1. Illinois
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    01 Jan '10 06:05
    I'd like to broach the difficult subject (from a Christian's perspective anyway) of comparative religion.

    As a Christian I believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). I know there are many in these forums who would take issue with Christ's declaration and that's fine; I'm not really interested in defending Him (as I don't believe Christ needs defending).

    What I'm interested in is how a Christian is supposed to treat people who ascribe to a different belief system. The radical evangelical approach, I suppose, would be to actively convince others that their beliefs are hollow and false unless Christ is at the center. But is this really the best way to go about winning the world for Christ? All this seems to do is offend, IMO. And when we offend others we lose the privilege of an intimate friendship, of allowing the light of Christ's love to shine from us into their lives, and ultimately, of being able to fully serve them.

    I'm not sure what preachers in other countries teach regarding this, but I know that in America preachers rarely broach the subject of living among people of other religions and how we are to witness to them, properly.

    Personally, I intend to go so far as studying, in depth, other religions in order to gain a respect for their traditions and beliefs and what wisdom they offer. IMO, it is imperative that Christians be intimately familiar with all the religions of the world, out of respect for those people who may genuinely and wholeheartedly believe in them. Can this be done without giving the impression that we (Christians) are condoning belief in a religion other than Christianity? I believe, yes.

    Any thoughts?
  2. Joined
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    01 Jan '10 07:48
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    I'd like to broach the difficult subject (from a Christian's perspective anyway) of comparative religion.

    As a Christian I believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). I know there are many in these forums who would take issue with Christ's declaration and that's fi ...[text shortened]... ndoning belief in a religion other than Christianity? I believe, yes.

    Any thoughts?
    Maybe if we Christians live the religion more what we believe in, God is love, and preach less, the world would be more willing to accept Christ teachings.

    🙂
  3. SubscriberBaard
    gene vessel
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    01 Jan '10 09:061 edit
    If I was your neighbour I would find it very disrespectful if you tried to convince me that your religion was more "true" than mine. And I would oppose to the missioning.

    It is after all quite random what religion you are brought up in. You would not be Christian if you had been born in another part of the world, say Saudi Arabia......

    Just respect that people have different beliefes, and try to be a good person.

    Best regards

    Baard
  4. Standard memberSwissGambit
    Caninus Interruptus
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    01 Jan '10 09:29
    Originally posted by katp
    Maybe if we Christians live the religion more what we believe in, God is love, and preach less, the world would be more willing to accept Christ teachings.

    🙂
    Won't work - I already chose not to. 😉
  5. Standard memberkaroly aczel
    the Devil himself
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    01 Jan '10 12:39
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    I'd like to broach the difficult subject (from a Christian's perspective anyway) of comparative religion.

    As a Christian I believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). I know there are many in these forums who would take issue with Christ's declaration and that's fi ...[text shortened]... ndoning belief in a religion other than Christianity? I believe, yes.

    Any thoughts?
    That was very well put dude!! I think it summed up a "thinking christians" perspective very nicely.

    I wonder how you would view my faith.
    On the one hand I believe in nothing. Now having said that,and bearing in mind that life is a paradox, I actually subscribe to a great many viewpoints.(You could say these great many viewpoints have lead me to my belief in nothing). Christianity is one. I have no problem with the general gist of christianity,in christ,the basic core beliefs,etc. (In short , a sensible , non-fundementalist view).
    Now what gets me is that while I can like christianity, for me it is definately just one narrow viewpoint on spirituality. Like another poster said , you could've been born in a non christian country. Would you still be a christian then? Honestly?
    Now taking a global perspective,(which btw is essential to any decent religon), how can christians say that their way is the only way. ("No one comes to the Father except by me"😉. Just because it is written in the bible doesn't mean we should swallow it hook line and sinker. Maybe Jesus meant "nobody comes to the father except by a method like mine". At times the bible is open to interpretation and at others we must believe it literally, word for word...Hmmm. Problems are sure to abound.
    Now given that God , and the knowledge of God, is a living thing. ie. it's an undying, immortal premise , shouldn't we be able to get in touch with that part of ourselves that is linked to this nature? If God is knowable then shouldn't everyone be able to tap into this "unmanifested condition"? I say "yes".
    Anyone that has had direct experience with "God" wil know that that experience is the primary knowldge. That experience ranks above books and what people say. It is only after this "satori experience" that we can begin to assimilate our lives the right way around again. It puts everything in proper perspective and shows that our own personal experience of reality is the one we can completely trust. People lie hence books lie. And even when they are telling truth there can often be lies mixed in with the truths. This is the type of disinformation that has plagued our history and kept humanity in the dark.
    Truth is simple. Poper humanity has a spiritual component to which we are largely unaware of. But this is rapidly changing as I can feel a fresh breeze coming and the light nearing. Hold on tight to your sanity. Peace.
  6. Joined
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    01 Jan '10 18:43
    Originally posted by SwissGambit
    Won't work - I already chose not to. 😉
    May we agree to disagree in love?

