So, this week in my current class (which is a Ministry Class entitled “Discipleship Making in the Leadership Context) the discussion question was:
The worldview held by a leader will provide both context and influence on his/her practice of discipleship. Can a Christian ministry leader hold a pluralistic worldview and still be effective in making Christian disciples? Why or why not?
If you are bored, can’t sleep and/or otherwise have no life; Here is how I responded:
“Can a Christian ministry leader hold a pluralistic worldview and still be effective in making Christian disciples?” This question should prove to provide an interesting discussion and possibly even open the proverbial can of worms. Preyss (2011) says, everyone has a religious worldview, or an understanding about the fundamental order and makeup of the universe if they believe the One True God or not. Although I would affirm the proposition that we do exist in a worldwide pluralistic society (especially so in the realm of religion); I am not sure that I would affirm that a “Christian ministry leader” can “hold a pluralistic world view and still be effective in making Christian (or at least not what I believe the Bible to teach that a Christian is) disciples.
Silk (2007) basically defined “religious pluralism” as an attitude or policy regarding the diversity of religious belief systems co-existing in society. In today’s society it has gone beyond just a “co-existence” and the term tolerance gets thrown around much more. Tolerance today is not the tolerance of our grandparents. Josh McDowell (1998) saw this pattern over a decade ago in his work “The New Tolerance.” His basic stance was that the definition of tolerance has changed in America. This new definition has penetrated the culture. Now to disagree with someone else’s view is considered intolerant. Another term that gets associated with this theme / topic is “moral relativism.” In our age of “tolerance,” moral relativism is touted as the supreme virtue. Every philosophy, idea, and faith system has equal merit, says the relativist, and is worthy of equal respect. Those who favor one faith system over another or—even worse—claim a knowledge of absolute truth are considered narrow-minded, unenlightened, or even bigoted.
I don’t want to seem “narrow-minded” but I cannot imagine how a “Christian ministry leader” could effectively disciple with a “pluralistic worldview.” For example, the Bible makes the claim that “man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Hebrews 9:27), while some Eastern religions teach reincarnation. So, do we die once or many times? Both teachings cannot be true. The pluralist or relativist essentially redefines truth in order to create a paradoxical world where multiple, contradictory “truths” can co-exist.
Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). A Christian has accepted Truth, not just as a concept, but as a Person. This acknowledgment of Truth distances the Christian from the so-called “open-mindedness” of the day. The Christian has publicly acknowledged that Jesus rose from the dead (Romans 10:9-10). If he truly believes in the resurrection, how can he be “open-minded” concerning an unbeliever’s assertion that Jesus never rose again? For a Christian to deny the clear teaching of God’s Word would indeed be a betrayal of God.
Now I do believe that as we are attempting to make disciples, when disputing/dialoguing over prominent doctrines does arise, a Christian should exercise restraint and show respect. It is one thing to disagree with a position; it is quite another to disparage a person. We must hold fast to the Truth while showing compassion to those who question it. Like Jesus, we must be full of both grace and truth (John 1:14). Peter strikes a good balance between having the answer and having humility: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
McDowell, J. (1998). The New Tolerance. Westmont, IL: Intervarsity Press.
Preyss, J. (2011, September 9). BRIEF: A look at religious worldviews. Victoria Advocate (TX).
Silk, M. (July 2007), Defining Religious Pluralism in America: A Regional Analysis 612, pp. 64–81