Monday, March 2, 2009

A radical Islamic Taliban Roman...? (Part 1)

Last week I posed a couple of questions that stimulated some discussion on whether or not one can experience an authentic relationship with God without having ever heard of, or knowing Jesus, and if indeed we are saved by believing the dogma of a church or the direction of our lives,by both or by neither. We all have a tendency to be rather pedantic about what we know, which seldom allows room for error. As far as I know though, the only sinless man, and therefore the only one able to be pedantic without fear of error, was Jesus Christ.

The fascinating answer to the question of knowing God without ever having heard of Jesus, is only answerable in the affirmative when we exclude the premise that all men must be saved… into Christianity! No where in the Scriptures is this ‘sacred cow’ ever indicated. People are saved into Christ, not into a religion, doctrine, or faith community. Acts chapter 10 introduces us to a first century gentile named Cornelius. I jokingly say that, transposed into today’s culture, Cornelius may well have been a member of the Taliban or Al Qaeda. Note that the Bible says he was a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. That would be like being a part of the movement of radical Islam and being a member of the Taliban.

The Romans were the first century oppressors of people and culture; imposing their will and their way unreservedly on everyone and anyone, while meting out and dispensing ‘Roman justice’ on any who opposed them (Jesus felt the direct brunt of that Roman rule). To have been a centurion in the Italian Regiment, clearly meant something to the people of that day; enough that the Holy Spirit saw fit to record that fact for posterity. Having established Cornelius’s provenance, let me quickly establish something else before you begin to look upon him with the same eyes that you would look upon Osama bin Laden.

Cornelius was a religious man. He and all the other people who lived in his house worshiped the true God. He gave much of his money to the poor and prayed to God often. (Acts 10: 2)

What? He didn’t so much as even know about Jesus, yet he knew and worshiped the true God? The rest of the story unfolds in the most remarkable way. While Cornelius experiences the visitation of an Angel who further directs him to send for Peter so that he can take the next step in his faith, Peter experiences his own personal transformation through an encounter with God on the rooftop of the house in which he’s staying. Peter’s encounter transforms his world view enough that he recognizes that Salvation through Jesus is not just for the Jew but for the gentile also. It is Peter’s rooftop encounter that paves the way for Cornelius’s own life changing encounter with the person of Jesus Christ.

How long had Cornelius devoutly worshiped God before his encounter with Jesus? What was Cornelius saved into, and for that matter, what was Peter saved into? Before you answer Christianity, let me clue you in on the fact that that word hasn’t even been invented until chapter 11. Now that your ‘creative juices’ are flowing, I’ll let you ponder these questions until we pick up the story again tomorrow.


Patrick Voo said...

great thoughts and questions, joseph! as a short-form answer, i believe that cornelius was saved from a life trajectory that was moving further from true, God-designed humanity. what was he saved into? not a set of doctrinal beliefs. not a community of like-minded people. but into a stream of being that reintegrated his life with the image of God impressed on his soul. he was saved into a trajectory of becoming human again.

Joseph said...

Patrick, you sound just like a really smart guy I know who attended a recent H2.09 event. :)

Ash said...

i think that you have an uncanny ability to eloquently explain things in manner that perhaps, i cannot. this is a great start. look forward to your con't thoughts tomorrow. thanks.

Joseph said...

Ash, I hope my continued thoughts meet your expectations. Thanks for the kind compliment. :)