    Please agree.

    😉
  7. Pepperland
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    01 Jan '10 19:16
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    I'd like to broach the difficult subject (from a Christian's perspective anyway) of comparative religion.

    As a Christian I believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). I know there are many in these forums who would take issue with Christ's declaration and that's fi ...[text shortened]... ndoning belief in a religion other than Christianity? I believe, yes.

    Any thoughts?
    I don't find it difficult to believe that God, and spirituality in general, is interpreted and followed differently by different people in the world. After all, all major religions are after the same thing, a supreme reality or being popularly known as God, so in my view there is no need for conflict.

    Also, preaching is never good, it usually doesn't work and you should never force people to believe in the same thing as you, the whole concept of free will is that people make their own choices, and I believe this should always be respected.
  8. Joined
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    01 Jan '10 19:35
    Originally posted by katp
    Maybe if we Christians live the religion more what we believe in, God is love, and preach less, the world would be more willing to accept Christ teachings.

    🙂
    According to Jesus's words at Matt 24:14 & 28: 19,20 it is an obligation to do this. But according to Matt 24: 9 it will not be widely accepted. But to answer your question, yes it would be wise to have a basic understanding of other religions so one could respond to their beliefs.
  9. Territories Unknown
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    01 Jan '10 19:59
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    I'd like to broach the difficult subject (from a Christian's perspective anyway) of comparative religion.

    As a Christian I believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). I know there are many in these forums who would take issue with Christ's declaration and that's fi ...[text shortened]... ndoning belief in a religion other than Christianity? I believe, yes.

    Any thoughts?
    Any thoughts?
    Well, you asked...

    IMO, it is imperative that Christians be intimately familiar with all the religions of the world, out of respect for those people who may genuinely and wholeheartedly believe in them. Can this be done without giving the impression that we (Christians) are condoning belief in a religion other than Christianity? I believe, yes.
    I think this is what inspired Paul's famous speech to the Athenians, the "Unknown God" reference he used to draw parallels from their supposed beliefs to reality... and we know how that turned out.

    Paul came to understand that such an approach was useless, and determined instead...
    "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified."

    Although the Bible is pretty clear on what our approach is to be, I also consider the opposite proposition in two parts: what if another system besides what I believe was the correct one, and how would I want them to approach me in their attempt to not only dissuade me of my beliefs, but persuade me of the reality of theirs?

    To dissuade me of my beliefs, they would necessarily be familiar with intimate details of mine--- just as you suggested you ought to do with respect to learning other religions. Humanly speaking, such an endeavor on their part would turn into a pissing contest, as my confidence in the facts of my beliefs would trump nearly every attempt at informing me otherwise. That sounds like arrogance. However, that confidence stems from years of study (which some may call indoctrination), literally daily practice of walking a certain path.

    That is not to say that some neophyte might happen along and challenge my perspective on the grounds of my endemic laziness, appealing to 'first things afresh,' as it were. Such a scenario would require the neophyte at least knowing of first things, in addition to said complacency. However, that situation would only apply to reinforcing my beliefs by inspiring me to get back to those first things... more of a challenge of my practice, rather than my beliefs themselves.

    A threat to my beliefs would need to be at the foundational level, which a neophyte would be ineffectual in addressing. His "attack" would be akin to an entry-level math student challenging a college-level calculus professor's take on an algebraic equation: the student doesn't even know what he doesn't know.

