A single trail runs through the mountains

How Can Christianity Claim to Be the Only Way to God?

  • By: Scott Stein
  • May 24, 2022
    • Listen on:

Did you catch the first episode in the series, Deconstructing Faith: Series Introduction?

A major objection to Christianity, especially among young people and young Christians, is the notion that Christianity is the only way.

On the one hand, in many circles Christians have become narrow minded. Many churches have “shrunk” the gospel and have nothing relevant to say to real-life issues like poverty, mental illness, or the environment.

But on the other hand, some deceptive hypocrisies have penetrated our social consciousness creating a value for “open-mindedness” that isn’t really open-minded at all. 

So how should those who are struggling with their faith navigate through their faith de-construction / re-construction experience in light of these challenges? 

In this episode, Scott and Shawn discuss

  • The importance of not conflating the environment of your faith with the substance of your faith
  • The growing movement among “progressive Christians” attempting to re-make the substance of Christian faith into a “spiritual journey”
  • The means toward recovering your faith (the faith) driven by the understanding of what the Bible presents itself to be and God's revelation about himself


Scott (00:00): 

Seeing the Bible this way ultimately turns Christian faith—I mean, the way that progressives tend to see it—ultimately turns Christian faith into a self-guided spiritual journey. It doesn't tell us what God's really like. It only tells us how people experienced and thought about God. And if indeed it contains spiritual insights about God, then those insights find their source not in the Bible. 

Shawn (00:22): 

Welcome to another Prepared to Answer podcast. My name is Shawn Walker. I'm joined by Scott for a Friday afternoon episode. 

Scott (00:31): 

Well, it is Friday, that's when we're recording 

Shawn (00:34): 

It may not be your Friday where you're listening, but it is for us. So we want to welcome you to the seventh episode in our deconstruction series. So kind of following along from our last episode, episode six, we really wanted to focus on this objection that Christianity insists on being the only way to know truth, to really know truth, 

Scott (00:58): 

Or maybe to be more specific, truth about God, 

Shawn (01:01): 

Truth about God, right, right. And in fact, this isn't something new. So this podcast we're doing in 2022, but this was even true 10 years ago. And we've talked about this report before Scott called Hemorrhaging Faith. And this was surveys done of Christian Canadian youth back in 2012. And within this report, actually, there's a great quote here that really highlights this objection. They say, "Many of those that leave church are frustrated by Christianity's claim to truth. To them, there are many paths that lead to God. They believe that all individuals have the ability to interpret truth for themselves. In short, most young church leavers", not believers, "believe it's ridiculous…" That's an interesting word—ridiculous.  …"for one religion to claim it holds the truth while others don't." So when we're talking about Christianity, Scott, where have we gone wrong on this? 

Scott (01:57): 

Yeah. You wonder why in particular Christians are feeling the sensitivity about this or feeling as though we're conspicuous in this. For one thing… I mean, I don't think we're the only ones. 

Shawn (02:10): 


Scott (02:12): 

I think many religions—I think of Islam and Judaism—that would claim that their faith teaching is the true way to God. Now, I know there would be people within both of those traditions who would opt for this, the idea that there are many paths to God, but there are many who would not.  

Shawn (02:33): 

Right. But it seems to be labelled to Christianity.

Scott (02:34): 

It seems to be. And I think maybe that's partly a product of our culture that has historically been very much influenced by Christianity, as far as a predominant faith tradition or faith presence within the broader culture. Not to say everyone has been Christian, but our history as a nation, certainly has been very much shaped by Christianity. And that's true basically in North America and even the West. 

Shawn (03:01): 


Scott (03:02): 

How in particular Christianity has and why many young people in particular are reacting… And again, we're talking, realizing we may be speaking to some people who are going through their own… maybe they call it a faith deconstruction process. And this might be something you're really struggling with—this gut feeling of discomfort, right? To say… to be a Christian, do I really have to believe that Jesus is the only way? So there's that kind of emotional reaction. And how is it that we've gotten here? Well, to be fair, I think in some cases, Shawn, in many Christian circles, this may be a justified critique. 

Shawn (03:46): 

In what way? 

