When the Government Tries to Be God

When forbidden to preach Christ-alone-ism and commanded to preach many-ways-to-God-ism (or pluralism) we respectfully say, “No! And here are our reasons.”

Of course, for too long successive governments have enacted and tolerated laws that are evil (such as the legalizing of abortion). What’s new in our day is that laws are being proposed and enacted that attempt to force Christians to give up core Christian doctrines (e.g. Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation) and ethics (e.g. biblical definition of marriage). When the Government does this, it is crossing the line from being God’s servant to being God itself. When that happens, what should we do?

 

Although Christians ought to be the most loyal citizens in any nation, we are facing the increasing challenge of a government that instead of acting as God’s servant for good, is becoming God’s opponent for evil?

Of course, for too long successive governments have enacted and tolerated laws that are evil (such as the legalizing of abortion). What’s new in our day is that laws are being proposed and enacted that attempt to force Christians to give up core Christian doctrines (e.g. Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation) and ethics (e.g. biblical definition of marriage).

When the Government does this, it is crossing the line from being God’s servant to being God itself. When that happens, what should we do? Thankfully we have a biblical example of similar governmental usurpation of God’s place in Acts 4, when the Apostles were commanded to stop preaching Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation.

The apostle’s response was not a simple “No way!” Rather, it was a respectful and biblically reasoned “No!”

“Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).

Their “No” was framed as a question, appealed to the leaders’ knowledge of God, and explained the preaching of Jesus as something that they couldn’t help doing. But it was still a “No!”

When forbidden to preach Christ-alone-ism and commanded to preach many-ways-to-God-ism (or pluralism) we respectfully say, “No! And here are our reasons.”

1. Pluralism disobeys God
What’s the first and greatest commandment? “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deut. 6:4-5).

It was first given to Israel as they prepared to enter a multi-faith environment, Jesus reiterated it in the midst of a similar multi-religious culture, and it remains the first and greatest commandment to this day. Everybody must have the God of the Bible as their only God and everybody should love that one God with everything they have.

Pluralism disobeys God because it says you can have any, many, or no gods and you certainly don’t need to love Him with everything you’ve got.

2. Pluralism diminishes Scripture
Pluralism says that there are many paths to the top of the mountain. There’s a Jewish path, a Hindu path, a Buddhist path, etc., and we all meet up at the top in God. This diminishes, undermines, and rejects the Bible’s message that there is one path up the mountain and it’s Jesus Christ (1 John 5:12; John 14:6; 3:36).

Political leaders can pass as many laws as they like but they can’t change the truth of Scripture by legislation or by majority vote. They may decide that gravity doesn’t exist, vote against it, pass laws against it, and prosecute its supporters. But if any one of them chooses to jump out the window they’ll discover that no matter how public, vehement, and repeated their assertions, gravity is still very true.

3. Pluralism defies logic
The future heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, is meant to take an oath to be the defender of the protestant faith. However, he’s decided that he wants to be simply “the defender of faith.” What kind of faith? Any kind of faith? There are people who still believe it’s OK to sacrifice children. Are we going to defend their faith?

Even secular journalists see the folly of this. Janet Daley of the Daily Telegraph wrote: “You cannot defend all faiths – at least not at the same time – because each has beliefs that render those of the others false.”

It’s not faith that saves but what or who faith is in. Many Muslims’ faith is stronger than many Christians’ faith. But no matter how sincere, zealous, vigorous, and confident faith is, if it’s in a falsehood it will not save. Thankfully, the weakest faith in Christ will certainly save.

4. Pluralism damages evangelism
What motivated the New Testament apostles and evangelical missionaries through the centuries? It was the belief that Christ is the only way to be saved.

We’re not funding missionaries and doing evangelism because we think it’s a good idea, it’s a nice hobby, or it makes us feel good. It’s because, to put it bluntly, without Christ, you’re damned. And if we don’t believe that, then let’s stop all evangelism and outreach, and let’s call all the missionaries back and stop wasting our money.

But, “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). There is no other name in India, in Pakistan, in Iraq, or in Antartica. What about Afghanistan? No other name. What about the USA? No other name. No second name, no third name, no fourth name. No other name.

5. Pluralism despises our neighbor
We’re being told today that preaching the Gospel is hatred. No, to be silent is hatred. To say nothing about Jesus to the perishing is hatred. To see someone in error and hold back the truth is hatred.

The second great commandment is “to love our neighbor as ourselves.” That’s why to every pious Hindu, orthodox Jew, secular atheist, sincere agnostic, radical Muslim, and nominal Christian, we tell you with a heart overflowing with love, Jesus is the only Name under heaven by which you can be saved.

6. Pluralism denies Christ
The Apostle Peter had denied Christ in front of a little servant girl a few weeks before because he was so afraid of the religious and political leaders. Now he faces these same leaders and is again charged with knowing and preaching Christ.

What will he do? Is he going to deny Jesus again? Will he just use the general name “God,” and avoid offending his accusers?

No. From his “I don’t know the man” of a few weeks previously, he now preaches the Name above every name. What a moment! The denier of Christ becomes a spirit-filled preacher of Christ to the crucifiers of Christ (vv. 8-12).

And notice it’s not enough to say, “He is a Savior,” or even “He is my Savior.” No, “He is the only Savior.” The Savior that excludes all others. “Neither is there salvation in any other.” There are no options, no alternatives, no substitutes, no fall backs, no back ups.

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

David Murray is Professor of Old Testament & Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary. This article first appeared on his blog and is used with permission.