It’s always good to hear why people believe in Christ (or not). Someone else’s reasons can sometimes operate as a “check” for yourself to re-evaluate your own motivations why you agree or not. Peter admonishes that believers be sure of what they believe and ready to answer why.
Well-known emergent leader, Tony Jones, answered a question of someone as part of a question and answer series on tough questions. The question he was asked is this:
“What if we’re wrong? What if God turns out to be multi-faceted — one head that has many faces, including the faces of The Buddha, Mohammed, Moses and Jesus, as well as others? What if it turns out that God has revealed his/her essence throughout history in many forms and ways, to various cultures and civilizations, and that the various claims to absolute truth are revealed to be human constructions designed to serve as the basis of power structures in human civilization? What if religions are human constructs, not reflections of the face, heart, feet and hands of God?”
The question raises a couple of issues, but the prominent one that stands out is the issue regarding Universalism and Plurality in religion. In other words, is Christianity really the only true way to salvation, or are there other ways to experience so-called eternal life. An “all roads lead to Rome” stance is applicable here. Obviously it cuts to the question of salvation, the person and work of Christ, His death and resurrection, heaven and hell.
The answer that Jones gives is a typical example of what I call “the theology your mother always warned you about.”But, before we go to his answer, let’s just ask ourselves what we can learn from God’s Word as to these matters. In Ephesians 1:3-14 we read a fantastic exposition of this.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenlyplaces in Christ:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:2 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.”
This passage of Scripture puts the whole of what Christianity is about in the wonderful plan of God which He decided on before the foundation of the world. Christ’s incarnation, death and resurrection was an integral part of this plan right from the beginning. This passage brings together the role of each Person in the Trinity regarding the roll-out of God’s plan. Christ’s death and the resultant atonement is a prominent aspect in this. Notice the effect of His atonement, namely redemption, forgiveness of sins, adoption as children, made holy and without blemish. And all of this is ultimately to the praise and glory of God who worked this plan and is still effecting it in people’s lives. There is no thought whatsoever of attaining these benefits outside of this plan of God. No wonder Jesus could proclaim boldly that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life and that no one can come to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). The Apostles picked this up as they proclaimed “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved“(Acts 4:12).
Christianity is exclusive in its way of salvation. Only through Christ, as this is the way that the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit planned it, predestined it and effects it. The chosen receives this salvation by faith as God’s gift. After hearing the truths about God’s plan and work in Christ, faith is stirred within man and results in acceptance of God’s salvation plan effected in Christ Jesus and sealed by the Holy Spirit.
With this as background from what the Bible teaches us, let’s look at Jones’ answer to the question. He basically answers the question not from Scripture, but from his own subjective position.
His argues from doubt, for he says: “Doubt is part and parcel of my faith” and because of this he feels himself“haunted” by the type of question posed to him. Let’s just press the pause button at point and ask what is faith then supposed to be. We all know the definition given in Hebrews 11:1:
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
The word translated “substance” in the KJV and “assurance” in the ESV translation, is “hupostasis” which means the “substructure” or “foundation”. Therefore faith is the foundation of hope. Without faith their can be no hope. It is also the evidence, and according to Thayer’s Greek Definitions, this means “to affirm that one has seen or heard or experienced something, or that he knows it because taught by divine revelation or inspiration” and from Scripture we know that faith is a gift from God so that we can take hold of the truth of His Word and salvation plan. Furthermore Hebrews teaches us that without faith no one is able to please God (11:6).
From Jones’ answer it is clear that the faith that he holds is not the saving faith that Scripture so clearly teaches as a graceful gift from God. His faith is man made and controlled by him. Why do I say this? Look at his reason for believing:
“CurrentlyI believe in Christ because of the aesthetics of the Christ event” (emphasis mine). This is clearly not saving faith that we read about in Ephesians 1 and throughout Scripture. The interesting word “currently” also reveals the temporal nature of this faith, as if tomorrow it can be something else. According to God’s Word, saving faith is steadfast and endures because of God’s grace and preservation of His chosen people. It is not built on aesthetics or beauty or any literary quality. It is grounded in God Himself and granted on the base of the finished work of Christ on the cross, effecting everlasting life and forgiveness of sins. For Jones it is something to the effect of a piece of art that you can enjoy and appreciate mentally as he says “Like the greatest work of art ever created, the Christ-event has completely captured my imagination. It is a concept so profound that it demands everlasting unpacking and interpretation.” Man centred faith? He says “its exactly what’s right for me”. Well, question is obviously is it right for God. Ephesians clearly states that everything in the plan of salvation was for the purpose of His glory, and not man. He turns everything upside down with his doubtful faith as he declares boldly “Where others look for comfort, for answers, and for assurance, I hope for just the opposite.”
Is it not clear from the historical accounts in Hebrews 11 that their faith was what carried them into the future, no matter the circumstances? How blind to depend on doubt focussed on non-comfort, no assurance and zero answers!
On the basis of this he states “It does not seem unreasonable to me that as a Christian I both affirm the truth of Christ and also maintain the very real possibility that I’m wrong.” Again the man centredness of his faith comes to the front. He holds it as reasonable to hold to right and wrong, truth and lie. The dualism is definitely not the essence and sustaining power of the faith that we read about in God’s word. Faith leaves no place for the lie. It accepts God’s Word as truth and does not entertain the possibility that God is a liar.
“If we are wrong about Christ, then I doubt we’ll know it in this life.” The implications of this statement for our hope of an eternal life with God is devastating. If we cannot know today, we are actually taking a gamble on a fairy tale that is better written by all other fairy tales ever written. This reveals a very low esteem of God Himself. According to the Bible I read, He is not a man that He would lie and this is the effect of what Jones argues at this point. He actually characterises his faith as a gamble: “If you’re going to push your chips to one side of the table, I honestly cannot imagine a better side than Christ’s.”
His final answer? “if we’re wrong, it’s not the end of the world.” Wow, that’s comforting! This means that there is no wrath of God, no eternal damnation for the sinner who refuses to repent, God is not a holy and righteous God! This changes the whole view of who God is. Hebrews 10:26-31 clearly says:
“26 For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. 28 He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: 29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
The theology that Tony Jones promotes is one that leads us away from who the true God is, it is a perverted view of Christ, it blasphemes the Living God revealed in Scripture and denies the plan of salvation as set forth in God’s Word. It denies the very character of God and results in a people more confused and bewildered in their doubt and sin. This theology is dangerous and must be avoided as a source of spiritual nourishment. His theological position is but one of many representing the Emerging / Emergent Movement, trying to “redesign” Christianity for the post modern generation and culture. It is nothing else than the spirit of the Antichrist that is showing its teeth and spreading its dangerous poison in the church.