Scott (03:47): 

That in some Christian circles, it may just be that a very narrow view of Christianity has been presented. And by that, I mean not in that, the problem is that teaching Jesus is the only way… but the problem being that, in that's all that's taught, right? Is that we're taught that and not much else. And in some cases, I think that in some Christian circles, I think the gospel may be shrunk where teachings about Jesus become simply an escape from hell plan. 

Shawn (04:26): 

Right, where Scripture, we would say, speaks to a lot of other issues. 

Scott (04:31): 

Right, that the gospel is not simply an escape from Hell plan—the gospel is the revelation of God through Christ. Right? But consequently, maybe some of our listeners have grown up in a faith tradition where the teachings of the gospel have been very truncated. "It's these few truths and you have to hold to them and we just don't question them," and that kind of thing. But consequently, it seems like that Christian faith then has very little to say to anything else! Things that are very important, especially for our younger generation, things like poverty and mental illness and depression and anxiety… I mean, Shawn, when you and I were growing up, we didn't really think about those things. But today, that's just a part of everyday life for Millennial and Gen Z generations. Discussions about the environment are extremely important to this generation. So I think to be fair, part of the feelings of discomfort that people may have who are wrestling to hold onto their Christian faith… maybe that what they're trying to hold onto, or what they've been given, is a very narrow Christian faith. And again, I don't mean narrow because it's insisting Jesus as the only way—I think that's the gospel. But again, they're not being taught much else. 

Shawn (05:52): 

And you could see that if they're being taught this in school, those things that you had talked about on a daily basis, and this is presented to them, and then when they go to their faith community to their church and they don't hear anything about this… they would feel like there's something missing. 

Scott (06:07): 

How can our faith be the only way when it has so very little to say to anything else that's actually going on in the world? When in fact historic Christianity, biblical Christianity has much to say about all of those things. So I think maybe there, there's a sense in which that's a fair critique. I think on the other hand though, Shawn, there is something else going on within our culture, and I think part of it has to do with what I've observed, as I describe as some deceptive hypocrisies that I think have penetrated our social consciousness. And it's a hypocrisy that creates this value of open-minded-ness, by which we critique anyone who would present their religious perspectives as the only way… "what narrow mindedness", right? So it's a value of open mind mindedness that isn't really that open minded at all. It's just changed what is acceptable. 


And I think that's part of the whole woke movement and things like that. You got cancel culture and all the rest. A great illustration of this, actually, I just was reading this in the news the other day. It was an article in the Washington Post that I got online. But I don't know if you heard about this, Shawn, that there was a student protest at the Yale Law School, like the leading American law school—Ivy League law school. Well, the law school hosted a discussion, a panel discussion between the Alliance Defending Freedom Association and the American Humanist Association—two social advocacy groups. And the discussion was on the subject of religious liberties. The Alliance Defending Freedom Group is a conservative social advocacy group, very much from the Judeo-Christian tradition, but presenting in the legal landscape, defending religious liberties in the United States. 

Shawn (08:00): 

But they wouldn't be like a overt Christian organization. 

Scott (08:04): 

No, no, no, no. Not overtly Christian, but certainly a conservative and packed in there is a Judeo Christian background. I mean, this isn't a fringe group either. This is not some far right-wing. This is a group that has successfully brought petitions before the Supreme Court of the United States many times, and in defense of religious liberties. So, Yale was hosting these two speakers. And when professor of law that was serving as the moderator, Kate Stiff, she got up to introduce the speaker from the Alliance Defending Freedom Association. And at that moment, a group of about a hundred law students rose up. They'd obviously come prepared to do this, and started shouting the speaker down, like wouldn't let them speak… flipping the bird and raising the middle finger. And even one student who was witnessed ushering threats of violence, all because they disagreed with ADFS’s, apparently narrow-minded, ie. Judeo-Christian, views on religious liberties. So that's an extreme example, and fortunately it's not encouraged by… I'm always encouraged when I read… this is in the Washington Post, and that kind of thing is denounced, and then there's responses from people in the legal community. There was a circuit senior judge in the DC district who actually sent an email out to all the federal judges in the United States in response to this, and basically said, "If you're thinking of hiring students for clerking, do not hire any of those students that were part of that group from Yale." Because they take seriously, obviously, if you want future judges, you want them to be willing to listen to both sides of an argument, before they render their verdict.

