God's work extends beyond our worldview

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					4   Canadian Mennonite January 25, 2010

               Confessing Jesus Christ in a Religiously Pluralistic World: Part I of III

      During the 2008 assembly in Saskatoon, the Faith and Life Committee of Mennonite Church
       Canada led a discussion around a paper entitled “Confessing Jesus Christ in a religiously
         pluralistic world. A full version of the document can be found at mennonitechurch.ca/
      resourcecentre. This three-part series of theological and personal reflections seeks to further
        engage us in the task of testifying to Jesus. What can we learn from each other about how
         to speak about Jesus in our places of work and leisure? The first article, by Karl Koop, a
       member of the Faith and Life Committee and associate professor of history and theology at
         Canadian Mennonite University, Winnipeg, is a summary of the Saskatoon document.

                      God’s work extends
                                                                             By Karl Ko op

                                                                             hat does it mean for Christians to con-
                                                                            fess Jesus Christ in a religiously pluralistic
                                                                           world? This seems to be an increasingly
                                                                         complex question in the face of globalizing
                                                                        forces that call for greater tolerance and ac-
                                                    ceptance of those who believe differently than we do. Today we
                                                    encounter a variety of spiritualities and belief systems among our
                                                    neighbours, friends and family. Our reactions may range from
                                                    affirming that only in Jesus Christ is there truth and salvation
                                                    to accepting and welcoming religious pluralism. What should
                                                    Christians believe about the place of other religions and belief
                                                    systems in light of their own core convictions?
                                                       Without question, the primary concern in the Bible is to invite
                                                    people to join in the work of God, first through the revelation to
                                                    Israel and ultimately through Jesus Christ. The Bible’s particular
                                                    revelation begins with the call to Abram to leave his country, his
                The letters of Paul and John        kindred and his land in order that God might create through him
                 underscore the importance          a special nation (Genesis 12). The revelation story unfolds with
                                                    the formation of Israel, the gift of the Law, prophetic announce-
                  of accepting the particular       ments and apocalyptic visions that are intended to guide the
                revelation in Jesus, including      people of God as they worship the one God and strive to do his
Description: The Gospel of Matthew translates this conviction centred in [JESUS CHRIST] into a mission impulse that directs the church to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). The letters of Paul and John underscore the importance of accepting the particular revelation in Jesus, including the call to repentance and belief in the resurrection. The Book of Revelation, which closes out the New Testament, depicts Jesus as the one who stands victorious against the powers of evil.The single-minded concern in the New Testament is to proclaim that Jesus is the risen Christ through whom God is establishing God's kingdom. Even so, the language to describe the pre-eminence of Jesus is often borrowed from other faith traditions. Titles like Messiah (Christ), Lord, Saviour, Son of God, Son of man, Wisdom and Word all take shape in a pre-Christian context. Even while these titles and concepts are reworked to become vessels of the Christian gospel, they build upon a wisdom that has been nurtured in other fertile ground.While some of us need to grow in our appreciation and respect for the wisdom from God that may be found outside of our Christian faith, others of us need to take courage to confess and proclaim the truth that has been given to us in Jesus. An appreciation for God's work in the world outside of the church does not mean we give up our responsibility to share the good news of Jesus Christ. And as Christians committed to peace, we should also have an interest in promoting peace with people of different religious persuasions. In a volatile age, where religious and cultural conflicts may surface easily, we must find ways of living together as neighbours and fostering community among all people.
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