Universalism -- the end of Christian influence

by Tim Wildmon

"America remains a nation of believers, but a new survey finds most Americans don't feel their religion is the
only way to eternal life -- even if their faith tradition teaches otherwise."
– Associated Press, Eric Gorski

* * * * *

The above is the first line in a recent article by Associated Press religion writer Eric Gorski. America is changing -- some would argue has changed -- in terms of religious composition. When you combine Catholicism with Protestantism, Christianity has always dominated the American religious landscape.  

But Americans today are seeing themselves as more "spiritual" than "religious" and therefore are dropping the concept that one must subscribe to a particular set of beliefs in order to be in right standing with God. Whoever God is. A recent Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life suggests this. Now atheism remains very unpopular as Americans do believe in God to the tune of 92 percent. It's just that they don't know exactly what they believe about God, so they are willing to go with the idea that, "Hey, everybody's in."  

This belief that "all roads lead to God" is called universalism. Oprah Winfrey epitomizes universalism. She has no enemies, because she makes no judgments. I am not sure what Sen. John McCain believes as far as his faith goes, as I have never heard him speak about it, but it is clear from listening to Sen. Barack Obama that he is also a universalist. This would explain, at least in part, why Winfrey is so enamored with Obama. They are kindred spirits, no pun intended.  

There is a popular myth circulating that Obama is a Muslim. That is not true. It is true that when he was a young boy in Indonesia he attended both Muslim and Catholic schools and that he gets his unusual name from his father, who was of Nigerian descent.  

Obama told author Cathleen Falsani: "I believe there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people."

 Again, I am not disparaging Obama personally; he is obviously a very intelligent man. I am just stating a fact that this view of religion, again known as universalism, is in complete contradiction to Christianity. Read the New Testament. It is all about Jesus Christ being the only begotten Son of God and the only way to eternal life. There is nothing in there about other religious paths being an option. Being a Christian has never been subjective. There are certain essential doctrines that one must subscribe to in order to be considered a Christian.  

If you reject the Bible, that is your right -- I'm just saying let's not twist and distort what the New Testament explicitly teaches about the exclusivity of Jesus. Getting theologically consistent answers from "universalism" is like nailing Jell-O to the wall. In Christianity there is a phrase called "systematic theology." That is to say, there are intellectual building blocks upon which the faith is put together so that people can understand it. Another term used is "apologetics," which means a logical flow of ideas.  

You don't have to go to seminary to have a basic understanding of Christian apologetics. There are books for the common person which help in this regard. Josh McDowell's books such as More Than a Carpenter and Evidence That Demands a Verdict are excellent resources.  

But the Pew Forum survey found that "57 percent of evangelical church attendees said they believe many religions can lead to eternal life, in conflict with traditional evangelical teaching. In all, 70 percent of Americans with a religious affiliation shared that view, and 68 percent said there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of their own religion."  

"The survey shows religion in America is, indeed, 3,000 miles wide and only three inches deep," said D. Michael Lindsay, a Rice University sociologist of religion.  

"There's a growing pluralistic impulse toward tolerance -- and that is having theological consequences," he said.  

What is appealing about universalism to modern-day Americans is that it is intentionally ambiguous and doesn't require any measurable commitment by the individual. One doesn't have to agree with any creed, you don't have to go to church, you don't have to abide by any particular code of conduct, and there is no objective standard for defining right or wrong or good and evil. It is all up to the individual and how he or she feels. Forget all that old-fashioned stuff about repenting of your sin and giving your life to the Lord.  

If this trend of universalism impacting the church continues, there will be no Christian influence of any consequence in America in 25 years. – Tim Wildmon, Universalism -- the end of Christian influence, on OneNewsNow.com, 07-03-08 [Emphasis not in original]  

Tim Wildmon is president of the American Family Association in Tupelo, MS.

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