Ron Galloway

The Meaning of Christ in Other Religions (Part 3)

Nativity-of-Christ-St-Patricks-Cathedral.jpg

By Dr. Ron Galloway

In Part Two, I spoke of a certain graduate student who imagined that by showing me parallels between Christian symbols, beliefs, and objects and those of other religions, she refuted the originality of the Christian faith. But I have argued that all the religious parallel symbols she presented simply pre-figure the reality of Christ; they simply foreshadow the concrete reality. In all of her examples, the student was really presenting sacred objects or mythical stories that try to unite the profane with the sacred. All of them ultimately fail because they are all partial incarnations. Yes, they can all be seen by their very attempt, to point to the ultimate sacred one, the Christ, to whom all fragmented or partial understandings of the sacred point. Therefore they can be seen only as shadows, not the reality. There are a great many other parallel symbols and objects that the graduate student did not have on her list. Common among religions and mythical stories are sacred mountains, cosmic trees, annual renewals of the universe, sacred skies, seas, skies, earth, rivers , even sacred vegetation of every imaginable and unimaginable variety. The extent of such symbols is well documented in Mircea Eliade's Patterns In Comparative Religions, Cosmos and History, and his very engaging work titled Images and Symbols.[1] But as we saw in Part 2, all such symbols were seen by Eliade, and can be seen by us, as abortive attempts at incarnation. Only the incarnation of Christ fulfils these abortive attempts at uniting the profane with the sacred.[2]

Only the Jesus of Scripture was ever described as fully man and fully God, yet born as we are born. He is the God who, before His birth as a man, brought the whole of the universe into being. He is the true source of earth and sky. His death, resurrection and transfiguration are the true sources of the transfiguration of the whole of the cosmos. Christ can be viewed as the true cosmic tree, and the true tree of life that brings new heaven, earth, and humanity. Indeed the cross of Christ was a tree, symbolizing the dying and resurrected Christ who by His death and resurrection ushers in the opportunity for all to be reborn by the indwelling of Christ, who is both truth and life. The tree of life in the historical garden of Eden can be seen to foreshadow Christ Himself. In scripture He is the reality that is pointed to by the tree in the Book of Revelation whose leaves heal the nations. He is the true source of the knowledge of good and evil. As Saint Paul says: "All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in him."[3]

In Scripture, He is the true living water, and true source of rebirth and regeneration. He is the true meaning of Eden in the transfigured garden of Eden that we find in the Book of Revelation.[4] Revelation chapter 21 speaks of a fully perfected, transfigured heaven and earth, yet it points to that which is beyond itself, and which fulfilled the transfiguration's own perfection, Jesus the risen Christ who overcame the power of death. All the related symbolisms of human religion will one day find their "yes." Even the horror of religions that practice human sacrifice, point out from their darkness to the true and freely given human sacrifice of Jesus Christ Himself, He who was fully God and fully man.

Once we understand these symbols, whether they be pagan or Judeo-Christian, the nations of the earth have a bridge to draw them close to the one who came down into history for them, and is coming again. For surely, in the myths and symbols in sacred objects across the world, there is some part of humanity in the image of God crying out for God, however dim their understanding, to come down and save them. In longing for a centre of the earth—where God meets with humanity—are not their spirits crying out for their creator? In longing for a new world, and their own rebirth, are they not crying out for something their heart and conscience long for? With all their talk of sacred mountains, do they not truly desire Mount Zion, the Kingdom of God on earth? With the vast range of liberator and redeemer myths, and the myths of a virgin birth, do not all these point to what people long to have in reality? Do not the vast number of liberator or redeemer myths that talk of a King who will one day be born and will overcome the dark King, all refer to a true King who will one day be born in real history? This King is Christ. Do not all the fears, hopes, and yearnings that are expressed in myth and legend speak of a promise to come?

Are they not all deeply fulfilled where the Scriptures say that the "Yes" has come in the good news of Jesus Christ? [5] Does it not say in Scripture that all the promises of God to humanity have their yes in Christ?[6] Do not the Scriptures say that Christ will unite all things into Himself?[7] Do not those wondrous words in the Christmas song, "O Little Town of Bethlehem," well express the deep longing in the human heart through legend song and ritual, to draw close to God?

O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.

Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by.

Yet in thy dark streets shineth the everlasting light.

The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.

In the birth of Christ, all that man has longed for in his lost state, and separation from God, comes into history with a finality of promise. For then God, our Lord Jesus, completely took the part of man by fully becoming one. He thus brought all the blessings of eternity into time, and into the human heart. Now all that came before can be seen as shadow, and all the perverted ways of expressing the longing for rebirth of heaven and earth, of renewing the earth, and of renewing man can be seen in the life, death and resurrection of Christ. In Him we see the reality in its uncorrupted, ultimate form. This does not suggest that either Father, Son, or Holy Spirit were responsible for the perverted ways of people whose understanding of sacrifice often came because of their contact with the spirit world through mediums, spells, or incantations, a form of contact strongly forbidden by the God of Israel.[8] They would do this and still do this in order to draw upon the powers of heaven, and receive its blessings. Such individuals only succeeded in contacting Satan and the spirit world. These evil practices enslaved them to a perverted lifestyle—child sacrifice, self-mutilation, ritual torment and slaughter. And yet, we continually see when Christ is preached, on mission field after mission field, that the very message of Christ, and the Bible itself, fulfil symbol after symbol couched in pagan myth, ritual and story. All their sacred mountains, temples, and objects, find their true fulfilment in the person of Christ. For here, the sacred one—the truly sacred one—comes and overcomes the power of darkness forever.

The battle that is even now bringing death to an end was won at the cross of Christ. Now in a very short time, Christ will come to claim His bride[9]. The end of sorrow and pain is very near, and all who know the Lord will live happily ever after. That is the essence of what J. R. R. Tolkien is getting at in his famous essay on myth and fairy story.[10] To Tolkien, what man invents in fantasy and myth is called secondary reality; but, as Tolkien explains, secondary reality longs to bring itself into reality. Only in Christ is that longing fulfilled. It happens because of His authentic coming down to man in the city of Bethlehem, authentic death and resurrection, authentic indwelling in the human heart, and His real and authentic return to come in a time that may not be too far away. At that time fantasies of secondary reality will all be understood as shadow, shadows that point to Christ Himself. It is He who will unite all heaven and earth in Himself. As Tolkien said of the story of Christ, it is the fairy tale that came true,[11] and those who belong to that Prince of Peace will live happily ever after on the day of His return.

