A Religious Liberal Blog

This site hopefully can provide some vehicle by which I can comment, complain, and once in a while praise the state of religion in this country and around the world from a liberal protestant perspective.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Pluralism and Evangelism

I was thinking of the post at Fr.Jake on Christianity and religious pluralism. It seems that he made stronger claims about the universal efficacy of our religion than I could."I know that Christianity is the way to God. I cannot say that about other faith traditions."

I am passionate about my faith and eager to share its resources to a wider audience, for me college students. I love the riches of its rituals and practices and agree that an interfaith dialog that tries to strip those away is robbing the gift that may be given in the interchange.

But I am also impressed with the rich resources and practices of other traditions. Because one understands prayer in one's tradition, it's possible to appreciate some of the meaning it has for other traditions. I say that as a fan of the Reform Jewish prayerbook.

Evangelism has its place. But it should be for those who are interested, for whom Christianity could provide resources to work out questions of life, where they can find a community that enables them to grow. Some are estranged and looking for a way back home.

Others, because of their history for whom Christianity was so harmful that its symbols and practices cannot be redeemed, cannot be in a position to give life. There are others who have grown up in or found meaning in another tradition, for whom Christianity is not a live option.

If they've found a source of life, a place that widens their concern for the other then I assume that God is at work there and that's where they need to be. For those who are still searching, and Christianity is a could makes sense for them, I want to offer that gift.

As important as my faith is to me, it's instrumental. Christianity's end object is God. At its best it can act as an access to God. When it does this, I'm eager to share with all who can find sustenance. For those who have sustenance elsewhere, I can only assume that likewise comes from God.

12 Comments:

At 1:34 PM , Blogger Richard Short said...

Wonderful post.

I have always believed that it is not your faith that matters as much as what you do with it.

The hypocrites that commit atrocities in the name of faith or patriotism are the worst. I get more into it here http://richardshort2001.blogspot.com/

 
At 4:42 PM , Blogger Jan said...

Good thoughts (because I agree!) Thank you.

 
At 6:41 PM , Blogger Pastor Bob Cornwall said...

Dwight -- good reflections. I think we mainliners do struggle with the question of how and when to share our faith. That sense of being conflicted, unfortunately, silences us rather than frees us to share that which has made our lives complete -- without being condemnatory of other faiths.

Gay Reese's "Unbinding the Gospel" from Chalice Press is directed at just this issue -- how do we share faith in a pluralistic world.

 
At 10:29 AM , Blogger F said...

Where are you from? I find difficult to find liberal religious blogs in the UK. I feel I'm on my own! ;) http://paswonky.blogspot.com

 
At 2:32 PM , Blogger miranda said...

Great post! And, sometimes we forget that we can incorporate some elements of spirituality from other religions into our own worship.

 
At 5:52 PM , Anonymous DJ Black Adam said...

O.K., I cannot agree with your overall assertion. I mean you no disrespect, but I am going to have to interject.

The first thing we have to understand is that we are to demonstrate the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, not by handing out tracks and shouting "repent" or "John 3:16", but that we are to show CHRIST (not CHRISTIANITY) in our lives, that is our first testimony and evangelistic call.

I converted from Conservative Judaism, I am an African American, with ancestry from Beta Israel, and I can tell you from experience, I didn't want ANYTHING to do with CHRISTIANITY. However, when people who discussed the faith with me, people who I respected because the LIVED CHRIST EXAMPLE OF COMPASSION, LOVE and STRENGTH, they (instead of preaching to me CHURCH, Evangelical Christianity, Liberal Christianity, Etc., Etc.) made it PERSONAL, and shared with me JESUS' words. That was it. The choice was still mine.

Not all “evangelism” is to disrespect and or to disregard other faiths. I have friends who are Muslims and relatives who follow Judaism, we talk, we sometimes talk about religion, we may disagree, but at the end of the day, there is respect between us. Which brings me to my point, you wrote:

“Christianity's end object is God.”

