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“Oprah's Church:  Celebrating All Beliefs"

Rev. Steve Cornell
Award of Outstanding Merit - $1,000

Steve Cornell is founding and senior pastor of Millersville Bible Church (24 years), Millersville, PA.  Steve attended Citadel Bible College, Philadelphia College of the Bible, Institute for Biblical Studies, Lancaster Bible College, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Biblical Theological Seminary.  He has a wide-ranging ministry on radio, in newspapers, among university students, and at conferences.  Steve and his wife Becky are parents of four children.  He is a previous Amy Writing Award winner.

Have you seen the YouTube clip about Oprah’s Church? More than 2 million have seen it in a very short time.

No real surprises in Oprah’s opinions. She holds the trendy idea that religions are essentially the same and that there are many paths that lead to God. She irrationally romanticizes the notion that God can be whatever you want him/her/it to be.

Celebrating the full sweep of isms, she blends everything into one mix of warm fuzzies and group hugs for all! But Oprah’s conclusions are as ill-informed and illogical as believing that all roads from Chicago lead to Atlanta.

As we have become a less intelligent society, a growing number of people have embraced the notion that all religions are basically the same. Many actually believe that the religions of the world are simply different paths to the same God. I’ve even heard people say that the names for deities are just different titles for the same God. Are Krishna, Mohammed and Jesus really identical? Can we equate the Buddha, Allah, and Jehovah?

Different religions have overlapping ideas, but to suggest, for example, that Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians share the same major beliefs is misguided.

It is equally foolish to think that all religions are reliable guides to truth. This especially breaks down when different faiths hold contradictory positions. Some religions deny Jesus’ claim to be God; others affirm his claim. How can both be right? The nonsense that suggests religious truth can be contradictory because it's only a matter of personal feeling is naive at best or intentionally deceptive.

Oprah’s opinions are the product of a remarkable and recent trend in our nation. We have moved from respect for the diverse makeup of society (which is important), to an insistence that all religions representing the diversity be treated as equally true.

What drives this idea? Is it fear of religious imperialism? Is it rejection of tradition? Is it a desire to be free from moral accountability to the God of our fathers? Perhaps it’s just a designer god mentality. You know, “I want a god that fits me!”

Whatever the motivation, if we embrace a kind of tolerance that doesn’t allow rational debate, we all suffer. Isn’t it possible to tolerate (as we should) two opposing religious opinions without viewing both as correct?

Shouldn’t we endorse each person’s freedom to follow, express, and defend beliefs without feeling obligated to agree?

Here is the real problem: “…open-mindedness is no longer connected with a willingness to consider alternative views but with a dogmatic relativizing of all views. It no longer focuses on the virtues of rational discourse among persons of disparate beliefs, as a means to pursuing the truth, but on the conclusions of the discourse. It reflects massive built-in assumptions about the inadmissibility of any religion claiming a truth status above another religion. It forecloses on open-mindedness in the same breath by which it extols the virtues of open-mindedness. Both the irony and the tragedy of this fierce intolerance stem from the fact that it is done in the name of tolerance” (D. A. Carson, "God and Culture").

Is it arrogant for one religion (while respecting the existence of other faiths) to proclaim itself true and others false?

Bishop Leslie Newbigin summarizes the Christian response. “If, in fact, it is true that Almighty God, creator and sustainer of all that exists in heaven and on earth, has — at a known time and place in human history — so humbled himself as to become part of our sinful humanity, and to suffer and die a shameful death to take away our sin, and to rise from the dead as the first-fruit of a new creation, if this is a fact, then to affirm it is not arrogance. To remain quiet about it is treason to our fellow human beings. If it is really true, as it is, that ‘the Son of God loved me and gave himself up for me’, how can I agree that this amazing act of matchless grace should merely become part of a syllabus for the ‘comparative study of religions’?”

Telling others that their religion is as true as anyone else’s could be compared to telling a blind man standing on the edge of a cliff that any way he walks will be equally safe.

Why did Jesus speak of a narrow gate that leads to life and a broad road leading to destruction? Why did he say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6)?

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