This is the wonder of the Christian faith. It is such a precious reality that even the hopes and fears, and fantasies and myths of man, announce unawares—at some deeper level of the human self—the incarnation, resurrection and transfiguration of Christ and eventually of all things.

[1] Mircea Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religion, tr. R. Sheed (London: Sheed and Ward, 1958); Cosmos and History: The Myth of the Eternal Return, tr. W. R. Trask (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1954); and Images and Symbols: Studies in Religious Symbolism, tr. P. Mairet (London: Harvill, 1961).

[2] See John 1, including "the Word Became a human being and lived among us" (1:14).

[3] Colossians 2:3.

[4] Revelation 22:1-2.

[5] 2 Corinthians 1:16-19.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Colossians 1:8-12.

[8] Deuteronomy 18; Revelation 21:7.

[9] Revelation 21:1-2.

[10] J. R. R. Tolkien, Tree and Leaf (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1964), 65.

[11] Ibid., 64-66.


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The Meaning of Christ in Other Religions (Part 2)

By Dr. Ron Galloway

While I was in process of doing a Master's degree in Religious Studies at the University of Calgary, I was amazed at how very little my fellow graduate students knew about the Bible. They were quite familiar with other religions, and for the most part, they emulated the typical, unreflective student who thinks that all religions basically teach the same truths, and that none of them are really unique.

I remember the day one of these graduate students approached me in a very nice, but slightly triumphant manner. She knew of my Christian faith. To refute it, she placed in front of me a list of religious symbols and myths—common in the Greek and mystery religions. There it was, a long list showing me that other religions, anywhere from three to four hundred years before or after the birth of Christ, also believed in sacrifices, holy temples, baptism, a communion feast, a dying and rising saviour, a messiah to come, a virgin birth, the regeneration of heaven and earth, and the birth of a special king. It seemed to me that, in her mind, this finished the matter. As far as she was concerned, she had now fully proven that the Christian faith was, in no sense, unique.[1] Actually, when my fellow graduate student showed me these similarities, I was encouraged. For I saw in them—and still do—foretastes and foreshadowings of the Christ who has already come into history and was born to Mary, after being conceived by the Holy Spirit. This particular graduate student failed to understand that the virgin birth reveals the decisive difference between the Christian faith and the polytheistic religions that surrounded it. Unlike the myths of rising Gods and other such symbols and mythical events—the living God came into real history.

Answering the Student with Pre-figurations

Had time and circumstances permitted, my response to my fellow graduate student would go something like this. All the varied symbols, events and varied myths she showed to me can easily be seen as stories, beliefs and intrinsic human longings that prefigure the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In what follows, we shall further explore and unwrap what is meant by the term prefigure.

I have always appreciated C. S. Lewis's understanding of myth. It is his suggestion that what we call myths are often legends based on real events or persons. Irving Hexham and Karle Poewe argue that mythical stories contain events that integrate the life and conduct of individuals and their world.[2] One great myth, they argue, is sufficiently inclusive to integrate a great many other myths. Yet, they point out that myths could have no such effect if they were not believed to be true or at least based on truth.[3] After all, who would seriously model their lives after a story known to be false?[4]

But if myths, religious and otherwise, have the power to integrate all life, then they must involve ideas and themes that are absolutely at the core of the human condition, and the human longing for healing and restoration. This requires, then, that myths continually recur in cultures around the world because of their intrinsic power to integrate humanity.

Mircea Eliade, the famous historian of religions, introduces us to the integrative power of what he calls partial incarnations. By this he meant certain temporal objects that can only prefigure the incarnation of Christ. Pre-figurations are partial incarnations which seek a total union between the divine and the temporal, that is, the sacred and profane, but can never complete that union. Rather, they act as foreshadowing in their attempts to fulfill the innate human longing to completely unite, in utter fullness and harmony, the sacred and profane.

Yggdrasil
Yggdrasil

Eliade observed that archaic religions (meaning religions ancient and modern, untouched by science), as well as modern and ancient religions in general, were characterized by a separation between the sacred and the profane. Yet, objects considered to be divine or sacred could affect the profane. By the profane, Eliade meant the normal, temporal form and environment of human life and existence.[5] He observed that in the cultural perceptions of various tribal, rural and urban-based religions, a stone or even a vegetable can suddenly become a sacred object.[6] One very common profane object that frequently becomes a sacred object is a tree. Normal trees become sacred cosmic trees. Many such trees become sacred, because of their connection to some kind of myth about creation.[7] For this reason, cosmic trees are often able, in the mind of those who think they are sacred, to annually renew the universe.[8] The practical concern of such believers is whether or not these trees will have the power to bring a rich harvest, a good hunting season, or the end of a famine. In this way, the tree becomes an object that has the potential to put them in touch with a power existing in sacred, non-historical time.[9] The normal cosmic tree myth usually tells of the death and rebirth of heaven. To the believers in cosmic trees, their annual ritual imitation of the mythic story brings about the actual death and rebirth of the universe and humanity itself.[10] As such, Eliade views Cosmic Tree myths as one of many partial incarnations, that is, the attempt to unite the sacred and the profane, or the mortal and the divine.[11]

Eliade viewed all objects in history that seek to unite the divine and the human as pre-figurations—seeking in vain to fulfill the mystery of the incarnation of Jesus Christ.[12] On the other hand, the coming together of God and man in Jesus Christ was what he called the supreme incarnation.[13] It was also Eliade who maintained that the Christian story of incarnation totally fulfills all other human attempts to fully integrate the divine and the human. He calls every other attempt to do this, abortive.[14] He called them abortive because none were able to bring to birth the reality of the union between the human and the divine. We have already seen how the Eastern doctrine of Karma prevented the Hindu avatars from being fully God and fully man. For this reason, they could not configure a total unity of the divine and the human, in which both the human and the divine are preserved intact.

