The Way, The Truth and The Life
What the New Testament does not say is, 'unless you hold the following propositions to be true there is no life for you'. What it does say is, 'without a vital relationship with Jesus Christ who is the word of God made flesh, you will not become what you were made to be. You will not live into the fullness of your human destiny.' And it's this claim—not so much about unique truth in a form of words but about unique relationship with Jesus—which I want to explore a little with you.Then jumping to the end without all the middle parts that make the connection (which is always dicey), I will share his concluding words:
'No one comes to the Father except through me', says Jesus. In other words if you are to be reconciled as a son or daughter with the God that Jesus calls 'Father' then it is in association with him and in walking his way that that becomes a reality: walking his way, not just having the right ideas about him, not even just repeating what he says, but following him. Then if we turn to Acts put into slightly plainer English, what Peter is saying to the authorities in Jerusalem is something like this: 'If you are to find life and healing, you must turn towards the one you rejected and despised; because there is no name on which you can call for rescue, except the name of the one you crucified'. I emphasize the word 'you' there. Peter is not preaching in the abstract. He is saying to those who crucified Jesus, 'If you want to be rescued from the trap in which you have locked yourself, the only name on which you may call for rescue is the name of the one you killed.' And that is the conversion or repentance he asks for.
Now I say this about the texts before us not to try and evacuate them of the meaning that has traditionally been given, but to note how both of them in their different way are presented as a challenge to change your life. What is the way to the Father? The Father cannot be shown as an object in the sky—something you can point to. The Father is discovered as you walk with Jesus towards cross and resurrection, and the challenge in Acts is the challenge, 'turn towards the one you have rejected and there you will find your hope'.
In short and in conclusion, belief in the uniqueness and finality of Jesus Christ—for all the assaults made upon it in the modern age—remains for the Christian a way of speaking about hope for the entire human family. And because it's that, we are bound to say something about it. We are very rightly suspicious of proselytism, of manipulative, bullying, insensitive approaches to people of other faith which treat them as if they knew nothing, as if we had nothing to learn and as if the tradition of their reflection and imagination were of no interest to us or God. God save us from that kind of approach. But God save us also from the nervousness about our own conviction which doesn't allow us to say that we speak about Jesus because we believe he matters. We believe he matters because we believe that in him human beings find their peace. Their destinies converge and their dignities are fully honoured. And all the work that we as Christians want to do for the sake of convergent human destiny and fullness of human dignity has its root in that conviction that there is no boundary around Jesus—that what he is and does and says and suffers is in principle liberatingly relevant to every human being; past, present and future.The full text of his lecture is online here: The finality of Christ in a pluralist world. While not on parr with Williams, I have written along similar themes, such as in the sermon God Shows No Partiality or the religion column Can Other Religions Be True?.
The challenge is partly re-connecting our christology (what we say about Jesus and the Trinity) with our anthropology (our sense of what belongs properly to human beings); and rightly understood, I think that the belief in Jesus' uniqueness and finality allows us to do this. And, rightly understood, I believe it also allows us to encounter both the religious and the non-religious other with the generous desire to share, and the humble desire to learn, and the patience to let God work out his purpose as is best in his eyes.
That's what the archbishop and I believe. Where do you stand on the uniqueness of Christ in a pluralistic culture?
The Rev. Frank Logue, One who tries to stay on The Way
Labels: Rowan Williams