No, Christianity’s end object should be providing people the opportunity to have a relationship with GOD through REPENTANCE and ACCEPTANCE of the Gospel as JESUS taught and demonstrated. Jesus made it very clear that without repentance and receiving the Gospel, man is already judged to death. CHRISTIANITY’s object should be that of CHRIST, not of the religion and dogma that we have now in all of its myriad forms.

It is intellectually fraudulent to deny the exclusivity of our faith, and it is also fraudulent to act as if the Christian tradition is the only one that is exclusive. Islam rejects those who do not adhere to it’s tenants, in Judaism, the belief of Jesus as Messiah in the Christian sense is the sin of Idolatry (as it is in Islam as well).

Our Bible which should be AUTHORITIVE to WE who believe says clearly:

John 14:6

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

This scripture is clear JESUS is the ONLY way to the Father, NOT one of many paths. NO MAN comes to GOD but BY Him.

You ended with this statement:

“When it does this, I'm eager to share with all who can find sustenance. For those who have sustenance elsewhere, I can only assume that likewise comes from God.”

I have to ask you, on what Biblical predicate do you assume this?

 
At 6:06 AM , Blogger Dwight said...

Richard Short, Jan, Miranda
Thanks!

Pastor Bob
I'll definetly have to check that book out. It's the tight rope in our society between conviction and openness that seems difficult. I give credit to the mainline that it's wrestling with this instead of just being on one end or the other.

f
Illinois, US. Thankfully lots of good liberal religious sites out there, but I only have a few UK blog links. Fr.Jake (listed on my site) I think has a good number of Anglican sites worth checking out.

DJ
Some biblical precedents might include:

When there are those who are healing but are not with Jesus and the disciples. They want to go after them but Jesus rejects this saying those not against us are for us.

There Paul's notion of the fruits of spirit, which can only come from God. Likewise if we assume that all good comes from God, if we see good, if we see fruits of the spirit we can assume that this is from God.

The idea that God is the object of faith, not Christianity is just the principle that the finite, the human can never be a worthy object of faith, that only the infinite can command this.

There's a provocative line in 1 Corinthians where even the son subordinates himself to God, so that "God can be all in all".

I agree with a number of things you said about evangelism (compassion being operative) and how reprentence, conversion, a turning around is key.

But it's all directed to not my religion but ideally to the God of the universe which is bigger than the ideas and concepts and even institution that I might seek to acquaint people with.

I appreciate your comments and everyone who posted on this thread.

 
At 6:24 AM , Anonymous Tim said...

`No, Christianity’s end object should be providing people the opportunity to have a relationship with GOD through REPENTANCE and ACCEPTANCE of the Gospel as JESUS taught and demonstrated.'

Hmmm, no... Jesus' message demonstrated life to its fullness, crossing social boundaries through being in touch with God. Note that he never preached the gospel that evangelicals preach today. If you want hell-fire and repentance, you want John the Baptist instead.

The goal of the human race is God, to be with God, to be in touch with God. I'd prefer to think of Christianity as helping that goal rather than propagating some formula.

 
At 9:49 AM , Anonymous DJ Black Adam said...

`No, Christianity’s end object should be providing people the opportunity to have a relationship with GOD through REPENTANCE and ACCEPTANCE of the Gospel as JESUS taught and demonstrated.'

Hmmm, no... Jesus' message demonstrated life to its fullness, crossing social boundaries through being in touch with God.

Sorry, your statement is not in line with what the BIBLICAL Jesus said or demonstrated. Jesus clearly stated to “REPENT and “RECEIVE THE GOSPEL”. I find THAT in scripture, your summation, while fascinating in its own human philosophical / social – political way, has NO exegetical legs to stand on.

You wrote: “Note that he never preached the gospel that evangelicals preach today.”

Note: I am not an evangelical and I am not giving you their exegetical look on the Gospel. If you wish to discuss that, find Pat Robertson. I am merely restating what JESUS stated

You wrote also: “If you want hell-fire and repentance, you want John the Baptist instead.”