Therefore, we, like Eliade, can see the logic of viewing all attempts of culture and religion to unite with the sacred as foreshadowing what is finally fulfilled in Christ.

We can then view Jesus Christ Himself as the true and concrete rescuer of humanity and the universe. In cosmic tree myths, for example, we then see a foreshadowing of Jesus as the redeemer of humanity and creation through His incarnation, death, and resurrection. By faith, the Christian believer—when he gives his life to Christ—imitates Christ in His death and in His resurrection, thus becoming a new creation.[15] It is this child of the Virgin Mary that fulfills the depths of myth and symbol. For Jesus Christ in His birth, fulfills the longing of the profane to fully unite with the sacred. To satisfy the profane, He is fully man. To satisfy the sacred, He is fully God as well.

Thus far we have surveyed Eliade's description of cosmic trees and abortive attempts to imitate the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Eliade also maintained that whenever objects in profane time are used by the world's religions to represent things in sacred time, the objects are only sacred because of what they point to or represent.[16] It is the power believed to inhabit the object that counts.[17] That power is like a part of the sacred trying to enter historical time, and the believer wants so badly for it to do so, so that it may assist him in his life.

Christ then can be viewed as the true fulfillment of all the sacred symbols and places of the world's religions. They are the shadow, but He is the reality. In recognizing the need for rebirth, the Hindu sees deeply into reality. Here is a bridge of communication that can lead many Hindus down a road toward a true rebirth in Christ. The religions that see the need for a sacrifice to bring a new world are right in this understanding, but now there has been one true sacrifice that occurred in history that makes null and void all the other religious sacrifices—present and past. For only the sacrifice of Christ on the cross truly renews humanity, heaven and earth. Only His sacrifice on the cross truly began the death of evil and death itself.

Therefore, all of the symbols that the graduate student presented to me by way of the book, were, as I said, causes for rejoicing, not despair. They can be viewed as attempts to unite the human and the divine, as pre-figurations of the incarnation. Indeed, when thus understood, all such similarities show that the Christian faith is indeed unique among all the religion of the world. They are a shadow and foretaste, but Christ is the concrete reality to whom these shadows and prefigurations point.[18]

[1] Of course many of these alleged similarities are fallacious, for example the Virgin Birth of Horus. For an interesting refutation of the Horus myth and similar fabrications see the Lutheran Satire Horus Ruins Christmas.

[2] Irving Hexham and Karla Poewe, New Religions as Global Culture (Boulder, Colorado: Westview, 1997), 79-80.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Mircea Eliade, Patterns In Comparative Religion (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1958), 1-37, 82.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., 3, 8, 9, 106, 111, 190, 266, 267, 269, 271, 273–274, 387, 431, 448.

[9] Ibid., 3.

[10] Ibid., 3, 8, 9, 106, 111, 190, 266, 267, 269, 271, 273–274, 387, 431, 448.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid., 26, 29, 30.

[13] Ibid., 26, 29 158.

[14] Ibid., 26, 29.

[15] Ibid., 3, 8, 9, 106, 111, 190, 266, 267, 269, 273-274, 387, 431, 448.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid., 26, 29 30.

[18] For further insight into Eliade and Pre-Figuration, see also his Kosmos and History, trans. Willard R. Trask (New York: New American Library, 1958).


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The Meaning Of Christ In Other Religions: Myth, Symbol, Pre-Figurations and Promise (Part 1)

By Dr. Ron Galloway

This is the first of a three-part series. The first part revolves around a discussion with a Hindu convert to Christ. The second part will circle around an encounter with a post-graduate student in religious studies, and the final part will consist of further reflections on the same theme.

Could it be that the symbols, myths rituals, insights, and teachings of religions—past and present—might reveal a partial understanding of Jesus Christ, the God-Man? Might this not be the case even in the populations of humanity that are still distant from Him, and do not know Him as He is? Could it be that symbols from other religions and cultures—ancient and present—might, in some way, foreshadow Christ's incarnation, resurrection, and even the day when Jesus Christ will transfigure the universe? Could it even be that symbols found in myriads of other religions have, in some real sense, their fulfilment in Christ? The Bible itself is full of foreshadowing and promise. It is also rich in the symbols, events, celebrations, and traditions of the Old and New Testament Scriptures. Might not there be something of the same thing in the symbols, events, celebrations, rituals and traditions of other religions? Might they not act as a bridge to point cultures to Christ, and to His incarnation, resurrection, transformation, and transfiguration? Might there not be a way that these kinds of symbols, rituals, celebrations, and traditions are meant to foreshadow Christ, and even to reveal that Christ is the concrete reality to which they point, just as they did for Israel?

ichthus-symbol
ichthus-symbol

I know of a Hindu convert to Christ who once said that it is not only possible, but that it happened to him. The idea of other religions' symbols, rituals, celebrations, and traditions pointing to Christ was, for this convert, a reality. But before we hear more from him, I should clarify what is being suggested in this discussion and what is not.

We need not argue that non-Christian beliefs receive such foreshadowings, symbols, events, and traditions through direct revelation, as in the case of Israel. It seems to me, however, that one can reasonably entertain the possibility of at least some parallels. The Bible says that God has put eternity in the hearts of all people. God has made people in such a way that there will always be something in their religions, their myths, and their self-understanding that causes them to yearn for a transcendent realm. By transcendent, I mean a realm of reality that human beings would never be able to invent or imagine as it really is. Yet this realm is nevertheless attuned to the deepest yearnings of human hearts and minds for peace with God and with all God's creation. People sense that this transcendent realm can aid them in their struggle for survival, yet it also causes them to yearn for a new and better world free of the toil, struggles, and evils in themselves. Yet even though the yearnings are there, the Bible makes clear mention of a universal evil in the human heart and mind before encountering Christ. This universal evil is the unregenerate heart of a humanity that wants nothing to do with God. This leads human beings to purposely suppress the eternal yearnings in their hearts.

