The Significance of Christ in Religious Relativism

wa-o-g-2I have been doing some thinking the past few weeks, trying to wrap my head around something very important in the realm of Christianity:

Why is Christ important?

I’ve been wrestling with this question in the midst of trying to be fair and open minded to the existence and claims of other world religions. This is not meant to be a statement against those world religions as much as it is for Christianity, or, perhaps more accurately, for Christ. I suppose the basic question that really started my “Christ kick” is: “why is it that Christ should hold significance among all the world religions?”

This blog post is an attempt to not only address the significance of Christ among the world’s religions, but also an attempt to put forth that Christ has the most significance among the world religions.

To begin, I’d like to offer a few words about Religious Relativism.

The world is smaller now than ever before. Our abilities to communicate and travel long distances in such a short amount of time have considerably reduced the size of our world. As such, we encounter new ways of thinking, new cultures, thought-provoking religions, and unique people. The importance of religious tolerance and especially religious dialogue has never been so great. People experience the world in many different ways and those ways are, almost without exception, completely valid ways to do so. Much of the same can be said about the Divine. Here in lies the dilemma. With so many different ways to frame our experiences with the world and with the Divine–most of which have great validity–are there some that are better than others? Is there a best way to encounter the world and the divine?

A former professor of mine described what he called “Selective Relativism.” How he described it in class is basically that there are lots of different foods that we have to choose from, but it is undeniable that some foods are better than others. If I want to maintain good health, I should probably choose to add more fruits and veggies to my diet as opposed to ice cream and double-stack cheese burgers. I feel that, essentially, the same can be applied to religions. Yes, most world religions are capable of providing truth and facilitating encounters with the Divine. But there is one figure in religion that provides not simply truths or encounters but the true character and nature of humanity, while simultaneously putting humanity in direct relationship with God. Christianity claims that this person is Jesus Christ.

The significance of this is astounding. In the person of Jesus Christ we see the character of God and the purpose of humanity. We see that God’s concern for the world is compassion, love, and justice for the poor and oppressed because that is the life that Christ lives. We see that our concern should be compassion, love, and justice for the poor and the oppressed because that is the life that Christ lives. Christ’s mission is our mission. There is a line from a David Crowder Band song that says, “Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss.”  I think this is a simple understanding of what God has done in Christ.  The Divine has chosen to encounter creation in Christ; and Christ is fully God and truly human.  Think about that for a second. Christ is simultaneously God with and for us while being us living with and for God. The implication of such an idea is unsurpassable. When you think you may have grasped its depth, you find it just goes deeper.

I used to take issue with “The Great Commission” found in Matthew. The notion of making everybody convert to Christianity just rubbed me the wrong way. I’m really trying to understand it now as not converting everyone to Christianity, but to demonstrate and show the way God has always intended for this whole humanity thing to work. To take care of one another, to empty ourselves for one another and make our greatest concern the well-being of our fellow humans precisely because that is what God has done in Jesus Christ.

As I stated at the beginning of this post, I am not trying to make other religions irrelevant.  The only thing I can do as a Christian is approach my understanding of the Divine and the world through my Christian lens.  I am not Buddhist. I am not Jewish. I am a practicing Christian.  I can only do my very best to follow God through my experience and hope that I continue to go deeper with the Divine as I understand It through the living Christ.


Cory Upson

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