40 Days of P...

I'd love to see every devotee of the 40 Days of Purpose resource move on to a 40 Days of Pluralism resource (which does not yet exist, as far as I know!). This is the P-word where the biggest challenge lies for followers of Jesus today. Pluralism considers that there are multiple roads up the mountain to God and no one road has the 'right of way'... and certainly not Christianity!!
With new religions in our schools, new ethnicites in our suburbs, new spiritualities in our cafes and that old tolerance rated as the highest virtue in the land ... articulating a case for the uniqueness of Jesus' person and the sufficiency of Jesus' work on the cross is an ability that every follower of Jesus needs to have. However my sense is that churches are filling the 'too-hard' basket with this stuff and just ignoring this the biggest challenge of all.

Let me try and make a start. Here is an outline of my first 4 Days of Pluralism:

Day One: live the tension
Jesus is described as being 'full of grace and full of truth'. This is something at which we aim. Gracious, always gracious with people (like Jesus) ... but not always gracious with people's ideas (like Jesus) - because we are committed to truth. All human beings can be equally valuable without all human ideas being equally valid. A follower of Jesus in a pluralist world will find that an occasional gracious intolerance must mark their lives.

Day Two: switch the lens
We all live with a worldview, a way of looking at the world. This worldview operates a bit like a lens as it shades all that we see. A lens is something we look 'through', not something we look 'at'. Pluralism provides such a lens for people - and so does the Bible (see my earlier blog on 'the chairs'). Whatever it is in which we soak our lives, that is what will tend to provide our lens on life. I submit to you that the vast majority of followers of Jesus are soaking more in a world drenched with pluralism than they are in a world absorbed with the Bible and the Jesus it reveals. In other words, they are looking 'through' pluralism 'at' the Bible. They need to switch lenses and look 'through' the Bible 'at' pluralism. How do you do this, you may ask? Don't get me started!! Systematic biblical preaching & serious theological training is where it starts with this one...

Day Three: sow the seed
We need to go on the offensive a bit. It is not just about that more defensive "always give a reason for the hope that you have (1Peter3:15)" approach. There is also the more offensive "prepare your minds for action (1Peter1:13)" approach. The key to this offense? Ask questions from the couch; don't make exclamations from the soap box. Sow seeds of doubt. Probe for weaknesses in the pluralist's approach. There are many. What are they? Maybe you can suggest some... Some of those most intolerant people of all are the defenders of tolerance!

Day Four: fly the flag
I fear that followers of Jesus are too burdened by this challenge. The intellectual stuff is beyond us, so we hibernate. The intimidation stuff is too scary for us, so we freeze. No! No! No! Pluralism makes a space for Christianity. Its kinda like the Blossom Festival in Alexandra each year. We have our own float in the parade of religions. We need to fill that space, adorn that float, with all that we are. Fly the flag! Get the focus on Jesus (not religion, or church, or Christianity) and then boldly bear witness to him in the best way we can. With our mouths. With our choices. With our attitudes. The Spirit can do the rest. Our job is primarily to witness, not to win. We can all bear witness. And if people think it is foolishness or it is offensive OR we suffer a bit for doing so - so be it! The New Testament teaches us to expect that response.

There you go - 36 more days to go! With your help, maybe it will be a best-seller!

nice chatting



Sean du Toit said…
Do you think: the P-word isthe biggest challenge for followers of Jesus today. is actually the case?

Maybe in the West, but not in Africa. Is this the case in India and China? Or did I miss something? However, despite my question: I'm really looking forward to this series! Well done!
Paul Windsor said…
Yes, I do...
With their many faiths and beliefs, I think pluralism (and its cousin syncretism) has always been the challenge in the historic mission fields of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. While there are massive turnings-to-Jesus going on now, articulating the uniqueness of Jesus is still at the core.
The difference in the last generation is that this is now the massive challenge in the 'West' as well - fueled by migrations (see the chapter in David Wells' latest book) and by the breakdown of the Christendom canopy and the nullifying og Christianity's 'home-field advantage'.
When I was at university we were into demonstrating God's existence (contra atheism). The greater challenge now is demonstrating Jesus' uniqueness (contra pluralism)... but I am not sure we have quite woken up to this yet.
Sean du Toit said…
Hat Tip. Thanks for that! More food for thought, as I prepare to Lecture on the Da Vinci code at stellenbosch university!
eddie said…
In the context of discussing leadership in a religiously pluralistic society, Eddie Gibbs writes:

'Such a smorgasbord spirituality does not readily respond to traditional styles of Christian outreach. A come-to-us strategy of invitational evangelism is less and less effective. We need a new apostolic style of leadership which recognizes that ministry in the surrounding community is increasingly cross-cultural and for which Christians need appropriate insights and training. In short, we need to move beyond marketing to mission strategies. Take, for instance, the task of engaging in apologetics and a religiously pluralistic society. It is no longer a case of theism versus atheism, but of relating ones Christian understanding within a context of many different understandings of deity and the human condition. Canadian Theologian John G. Stackhouse Jr poses the challenge of engaging in apologetics in a context of religious pluralism:
"No one can possibly list, let alone understand, much less master, the range of ideological options on offer to North Americans today. Thus the claim that ‘my ideology is superior to all others’ proves immediately difficult, if not flatly impossible to demonstrate. So one’s enthusiasm for ones own ideology ought to be expressed in a way appropriate to this situation.” [Humble Apologetics (OUP, 2002), 12]

Therein lies the skill of a well-trained missionary.'
[Leadership Next: Changing Leaders in a Changing Culture (IVP, 2005), 43]

I wonder exactly how it is that we are to fly the flag of Jesus, when there is already a plurality of Jesus’s being flown. Just about everyone wants him on their side! Perhaps The Da Vinci Code phenomenon will prove a great blessing as it puts a spotlight back on Jesus. Perhaps here is our opportunity for dialogue, where we can steer discussion away from whether the church (that ‘oppressive institution’) has done a cover up and on to the person of Jesus. Perhaps this is our chance to raise the question of how faithful all depictions of Jesus are to the historical figure himself, perhaps this is the moment when we stop proclaiming Christianity and start proclaiming the Christ. Perhaps...
Paul Windsor said…
In terms of 'flying the flag', Eddie - I think the issue is to live and speak our faith in the public world. Pluralism creates a space for Christians. We need to occupy it boldly - and winsomely. And we need to affirm the role of the Holy Spirit 'convicting people of sin, righteousness, and judegment' (as Jesus himself puts it in John 16:8) as we do so. Let Him do the convicting and the 'winning' - we do the witnessing.
An example ... One reason why Barby and I never ever contemplated home-schooling or Christian-schooling is that we wanted our kids - from the earliest possible age - to know what it was like to live and speak for Jesus in the public world from the beginning. Just this past week our 12yr old got into the final 6 (of 400) for his speech on poverty. He finished it with a quote from Jesus: 'if you do it to the least of these, you do it to me.' Just a fabulous example of learning to fly the flag from an early age. I was inspired - not to mention the parental purr as well.

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