Mircea Eliade, Paul Ricoeur, and Martin Buber—all respected religious thinkers—explored this suppressed reality of the human condition: particularly as it plays out in story, myth, mythic symbol, rites, celebrations, and traditions.[1] Are there things that humanity will normally deny at the cognitive level that are revealed in myth and symbol at a level of deeper awareness? Aided by some of the insights from Mircea Eliade, I am going to suggest that myth and symbol and other religions at this deeper level of suppressed awareness all seek an answer, and resolution, and that the answer is Christ alone. This said, I now return to the Hindu convert whom I was speaking of before.

Many years ago I attended Regent College in Vancouver, Canada, and there I meant a Hindu convert who explained that when he became a Christian, he realized that Christ had fulfilled many central symbols of his Hindu belief. He said, for example, that the Hindu belief in reincarnation involved the understanding that, for man to be healed, he must be reborn. As a Christian, he now believed that the countless rebirths demanded by Hinduism were merely shadows whose fulfilment was our one-time rebirth made possible through Christ's death and resurrection. He went on to assert that Jesus Himself was pointing to this birth. For it was Jesus who said that "unless you are born again you cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven" (John 3:3-4).[2] However, Jesus made clear that He alone is the source and power of that new birth. My Hindu friend understood that the myth of reincarnation finds its true object in Christ. In Christ we are born again, but only once (Hebrews 9:27). In Him, concrete reality comes into history and time.

om-symbol
om-symbol

With respect to the incarnation of Christ—i.e. His coming down to us as a human child in a manger—there is something very different, yet, in some ways, very similar in the Hindu doctrine of avatars. Undoubtedly, my Hindu friend was more than aware of it, but at the time I did not think about discussing it with him. Had we discussed it, he would, I suspect, readily explain how Hindu avatars, serve as a near-perfect foreshadowing of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Avatars, as understood in Hinduism, are human beings indwelled by Brahma at certain times in history. Brahma, for a time, inhabits a mortal body that is enslaved to the wheel of life and death. But when the human being dies, Brahma departs. In Hindu teaching, when an avatar comes to earth, he takes the form of an illusion—i.e. a person. In Hinduism, we will recall, the human being is only Karma, an illusion. Now in some Hindu teachings, there is a soul in the person, but the soul is without human content. It is devoid of all the attributes that belong to the person. So then the soul that departs is simply Brahma.

Even when the soul in the individual person is considered separate from Brahma, nothing really changes, for the soul is still wholly identical with Brahma in every respect. It shares nothing of the finite human personality. So, then, avatars do not really come into history at all, for history in Hindu teaching is an illusion as well. Hinduism is forever helpless to bring God into relationship with real human beings. At death, Atman—the higher self—Brahma in finite human beings—leaves the illusory finite self. So while Brahma can visit a human being, he can never be one. But the Christ who became a man is no avatar. He is fully God and fully man, able to represent fully both God and Man. He is the reconciler—the one who truly reconciles humanity with Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This Hindu convert now knew something far more wonderful than an avatar. He now personally knew the God who, unlike Brahma, does not wish to annihilate the human finite self, but to love and preserve it.

The Greek name Iësous, transliterated Jesus, means salvation or saviour. Jesus came into history and became a human being. He died and rose again, fully representing humanity in His life, death and resurrection. At present, He is seated at the right hand of God. Further, He is in a position of equal power with the Father and the Holy Spirit. As the gospel of John so beautifully says: "In the beginning was the word (Jesus Christ), and the word was with God, and the word was God. All things were brought into being by him, and without him, nothing was brought into being, that has been brought into being (John 1:1-6).

Ironically, the coming down and visitation of avatars finds its concrete fulfilment in Christ Jesus. All the avatars who come and will come down can be viewed as pale shadows of the one who was concretely born in Bethlehem. They are mythic shadows of the one to come. This concrete fulfilment in Christ reaches its wonderful culmination after Christ ascends, and descends again in the final judgment. Then the fullness of the New Heaven and Earth is brought into being, and God, at last, has His dwelling with men.

In Christ, humanity, God, and the universe are real, and can be known and loved. On that final day—the day of Christ's return—authentic joy will flood the galaxies and utterly fill those human beings who are in a deep and eternal relationship with God the Father, God the Son, And God the Holy Spirit, the three in one.[3] All this will take place amidst a true and authentic history, where in the end, peace, joy and love will prevail. In Part 2, I will explore this discussion of the meaning of Christ in other religions further, amidst my encounter with a postgraduate student who presents to me a religious list that she supposes devastates the credibility of the Christian faith.

[1] See Freud, Totem and Taboo; Jung, Memories Dreams and Reflections; Buber, Good and Evil, 73-74; Ricoeur, The Symbolism of Evil; and Eliade, Patterns in Comparative Religions and Cosmos and History.

[2] All Scripture quotations are the author's translation.

[3] See Matthew 11:27, 23:9, 28:19; John 1:14, 3:35, 5:18, 6:27, 8:27, 10:15, 10:38, 13:3, 14:28, 16:15, 17:5; Romans 8:15, 15:6; 1 Corinthians 1:3, 8:6; 2 Corinthians 1:3, 11:31; Galatians 4:6; Ephesians 1:17, 2:18; 1 John 2:24; Revelation 3:21.


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The Consequences of Relativism from a Christian Worldview

Gelato.jpg

By Dr. Ron Galloway

The origins of relativism in North America and abroad arose from worldviews that worship nature as the ultimate reality, such as evolution, for example. The Roman letter of Paul warns in the very first chapter that any nation that begins to worship the energy, spirits, or processes of nature are in great peril. Paul explains that they becomes senseless in their reasoning and are en route to destruction if they do not turn away from the worship of the creature and creation, rather than the Creator who is blessed forever.[1]

North America and Europe have it all now: the worship of nature, contact with the spirit world, and hearts filling to overflowing with all the evils that the Roman letter says will fill the human heart when it exchanges the truth about God for a lie.[2] Once a society claims that truth and morality are relative, there remains no limit whatever to the heights and depths, or breadths, that evil can go, for there is no longer any basis for objection or protest against anything. If there is no truth, then who can object? If all that exists is no more than a random product of nature, there can be no evil. Therefore, who can consistently object to any evil of any kind? Evil has been ruled out of existence.