    To become 'well-versed' in another's belief system, IMO, smacks of either naiveté, arrogance, or possibly both, but certainly disingenuous. It assumes that I'm going to know more about their religion than they (or, at least as much) and that said knowledge will assist me in convincing them of something they (clearly) overlooked. Convincing is the Holy Spirit's job, not mine. Plus, I would never presume that I can find some 'thing' another has overlooked; I'm operating under the assumption that every person with whom I come into contact is already trying to do their best.

    Paul came to understand that his pathetic attempt of relating what he thought he knew about what the Athenians believed could somehow relate to what he knew to be true was a waste of time. He found out that he missed the mark because he related their understanding about the "Unknown God" and other aspects of their held system to his perspective, not theirs. Me? I just ain't smart enough to know the links another may have to their religion; I just don't get the value system they're using. Thankfully, we have an Advocate who does.

    Again, the Holy Spirit gets it: He knows exactly what buttons to push with each person... provided we speak the lines written for us.
  10. Account suspended
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    01 Jan '10 21:343 edits
    interesting how you make no mention of a public ministry, how anyone can read the Bible and somehow overlook this aspect, is altogether, quite amazing, for this seems to me to be the litmus test of the question raised by epiphinehas.

    For example, in entering into a discussion, with someone of an Islamic faith, it helps to know, what they accept and what they do not accept, thus it first must be established, what 'type', of Muslim they are, Sunni, Shia, Wahabi, etc etc, for not all hold the same beliefs. The same can be said of nominal Christian, for example there is a vast difference between a practising Roman catholic and a southern Baptist as from a Christidelphian and a Mormon. How are we to reason, if we are unaware of the beliefs of others? It cannot be done, or it must be done in a very limited sense.

    The example and precedent was set buy Paul, who in a very wonderful way, with all due respect, recommended his form of worship to others. Here is the Passage, Paul before Festus and Agrippa.

    (Acts 26:24-29) . . .Now as he was saying these things in his defence, Festus said in a loud voice: “You are going mad, Paul! Great learning is driving you into madness!”

    But Paul said: “I am not going mad, Your Excellency Festus, but I am uttering sayings of truth and of soundness of mind.  In reality, the king to whom I am speaking with freeness of speech well knows about these things; for I am persuaded that not one of these things escapes his notice, for this thing has not been done in a corner.  Do you, King Agrippa, believe the Prophets? I know you believe.”  

    But Agrippa said to Paul: “In a short time you would persuade me to become a Christian.”  At this Paul said: “I could wish to God that whether in a short time or in a long time not only you but also all those who hear me today would become men such as I also am, with the exception of these bonds.”

    Thus it is evidently clear, that Paul, appealed to Agrippa on the basis of his knowledge of the Prophets, establishing common ground and trying to build on that common ground.
  11. Hmmm . . .
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    01 Jan '10 22:49
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    I'd like to broach the difficult subject (from a Christian's perspective anyway) of comparative religion.

    As a Christian I believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). I know there are many in these forums who would take issue with Christ's declaration and that's fi ...[text shortened]... ndoning belief in a religion other than Christianity? I believe, yes.

    Any thoughts?
    Good post, Epi (and good discussion in those that follow)!


    I’m not a Christian (and don’t want to tell Christians what “proper Christian living” is!). So, just some general comments:


    Years ago (when I was a Christian), I saw a debate between a Christian and a Muslim. (Unfortunately, the Muslim seemed to have a better knowledge of the Christian scriptures than the Christian did; but that is another consideration.) But, as The Muslim attempted to deconstruct some Christian doctrine (doesn’t matter which), I realized that he really didn’t have a thorough grasp—it seemed as if the knowledge that he did have likely came from non-Christian sources that were aimed at such a deconstruction from the get-go.


    That got me to wondering about what I thought that I knew about other religions—and I realized that (with the exception of Zen) what I thought I knew had come from the same kind of “outside” and “anti” sources that it seemed that that Muslim was relying on. So, when I started to study some other religions, I tried to rely on (1) a range of sources from within that religion (and not primarily the “puritanical extremist” sources within any religion, thought they have to be taken account of as well); and (2) sympathetic scholars who, while not members of the religion they had achieved knowledge of, seemed focused on simply understanding it. I also try to get into the spiritual “aesthetics” of that religion as well—which often leads me more into one particular expression of that religion; as do my own biases (e.g., I tend to search out the non-dualistic expressions).


