just my personal thoughts however.

Don't get me wrong, I would love to believe that everyone ends up in heaven with God on the merit of following at least some 'god' with good intent, but that wish does not, however, line up with Scripture. Surely the Pharisees followed the law of Moses with good intent to win God's favor, and look how Jesus replied to them, those "white washed tombs." But you say, they were unclean in their hearts so their actions were also made unpure. Well, without Christ (not Buddah, not "some power," not Allah, but Jesus), in someone's heart, though unbelievers may exhibit behaviour that shames us as Christians, they are just white washed tombs in danger of the fires of hell as were the Pharisees who were following God's law, ironically. We ALL are white washed tombs, save Jesus in our hearts. So, those who have never heard His name, yes, I don't see why God would not take that into account, but those who have and would like to follow an "easier," or a more "appealing," god or what ever else, no, they have rejected HIS name, and thus have rejected HIM.

Regarding trying to encourage us who are believers to "live it," I do not envy your position, Mr. Dahlstrom! I think if people just understood how much God loves them, I mean really understood, then that would influence their lives. So many Christians just think of salvation as "fire insurance." But I think that's because they do not know WHO God is. It's like in marriage. We do things we don't want to do, out of love, not out of "duty," or a sense of "I'm married so I better live like it." That's why I don't envy you! How to try to tell people that without them going to the other extreme and trying to "live like a Christian?" It's not something we need to "try" to do. If we really knew the character of God, if we really realized that God has given us HIS Spirit, that everything He is, we are, because He dwells in us, then we wouldn't need to "try" at all. It's like we were always told at Bible school, "Christ in you, the Hope of glory." So many of us get trapped into "trying" to let the "Christ in us" shine, which is just another way of trying to "do" instead of just "being." So, yes, I do think we need convicting messages, but how hard it must be to balance that so people don't slip off the other way! I have a lot of respect for pastors and teachers. They have a very hard job.

At 19/6/06 08:27, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Laura, while Christ did live THE way - I believe his words (as well as the entire content of the larger universal metanarrative he expressed in human terms) indicate without compromise that the second we believe we are part of the group that will "get in", in contrast w/ others that will be "left out" (or "left behind" - god forbid), we ourselves have become personally guilty of the sin of the of the pharisees. We are never called to engage in that sort of evaluation of ourselves with regard to others, we are called to be simply obedient to the truth of God. To evaluate where we are by comparison to others invariably involves removing ourselves from simply obeying and instead acting as judge. Having the ability to judge is the quintessential gift and temptation of being human. Indulging in the temptation to use that gift toward furthering our own stature (in real or imagined terms), rather than the good of the whole, seems to be the one overarching damnable offense of all humanity. Jesus - I think, would beg us try to consider ourselves part of the whole that is loved by God, not part of some special remnant, and to live accordingly. That way of living now, not some later reward, is the true salvation Christ brings - not to you, or to me, or our group, but to ALL of us. Presenting that gift as anything less cheapens it inexcusably.

At 19/6/06 09:57, Anonymous Lisa said...

Your words resonate with me. Thanks for chiming in.

At 21/6/06 11:29, Blogger Laura said...

"I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, NO ONE comes to the Father except by ME."

"That if you confess with your mouth, 'JESUS is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised HIM from the dead, you will be saved."

"For God so loved the world that that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in HIM should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world THROUGH HIM. Whoever believes in HIM is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands CONDEMNED already because he has not believed in the name of God's ONE and ONLY Son."

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that NO ONE CAN BOAST."

At 21/6/06 14:37, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

Laura, I don't disagree with anything you're saying because, of course, you're quoting the Bible directly. I do think that the quote from Romans 10 about confessing with Jesus as Lord with one's mouth is interesting one, as Paul goes on to quote Psalm 19 as clear evidence that ALL HAVE HEARD...(Romans 10:18) If all have heard, even though they've not heard the name of Jesus, have they heard enough to be saved?

As far as good works go, it's important to see that the only good work is that which stems from Christ because indeed it's Jesus alone who can live the Christian life. But one would hope that faith in Jesus and allowing Him to live through us would change, not just what we do on Sundays, but how we live our lives, treat our neighbors, treat our bodies and the einvironment, love our enemies, and so so much more. This won't result in any boasting... but rather an acknowledgement that Christ is doing the work of calling people to Himself and granting us the privilege of participating!

Is this what you are saying by qouting these verses?

At 21/6/06 17:22, Blogger Laura said...

Mr. Dalhstrom,
MY last quote was to answer the anonymous poster who seemed to think that I was trying to judge those who are not believers. So I was just clarifying that I knew being a Christian doesn't make someone "better" than someone who isn't.

Help me to understand where you are coming from. Let me your a real life scenario. I have a friend who believes that obviously there is a God since creation bears witness of that. She believes there is only one God, too. She is a good person who lives by the golden rule of treat others how you would like to be treated. Christ died for her as much as for anyone. She believes in finding the good in all religions and omitting the bad. She likes to think that whether people follow Allah, Jehovah, Buddah, Mohammad, ect., that if they believe what they are following is the truth, then God will let them all go to heaven. Thus she admits that Jesus is then indirectly not the ONLY way to heaven. In your oppinion, is she saved (in the sense of going to heaven when she dies, I mean)?

Back to the original post:
In C.S. Lewis' "The Last Battle" the man whose salvation is in question followed Tash his whole life. In Narnia, Tash is as much a representative of Satan as Aslan is God. Even the grass died after he floated over it at the tower.