Consistency and Relativism

This is why I find it slightly comical when dyed-in-the-wool moral relativists object to injustice and discrimination. This is more than just a little inconsistent with their doctrine that truth is relative, and right and wrong a matter of taste and preference. Thanks to the continuance of their own God-given human conscience, many relativists still do not know what a hole they have dug for themselves and for the free world. Relativists often say that homosexuality is okay, but that child abuse is a horrible thing. It they are consistent, they must simply admit that they must sanction both, since, according to their own doctrine, right and wrong is simply a matter of taste and preference. Some relativists are already becoming more consistent and starting to advocate that maybe certain adults can have sexual child companions of the same or opposite gender.

Morality is not a preference; you can't choose it like you would a flavour of gelato. (Photo by Alex Gorzen, via Wikimedia Commons)At that point, less consistent relativists protest out of their revulsion at what they view as horrid conduct committed by horrid people.[3] But it should be remembered that a relativist protesting in this way is not practicing what he preaches. How can he or she object when according to their doctrine, all such practices are simply a matter of taste, and each person is entitled to generate his or her own unique set of values?

The more consistent relativists become, the more they will have to allow anything people other than themselves wish to do or believe.

This same kind of vapid and wishful thinking is still being carried on today, by the "powers that be" in our universities, media, and public schools. With all their talk of survival of the fittest, and the relativity of right and wrong, they blissfully assume that with proper guidance students will make the right choices. However their talk of right choices is logically inconsistent. A true relativist cannot talk of right choices at all. He can only talk of preferred choices, but can make no judgment as to what should be preferred and what should not. It just so happens that some students, under their tutelage prefer knives, machetes, and guns.

Relativists, The Great Affirmers

By saying that no judgment can be made about what others choose, moral relativists must affirm whatever another person chooses and thinks is right for them. As long as it satisfies that person, it is automatically right for that person. As John Dewey, the neo-Marxist founder of modern education and co-originator of instrumental pragmatism (along with Charles Pierce and William James) would say, it is true for him.[4] In this way the relativist sanctions what the other person or child chooses for himself. He or she must also admit that objecting to what they choose would be to impose their own values on someone else. This is the great and only sacred taboo of relativists.

When All Is Said and Done It is Simply a Matter of Power

Wedded to their perpetual faith in, and fondness for, saying that no one has a right to impose his or her idea of right and wrong on anyone else, is their passion to fervently preach that morality cannot be legislated. They should, of course, admit that even that belief is simply a product of their own personal values, and therefore must not be imposed on others. Instead of making this admission, they force this belief on others, thereby turning it into an absolute.

Of course relativists might argue that people must co-operate. They might argue that humans have an instinct for survival even though there is no such thing as intrinsic right and wrong. But such a move simply means that the relativist is imposing his or her belief that instincts must be obeyed. That of course is only their value. Besides which, a consistent allegiance to instinct gives licence to any manner of conduct whatever, such as rape, murder, and mass serial killings, to name only a few. After all, the relativists' talk of the instinct for survival really translates to the survival of the fittest in evolutionary doctrine. Then, it is just a case of who is the strongest. Hitler felt the Jews threatened the progress of what he called the Master Race, so he tried to exterminate them. In this way he simply exercised his instinct for survival.

This is always the inevitable outcome of relativism when it is consistently applied. Life becomes a struggle for power, and whoever gains power is able to impose his values on everyone else.[5] This, in theory, is opposed to the dogmas of relativism, but it is the reality of what happens.[6] This is because relativists are generally quite selective about the times they choose not to impose their values on everyone else. There are times when relativists could easily be mistaken for the most dogmatic of absolutists.

No Intrinsic Value to Survival and No Intrinsic Human Worth

There is yet another problem with the relativists' attempt to justify co-operation by reference to the need to survive. For the self-consistent relativist must preach that there is no intrinsic value in surviving or co-operating because according to the relativist no intrinsic values exist. There is then no intrinsic value to human beings, and no such thing as true human nature. Therefore, this is another reason why the relativist cannot impose his value of the need for co-operation on others. Ironically, a consistent relativist cannot even object to the genocidal horrors of Rwanda or even advocate any reason why these people might have averted the horror if they had learned to co-operate with each other. All the relativist can say is what he always must say. Here it comes again: Personally, I don't feel that the slaughter was a good thing, but I wouldn't want to impose my personal values or my preference for co-operation on anyone else.

Political and Collective Consistency On The Rise

Sadly, collectively and politically North American law is becoming ever more consistent with the implications of relativism. After listening to so-called "Progressive Educators" molded in the image of John Dewey, the Father of Modern Education, I can effortlessly see why, in ever-increasing numbers, our teenagers feel no remorse whatever when they rape, lie, steal, or kill. Indeed, the court system all but sanctions these evils as the court itself increasingly transitions away from its Christian heritage into the embrace of moral relativism. I am not at all surprised to see the rising level of hate and violence in the free world. After all, the powers that be in our universities, courts, and social institutions have told our people and their children that truth is relative.

In the words of Paul's letter to the Romans, we have exchanged the truth about God for a lie. If we do not soon see the insanity of the indoctrination our children and teens and young adults have received and are now receiving through Hollywood, the media in general, and the cultural relativism that has long been taught through the public school system (that has so betrayed them), we will soon see evils beyond what we could think or imagine when the youth of today become the leaders of tomorrow. When we listened to Jesus our nation grew. He spoke of the great worth of all human beings, a worth so great he died for us. Now He lives within those who love him and teaches them to know the difference between good and evil. In Him we see true goodness and true humanity, apart from Him and by their own choice alienated from His love and mercy, we see increasing dehumanization and the relativism that ever accompanies it.


[1] See Romans chapter 1.

[2] Ibid.

