15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1:15-20 NRSV)
These amazing verses affirm the place of Jesus in the Trinity as God-the-Son, His supremacy over all, and His work of salvation. Sounds good right? However in a pluralistic culture such as ours we soon find that in saying such great things about Jesus we are also implying some not-so-great things about Buddha, Muhammad and a whole host of Hindu gods, not to mention agnosticism and atheism among other world-views. Some would call us out on that and claim that the Christian is being arrogant in making such wonderful claims for Jesus. So ought the Christian give Jesus a demotion for the sake of harmony with those of other faiths? Is it the height of arrogance to stick with such lofty, exclusive, and Biblical claims about Jesus? Here are a few things to consider –
1. People place a high value on truth and generally the more precise the better. When it comes to religion, most Canadians value open-mindedness and inclusivity and so the Bible believing Christian will come across as having a very exclusive and therefore unwelcome view of things. However, in so many other areas of life, your typical Canadian values truth! Does anyone wanting to know the temperature want a thermometer that is inclusive so as to not offend some numbers? No we want a thermometer that gives us the one correct reading, the more precise the better. Does anyone want a doctor who is broad minded and arbitrarily diagnoses many diseases so as not offend some diseases? No we want a doctor who can diagnose the correct problem, the more precise the better. Do we want our weigh scales to give a broad-minded range of possibilities? No we want to know the truth (well perhaps this one is an exception). When it comes to religion, truth ought to matter for it has consequences for this life and into the next. It matters far more than the temperature, our weight, and even matters of health. Truth in matters of religion ought to matter because God matters!
2. While people can be offended, things cannot, and religion is a thing. Just like the numbers on a thermometer are not offended when they happen to not be the temperature, just as diseases cannot be offended when they are not the diagnosis, religions will not be offended when they are not correct. People can be offended, but I am not offended when someone tells me I am in error in being a Christian. No one ought to take offence when I conclude they are in error in not being a Christian. It is not an offence to disagree.
3. Making a reasonable truth claim is not evidence of arrogance, but conviction. Do we consider the thermometer to be arrogant in making a truth claim? No, when we have reasons to trust it. Do we consider the doctor to be arrogant in making a diagnosis and setting up a course of treatment? No, when we have reasons to trust in the doctor who is not working out of arrogance, but reasonable conviction based on training and tests. Are the weigh scales being arrogant in telling us our weight? A wee bit insulting perhaps, but no, when they are properly designed, built, and calibrated we have reasons to trust them and the result can be said with conviction. There are good reasons to trust the Christian message, it is not a matter of arrogance to believe and share the message, it is a matter of conviction.
4. Harmony is not won by watering down truth but by respecting the dignity of people. We do not maintain harmony by getting everyone to believe the same things, in fact this would led to great disharmony as it could only happen through coercion and compulsion. Harmony is won through a proper and generous attitude toward other people, not other views. There is plenty of room in Canada for people of different views, so long as each respects the dignity and freedom of the other.
“So Clarke,” you may ask, “do you think that you are right and those who don’t share your Christian convictions about the Biblical passage quoted above are wrong?”