Really? Well let’s just see what JESUS had to say about REPENTENCE:

Matthew 4: 17 “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Matthew 9.13 “I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

Mark 1.15 “And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

Luke 13.3 “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

So it seems pretty clear (no matter which translation you read from) REPENT is what JESUS said.

Jesus clearly says to REPENT. This is not to apologize or only to ask forgiveness, this is to TURN from sinful behavior.

Repent from the Greek definition in the Strong’s Exhaustive:

Strong's Number: 3340 Transliterated: metanoeo Phonetic: met-an-o-eh'-o Text: from 3326 and 3539; change of mind, the state of changing any or all of the elements composing ones life, to think differently or afterwards, i.e. reconsider (morally, feel compunction): --repent.

“The state of changing any or all of the elements composing ones life”, that is very clear. This is not to say that we ridicule those in sin, for all have sinned and come short of the Glory of God, yet there is a difference between one sinning and truly repenting and one in a life of UNREPENTIVE sin.

This is what Jesus would say. REPENT and BELIEVE the Gospel.
It is intellectually fraudulent and spiritually dangerous to present JESUS in the way that you have.

Look Tim, it’s pretty simple and I don’t get you folks. I am as irritated with the evangelical right as you, in fact moreso, because my biggest bone of contention with them is the SAME one I have with those of your political / theological persuasion. That is, you both forget the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, in favor of your politics and social philosophies. Instead of lining up with Christ, both of you try to force your politics into JESUS’ mouth. Don’t like the Gospel? Find a different faith, don’t try to assign YOUR motives to JESUS.

 
At 1:25 PM , Anonymous Richie Kusterbeck said...

The arguments for pluralism are primarily based on reason, although there is ample biblical evidence to support this view. "for as in Adam all die, evenso in Christ shall all be made alive." In Acts Peter after seeing the Holy Spirit fall on Cornelius says "God is no respecter of persons, but ... those who fear him and do justice are accepted."
Because I am chosen for the olympic track team does not mean others are not chosen for the synchronized swim team, even though I don't see much value in that sport. A rose by any other name smells as sweet. The real marks of conversion and repentance are doing justice, humility and living with integrity. I treasure my faith in Christ, but for me to believe that everyone should believe like me.... does not jive with God's apparent love of diversity, and literally reeks of pride and hubris. I am responsible to follow my calling, and responsible to proclaim my experience, strength, hope and faith, but it does not preclude God working in other ways to other people

 
At 10:52 AM , Anonymous DJ Black Adam said...

@ Richie:

You wrote:

"I treasure my faith in Christ, but for me to believe that everyone should believe like me.... does not jive with God's apparent love of diversity, and literally reeks of pride and hubris"

How do you reconcile your statement with what JESUS said?

Mark 1.15 “And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.”

Again, YOUR sociological perceptions are not the standard of a CHRISTian, that standard is the words, teachings and actions of Christ. It is not that everyone should BELIEVE as you, it is that you BELIEVE in who you profess, if you profess Christ, he has called ALL to repentance THROUGH HIM ALONE. Because of free will and human choice ALL will not do as he has requested, because of the nature of man, which separates man from God, Jesus gives the ONLY way in which we can be reconciled in our estranged relationship with the Creator of all heaven and earth. Don't like it, reject Him entirely, but it is the epitome of PRIDE and HUBRIS to dare to redefine the message of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to fit your human sociological / political philosophies and / or ideas.

This has nothing to do with diversity, that political and social construct is necessary only because of the scientific fiction of race and the other sociological / political boundaries that we as humans have set up. You mistake religion with the Gospel of the Kingdom.

 
At 5:25 PM , Blogger Dwight said...

dj
I think the point is that we don't want to force human constructs, religion on folks. If they prove to be useful for purposes of drawing people to God, great. If not, then something else is needed. That was the point of my post. I think we may agree a lot more on this issue, even if our language differs.

 

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