[3] It is well known that Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary relativist, commits this inconsistency on a regular basis in his high-sounding moral objections to the God of "The Old Testament."

[4] The co-creators of the philosophy of Instrumental Pragmatism were William James and John Dewey. See James' The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: Longmans, Green, 1917) and Pragmatism and Four Essays from the Meaning of Truth (New York: Longmans, Green, 1907), and Dewey's Experience and Nature (Chicago: Open Court, 1926) as well as Democracy and Education (New York: Free Press, 1916). See also the Humanist Manifesto I and II.

[5] On this matter, see C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity and The Abolition of Man.

[6] We witnessed this power struggle under Lenin and Stalin, as well as under many militant neo-Marxist regimes. If the neo-Marxism that characterizes our schools and our culture gain sufficient political clout, we may find that North America follows in the train of the former Soviet Union, complete with the Christian purge that took place. We of course witness the same thing in the form of communism in mainland China. All that need happen in Canada for a purge is for the subtle form of relativistic neo-Marxism that presently permeates our culture to abandon subtlety once its proponents are sufficiently representative of the North American political and social and judicial consciousness. We have examples all over the world that show us how very militant relativism is by nature in direct contradiction to its alleged freedom from dogma.


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Image as Humanity

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By Dr. Ron Galloway

In this post, I want to present a trans-cultural view of the human condition before and after humanity was driven out of the presence of God. Consider whether it portrays an accurate diagnosis of the human condition or not. But first let me define what I mean by trans-cultural and elaborate on this as the post proceeds. Very simply, trans-cultural refers to anything that does not originate in culture, nature, naturalism, environmental determinism, or finite human conception. Rather, it is derived from the supernatural.

Even the very first book of the Bible, Genesis, reveals humanity as incredibly precious and special beyond anything in the animal kingdom. For it describes man and woman as made in the image of God. Genesis begins by recording all that God created, and then steadily builds to the moment of God's greatest creation, the creature made in the image and likeness of God: humanity.

Contrary to what many have thought, the thing that makes humanity different from animals in the Bible is not the fact that people have a soul. In the original Hebrew of Genesis, it is particularly clear that not only human beings become living souls, but also the animals and all the other creatures God makes (Genesis 1:20,21,24,30). What makes humanity different is that we are made in the image and likeness of God.

For this reason, in the Bible, human beings are far superior to all the other creatures that God has made. Genesis and the implications of the entire Bible are very clear in this regard. God gives people dominion over all the other creatures (Genesis 1:26). But that is not all. We learn from the book of Genesis that the male, Adam, is not the full creation of humanity, but only one half. According to Genesis, Adam is simply the male part. Adam is not humanity, in the completed sense, until the creation of Eve. She is by no means his inferior, but rather his helper counterpart. In Genesis 3:27 we read: "God created human beings in his image, male and female he created them."[1]

Thus Genesis makes clear that humanity is not the male or the female, but rather the combination of both. This profound and unparalleled conception of humanity is even more wondrously articulated in Gen. 5: 1-3. There we read:

This is the book containing the records of Adam in the day God created humanity. In the image of God he made them. Male and female he created them, and he called their name, Adam.

Here, Adam means humanity. Contrary to what many people have thought and impressions conveyed by extreme feminist movements, both males and females are created in the image of God. Together they make up the human race.

There is an incredible wonder and sophistication in the Genesis account. In comparison to the Near Eastern cultures and civilizations surrounding them, the Hebrew people who followed their God Yahweh (Jehovah) brought a staggeringly advanced understanding of God, humanity, and creation into history. Why this is so, I will soon explain.

But let us leave former cultures and civilizations aside for a moment. What about the present? Where in all of the history of humanity past, present, or future has there ever been such a profound conception of both man and woman as is contained in the Bible, particularly in Genesis? Where else do we see such a high regard for living creatures, and yet a far higher regard for humanity?

It is therefore not surprising that this truly trans-cultural view of man and woman should be found in an account of creation equally sophisticated and far transcending any Near Eastern cosmology ever discovered in our studies and researches into the ancient world.

Not only does it transcend anything in the ancient world, the Genesis account beat science to the punch by many thousands of years. Why do I say this? Well, the first one to write of this phenomenal reality was Harvey Cox in his work titled ''The Secular City''.[2] In that work, Cox pointed out that in Genesis we see a complete separation between God, man, and nature. Unlike the rest of the ancient world, we find in Genesis no mixture of nature with the gods, whether in the form of polytheism or animism. No Near Eastern source of that time, nor even the most advanced state of the Greek or Roman civilization, was ever able to conceive of such a separation of the gods and nature. Genesis spoke of this many thousands of years in advance of science or the men who were science’s precursors.

Even in the Renaissance era, people still felt that the stars were angelic beings. Aristotle and Plato were the likely source of this continued misconception. This misconception was not put to rest until the coming of precursors of the scientific method such as Roger Bacon and Copernicus. Both of them believed in God, the Lord Jesus, and the Bible.

It is therefore not surprising in light of such an incredibly sophisticated description of creation, that we view this unrivaled, unmatched, trans-cultural view of the value of both men and women. Of course, one might ask, how could a tribal people ever come up with such a conception of man, woman, and creation on their own? Throughout the compilation of separate writings written over a period of eleven hundred years, the answer is obvious. Whether you ask Moses or the prophets, the answer was that Yahweh God (elohiym) came to them.

According to the Religious Humanist (now called Secular Humanist), relativist and Darwinist, every view or reality must be culturally derived. The trouble is, there is nothing like this in the cultures surrounding Israel, and nothing like it at all until the advent of science. Even the Epicureans and other Greek skeptics did not deny their nature god and goddesses were real. Indeed, it has been well argued by many that science itself could never find entrance until it was clear that the investigation of nature would not bring the wrath of the gods and spirits of nature. This, the argument goes, was only made possible through the Judeo-Christian worldview. Proponents of this view argue that science began to make sense only when it was clear that nature was not a fusion of gods, spirits and men, but not until then. I happen to be one of those proponents. This points to the obvious reasoning that Genesis offers us a truly trans-cultural view of the universe. Any persons informed by a trans-cultural speaker can then be a revealer of that which transcends human understanding. That, of course, is what the Bible writers purport to be.

