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Cultural Commentary

How can there be only one way to God?

A crooked, one way street sign, on a pole in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia (Credit: Yixiong Zhang via Flickr) Seventy percent of Americans who are affiliated with a religious tradition say that many religions can lead to eternal life.  Even more frightening, 57 percent of evangelical Protestants agree.  Only among Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons do a majority believe that their own religion is the one true faith.

This reader's question is therefore very relevant today: "I would like to see a detailed discussion on 'pluralism.'  What, in our current culture, has caused us to get to this 'political correctness' point of view in light of the New Testament teachings that there is only one way to heaven, not several?  What is the best way to respond to people who claim to be Christians, but believe the popular belief that 'all roads lead to the same place'?"

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Get ready for Christmas attacks on Christ

Atheist billboard campaign for Christmas 2012, Keep the Merry! Dump the Myth - billboard in New York City (Credit: Robyn Lee via Flickr) Get ready for the annual Christmas assaults on Jesus.  Last year, an atheist group sponsored a billboard in New York City's Times Square proclaiming "Dump the Myth!" beneath a statue of Jesus on the cross.  We will undoubtedly see more of the same again this holiday season.  To prepare, let's discuss these readers' questions: Did Jesus really exist?  How do we know he really performed miracles?  How do we know he rose from the dead?  How can his physical death and resurrection atone for our sins?

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Why is the God of the Old Testament so vengeful?

Fresco in the Sistine Chapel. The Creation of the Sun and the Moon (Credit: Michelangelo Buonarroti/Sistine Chapel)NOTE: In the Cultural Commentary we occasionally depart from the morning news to explore more perennial faith questions.  Recently I asked readers to suggest common misconceptions or roadblocks to the Christian faith.  The fourth issue in our series has to do with war in the Old Testament.

One reader says, "I would like to hear your thoughts on the acts of brutality in the Old Testament on the side of the Israelites.  I have had several people ask how a loving God could encourage complete annihilation, violence, the killing of children, etc. This seems to be a problem for many people."  A second reader adds: "Why is God so vengeful in the Old Testament and in the New Testament is portrayed as "turning the other cheek," loving, forgiving, etc.?  I get asked this by non-believers."

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How do we explain predestination?

The Five Points of Calvinism are easily remembered by the acrostic TULIP (Credit: Reformation Church, a Non-Denominational Reformed Congregation in Boerne, Texas) You may have heard of "five-point Calvinism."  John Calvin (1509-64) wrote Institutes of the Christian Religion, which are still foundational to the movement known as "reformed theology."  Well-known pastors such as John Piper, Matt Chandler, and Mark Driscoll have made this theology popular in recent years.  "Five points," as later expounded by the Synod of Dort (1618-19), are seen to summarize his theological system:
  • Total depravity: the fall affected every part of mankind, mind as well as will
  • Unconditional divine election: we do nothing to earn salvation
  • Limited atonement: Christ died only for those elected by God for salvation
  • Irresistible grace: the elect will accept the grace of God
  • Perseverance of the saints: those "elected" by God will not lose their salvation.

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How old is the world?

This earth from space photo comes from a digitally enhanced, 1972 NASA Apollo 16 Mission negative - one of the last manned flights at this distance - 10,000 miles, or 16,000 kilometers (Credit: Royce Bair via Flickr)Shortly after I became a Christian, I purchased my first study Bible, an original Scofield Reference Bible which was first published in 1909.  That edition included in its notes the year in which Scofield believed that creation occurred.  Beside Genesis 1:1 I found the date, 4004 B.C.

I learned later that Scofield had followed the chronology of an Irish archbishop named James Ussher (ca. A.D. 1650), who added up the biblical genealogies to arrive at that year for creation.  As a result, generations of Bible students believed the Scriptures to teach that the world is 6,000 years old.  Since current scientific estimates date the Earth at 4.54 billion years and the universe at 13.8 billion years, the Bible and science seem to be in conflict.

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