Shawn (09:55): 

Exactly. But it makes you pause though, Scott, that there's a hundred Yale law students that were willing to stand up, maybe others that weren't, but these are the next generation, in the States, of jurists. 

Scott (10:06): 

Of judges. Right. 

Shawn (10:09): 

Right, yeah. And so, what is permeated in academia now, to the point that they're willing to stand up and say this? 

Scott (10:17): 

Well, yeah. And so, I guess what I'm saying is, I think it illustrates, for me, what appears to be a pattern in the broader culture… this pattern of valuing open-mindedness to the point of shutting down the narrow mind, which really translates into not letting people who you disagree with speak. And I think that's part of what's maybe driving some of the discomfort, especially among younger voices, who want to encourage Christians to be more open-minded. Right? Not be so narrow-minded about their Christian belief. But in doing so, it's not really an open-mindedness. It's really a re-envisioning of what Christian faith is altogether. Which brings us back, Shawn, to our overriding… as we've been going through this deconstruction series… our overriding encouragement for any of our listeners who might be journeying through whatever kind of process of wrestling with your faith or really trying to overcome the uncertainties that you might have about being Christian—trying to reconstruct your faith. We've said this before, we'll keep saying it: that in order to successfully recover your Christian faith, you need to recover the Christian faith. 

Shawn (11:33): 

Yeah. So true. Yeah. Can you give us an example, maybe similar to the Yale Law example, where this tactic of being open-minded is being used on Christians? 

Scott (11:46): 

Yeah, you know what… I've got a great example. There was a book, as we've been working through this, I've been reading a book by a progressive Christian pastor named Philip Gully. And he wrote a book called, and I don't know if we've quoted this before… He wrote a book entitled, If the Church Were Christian, and the subtitle is Rediscovering the Values of Jesus. So the title of the book kind of suggests that Christianity's got it all wrong so far. What would happen if the church were really Christian today? And so obviously, you can see where he is going with that. But there's a chapter in his book where he describes going to a church and doing a talk. And in the course of that talk, he brought up the issue of the virgin birth, and basically said that he didn't actually believe that Jesus was born of a virgin… which obviously raised some eyebrows in the church he was in. 


Anyway he left that, but then later received a call from a woman who was really struggling, with a pastor in her church tradition getting up and saying that. And she said, "I've been thinking about what you said, and ever since you did," and gave many scientific reasons why Jesus couldn't have been born of a virgin.

Shawn (13:02):
I don't know how many there has to be.

Scott (13:06):
There's lots of scientific reasons… in fact, all of the reasons you could give would be scientific! But for God…! Anyway, that's beside the point. This woman was struggling, and there are a few things he said. I just wanna read from this part of the book where she basically said, "Now I don't know what to believe. If I can't believe in the virgin birth, I can't believe anything." Which maybe is an overstatement, but. 


It obviously threw her. And so in response, he says this… he said, "I pointed out that while I didn't believe in the virgin birth, she was not required to agree. That many people in the church still believed it, and she was free to affirm it if she wished." Then he goes on to say, "she asked me a question of why I questioned it in the first place, saying that ministers shouldn't cast doubt on the teachings of the church." And he said, "I obviously disagreed… I said to her, the purpose of a spiritual teacher isn't to be a propagandist." So he says, "then I returned to her original statement. You said, if you don't believe the virgin birth, you can't believe anything. But I know many people who don't believe in that doctrine, who have rich spiritual lives, who have a profound respect for Jesus and follow his teachings with real devotion. In fact," he says, "I'd like to consider myself one of them." There's three observations I wanna make about this exchange he had with this woman. The first is to note how he really paints a caricature of Christians who hold to traditional Christian doctrines in the worst light. Like, if you're the kind of person who needs a doctrine that you can hold unquestionably. And then he refers to pastors who teach their churches to hold such biblical doctrines as propagandists. 

Shawn (14:59): 

And so what does that automatically make you think? It makes me think of Nazis, honestly. Propaganda and… yes. 

