Fifth, public schools drilled the messages of multiculturalism and pluralism into emergents’ heads and hearts, while their churches were teaching them that all those without explicit faith in Christ were doomed. Possessing both a faith that is particular and an intimate knowledge of religious pluralism produced a tension that was nearly intolerable. For many, it results in a commitment to Jesus Christ alongside a more pluralistic view of world religions, or a broadening of what it means to be a “Christian.”
Now, as McKnight explained in the article regarding “In vs. Out” we considered earlier, he personally considers Christianity exclusive — only faith in Jesus brings salvation. But many in the emerging movement are unwillling to declare as damned those who’ve not accepted Jesus.
And as he pointed out, once exclusivity is rejected, evangelism becomes pointless. And we urgently need to be evangelistic. McKnight is not speaking of his own understanding.
The problem is that we live in a society where tolerance is the highest virtue and judgmentalism is the greatest sin. And the central claim of Christianity: that salvation is through — and only through — Jesus comes across to many as intolerant and judgmental. And a great sermon series against Post-modernism isn’t going to change that fact.
Fortunately, we can be truer to scripture and less offensive to multiculturalism — although we can’t ever be truly pluralistic.
First, as I’ve argued in the Surprised by Hell series, I don’t think the Bible teaches everlasting, conscious torment of the damned. It does teach an agonizing destruction of the damned — with the degree of punishment varying with the sinfulness of the sinner.
This is far, far from universalism but should be much easier to accept than suffering forever despite being a very good person who happened never to be taught about Jesus.
Second, as the church becomes less and less denominational, it becomes more truly the church — and much more attractive. Hundreds of warrings sects will not be appealing in today’s age — nor should it be.
Third, while we must always teach the necessity of faith in Jesus, we are learning that other doctrines aren’t quite as essential as we once thought. By focusing on Jesus, rather than theology, we allow Jesus to draw people to him — which has always been the plan.
Fourth, our congregations just have to become more diverse. It’s a Biblical mandate: “neither Jew nor Greek,” you know. The world has figured out that racism and sexism are sins. We can hardly claim to have special knowledge of God’s will when we are guilty of these things — and we just plain look racist and sexist to anyone who visits us. We can do better.