I had a great breakfast at First Watch with Scott on Tuesday morning. He wanted to talk about an experience in which he felt that a church leader depreciated Christianity in relationship to other religions of the world. The relationship between Christianity and other religions is a topic that I find to be quite complex. Here is some of my response.
Christianity and world religions
Judaism has a distinct relationship with Christianity among all other world religions. The God to whom Jesus prays and speaks to as Father is the God of the Hebrew scriptures. God remains faithful to the covenant that was made with the people of Israel. Paul wrestles with this relationship in several chapters in the book of Romans.
Will persons of other faith traditions be saved? I am not sure. I do believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. I believe that the Christian hope is that all things will be made new in the second coming of Christ. I do not think that anything will remain that is old. I believe that Christ’s incarnation, life, death and resurrection is a part of God’s work for all of creation. What exactly this means for persons of other religions, I do not know.
As a pastor, it is part of my responsibility to be concerned with how it is with others’ souls. I believe that this is the responsibility of all Christians – to watch over one another in love (as Wesley would say). However, I believe that it is more important to first be concerned with the state of my own soul and my journey of discipleship. I believe that one should be more concerned for the state of one’s own soul than with making judgments on the state of others.
Thoughts about conversations with those of other religions
- Do not ever belittle your own religion when confronted with another religion. There is no need to be bashful or reticent about your beliefs. However, at the same time be careful not to belittle another’s religion.
- Focus on invitational conversations. In interfaith conversations there needs to be a readiness to both give and receive.
- I believe that it is more important for Christians to focus on sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with non and nominally religious persons than with those who already have a faith.
I recognize that this is a broad topic and that this response does not even come close to touching all areas that would be needed. What would you add to this conversation? How do you understand the relationship between Christianity and other religions? What thoughts do you have about interfaith conversations?
11 replies on “Christianity and Other Religions”
Thanks for sharing these thoughts Andrew. I particularly appreciate the third of your bullet points.
I also appreciate your “I don’t know” in response to will people of other faiths be saved. I’ve heard it said many times before, “all religions are different paths up the same mountain.” A couple of summers ago a mentor of mine said, “to use the same paths up the mountain analogy is blasphemous, it assumes that we are above the mountain and can see and know the entirety of it.”
It seems that maybe “I don’t know” is the most faithful way we can respond.
My pastor says nearly every week, that the most important thing about you is your concept of God. With that in mind, I am called to share the truth of Jesus Christ in love, with all people. It doesn’t matter what faith, religion, or lack thereof that person may have. My responsibility is to point people to Jesus Christ in a humble and non-confrontational way.
I guess I have to be ready to give an answer for the hope I have in Jesus Christ…too often I mumble and stumble. But my prayer is that God will give me the words and that He will open the heart. It is comforting to know that it is God alone who changes hearts and brings people to repentance. My responsibility is to faithfully share the Truth.
Jeff – Thanks for your response. I appreciate the affirmation of “I don’t know.” Sometimes I feel like there is pressure for the pastor to have all the answers and in this and other conversations, I have found that there is great freedom in responding “I don’t know” in some cases. I also believe that there are times that in this response is found great faithfulness.
Wendy – Thanks for sharing. I know the feeling of not being sure if what I am saying is making any sense or making an impact. I think that you are right on in the recognition that God’s grace brings people to repentance. We can help by acting in a way so as to be a part of God’s work.
I agree with most of your post, the only exception being the notion that its more important to share our faith with non and nominals than folks with other faiths. Certainly this is problematic historically – should the apostles have taken this postion we would not have had a Christian movement to begin with.
Paul in particular shared his faith regularly with people of the Jewish faith – always starting in the synagogues, and with those who were practicing the dominant pagan religions. In fact it was these two foci that kept getting Paul thrown in jail, and threatened with death – or worse.
As to who will or will not be saved. I prefer to focus on what We do know. We do know that people who accept the sacrificial atonement of Christ’s blood as a covering for their sin, and those who follow Jesus as Saviour and Lord – will in fact Inherit eternity. As to anyone else, we cannot be sure. We only know that God is good and just, and that Jesus talked extensively about Hell and the Second death. So there is a very real danger here for both non and nominals, and persons of other faiths. We should be motivated to move them our of the undecided column and remove all doubt!
Thats My Two Cents.
Chuck – You are absolutely right with the historical critique, I appreciate the nuance that you bring to that point. Paul’s sharing of faith in the synagogue and with those of other religions is in opposition to the assertion that I made. That was during a time when Christianity was a fledgling religion and there is quite a different climate today. Do you see differences in the approach as a result of the growth of Christianity?
Thanks for the last paragraph – there does need to be an urgency about sharing the gospel.
It has been my experience that there are too many Christians who desperately NEED to find fault with other religions and have an overly militant attitude about Christianity which indicates to me that they are only doing battle within themselves over their lack of faith, too much pride on the need to be “right”, or some of both.
I do embrace your “I don’t know” answer about salvation because as I have reminded the congregations I’ve served, that is in the Lord’s hands and His alone. Like Wendy points out, we are called as witnesses and not as judges.
It is the same in examining other religions. Few of us are qualified to find fault within the context of other religions, especially those religions we are unfamiliar with. Better to live faithfully according to what we know than to speak of what we don’t know.
[…] News for All February 12, 2008 — Andrew Conard Last week I posted on Christianity and Other Religions and included my thoughts about how to best respond to someone of another faith. I want to follow up […]
Andrew – I do see some difference in context of course between the early church and our time. We have it much easier in the West – our lives are not generally at stake when we share the gospel, our livelyhoods are not on the line, etc. So in many ways we have less of an excuse when it comes to our failure to reach out to non/nominals and people of other faiths.
We, of course, live in a time when the only transcendent value is a sort of cult of false “Tolerance”, which tolerates any opinion as long as said opinion doesn’t have certainty of conviction. The Christian faith – and particularly the Wesleyan strain, are movements of deep conviction and certainty about core issues. Assurance was in fact one of the hallmarks of the Methodist Theological tradition as it sought to counter the effects of Deism in the Anglican church of its day. All of this to say it worries me deeply that so many in our faith tradition seem to shy away from confidence in the Gospel’s uniqueness, and its certain conviction that there is only one name whereby we must be saved. These are deeply held Methodist values.
In the end, the question is – has the mission changed. The mission of course is to Go into ALL the earth proclaiming the Gospel, making disciples, and teaching them to obey all that Christ has taught. I don’t think, given this global and comprehensive mission, our focus should be much changed from that of the early Church. If anything – with the power of our communications tools, our ability to travel cross culturally rapidly, etc – we should be more inclined and more enthused about reaching those who are still in darkness, Particularly in the 10/40 window dominated by Islam and Hinduism.
So, in summary – yes were in a different context – but our mission is the same as the day of the Ascension – to seek and save the lost – regardless of who/what has lead them astray.
Chuck – Amen. Thanks.
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