Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tashlan at Christmas

"Listen, Tash is only another name for Aslan. All that old idea of us being right and the Calormenes wrong is silly. We know better now. The Calormenes use different words but we all mean the same thing. Tash and Aslan are only two different names for you know Who. That's why there can never be any quarrel between them. Get that into your heads, you stupid brutes. Tash is Aslan: Aslan is Tash."
—Shift the Ape, The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis

It's fitting that these words were spoken outside of a stable, the stage on which Shift the Ape hoisted the greatest deception upon the creatures of Narnia in their history. A stable is also the place where, in our world, tradition tells us the Son of God was born and placed in a manger. We celebrate His birth each year at Christmastime, somewhat arbitrarily on December 25. Since every day of the year holds within its hours and minutes reasons for rejoicing over the incarnation, December 25 stands not as the day we (probably) get Christ's birthday wrong, but as the one day we get our celebrations right—or at least the day on which we make a more concerted effort to get them right.

What matters at Christmas is not the day we've chosen to set aside. It's the Savior we celebrate. This year, the greatest attacks on the manger has not come from Hollywood or Starbucks' plain red cups. They've come from two unlikely sources: a tenured professor from Wheaton College, a lauded evangelical stronghold outside of Chicago, and Pope Francis.

Larycia Hawkins, a political science prof at Billy Graham's alma mater caused quite a stir when she announced her decision to wear a hijab in a show of solidarity with Muslims. She said, "They, like me, a Christian, are people of the book." But that wasn't what got her in trouble with her employer. It's what she said next: "And as Pope Francis stated last week, we worship the same God."

And that wasn't the only controversial thing the Vatican had to say recently. In a statement, the Catholic Church announced, "Although Jews cannot believe in Jesus Christ as the universal redeemer, they have a part in salvation, because the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." In other words, Jewish people do not need Jesus to be saved.

In both of these cases, the baby in the manger is being ignored, for it is Christmas that destroys these notions. We can confidently say that Muslims and Christians do not worship the same God for many reasons, but there is one that supersedes them all: Jesus. Although Muslims pay respects to the Jesus of their traditions, it is not the Jesus of the Bible—the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, and the King of Kings. I'm sorry, Dr. Hawkins, but while Muslims and Christians may both be people of a book, it is not the same book.

When it coms to Jews, we do have a book in common: the Old Testament. But once again the manger demolishes any notion that Jesus is not necessary for salvation. At every stage of His earthly life, Jesus' presence demanded a response. Every person who saw Him had to choose: Is He a peasant baby whose parents weren't married when He was conceived or is He God in the flesh? Is He a carpenter-turned-itinerant-miracle-worker or the long awaited Messiah? Is He a criminal on a cross or the Lamb of God, paying for the sins of the world? Jesus Himself said, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 15:24 ESV). And the apostle Paul wrote, "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call upon him" (Romans 10:12).

When we say that Muslims worship the same God that Christians do or that Jews are automatically saved on account of their Jewishness, we rob both groups of Jesus. He is the only hope for the world—for Jew, Christian or Muslim. If we truly want to find something that really unites the world, let's dispense with this nonsense of saying we all really believe the same things or that it doesn't matter what we put our faith in after all. We already have something in common with the power to bring us together: We all need Jesus. 

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