Please welcome today’s guest writer, Yolanda Chow. Yolanda graduated in 2019 with a major in English writing. She grew up in Hong Kong and currently dwells in Grand Rapids, searching for her place in the world. Her interests include discovering new places and ideas, drawing cartoonishly, and laughing at puns of dubious quality. Mostly, however, she prefers to indulge in sleep.
In my younger years, I was told that if I believed that a God-man named Jesus came and died for my sins, I would be “saved.” And if I didn’t… (then a loving God would not seem so loving, even while claiming to be.)
So I did. When I was a child, it was mostly out of fear of the alternative, and when I was older, it was also about my wanting to be right about the world. As a teenager, I thought I had the correct worldview (which just so happens to be that of my peers and institution), and those who didn’t share it were simply wrong, not fortunate enough to have heard or understood the Truth. (Of course, I had questions—some were answered to my satisfaction, while others lingered.)
But have you wondered how it could be that the all-encompassing God could be so limited to the person of Jesus, and why it is that only the people who’ve bought into this story are “the right ones”? How can salvation be dependent only upon a belief if it is meant to be transformative? The supposed exclusivity of the inclusive Christ is troubling.
Sure, there are scripture verses to support the notion that there is only one right way. One that comes to mind: “I am the way, truth, and life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) It’s often read literally, but what if it doesn’t have to be? Jesus (who spoke it) was a master of metaphors. In the words of a Michael Gungor tweet: “Who is this Jesus who is so insecure that he always needs his name specifically mentioned along with his message?”
Later, the faith of my college years led me to a growing picture of the presence of Christ as permeating everything, or, in those famous words, that “every square inch” is God’s.
Once you see that, it makes sense to also say that all truth is God’s truth, whether or not we call it God’s or just plain old truth. Truth we can observe, like dinosaurs existed, but also truth we can sense experientially, like love is how the world should be. Perhaps the latter is more important than believing the death of a carpenter’s son from two thousand years ago is the deciding factor to your eternal fate. (Did God need Jesus to die horrifically, or did he give himself up willingly simply by entering the mortal world?)
I used to be quite skeptical when people would credit God for their good fortunes. Was that really “God” who provided your family with the money you needed, or was it just random luck that someone came by with a late payment? And was that really “God” who picked out the song you most needed to hear in that moment, or was it just a timely fluke by your iPod’s shuffle button?
But now it seems to me just a language game. Would God really care what you called this presence, who is life itself? God didn’t seem to be so particular about the name when Moses was asking with his shoes off, toes warming. (And does the brand really matter in the end?)
Maybe it’s why we hang onto Jesus. Because he’s particular. He’s a face in time and space, a portrait of divine grace and the hope of what we could be: resurrected.
Maybe it’s why, in presenting the elements of communion toward a congregation of multicultural people, I observed a Reformed pastor explain that Catholics understood the bread and wine to hold a Real Presence of God. A God who gives God’s self for us—all of us from such varied backgrounds—to eat. (But the powers-that-be at the local Christian Reformed Church insist that the food is only symbolic, the pastor added.)
Perhaps we are not more right than the others. God knows we have gotten things terribly wrong. But can we acknowledge that the good people of the many other traditions out there have ways of honoring the Divine Presence too? We may not use the same words—God, Jesus, Christ, Brahman, Light, Love?—but language could never be truly sufficient to describe the indescribable anyway. Perhaps the “others” too are saved and being saved, not by beliefs but by a turning of hearts that Christ (or whatever you call this Presence) already holds. Salvation is always and already happening. The universe—all of it—is being redeemed.
And perhaps that’s a fair conclusion to draw from Kuyper’s declaration, overused as it is among this Calvin community, that “there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: Mine!”