Scott (15:06): 

Right. Well, it paints this picture that—and again, I'm not saying that couldn't be true of some pastors—but it paints this picture that affirming core doctrines, that cannot be undone or cannot be contradicted, is somehow narrow-minded, and you're a propagandist. That being open-minded is being willing to question everything! Call everything into question! At the end of the day, I'm not sure what it is you're supposed to believe in though, if you can call everything into question. What constitutes Christian faith if everything is on the table for questioning. I'm not saying that you can't ask any question, but the notion that you can't maintain certain doctrines… The second thing I noticed is that what appeared to be open-minded… he was appearing to be open-minded by calmly pointing out that the woman was free to believe what she wanted. "If you need to believe in the virgin birth, then go right ahead. 


Some people do, some people don't." That sounds open-minded. But what it's implicitly smuggling in the back door is the belief that, or the doctrine that, or the teaching that doctrine doesn't matter. Faith is about something more than doctrine or about teaching… which is in itself a doctrine. So again, it's this notion of… we're the open-minded, but the open minded are smuggling in views that have to be maintained. And it's kind of brought home for me in the last thing that he's said. That in affirming his open-minded-doctrine-doesn't-matter position, which he does at the end… He said, "I returned to her statement and said, 'You said that if you don't believe in the virgin birth, you can't believe in anything. That doesn't have to be true. I know people who don't believe in that doctrine, who have rich spiritual lives, a profound respect for Jesus and follow his teachings." 

Shawn (17:17): 

So how do you define that rich spiritual life? How do you know that that person has that? Right? Anyone can have that. 

Scott (17:26): 

Exactly! What does he mean by rich spiritual life? "Respect for Jesus"—what is it that they respect about him? They follow his teachings—but, which teachings? The teachings where he says, “I'm the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father but me.” No, no. Not that teaching! His other teachings. And again, this is what I'm getting at, is that it appears so open-minded, but he's smuggling in the back door that he has in mind a vision of Christianity that's very particular. 

Shawn (17:56): 

And you alluded to this, the fact that she was coming with this perception of doctrine, that he's now changing on her, right? That I need to believe what's in the Bible. 

Scott (18:06): 

You hit the nail on the head. He's denouncing doctrine—the need for doctrine—while smuggling doctrine in the back door. A different doctrine. It's inescapable, right? But it comes across as open-minded. 

Shawn (18:20): 

So how would this help anyone who's struggling with this objection, that traditional historic Christianity is very narrow-minded and restrictive? 

Scott (18:30): 

Well, here's a couple things I'd wanna say to people who might be wrestling with this caricature. Like feeling… you know, "I want to hang onto my faith, but I feel so uncomfortable with this notion, with this perception. And maybe I'm holding it myself, that yeah, it's not right to be so narrow-minded, or our faith is too narrow." So there'd be a couple things I wanna say. First, don't fall into the trap–which is so common in our cultural debates—of attaching ideas to narrative caricatures. And I think that's one of the tactics being used in these kinds of discussions in our culture. And so much of what's happening in our culture is that people associate ideas with a type of person. 

Shawn (19:16): 

Oh, interesting. Can you give us an example though? 

Scott (19:19): 

Sure. I think I can go back to the example from the Yale Law School. I mean this whole cancel culture is a great example. And it's happening in universities all across the United States, and probably in Canada too. Actually, it has happened in Canada. But for instance, in this case, you've got a group representing conservative perspectives on religious liberties—the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is a legal advocacy group. But because they're conservative, coming into an Ivy League school, immediately we don't want to hear what you have to say. We don't want to hear your ideas, because they're bad. Why are they bad? Because you're conservative. Right? I mean, I'm not gonna just pick on that either. I think that conservatives do the same thing. I think it goes on both sides. If we're talking the political or ideological arena… liberal versus conservative views, or maybe now it's more progressive versus conservative. And sometimes it's liberal versus progressive! 