The appointment of man and woman as rulers of the earth that God made did not imply, in any sense, that Adam "He" or Adam "She" were free to pillage or pollute the earth. Humanity, meaning both the first man and woman, were in perfect harmony with creator and creation. When God conferred this position of dominion, the being in the garden referred to as the "serpent" had not yet persuaded humanity to worship themselves and nature as divine.[3] It was only after Adam and Eve disobeyed God by taking the fruit on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that nature began its descent into imperfection, instability, and disorder. Genesis describes this descent with the expression: "Thorns and thistles will grow up" (Genesis 3:18). After Cain slaughtered his brother Abel, he and the generations after him ceased to call on the name of God. Like Adam and Eve before him, Cain dehumanized himself by denying God his creator. He was left only with the worship of himself, and a creation radically changed because of human betrayal and disobedience. With God out of the way, in their minds, Cain and those who followed began to blend in with nature, and in the process lost that true harmonious blend between man and woman that preceded the taking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Before long, man made nature his god. Such was the mentality of Cain, and the murderous generation he spawned (Genesis 4:7-25). Now for men like Cain and Nimrod the plunderer, status and worth depended on how many human beings you could slaughter in battle. So Humanity went from garden to the gutters of war. But when I say garden, or I say Eden, I can almost hear the skeptics laughter. But then again, Hawaii attracts the most skeptical of souls.

Ironically, things have not changed much. Like Cain we have immersed ourselves in nature, even contending that nature is all there is. Now, unlike the original couple, we no longer rule nature. We are like they were after they were cast out of the garden. We too struggle to survive its dominion and its chains, both in life and death. We are lost within it, and define ourselves by it, and so we have no self or worth that we can intellectually sustain. However, the wars of today are far more lethal than those committed in the generations after Cain. Now war is not only barbaric but technological. The present technological rape of culture, human identity, and human worth derives from the contemporary decision to worship either our own self-fashioned, impersonal, impotent gods or no god at all. When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they dehumanized themselves. They chose to embrace their own idea of good and evil, to do what was right in their own eyes. This generation appears to be no different: as described in the Bible, we do what is right in our own eyes. Only now we call this ancient evil against our creator, relativism. Now man and woman are both reduced to the subjective preference of a society so committed to neutrality that identity itself, whether man or woman, may soon be neutered. Some call that progress, but it appears in many ways to be a return to the first day of creation when all was formless (tohu) and void (bohu). Rather than being progress, it is a reversal of all God has done from the sixth day on. If the serpent of Genesis is as real as Genesis implies, then no doubt the serpent is pleased with the present reversal. Genesis reversed, chaos restored.


[1] Biblical quotations are the author's translation.

[2] Harvey Cox, The Secular City (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966).

[3] In the first two or three chapters of Genesis, we are informed that the serpent was craftier than any beast of the field. This need not imply that the serpent was a beast, any more than if I said Adam was wiser than any beast of the field. Nor could the serpent be a snake, for we are told that it crawls on its belly only after God brings judgment upon it. Thus the meaning of serpent seems more likely to refer to a highly intelligent, evil being, rather than to a beast.


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The Bible and Human Worth

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The Preservation and Value of the Human Self in the Judeo-Christian Scriptures

By Dr. Ron Galloway

The Bible has two parts: the Old Testament, put together over a period of approximately eleven hundred years,[1] and the New Testament, composed over a period of about fifty years. But both parts of the Bible make wonderfully clear, when rightly understood, that all human beings are made in the image of God and are therefore infinitely precious to their Creator. The New Testament makes this human worth even clearer by making clear to us that God so loved us that He became one of us, and that Jesus who was God incarnate died for us all and rose for us all so that we could all become a member of His eternal family. That is really what we mean by the church as the body of Christ.

This is not a claim about human worth that we can ever afford to take for granted, even though most people appear to do so. For it is not merely a unique idea, but a declaration alien and against the grain of normal historical human patterns of thinking or believing, until people and civilizations come into contact with the Bible itself or its message.

Canadian Tribute to Human Rights, Ottawa: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights."What we find when we view ancient cultures and civilizations, and many existing ones, is that they never rise to the concept that all human beings are equally precious and equally loved by a sovereign Creator with no rival. This very concept of human worth is far too high to be simply a product of human reasoning or understanding. Yet once the idea of equal human worth is believed in, its appeal to human beings is unparalleled.

It is part and parcel of every contemporary protest against oppression that we hear in the media today: the cruelty imposed on Muslim women, or our rage against people evil enough to enslave little children into prostitution. We see it in the sanctions imposed upon tyrannical rulers and every other form of claimed injustice that comes before the Supreme Court. Fragmented versions, cut off from its biblical source, exist around the earth. Many people now believe that all human life is precious, but they no longer connect it to the love of God, supposing that this concept can somehow hang in mid-air. The reality is that this mid-air stance makes no logical sense and has no support whatever apart from the belief in a deity that created us and loves us. As soon as the love of the Creator is rejected as the cause of this worth, there remains no way to support its reality. So, at the risk of repetition, allow it to be said again: the Bible presents a view of human beings and human worth that human beings could never come to on their own. The proof of this is the fact that before the Judeo-Christian tradition spread its influence, every pattern of human religion, civilization, and culture was devoid of such a wondrous non-preferential view of human worth and value.[2]

Once it is revealed, even religious humanists normally consent to the idea that human beings are precious, even though they cannot intellectually sustain this belief, and despite the fact that it is utterly contrary to their doctrine of human beings as purposeless accidental beings whose self-perception is wholly determined by data bombarding their senses. Still, many of these secular humanists would pit themselves against atheists such as B. F. Skinner, who was much more consistent with the presuppositions of an atheist. Skinner viewed humanity as an organism with no intrinsic inner self that was better off without freedom or human dignity. This is why his most popular work was called Beyond Freedom and Dignity.[3] Indeed, there would be little or no appeal to atheism if it did not ride piggyback on the biblical teaching of human worth. Take out human worth and what does atheism of the Darwinian variety or any other leave you? It bequeaths you with accidental organisms having no intrinsic purpose and no greater worth than any other living organism.