"But false prophets also arose among the people just as there will also be false teachers among you who will secretly introduce destructive heresies EVEN DENYING THE MASTER WHO BOUGHT THEM, bring swift destruction upon themselves." (II Peter 2:1)

"If you confess with your mouth that JESUS is will be saved."

Are you sure you want to use the imagination of C.S. Lewis as a metaphor for salvation when it contradicts God's word?

Romans 10:18 - 21 in it's context was referring to the fact that Israel heard, and Israel knew, and Isreal rejected the truth. "This unbelief and disobedience had characterized the Jews all through their history and culminated at length in their rejection of Jesus as the Messiah." ('Paul's Epistles to the Romans,' Griffith Thomas)

At 22/6/06 22:37, Blogger Richard Dahlstrom said...

So this is a good dialogue we have going here Laura. Thanks for asking the hard questions and articulating your position.

Can we agree that both of us believe that there is salvation in no other name than Jesus? I would say that we both believe this. I'm simply posing the question of whether one can believe in Jesus without knowing His name? And I also wonder if rejecting the name of Jesus because the person who represents him is a some sort of religious bore, or compulsive liar or hater or pride filled... I wonder if rejection of Jesus because that's how he's represented will is the same thing as actually rejecting Jesus?

And there's more: I wonder why, if Romans 1 says that general revelation is enough to condemn a man, can it not also be enough to bring a man to salvation?

Lewis is saying these three things:
1. not everyone who says the name of Jesus is saved (Matt. 7)

2. not everyone who doesn't say the name of Jesus is condemned (whole Old Testament - Romans 1)

3. General revelation can lead to knowledge of God, and if we believe that God and Christ are one... that same revelation is counted as faith.

In every case... the issue is still this: What are we doing with the revelation offered to us by and through Christ? Those who receive it are saved. Those who reject it are condemned.

I believe these categories of saved and condemned exist on this basis and that I'm called to preach Christ. And I believe that when it's finally done... it's Jesus who knows where people fall in these categories and it's Jesus who'll sort it out.

Is this helpful?

At 24/6/06 21:07, Blogger Laura said...

Thank you Mr. Dahlstrom,
Your last post made much more sense to me. I don't know about someone believing in the person of Jesus without believing in His name, especially when God puts so much emphasis on the name of Jesus. I would imagine that if someone misrepresented Christ that God would set that straight again for them sometime in the person's life. But who can really know exactly how God does things! We can only know to the extent that He has revealed.

I haven't looked into Romans ch. 1 yet, but I'll get back to you after I do.

I'm really not a C.S. Lewis fan, but I agree with point 1. as it lines up with scripture.

Point 2. I'm not so sure because one, the old testament was BEFORE Christ, so believing on Jesus' name wasn't an option until the promise was fulfilled, and they were freed from the law. It was a bit of a different ball game back then until Christ made payment on the cross. I still have to look at Romans, though.

Point 3. Hmmm... God and Christ ARE one, but I think that it's really important to recognise Christ individually - namely the role He played on the cross, because it is HIM that make Christianity different from all the other religions and their "god." I mean, "even the demons believe in God and shudder" so it has to be more than simply "believing." It's like you said before, it's accepting or rejecting the gift of Christ, and how can one accept or reject that without hearing His name, (this is really starting to sound like Paul's speech!).

Anyway, I'll look at Romans 1, and I hope I'm making sense.

At 25/6/06 12:48, Blogger Laura said...

Dear Mr. Dalhstrom,
I have now looked at Romans 1, and I followed the cross reference over to Acts 17, which speaks of Paul's speech on Mars Hill. He says to the people, "For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, "TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.' What therefore you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you." Then he goes on to explain how God created everything and explains Who God is.

I found this interesting because it seems to be the very scenario you were describing. These people, through general revelation, knew that there was indeed a God out there, and worshipped Him to the best of their knowledge, without knowing His name.

Paul goes on to say, "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is NOW declaring to men that all everywhere should repent." You keep referencing back to the old testament, and while the God of the old testament is no different than the God of the new testament, for He is unchanging, the times have changed. In the O.T. there was no Jesus in human form yet, and it was a time of law and ignorance. Our fathers only had general revelation (with exception to the times God appeared like to Moses), but now we have THE revelation, God in human form - Jesus.

Paul went on to explain about resurrection and judgement day, and "when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, "We shall hear you again concerning this. So Paul went out of their midst. But some men joined him and believed..." So, in this new testament account, their general revelation did not save them. Those who were saved were those who "joined him and believed," after he spoke with them. I believe God gives everyone a chance to know about Him and His Son (with exception of distant jungle tribes, ect. but we already covered that), and to accept or reject not on the basis of general revelation, but personal revelation - in the person of His Son.

There is a difference between "knowing" Jesus and KNOWING Jesus. Like you said, not even everyone who uses His name will be saved (Matt. 7), for He says to them, "I never KNEW you; Depart from Me...." So in order to really KNOW God, it's imparitive that we recognise and personally accept what Jesus did on the cross - that was the heart of God at it's greatest. And how can general revelation bring us to that point? General revelation begins to point us in the right direction of, yes, there is a God, but only personal revelation of Jesus and what He did, can lead to salvation, which ultimately lies in our choice to accept that or not, like you said. And like Paul said, how can they know without hearing? And how can they hear unless someone tells them? General revelation screams there IS a God, but it's up to us, as His children to say, Look, this is what He's done, and Who He is, like Paul did on Mars Hill. THEN salvation can be determined, but it's up to them.


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