Attentiveness: Universal and Particular
The particularity of Jesus as the only Savior and Lord is a scandal for many. There are so many religions, how can only one be correct?
However, the universal Lordship is the taproot of the greatest blessing of God for all of humanity. One God over all who is the universal Father of all of creation, of all creatures. The one who created all Good, out of love, also placed his very image on the pinnacle of his creation, humanity.
Most peoples of the world do not know of such a God. Most peoples throughout history have lived in an anxious world, a world of capricious spirits, ancestors, gods, and goddesses who would yield power without love and who make demands without reason. I have been thinking about this during the past week as I was attending a mission conference in Tennessee.
The mission conference was sponsored in part by Frontier Fellowship, whose executive director is our alumnus, Rev. Dr. Richard Haney. Two of the speakers were also Gordon-Conwell folks, counseling student Dr. Uchenna Anyanwu and professor Dr. Todd Johnson. We were presented with the needs of the world and the call of the Church to participate more fully in God’s redemptive work for all of creation. Talking with Christian leaders from Central Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, I was reminded again of what a beautiful message it is we have. I was also reminded of the obligation we have. We are not to keep this treasure to ourselves. In fact, we are debtors (Romans 1:14).
Another way of looking at this beautiful truth is that the one who created all sent his love once again to bring redemption for all. It is a universal creation and offer of redemption through a particular Savior. And this is a wonderful thing.
What if there were multiple possible ways of being saved or redeemed, in which some of the ways were more effective than others? In that case, we couldn’t be sure which they were. It might then be that meditation, or sacrificing chickens, or lighting joss sticks would help or might save us—or even that extreme purgation (Thaipusam Festival or flagellation) would solve our problem. If there are a host of possible solutions, then we are all lost. But the universal problem is solved by a particular and unique, Personal Savior who is Love. There is one specific solution for the universal problem.
Our world does not like the “particular.” Our world would like the opportunity to be our own gods, to make our own way so we can continue the self-deception that we are in control. I believe, however, that more and more we will find (as we have seen in vast portions of Africa and Asia and the Pacific) that the particular Savior will be universally appreciated.
Speaking to some of those guests from around the world, seeing their joy of knowing Jesus reminded me again of my own salvation and my own glorious obligation.
May God be gracious to us and bless us,
and make his face to shine upon us,
So that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples praise you, God;
May all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad,
Dr. Scott W. Sunquist, President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, is author of the “Attentiveness” blog. He welcomes comments, responses, and good ideas.