Whatever the case. Oftentimes if you're labeled with a group, immediately your ideas are suspect or rejected. The trap is actually a form of a logical fallacy. C.S. Lewis coined the term "Bulverism" years and years ago, based on a story. I won't go into the story. But Bulverism, basically, it's a form of a logical fallacy. It's a combination of two things. It's a combination of circular reasoning and the genetic fallacy. And it's basically the assumption that an argument is flawed or false because of the arguer's suspected motives or their social identity or any other characteristics. So the example in the story that Lewis uses is a husband and wife talking at the kitchen table one night, and the husband is trying to explain to the wife why the sum of the angles of a triangle must equal 180 degrees. He makes his argument to which the wife responds, 


“You would say that because you're a man.” So his argument is completely nullified because of who's making the argument. Now, I don't deny that many Christians may have grown up in a Christian environment where you were taught to never question. Where the priority was just focused exclusively on, just getting you to believe these things. Believe the things you're taught without ever understanding the reasons why. Just believe the right things. That's all. Don't question, right? We'll all get along. But if that was the case, let me just encourage you. For our listeners, if that was your experience or even is your experience… Let me just encourage you not to conflate, not to mix up or confuse the environment of your faith with the substance of your faith. Ideally, your faith environment should represent the substance of your Christian faith, but it might not. Which may lead many to abandon their faith environment, their church, and the substance of their faith along with it. And I think that that's a terrible travesty. Right? 

Shawn (22:30): 

In fact, that's what we're trying to do with this series, is it not, Scott? 

Shawn (22:34): 

When we go back to our mantra, for lack of a better word, that when you're recovering your faith, that you must recover the faith. 

Scott (22:43): 

Yeah. Yeah. So… I wanna be careful here, Shawn. Because I don't want to come across as flippant or presumptuous when it comes to understanding people's situations in their own churches. But I'm willing to admit or acknowledge that there may be some church environments that, in which a person is not being fed or not being taught what they need to know. They're given a truncated, or very simplified, or sometimes even a wrong version of the gospel. And if that's where you're floundering and struggling and you feel like you can't hang onto your faith there, it might be that you need to find another place to go. But here's my encouragement though… my fear is that people will abandon an unhealthy faith environment, and in the process abandon the substance of their faith at the same time. And I just encourage you not to do that. 


But also don't try to go it alone. If that's the case, look for another church. Pray, "Lord, lead me to a church where I'm gonna get the answers I need to hang onto my faith to grow in my faith." A church where diving deep into the substance of your faith is encouraged. I mean, Shawn, they exist. You and I are part of a church where we're not just told to listen and follow along. We're told to open our Bibles and question, and the pastor's word is not infallible. We can ask questions, we can go to the Scriptures and we can dig into them—a place where questions are welcomed and where real and serious and critical study of the Bible is the culture. That's the kind of church you wanna find. So that's the first thing I'd say, is don't fall into that trap of associating your faith environment with the substance of your faith… or not associating, but with confusing the two. 


So, in line with that, Shawn, the second thing I'd wanna say is just to be aware of… what I see is becoming a growing movement among many Christians. And especially among those who would maybe wear the label "progressive Christian". We've talked a little bit about this movement of progressive Christianity, who are attempting to… I really see an attempt to remake the substance of Christian faith—opening the way to a much more open view that gets away from this narrow-minded view of historic Christianity. And one of the ways I see them doing this is by really leaning on the language and the imagery of faith being a spiritual journey.

Shawn (25:32): 

But in all fairness, is not faith a spiritual journey?  

Scott (25:35): 

Well, of course… the devil's in the details, Shawn. It's really how they're using that term and what they mean by it. 


And again, what we're trying to help our listeners recover is the faith, the Christian faith. So, in progressive Christianity, faith really is being presented as a spiritual journey, which is very appealing in our culture. The idea that we're all on a journey and all of our journeys are unique. And so you're on your journey, and I'm on mine. 

Shawn (26:08): 

Would this be coming from Eastern philosophy? 

Scott (26:10): 

Well, yeah, we could get into that. I think there is a connection, but maybe we don't have time to unpack that today. But because faith is being re-envisioned as a spiritual journey, the Bible, consequently, I see being re-envisioned also. And how it's being re-envisioned is that the Bible then–since faith is a spiritual journey—what the Bible ultimately is then, is a record of people on their own spiritual journey toward God. Now again, well that sounds okay. Like aren't we all journeying to know God? 

Shawn (26:52):

It appeared that a lot of the people in the Bible were journeying

Scott (26:52): 

And that's why I wanna go a little deeper into this to understand, because, again, the devil's in the details. How they're doing this though is by presenting, what I see… not just me, people smarter than me also have brought up… what I see as an entirely new and novel way of seeing the Bible. Of really turning the Bible from being God's word to us, into our word about God. 

