Part Two: Genuine Pluralism & Reformed Christology
- Thursday, May 12, 2005
In her article "Genuine Pluralism and Reformed Christology," Sara J. Melcher attempts to lay genocide, including the Holocaust, at the feet of the doctrine of the exclusivity of Christ. She fails to make a distinction between those who are biblical Christians and those who simply claim to be Christians.
The unification of the Protestant churches in Germany into a national church was one of Hitler's goals when he came to power. So-called "German Christians" attempted to justify Nazism and anti-Semitism on Christian principles, something which, of course, is impossible to do. Some refused to comply and a resistance was born consisting of approximately 10 percent of all Protestants.
The primary resistance movement came to be called the "Confessing Church" comprised of Lutheran, Reformed, and Union church pastors and lay persons. In 1934, the "Barman Declaration" declared that the proclamation of the church consists only in Jesus Christ and not Nazism. Those within the movement hid Jews, trained pastors, and some involved themselves in plots to assassinate Hitler. Bonhoeffer was a key leader in the movement and executed by the Nazis in 1945.
Based upon her inclusion of the German state church in the Reformed tradition, Melcher asserts that exclusivist Christology is derived from a narrow reading of Scripture. She further appeals to the Reformed principle of allowing Scripture to interpret Scripture.
In so doing, she posits that Christians have tended to treat "passages that express an exclusivist christology [sic] as having a higher level of authority than other parts of scripture [sic]. Christians tend to read a passage like John 14:6--Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'--as having the power somehow to 'trump' other, more inclusive passages. The theological constructions of the Reformed tradition tend to read the rest of Scripture as necessarily conforming with passages like Matt 11:27; John 14:6; and Acts 4:12, among others."
Note that she does affirm that these passages do teach the exclusivity of Christ. The problem is that she goes on to posit that the author's of Scripture in effect contradict one another. In her words, "Job challenges some of the traditional wisdom perspectives represented within the book of Proverbs or within some poems from the Book of Psalms. Ecclesiastes, too, seems to challenge the world view of traditional wisdom.
The theological perspective of the Letter of James may challenge the perspective of Paul's Letter to the Romans or it may seek to correct a common misinterpretation of Paul's letter. There are additional intra-biblical challenges." Her notion is that Scripture's framers intended to offer divergent perspectives on the way of salvation.
Melcher's contention is that conservative Christians have read the Scriptures wrongly when it comes to the issue of salvation. "We of the Reformed churches often seem determined to make all Scripture conform to a few, special passages." Melcher interprets Romans 11 to say that all Jews will ultimately be saved. She interprets the account of the Rich, Young, Ruler as Jesus Himself teaching works salvation. She interprets the parable of the Good Samaritan as teaching that "love of God and love of neighbor will suffice" for salvation. She states that "Matthew 25:31-46 implies that something besides faith in Christ alone might be a factor in how one spends eternity." She notes that Amos 9:7 "may serve to challenge the idea that Christians alone are the recipients of God's salvation." Suffice it to say that Melcher has read each one of these texts out of context.
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