THE GREAT SCANDAL OF: ‘NO OTHER NAME’
Ephesians 4.1ff. - One Lord
II Corinthians 4.5 - Do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord
Romans 10.9 - If you confess. . .Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved
John 20.28 - My Lord and my God
II Timothy 1.2 - God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord
Romans 14.9 - For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be the Lord both of the dead and the living.
Revelation 11.15 - The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ. . . .
Revelation 19.16 - King of kings, and Lord of lords
Kurios (lord) is the most familiar and characteristic word used to describe Jesus Christ in the New Testament. And the most fundamental mark of being a Christian is to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
One of the greatest challenges to the Church in this first decade of the 21st century is to preach, teach, and live as though Jesus Christ is Lord of all reality in the context of resurgent religious pluralism. The great skandalon to contemporary humanity is not that Jesus is Lord, but that He is the “only Lord and Savior” of man.
The Christian faith was born in an age of religious pluralism (Acts 4.12; 14.17); and we now stand in a parallel situation. In the first century Christ was preached as Lord. People were converted to Christ as Savior and Lord. They were immersed into Christ for the forgiveness of sins. They left their ancestral faith to embrace the Christian faith (Jude).
So great was the success of Christian witness that by the 4th century Christianity became the official religion of the empire. By the 9th century the tribes of northern and eastern Europe had been Christianized and a fundamental change had been made in the religious geography of western and eastern mankind. The Western world had become Christian!
One central fact stands emphatically in the forefront, the triumph of Christianity replaced the ‘gods’ of Roman and European paganism with the worship of God, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.
Our Lord Jesus Christ (kurios) had become the conqueror (nike) and with Him the Church had become triumphant over other religions. Thus the triumph of Christianity was no longer thought to be purely eschatological. It had become an accomplished fact in human history.
During the middle ages, relatively little was known of other people and their religions. The Jews, the internal dissenters from the religious unity of Christendom, were ghettoized not only physically, but spiritually. (Cf. Anti-Semitism in Christian context) Islam (ca. 820 million in 1986) was perceived around the edges of Christian Europe as the enemy to be consigned to the sword not only as a political enemy but also as the enemy of God (cf. Exceptions in Raymond Lull, Nicholas of Cusa, and the early Dominicans and Franciscans).
In this historic situation the full extent of Christian universality was believed to have been reached. Therefore, the Lordship of Christ had become real because Christendom was not “co-terminus with the inhabited world” (oikoumene). With the beginning of the age of exploration and colonization in the 16th century Christians came to a startling new awareness of the other religions of the world (cf. Reformation power was spent; Scientific Revolution occurred).
First through trading relationships and then in the actual planting of colonies, western Christians started to learn of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism, and tribal religions not merely as eccentricities, but as the ways in which millions of people shaped their lives and faith.
By the end of the 18th century, Arabic, Sanskrit, and Chinese were being studied in European universities, and the riches of their cultures were being unfolded. Religious pluralism was again on the agenda of the Christian community. Awareness of our vast world as yet untouched by Christian witness came at a time when the life of the Church was being renewed by pietism and repeated waves of revival.
A powerful missionary call went forth to convert all peoples to faith in Christ. By the middle of the 19th century the vision of reaching the whole world for Christ was the motivation for the recovery of Christian witness.
In this decade of the 21st century Christians are facing in a new way the continuing and seemingly incurable religious pluralism of the world. Renewed Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam have started significant counter missionary movements.
Resurgent religious pluralism has received a variety of responses: (1) Communication in the form of dialogue; (2) Conversion; (3) Consensus for social action and socio-economic and political action; and (4) Conquests of other lords.
The scriptures affirm that Jesus is Lord and that in “no other name” must men be saved! But to what question is Luke’s “no other name” addressed? Pluralism, Syncretism, Universalism and Particularism. Christianity is absolutely unique by these claims: (1) Incarnation vs. Reincarnation; (2) Crucifixion (Atonement) vs. Cosmic Hinduism; (3) Resurrection vs. Endless Death
Conclusion: We must affirm the authority of our crucified and risen Lord in our age of the most extensive resurgence of religious pluralism since the day of Pentecost. Until “every tongue confesses that Jesus is Lord” we must study ourselves hot, speak ourselves empty, and sit down in a storm!!
Dr. James Strauss, Lincoln Christian Seminary, Lincoln, IL 62656