Shawn (27:26):

Can we unpack that?

Scott (27:27):

Yeah, I wanna unpack that with you. So I've been doing some reading just looking at some of the key writers and thinkers in the progressive Christian movement. One of them is Brian McLaren–one of the earliest ones is Brian McLaren. He was really part of the emergent church movement, which was the early 2000s. People don't really use "emergent" much anymore as a term, but it's basically morphed into the progressive Christian movement. Here's something he said in the book he wrote way back at the start of this all—a book called A New Kind of Christianity. He said, "Human beings can't do better than their very best at any given moment to communicate about God as they understand God. And Scripture faithfully reveals the evolution of our ancestors' best attempts to communicate their successive best understandings of God. 


As human capacity grows to conceive of a higher and wiser view of God, each new vision is faithfully preserved in Scripture, like fossils in a layer of sediment." There's a lot packed in there. But remember we've talked a couple times about this postmodern view of knowledge and how we know truth, that very much sees the reality that we can't know anything outside of our own experience and perspective. And so what McLaren is doing is in the ilk of a postmodern view of knowledge and very much in the ilk of speaking to a postmodern generation—he's importing this understanding into now, how we understand the Bible. What we have not is God revealing himself to us. What we have is people who are time-bound, finite, stuck in their place in culture and time with their own concepts and their own languages—trying to describe as best they can, their understanding of God. 

Shawn (29:16): 

So God is always changing. 

Scott (29:18): 

He's changing. But now, what's curious… and I'm not sure how exactly McLaren does this… he would say it's not changing, it's evolving. Which presents the idea that it's improving. It's becoming more clear, it's clarifying over time. As he said, "Human capacity grows to conceive of a higher and wiser view of God." Well, how are we doing that on our own?

Shawn (29:47): 

Right. Exactly. And who's to say that your view of God is now the best evolved view? 

Scott (29:52): 

Well, it's funny. So here's Dr. Peter Enns. He's kind of another leading progressive thinker, a theologian. He writes this, he says, "The God I read about in the Bible is not what God is like, in some timeless abstraction, and that's that—but how God was imagined and then re-imagined by ancient people of faith, living in real times and places." And he goes on to talk about our sacred responsibility. He says, "what our sacred responsibility is that I've been talking about is really now a call for us to follow this biblical lead by re-imagining God in our time and place." So this is what I'm talking about, this idea of re-envisioning the Bible. In other words, the problem that we've had—people like you and me, Shawn, Christians like you and me. The problem we've had, and the church for 2000 years along with us— we've been reading the Bible all wrong. 


It isn't the divinely inspired word of God by which God reveals the truth about himself to us, like true propositions, right? Rather, it's a manmade compilation of time and culture bound human beings having some kind of experience with the divine and then trying to make sense of those experiences as best they can. And as such, the Bible then is being presented—this is how they're presenting the Bible—the Bible then is our invitation. It's kind of a guidebook then for us, just like those people and their understanding of the world in their time, sought to understand and explain God. Now it's our turn to follow their lead in their example and re-imagine God for our own time. Right. So again, to quote further on Enns, he says, "Rather than providing us with information to be downloaded," and again, it's how it's caricatured. Oh, well, people who view the Bible as just downloading information, that's so dumb. Right, okay. But by download you mean receiving information? Why is that so dumb? Okay… [continue quote] "Rather than providing us with information to be downloaded," I would insert "received". "The Bible holds out for us an invitation to join an ancient, well-traveled and sacred quest." There's the spiritual journey language, Shawn, that I'm trying to help to surface and identify and expose. "The sacred quest to know God, the world we live in and our place within it. "

Shawn (32:25): 

So would they ever say then that at some point you will know God? Because when I read this, this sounds like a process that will never end. 

Scott (32:36): 

Right… that is a characteristic of the spiritual journey. Which again feeds back to this caricature of being more open-minded. The point of the spiritual journey is—what's the point of questions? Not to find true answers, but just to further us on the journey. There's no destination. Right? The journey is the thing. Until ultimately, one day, and I'm not sure how exactly they conceive of this… we will reach some kind of a state. I don't know what that will look like exactly. I'm not even sure what salvation looks like on this view. It looks like a renewed world where everyone lives in peace and harmony. But it seems to be a world that we create ourselves. 

