“Most Christians assume that Christianity is the one and only religion that is God-inspired and that carries the imprimatur of God’s blessing,” laments R. Kirby Godsey. In his new book, Is God a Christian?, Godsey sets out to oppose that assumption, and to argue that “the stakes for mankind have grown too high for any of us to engage our faith as if our understanding of God represents the only way God’s presence may be known in the world.”
The great question of the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is necessarily bound up with the most central teachings of the Christian faith, which is why an argument like this must be considered so carefully. A closer look reveals that Godsey is not merely calling upon Christians to reconsider how we define and defend the Gospel - he is calling for a total reconstruction of everything that Christianity represents.
Godsey is no stranger to controversy, of course. In 1996, he stood at the center of a firestorm that erupted after the publication of his book, When We Talk About God . . . Let’s Be Honest. That controversy was well deserved, since in that volume Godsey denied that Jesus is God, argued that Jesus is not to be worshiped, rejected the authority of the Bible, and asserted that the crucifixion “is not the saving act of God.” In that book he also rejected the claim that Jesus is the only Savior and denied that faith in Christ is needed for salvation.
Back in 1996, Kirby Godsey was serving as president of Mercer University in Georgia - a post he held for 27 years. Mercer was then the largest institution affiliated with the Georgia Baptist Convention and one of the most venerable universities claiming a Southern Baptist heritage. The controversy eventually reached the point that the Georgia Baptist Convention Executive Committee established a study committee that found Godsey guilty of having “failed his spiritual fiduciary responsibility as leader of Georgia Baptists’ largest institution” by holding to doctrinal positions that “dramatically deviate from orthodoxy.” The convention finally voted to sever ties with Mercer University in 2005.
In When We Talk About God … Let’s Be Honest, Godsey embraced positions that the church has openly declared to be heresy. In Is God a Christian?, Godsey just picks up where he left off in his earlier book, but this time he is even more explicit in his embrace of radical pluralism.
“Christians need to get over it,” he admonishes. “Jesus is not God’s only word.” As he explains, “Every person is a word from God that has never been spoken and will never be spoken again in exactly the same way.” He also admonishes Muslims to “get over it” when they claim exclusive status for the Qur’an. The very idea of exclusivity is a “peril” that “simply defies reason.”
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