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Good and Bad Pluralism in America: A Critical Christian Response to David French

Good and Bad Pluralism in America: A Critical Christian Response to David French

By Bruce Atkinson, Ph.D.
September 28, 2020

In David French's article, "Yes, America Could Split Apart: It's time to discover transcendent moral purpose in pluralism,"he unabashedly promotes his new book, Divided We Fall. https://frenchpress.thedispatch.com/p/yes-america-could-split-apart But if, as advertised, this article is a summary of his book, then I do NOT need to buy it. I have major problems with his primary thesis.

It does make some kind of sense that a man named French would be pushing what the Statue of Liberty was all about. But when I first read his subtitle: "It's time to discover transcendent moral purpose in pluralism," I realized that I really wanted his definitions of both "transcendent moral purpose" and "pluralism." I did not get what I want. In the article, these remained fuzzy; but I did hear the clear message that Americans must do anything we can to minimize the existing divisions. Political partisanship is evil. It is rather like the mistaken Catholic maxim that schism is the worst sin of all, being worse than heresy. For some liberals, unity is the highest ideal, even if it means accepting all kinds of sinful lifestyles, violent behaviors, and irrationality.

IF the early Christians had believed this, Christianity would have died out quickly. Unity with the Jews would have required shutting up about the Resurrection of Jesus. But as the Holy Spirit made clear through Peter, "We must obey God rather than men!" (For context, see Acts 5:27-29). And as Jesus made even more clear in Matthew 10: 34-36 (which I detail in the article below), His presence in the world would necessarily lead to divisions: https://www.virtueonline.org/schism-and-sword-spirit-bruce-atkinson .

I think I can help French's fuzzy thinking. "Transcendent moral purpose" can be defined easily as "what God wants"-- that is, bringing the heavenly Kingdom of Christ to earth. God's divine will and pre-existent plan is the absolute ultimate in transcendent moral purpose This truth leads to the obvious next question, which is, so what is it that brings this heavenly Kingdom to earth? Then we can ask, how does pluralism contribute to this? And finally, we must ask what kind of pluralism is French talking about?

Surely, we do not need the secularization of Christianity! Surely, we do not need the philosophy of "co-exist" to the extent that we no longer evangelize or have missions! Let us then separate the wheat from the chaff here, because there are both good and bad forms of pluralism.

GOOD PLURALISM. Right before He ascended to the Father, Jesus commanded His disciples to partner with Him in bringing the Kingdom to earth (Matthew 28). It is called the Great Commission. We are to make disciples from all nations and baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And in the prophetic prayer of Jesus in John 17, He prays for the unity of His disciples... unity with Him and with the Father.

Christianity is inclusive in the sense that all humans (but Jesus Christ) are in the same category called "sinners" and none of us can be good enough to actually merit salvation or heaven in and of ourselves. To begin with, we are all in the same boat; that is, we are spiritually sunk and separated from God. More importantly, Christianity is also totally inclusive in that anyone can be forgiven and saved through faith in Christ.

And we know what the scriptures teach about human racial and ethnic equality. A number of Christian principles underline these eternal biblical truths. First, all human beings are "created in the image of God." Therefore, there is immense dignity and incalculable worth intrinsic to each individual person. "From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth." (Acts 17:26). Genetically, we are all related.

As is proved by the scriptures quoted here, Christianity is inclusive when it comes to gender, race, ethnicity, national citizenship, and station in life-- none of these things matter to God when it comes to salvation. What matters to God is the individual's heart and mind--and the behavior that follows. The Apostle Peter's revelation: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right." (Acts 10:34-35). And Paul: "In Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female." (Galatians 3:28). All secondary distinctions that reveal favoritism (assuming that some lives matter more than other lives) are worldly (false) and not spiritual.

From a Christianity Today article ("The Most Diverse Movement in History") in a special missions issue, Rebecca McLaughlin celebrates the multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic movement Christianity has become, and, more importantly, how it's been that way since the beginning: "In Acts, we see the Spirit enabling the apostles to evangelize people 'from every nation under heaven' (Acts 2:5), including those from modern-day Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Egypt (Acts 2:5--11). This move of the Spirit to communicate in the heart-language of those listening is one evidence among many that Christianity is a multicultural and multilingual movement. Today, Christianity is the largest and most diverse belief system in the world, representing the most even racial and cultural spread, with roughly equal numbers of self-identifying Christians living in Europe, North America, Latin America, and sub-Saharan Africa."

We confirm that the kingdom of God is taken from every race, every nation, tribe and tongue (Rev. 5:9, 7:9-10, etc.). This is why our American forefathers (most of whom were Christians) wrote that we have inalienable rights and that all human beings are created equal-- at least in the eyes of God. This is why slavery, racism, and ethnic discrimination are all now considered evil, having been brought to the world's attention by such Christian lights as William Wilberforce and Martin Luther King, Jr. It was no other religion or secular philosophy that changed human moral thinking about equal rights for the races; it was Christianity. The same can be said for women's suffrage.

BAD PLURALISM. Those who would promote pluralism by downgrading the exclusivity of the gospel (in order to upgrade inclusivity) would end up seeking to empty the gospel of its spiritual power to save souls and to transform the world. In essence, they want to destroy Christianity and make it into their own watered-down version of moral relativity. These radical liberals and cultural Marxists insist that there is no absolute truth and that all religions are equal. They accept blatantly immoral lifestyles and thus they make this kind of pluralism the opposite of "transcendent moral purpose"-- rather, it betrays a satanic purpose.

As it has been said, the more "inclusive" a church becomes, the fewer people want to be included. This is because everyone really knows, deep down, that accepting and even celebrating sinful lifestyles is the opposite of what the Church is supposed to be about. It is the western churches' badge of apostasy, and fewer and fewer are attracted to that. This explains why mainline denominations are dying in the west and why "nones" are growing.

What liberal revisionists (and those of other religions) call extremist and fundamentalist about evangelical Christianity has to do with the reality that God is totally exclusive when it comes to the faith that saves unto eternal life; that is, the faith that saves is only in and through His Son Jesus. There are no exceptions, there are no other saving options; see John 3:16 and the following verses:

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:5-6)

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men-- the testimony given in its proper time. (1 Tim. 2:5-6)

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)

Christianity is not just one religion among many. The claims of Jesus are momentous, earth-shattering, and they merit primacy in every life. If you get on board that "amazing grace" train, it not only gets you to heaven when you die, it provides guidance, joy, and that "peace which is beyond understanding" right here and now. This is the message of salvation that we Christians must not water down in the interest of political correctness, inclusivity, and pluralism.

We do not need a gift of prophecy to know this truth: the huge divisions that exist in the USA will continue NO MATTER WHO IS ELECTED in November.So the real question is... what is for the long term benefit of all the people? What will truly contribute to bringing God's Kingdom to earth? I am praying for another Great Awakening, a Holy Spirit empowered revival. I must inform David French that nothing short of that will be effective. The Parousia is the only event that would work even better. Maranatha!

Dr. Bruce Atkinson is a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary with a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and an M.A. in theology. He also has an M.S. in research psychology from Illinois State U. and a B.A. from Beloit College. He is a member of the Anglican Church in North America and is a moderator and frequent contributor at virtueonline.org.

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