Shawn (33:25): 

So they wouldn't say that those stories that are written in the Bible are a true reflection of God. They're just a reflection of the people at the time and how they perceived God? Is that the idea? 

Scott (33:36): 

Right. As Enns said, "The God I read about in the Bible is not what God is really like." Now, to some extent, you can understand that any language we use about God is ultimately representative. So to call God a king—obviously God is not some human king sitting on throw a castle somewhere. But to use the metaphor of King—I mean since scripture presents God as our king—there's truth behind that. Of what a king is. Of what a king does. A king rules. A king is sovereign. Those are all objectively real facts about God and his nature and who he is. It's not just a metaphor, but more importantly it's a divinely revealed one. It's God who presents himself using those images and that language, so that we can understand him. So, what's important to see here, Shawn, is that seeing the Bible this way ultimately turns Christian faith, I mean, the way that progressives tend to see it… ultimately turns Christian faith into a self-guided spiritual journey. It doesn't tell us what God's really like. It only tells us how people experienced and thought about God. And if indeed it contains spiritual insights about God, then those insights find their source not in the Bible—but in the experiences of those who wrote it. Which means ultimately then that the truth about God comes not from God, it comes from us. And don't be fooled, okay? This is not simply a more progressive kind of Christianity that speaks more relevantly for our progressive culture. This is an entirely different religion. And we could get back to your earlier question, is this tied to Eastern religion? It absolutely is. It ultimately points to which is… it really is a repackaging of late 19th century, early 20th century liberal Christianity, which made Christianity more about God in us—And so us bringing God into the world through the way that we live. The notion that ultimately we are already a part of God . And so what we need is simply to find the God within and let him or it or whatever, find expression in the world through us 

Shawn (36:14): 

Versus the historical, biblical Christian faith. 

Scott (36:17): 

That is not the Christian faith. The Christian faith held by the church for 2,000 years as the fulfillment of the Jewish faith founded upon God's promises made to Abraham nearly 4,000 years ago, 2,000 years before the church was founded… has always held and continues to hold that the Bible, while written by human beings, is authored by God. It's God speaking to us. 

Shawn (36:44): 

About who he is? 

Scott (36:47): 

Yeah, ultimately. And consequently, who we are, right? And a big part of that being our rebelliousness in sin and his redemption through Jesus. 

Shawn (37:01): 

So this is almost like a completely different religion. 

Scott (37:04): 

As I said, it is. It's an entirely different religion. The problem is it still carries so many of the trappings and language of Christianity. When you read some of these authors… reading Brian McLaren, or I'm reading Peter Enn's book, Rob Bell is another one… I read them, and it's just so hard to nail down exactly what they mean. But when you really start to see the implications of their ideas, it's not Christianity. And this is particularly true specifically on the nature of the Bible itself. And that's just one thing we were talking about—this notion that the Bible is simply a compilation of spiritual journeys that invites us to enter into the journey as well. 

Shawn (37:55): 

But how important this is when we're talking about recovering the faith, Scott! I think you would agree time and again we turn back to scripture to find what that faith is. But if we're being told that it's just notions of what people interpreted to be God from the ancient past, where are we going to recover this faith, then? 

Scott (38:16): 

Right, Scripture almost becomes non-essential. Maybe useful, maybe helpful, maybe inspiring. But it's not as it has been viewed by the church and the people of God, since the very beginning. I don’t want to do a total review of history, but God's people from Abraham forward—of course there was no text, so I'll say Moses since that's where the written scriptures began—see the scriptures as these are God's words. These represent God's utterances to us. Yes, written by human authors. And that was certainly Jesus' view. He said, "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God." And he said that in his temptation in the wilderness with Satan, as he defends himself against Satan using Scripture. He relies upon the words of his father. 

Shawn (39:15): 

And not just the way that he felt or others in the Bible felt that they were interpreting God to be. 

Scott (39:21): 

No, no. 

