Jonah And Theological Relativism

I read Jonah awhile back and noticed a verse tucked away in its opening scene that I had long overlooked. As the storm gathered strength against Jonah’s flee-to-Tarshish cruise liner,

All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god (1:5).

At first glance, it appears that the bible is here teaching some kind of theological relativism: individuals or people groups or religions all have their own gods and we’re fine as long as we pick one that best suits us.

If it was good enough for the sailors on the ship, it’s good enough for us.

That’s what many Americans — Christians included — have opted to believe.

Yet that’s a wrong-headed reading of Scripture as well as an irresponsible approach to theology.

Jonah 1:5 is a classic case of the bible describing what it does not endorse. Just because it reports Gentile sailors praying to their own gods does not mean people of the Book are free to pick and choose their own gods as well.

In fact, the point of Jonah 1 is the silence that meets all those prayers.

Only when Jonah the Hebrew prays to Yahweh the maker of heaven and earth does the storm still.

Rather than teaching relativism, Jonah 1 refutes it. In fact, look at the conversion of the sailors that follows the calming of the storm:

At this, the men greatly feared the Lord (Yahweh), and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him (1:16).

Instead of each having his own god, they now pay honor to the One God.

Mushy religious pluralism? Not a chance.

Instead, it’s a robust defense of Judeo-Christian monotheism.