This week a young man, having read our website and perhaps the article I wrote for the Pilot two weeks ago, engaged me in conversation.
He was very polite, though he tried to question me about my faith, entrap me in the Bible's condemnation and ultimately warned me of being a false prophet. It was obvious we see our Christian paths differently. We have a fundamental disagreement about the nature of God.
He initially asked me what I believed about God in a nutshell. My answer was this: "God is the nut, and God is the shell." My answer was not satisfactory.
I went on to explain that my ultimate theology rests in a fundamental belief that God is love. Furthermore, because God is ultimately the greatest power in the universe, that Love cannot be overcome. Even death cannot stop it. I have no fear of Hell because I know that ultimately God wins.
"For you, all roads lead to God!" he exclaimed, and I sensed condemnation in his voice.
My answer, so simply, was: "Yes."
Ultimately, I do believe that God is the end result of every road, every lifetime, every question. So, in some ways, this complicated Christian faith can be made very simple. I can't pretend to explain the many imperfections of our species, the reasons why we just can't seem to get it right, why we choose our own self-indulgence over feeding the starving, or peace on earth. But I'm not going to say it's the devil at work. Though, metaphorically, we've each got our demons to contend with, and as a collective whole we certainly have to face the forces of evil at work in our world.
However, I believe that ultimately God wins. There is no place that God is not, and even in our most hellish situations God is working for good, offering us strength, courage and a peace that passes all understanding. God is asking us to be partners, co-creators in a world of peace, justice and love. It is up to us to be Christ's hands and heart in this world.
So, yes, I believe ultimately all roads lead to God. Will there be false prophets? Sure. One that comes to mind is Prosperity Theology — the voice that tells us that to be successful is to have a big home, to make a lot of money, to indulge because we have been set aside to enjoy the riches of this world while others go hungry.
And if I am to be honest, I think it is a misinterpretation of Jesus and his life and ministry to presume that he was so self-absorbed that he believed that the only way to experience God was to believe in him and then receive a reward of riches in heaven, or if you choose not to believe in him a punishment of fire in hell. I think Jesus wanted us to experience God's love and to live that love in the world so that God's kingdom would be manifested for all – not a select few.
While I wouldn't call myself a prophet, I don't think I'm preaching a false teaching. Instead, I follow the teacher, Jesus, the Christ, the radical Lord of Love, to do my best to manifest that love in our community and in our world.
The REV. DR. SARAH HALVERSON is the pastor of Fairview Community Church in Costa Mesa.