Shawn (39:23): 

Do they at any point reference Scripture in this idea? Do they ever go to Scripture and say, well, there's what Scripture is saying about itself—that it's just for this time in this place? 

Scott (39:34): 

No. And one thing I would maybe caution are presentations of Scripture that describe what it's like and how it works and the grand message it's conveying, without really digging into it. 

Shawn (39:49): 

So you've read these authors, McLaren and Enns and Bell. Do they go back to Scripture to support their positions?? 

Scott (39:57): 

 They're very selective. And so that's one of the challenges. What we want to encourage, as Christians—if you're seeking to recover your faith, you need to investigate the Bible and what it says of itself and not wanting to just take bits and pieces of it. The parts that you… 

Shawn (40:19): 

YouTube clips? 

Scott (40:22): 

Yeah. And it's hard in our world, because we think in seven second sound bites, and that's kind of how information's presented to us. So we have to be careful. Which is why it's so important to be part of a Bible teaching, studying faith community. Yeah, easier said than done. Maybe just to wrap things up here, Shawn. We've covered a lot of ground. I guess, just reminding our listeners that the goal here is to recover the Christian faith. You can't do this without looking to the Bible and understanding what the Bible itself presents itself to be—the word of God. And what Jewish and Christian believers have always understood and presented it to be—God's word to us about himself. He's made himself known. He's taken the initiative. I mean, that's the Christian gospel. That's the message—that God has taken the initiative, which is another reason why the spiritual journey motif falls flat. Because apart from God invading our space and revealing himself, we would not be searching for him.  

Shawn (41:48): 

No. Or what makes us think that as humans, mere humans, we could even figure that out? The creator of this universe… that we can figure out who God is? 

Scott (41:59): 

Right. Well, and I think that critique's been made and is often made by—we talked about John Hick last time—that that's the critique he made. How can any one faith claim to know the truth about God since God is so much further beyond anything we can possibly comprehend? Of course, "how does he know that?" is your retort. But I think there's an element of truth to that. But that's the whole point. And we said that before—the point of the Christian gospel is…yeah! In fact, it's not simply because God is so much greater, what the Scripture reveals is because of our sinfulness, not only could we never conceive and grasp him with our minds… What the Scripture tells us is that even if we could, we wouldn't want to. This is Paul speaking in Romans 3:10-11. He says, "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God." And he's quoting there Psalm 14 and Psalm 53. That's the biblical starting point for God revealing himself to us, and where our spiritual journey—if you want to use that terminology—begins. It begins at a dead stop on our side of things. Until God and his grace calls us, grants to us the gift of faith by his Spirit to see the truth about Jesus who is our Savior. 

Shawn (43:26): 

We talked a little bit in the episode about your faith environment. So maybe where you grew up and, Scott, you gave some really good pointers in terms of churches you should be seeking out, faith communities that you should be seeking out, when recovering the faith. Are there other places we can direct our listeners that may be struggling with this question, or maybe struggling with the faith, or even helping those that might be struggling with the faith? 

Scott (43:51): 

Sure. You can start with the Prepared to Answer website preparedtoanswer.org. One other place I point people is an old—it's not old, old—but it's a Christian classic. A book by the late John Stott called Basic Christianity. And it's probably one of the best readable but biblically sound and scholarly overviews of the Christian faith. So it just gives you that core of who God is, Jesus, the Bible, and just answering some of those fundamental questions to just to give a really good foundation. 

Shawn (44:34): 

Okay, that's excellent.

Scott (44:36): 

We'll have a link to that book on the episode page for this. 

Shawn (44:40): 

Well thanks Scott. Lots of good information. Hopefully you are encouraged as a listener and as Scott had mentioned, as always, you can contact us through our website at preparedtoanswer.org. And until next episode, God bless. 

Scott (44:55): 

This podcast has been a ministry of Prepared to Answer. Our mission at Prepared to Answer is to help prepare, equip and encourage the church of Jesus Christ to grow in confidence of faith by teaching Christians to think like Jesus. To access more resources to help you begin understanding life and the world around you with the mind of Jesus, visit our website at www.preparedtoanswer.org, follow us on Facebook and Instagram at @preparedtoanswer, or contact us directly by email at [email protected]. May the Lord bless and keep you.