Wednesday, October 09, 2013

“There is no other stream”

How many times have you heard the expression, "All streams flow to the same ocean" when someone is trying to support the popular idea that all religions lead to God? I hear it all the time, and in fact I think our own Presiding Bishop might agree with that expression. When I get into it with people over this idea, I invariably fail to communicate the uniqueness of Christ in a way that swings the pendulum in Christ's favor. In the usual course of events, I am the one who winds up being labeled as closed minded or worse. These days, in order to be seen as someone who desires to get along or coexist with those who deny the uniqueness of Christ, you better not disagree with them in writing or out loud. For if you do, your opponents will shout "COEXIST!" and slap one of their bumper stickers on your car. It seems that "coexist" has come to mean "don't contradict", and isn't that what conservative parishes in our diocese are being asked to do as Bishop Waldo moves the same-sex blessing ball forward, to peacefully coexist despite our different belief systems?

In the case of the Diocese of Upper South Carolina, we will be expected to live and let live by not openly disagreeing with our neighboring parishes. What is hoped to be created will be a pluralistic diocese in which the church which performs same sex blessings and the church that refuses to perform them will both be considered to be headed to the same ocean.

Can such a pluralistic church effectively evangelize the Gospel? What happens when a newcomer is presented with two alternative streams from the get-go? One stream clearly emanates from revisionist waters, and the effluent of revisionist teaching is slowly but effectively poisonous. The other stream carries the living water flowing from the Word of God. Those waters just don't mix well. When I try to explain this duality to a non-Episcopalian, my listener winds up shaking his head and walking away. Most people believe that different religions should peacefully coexist even if one or the other is headed in a totally wrong direction, but they recognize that different doctrines cannot coexist within a given denomination without there being serious problems down the road.

When those of us who oppose same sex blessings being performed by the Church speak out that the path chosen by our bishop is a departure from our one and only source of living water, those offended by our opinions will quickly paint us as mean and hateful people who do not want to coexist (which is another way of saying that they themselves are perfectly willing to coexist with anyone except those who are opposed to their worldview).

I won't let it get me down, and my brain keeps working on ideas to change the picture of church conservatives into something more attractive.

Why can't we come up with a bumper sticker as effective as these have been?

One idea I had was "There is only one stream" with John 14:6 referenced.

But that would probably get your car rammed into by someone with a COEXIST sticker on their bumper.

I need to come up with something more positive. How about, "His Way is The Way"?

Bumper stickers are probably not the best way of getting a message across, but they do point to a greater narrative or story. The use of story is a time tested way of communicating essential truths. These days, it may seem that the hardest part in telling a story is to get people to listen, but people still have the potential to be receptive to new stories. After all, they must have listened to and heard the pluralistic message at some point in order to have accepted it as truth. Are there are stories out there that communicate the elements of the Gospel that contradict pluralism in a way that turns people on instead of turning them off?

In C.S. Lewis' book "The Silver Chair", Jill, who is very thirsty, encounters the Great Lion, Aslan, who is between her and a stream of water.
“Are you not thirsty?” said the Lion.
“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill
“Then drink,” said the Lion.
“May I—could I—would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.
The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience. The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
“Will you promise not to—do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.
“I make no promise,” said the Lion.
“Do you eat girls?” she said.
“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion. It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
“I daren’t come and drink,” said Jill.
“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.
“Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.

h/t C.S. Lewis Society, Reflections August 2010—Communicating Truth Through Story

Lewis has Aslan the Lion (note the capital "L", the Christ figure in Narnia, communicate the message many today need to hear, “There is no other stream,” and that to look for any other one will only lead to death. Yes, Aslan's stream is frightening to approach, and we fear that we may die if we try to drink from it, but there is no other way.

Many see the pluralistic message that all rivers lead to the same ocean as the best way of peaceful coexistence in this troubled world/diocese, but should we agree when the message that the world/diocese sends us contradicts the message of Christ as found in the Gospel?    

Do we dare to contradict the world?

From Acts of the Apostasy
"There is one divine remedy, and only one. It is no mixture. Receive ye it and live—'With His stripes we are healed.' No sprinkling can wash out sin, no confirmation can confer grace, no masses can propitiate God.
Your hope must be in Jesus, Jesus smitten, Jesus bruised, Jesus slain, Jesus the Substitute for sinners. Whosoever believes in Him is healed, but all other hopes are a lie from top to bottom...
Oh, for a trumpet to sound this through every town of England! Through every city of Europe! Oh, to preach this in the Colosseum! Or better still from the pulpit of St. Peter’s!—'With His stripes we are healed.'
Away, away ye deceivers, with your mixtures and compounds. Away ye proud sons of men with your boastings of what ye feel, and think, and do, and what ye intend and vow. 'With His stripes we are healed.'
A crucified Saviour is the sole and only hope of a sinful world."
--Charles H. Spurgeon, "A Simple Remedy," in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, Vol. XVIII (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1872), 491.


  1. Anonymous9:23 AM

    The more Excellent Way - Christ.

    Sibyl S.

  2. This psot reminds me of how CS Lewis made sense of this same situation. HIs idea was to relate it to a math problem. There is only one CORRECT answer but there are many wrong answers- some are closer to being correct but there is always ONE CORRECT answer. Now if we could put that one a bumper sticker....... Also, not everything in other religions contradicts basic Christian teaching. Although yes, I realize your point is the Uniqueness of Christ!

    1. Galetta,
      C.S. Lewis would not understand the "new math" where there can be more than one correct answer as long as the reasons behind the pathway to the wrong answer are... "reasonable".