But to be fair, we must start far enough back that one does not mistake finding this idea of equal human worth originating in religion and culture itself, when in fact it is only found because of the widespread influence of the Bible.

Since the advent of the Christian faith, many cultures contain this wonderful and elevated understanding of humanity. When other cultures and religions come into contact with the Bible, there are often marked and pervasive changes in those religions and in the culture itself. For example, it is well known that Mahatma Gandhi deplored the doctrine of re-incarnation and replaced it with his belief in the equal value of every human being. This was a not a traditional Hindu idea, but a biblical view of human worth and justice. The rejection of the doctrine of reincarnation and the caste system implied by it was more than a minor change in the nature of his Hindu belief. As a consequence, the prime ground for the struggle for India's independence was grounded in a teaching alien to Hinduism itself. It was motivated by the truly transcendent idea that every human life is precious, but Gandhi cut this off from its real source, the Bible and its teachings.

This wondrous Biblical view of human individual and collective human worth was foreshadowed in many of the writings of the Old Testament. But it was only after the death and resurrection of Christ that even the first century Christian Jews began to understand God's love for all human beings. Not even the closest followers of Jesus even remotely understood the central purpose of the Old Testament, till they began to understand what Jesus did for us all by dying on the cross for all humanity. Only then did they come to understand that God so loved every human being in the world that he gave His only son, so that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.

Whenever we lose sight of this and revert back to the idea that human beings are not loved of God, and not of equal value, we simply move back to a typical pattern of fragmented human thinking with respect to God and the universe. That pattern of fragmented thinking, of low-level thought, is as prevalent in the world today as it was before the time of Christ. You see its presence every time one human being, for whatever reason, considers himself superior to another.

This low-level view of humanity is particularly evident in secular humanism, the prevailing belief system in most of the West and much of the rest of the world. According to religious humanism, God does nothing for us.[4] He simply does not exist, and it is all up to us to form our own futures. In most versions of religious humanism, these self-created futures are done in an intrinsically purposeless universe.

We ought also to remember that whenever we are prepared to dump this whole idea that human beings are of equal value because they are all equally loved by God, we are then reverting back to the normal preferential human pattern of viewing human beings. For example, the Romans preferred the Romans and the Greeks the Greeks, and other nations could then be enslaved and conquered. As soon as we say that human beings are simply a physical species different only in degree from other animals, we then lose any basis for viewing human beings as of more value than anything else in the animal kingdom. If we are consistent with this cold and impersonal belief, we can use human beings as guinea pigs with no sense of conscience, since there no longer remains any basis for viewing human beings as of more value. As soon as our definition of human beings allows for the idea of superior and inferior human beings, then we too, like the ancient Romans or Greeks, can treat other human beings as inferior to ourselves without any pangs of conscience.

It is not difficult to find views of human beings in history in which some segment of humanity is considered superior to another. The reason it is not difficult is simply because it is the norm. Not only is it the norm, it is the very constant of human culture and civilization. Outside of the influence of the Bible, this fragmented preferential understanding of human value ever prevails.[5] This is essentially due to the fact that human beings are finite. Consequently they can never know enough about humanity or its origins to ever arrive at the wondrous idea that all human beings are equally loved and equally precious, and equally able to choose to come to their Saviour, Jesus Christ. Outside of Jesus Christ they can never find a logically consistent way to justify the equal value of all human beings. The only way this can be done is precisely by saying that the Creator loves them all equally and died for them all equally.

I invite any of my readers to try to come up with any other consistent idea that establishes equal human worth. I would advise against appealing to the New Age notion that all life forms are equally precious, since this makes human beings no more precious than the AIDS virus. Indeed, I also extend to all the invitation to even find any other basis for believing that human beings are of greater value than cancer cells. We might for example argue that because we are more intelligent, we are therefore superior. This might sound solid, but who has ever established that degrees of intelligence have anything to do with the idea of worth?

There are of course some very damaging implications in seeking to establish worth on the basis of intelligence. If this is true, it means that any person who is smarter than another person is automatically of more value and worth. Therefore those of superior intelligence can treat those of inferior intelligence as creatures of lesser worth and value. Just imagine how barbaric the world would become if this were the basis we all used for human worth. The Nazis suggested something similar to this when they maintain that a special white breed possessed superior minds than that of the Semitic, Oriental and African races.

There is a reason immigrants from oppressed parts of the world come to Canada and the US. It is because despite the betrayal of our heritage, which is precisely a Christian heritage at its richest, we still treat human beings as creatures of equal value and worth in our laws and in our protests, even though many have spurned the very origins of why we fight such battles to preserve the rights of every human being. That source is the Bible and the accounts within it that speak of God's love for all of us. Everyone is invited to receive this love shown to us by a dying and resurrected Saviour. There is no favoritism; every one us can become a member of his eternal family. Each member is equally precious. Even those outside of the family are no less precious. Jesus loves them as well. "The Bible tells me so."


[1] See Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (New York: Oxford, 1987); also F. F. Bruce, The Books and the Parchments (London: Pickering & Inglis, 1950).

[2] It is well known that reincarnation requires a hierarchy of privilege and superiority for the Brahmans.

[3]< B. F. Skinner, Beyond Freedom and Dignity (New York: Knopf, 1971).

[4] See the following sources: Humanist Manifesto I, American Humanist Association, accessed March 19, 2015, http://americanhumanist.org/Humanism/Humanist_Manifesto_I; Alvin J. Schmidt, How Christianity Changed the World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004); and D. James Kennedy and Jerry Newcombe, What if the Bible had Never Been Written? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998).

[5] To show how alien the idea of equal worth is to history until the time of the writings of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, see Ravi Zacharias, Jesus Among Other Gods (Nashville: Word, 2000) and Peter Marshal and David Manuel, The Light and The Glory (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1980).


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