Psalm 96:1 O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day. 3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples. 4 For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; he is to be revered above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. 6 Honor and majesty are before him; strength and beauty are in his sanctuary.
What stands out for me this morning is v.5 “For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.” Then as now, there were many faith traditions in the known world. It was believed that different gods ruled different territories, just as the earthly kings did. Some of the better known gods of the ancient near East were Baal, Ashtoreth, and Molech – but there were many more. V.5 describes such gods as “idols”. They were not real gods at all, but were created by people as objects of worship. From start to finish the bible only recognizes one legitimate God.
In most of the Western world we’ve become uncomfortable with the exclusive claims of Christianity. Our culture values religious pluralism in which persons may have different religious traditions and practices, but we are to treat them as equally valid. For a person to suggest their religion is the one “true” religion would be frowned upon. Let Christians be Christians, Muslims be Muslims, Hindus be Hindus, and so on. In many ways I’m on board with that. We live in an increasingly diverse culture. Respecting other religions is a must if we are to live together in peace.
There is a down side to religious pluralism. Like it or not, Christianity has key dimensions which are unavoidably exclusive in nature. The bible asserts there is only one path to adoption as children of God, and that is by acknowledging Jesus Christ as the Son of God – crucified and risen for our salvation by grace through faith. When we reject the exclusive claims of Christianity we can lose the impetus and energy for evangelism. I fear this has already happened in much of the American church.
This morning I’m praying about this. What’s the right posture for Christians to take in a religiously pluralistic culture? Lord Jesus, give me guidance in this key area of faith and practice. Amen.