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WORLDVIEW: Humanist, secular ideologies still oppose Gospel

RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Will the “great global conflict” of the 21st century be the struggle between Islam and Christianity?

Many people think so, including Anglican Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda. He said as much during a Jan. 26 appearance in New York (see Jan. 31 Baptist Press story, “Ugandan archbishop: Militant Islam is century’s key challenge”).

Orombi is renowned for his courageous stand for biblical faith in the global Anglican flock. He sees the Muslim-Christian contest playing out in political, economic and social spheres in many other nations of the “global south,” where both faiths compete for new followers.

Another Anglican cleric, Mark Durie of Australia, echoed Orombi at the New York event. Durie said the 20th century was the century of “humanistic ideologies, some of them quite perverse, whether it was fascism or different kinds of communism. I believe the capacity of those ideologies to shape the world is petering out.” The next 100 years, he predicted, will be a “century of faith.”

Not so fast.

Humanist and secularist ideologies continue to wield great influence over minds and hearts –- especially among Europeans, Americans and the Western cultural elites who export ideas via the media and globalization. More than we realize or care to admit, those ideologies affect the church and its global mission task. The Great Commission continues to come under philosophical attack from people who want to silence the preaching of the Christian Gospel as the only way to God.

The essential hostility of modern humanism (even in its gentler and “religious” forms) to the Gospel’s claim to truth was vividly illustrated last fall in “The Futurist” magazine, one of the banner carriers for the humanist mindset.

A cover story in the magazine, “Religion in the Future Global Civilization” (Sept.-Oct. 2006) acknowledged that religious faith inhabits the center of every culture and promotes virtues such as compassion, mercy and justice. But it warned that the “Abrahamic” religions, particularly the missionary faiths of Christianity and Islam, will cause continuing global divisions unless they surrender their claims to exclusive truth in favor of “Inclusivism.”

The article’s author, Thomas R. McFaul, offers three scenarios for the year 2050. The first -– “Exclusivism: I’m right and you’re wrong” -– envisions a world where the dream of universal peace has “faded into a distant memory.” The leaders of the major religions (especially Christianity and Islam) have “turned their backs on the quest to find common ground that would transcend their differences.”

McFaul’s second scenario is “Pluralism: Despite our differences, we can live together.” It foresees a shrinking of the global regions “controlled by exclusivist religious elites.” The diverse citizens of an interconnected global village are learning to live together in mutual respect, tolerance and cooperation.

The third scenario, which McFaul prefers, is “Inclusivism: We’re becoming one family.” In this rosy future, the “once-feared clash of civilizations has all but disappeared.” Religious believers not only have learned to co-exist peacefully, but have put aside their claims to exclusive truth in favor of a “global worldview” that recognizes many paths to God.

So there you have it: If everyone becomes a Unitarian, global peace and love will surely follow. We’ll finally get past the “bad old days” of faith in the God of Abraham, His Word and His claims to exclusive lordship, and we’ll sail into a bright horizon of harmony.

I’m oversimplifying the case for “Inclusivism,” of course, but not by much.

Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, added his hearty amen to McFaul’s recommendations in “The Futurist.”

“Traditional and emergent religions should eventually withdraw from the political center stage in order to realize a vision of tolerance and peace for the global culture,” Speckhardt wrote. “We’ve seen examples of progress in this direction in Europe, where policies are tied more to the public good than to religious tradition.”

Ah yes, Europe –- the continental culture founded upon Christianity and preserved by it for nearly two millennia. Europe is now a postmodern, secularized, depopulating shell of its former self. But it remains the favorite model for many an American intellectual who would like to see the United States follow the same culturally suicidal path.

Historical footnote: They already tried getting rid of biblical faith in Europe. The 20th century was supposed to usher in a brave new world of reason, science and progress –- led by European elites. It didn’t quite turn out that way.

“Why did Europe have the 20th century it did?” asks theologian George Weigel in his book, “The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America and Politics without God.”

“Why did a century that began with confident predictions about a maturing humanity reaching new heights of civilizational accomplishment produce … two world wars, three totalitarian systems, a Cold War threatening global catastrophe, oceans of blood, mountains of corpses, Auschwitz and the Gulag?”

The communists didn’t need God. Nor did the Nazis. They regarded religious faith as a roadblock to human progress, a dangerous disease to be stamped out by any means necessary.

I’m not suggesting the “Inclusivists” have similar plans. But before you laugh off their future scenarios as the musings of ivory-tower academics, remember that ideas have consequences -– sometimes horrific ones. The secular worshippers of “tolerance” are becoming more intolerant by the day in their quest to ban expressions of faith from the public square.

I propose a fourth scenario for 2050: “Inclusive exclusivism: Jesus is Lord of all.” By then, the church should have entered every global culture and people group, joyfully proclaiming that the Gospel is the only way to peace –- and that a loving and righteous God freely offers redemption to all who will repent and follow Him.

That has always been the mission of the church when it has its biblical priorities straight. Don’t let the “Inclusivists” convince you otherwise.
Erich Bridges is senior writer with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board. To comment on this column visit CounterCultureBlog.com.

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