Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Bishop Schiori in Her Own Words

Jeff Chu of Time recently interviewed TEC Presiding Bishop Schiori, in which he asked her 10 fairly unambiguous question. Her answers were surprisingly candid and quite revealing. Read the whole article for all ten; I just want to address one that stood out to me (I have altered the format but not text):

Chu: Is belief in Jesus the only way to get to heaven?
Schiori: We who practice the Christian tradition understand him as our vehicle to the divine. But for us to assume that God could not act in other ways is, I think, to put God in an awfully small box.

Here I think we have an insight into what’s happening to Western Christianity. In all fairness, I’m a little unhappy with the way the question was phrased. If Chu is asking “Is Jesus the only way to get to heaven?” then all orthodox Christians, the Scriptures, and Jesus Himself would answer “yes.” John quotes Jesus as saying, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Of course, we live in sophisticated times so we should go back to the original passage to get the nuanced meaning of the passage. If we look at the Greek, what Jesus really seems to be saying is, well, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The sentence is a very simple one that anybody can translate after the first few chapters of a decent Greek textbook.

If, however, the question is, “Is a conscious, specific belief in Jesus Christ professed in this life the only way to get to heaven?” then most Christians throughout history would say “No.” (To be sure, that “No” would generally have been followed by a long and detailed description of exactly what “no” meant.) But that fine point of theology isn’t what’s being reflected in ++Schiori’s denial of Christ’s exclusivity.

What we have in her answer is a simple denial of John 14:6 – and, ultimately, a denial of Jesus’s divinity and of the meaning of His crucifixion. If there are other paths to God than through Jesus, and if Jesus is indeed God incarnate, then for Him to undergo scourging, crucifixion, and death can only mean that God is insane. If other paths to God exist, then the Passion serves no useful purpose, and those who seek death for no useful purpose are generally agreed to be insane. A God who would send His only Son to death unnecessarily is not a God of love but a blood god more suitable to Blade – The Series.

If, on the other hand, Jesus is one prophet among many, teaching a way among many, then Christianity is simply false. It is not an alternate path to heaven but a path to nowhere – because to accept Jesus as one prophet or even one god among many of equal validity is– in essence – to accept Hinduism. If one is going to be Hindu, at least be honest about it, buy yourself a statue of Ganesha, and get rid of all the silly crucifixes you have hanging around.

“Putting God in a box” is one of the buzzphrases I hear all the time from heretics liberals. But no one’s putting God in a box. The Christian belief from A.D. 30 on has been that God put Himself in a box – the box of human flesh – as the ultimate act of self-giving that reconciled perfect love with perfect justice. It’s never been a question of what I happen to think God might have done; it’s always been a question of what He says He’s done. I can’t help thinking that I’m supposed to respond to that act in humble gratitude, not try to second-guess it.