As part of the research for my new book, I had to make a study of world religions. Among the many interesting things I learned about other faiths, here’s one that stuck out: many of them don’t appeal to first things.
As Christians, we tend to focus on foundational things, primary things, absolute truths. Everything goes back to “because God.” There’s even a popular radio program called “Back To Genesis” fueled by our insistence on returning to first things.
But our Buddhist neighbors don’t seem to share that obsession. Neither do Hindus or Confucianists. These might pursue balance or order, but not as an expression of a transcendent God of order. Balance is peaceful so it is a worthy pursuit. Family harmony is a blessing simply because it seems good. (And after my study, I am more aware than ever of the disservice I do to those faiths by putting them all together in one category. They are each unique.)
For the Christian, this appeal to foundational truth is both a strength and a pitfall. It is a strength because it gives us solid footing. An appeal to first things is a rejection of relativism, and a claim to ultimate truth. Jesus himself appealed to a faith foundation built on solid philosophical rock.
But it’s a pitfall because we can overdo it. Because our Lord made ultimate claims, we tend to think we can. And so everything, from politics to the color of the hymnals, becomes a “first thing.” We could grow in our ability to shrug things off.
As our culture becomes more pluralistic, it will be important for us to cling to the foundational truth of the gospel, and let go of the cultural expressions of our comfort. And, importantly, to know the difference.