    And I realized, in the process, that the differences between religions (even religions that are “relatives” (like Judaism and Christianity) are often pretty paradigmatic—so that, even if they use similar, or the same, terms and language (at least as translated into English), they often understand them in such radically diverse ways that each does not always really understand what they think they understand about the other.


    Now, I recognize that Christianity and Islam are both largely “evangelistic” religions, in a way that (most, anyway) others are not. That’s okay with me. I’m not at all offended by it. (And some religions—or at least some versions of them—are elitist/exclusivist in ways that I can’t relate to; but I’m not offended by that either.)


    I don’t think someone can be blamed for not studying other religions thoroughly, anymore than someone can be blamed for not studying cross-cultural cuisine. It’s either of interest, or it isn’t. I also don’t think anyone can be blamed for having misunderstandings about what they have not studied, or studied deeply enough—we all have those; no one can know everything. And argument on a site like this is a good way of grappling with such misunderstandings. But— Who am I to insist to a Hindu how that Hindu “must” understand her own religion?! (Or a Christian, or a…?)


    Anyway, good post; and it’s an interesting discussion so far…
  12. Hmmm . . .
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    01 Jan '10 22:551 edit
    Originally posted by FreakyKBH
    [b]Any thoughts?
    Well, you asked...

    IMO, it is imperative that Christians be intimately familiar with all the religions of the world, out of respect for those people who may genuinely and wholeheartedly believe in them. Can this be done without giving the impression that we (Christians) are condoning belief in a religion other than Christianity to push with each person... provided we speak the lines written for us.
    [/b]To become 'well-versed' in another's belief system, IMO, smacks of either naiveté, arrogance, or possibly both, but certainly disingenuous. It assumes that I'm going to know more about their religion than they (or, at least as much) and that said knowledge will assist me in convincing them of something they (clearly) overlooked. Convincing is the Holy Spirit's job, not mine. Plus, I would never presume that I can find some 'thing' another has overlooked; I'm operating under the assumption that every person with whom I come into contact is already trying to do their best.


    Well said. And that can be a problem not only for the “partisan” of one religion studying another, but also for “non-aligned” students of “comparative religion”.
  13. Standard memberSwissGambit
    Caninus Interruptus
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    01 Jan '10 23:27
    Originally posted by katp
    May we agree to disagree in love?

    Please agree.

    😉
    Certainly. 🙂
  14. Joined
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    02 Jan '10 00:153 edits
    Originally posted by epiphinehas
    I'd like to broach the difficult subject (from a Christian's perspective anyway) of comparative religion.

    As a Christian I believe that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6). I know there are many in these forums who would take issue with Christ's declaration and that's fi ndoning belief in a religion other than Christianity? I believe, yes.

    Any thoughts?
    This is a huge problem for all Christians working in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. For Catholics in particular, there is an ongoing paradigmatic argument -- is dialogue about mutual affirmation or understanding or is its purpose fundamentally evangelical? The Catholic Church in particular has made very large movements in ecumenism (many of its universities teach it as a separate respectable theological subject) and each country and diocese it likely to have its own commission set up to dialogue with other faiths in its community. The main problem however is before any dialogue even begins, the purpose must first be clarified. As I see it, there are three broad paradigmatic positions, which you have alluded to. I will briefly identify them and then evaluate their merits from a Christian perspective.

    1. The evangelical approach. The evangelical approach is simply to identify all other faiths as wrong and then use dialogue as a weapon for conversion. In this approach, the Christian does not risk any compromise of his faith. He boldly witnesses to his faith. We should not be too negative about this approach, if the motivation is really faith-based, out of a love of God and neighbor. The evangelical approach is not necessarily opposed to learning and understanding other faiths. The Christian evangelist may genuinely read other religious texts not just as a way to discredit the beliefs of his opponents, but also to understand them and improve and facilitate dialogue.

    2. The pluralist approach. In this approach, the Christian says 'There are many ways up the mountain' and therefore sees dialogue as primarily a means of realising other paths to God. The pluralist approach can be divided into two camps: the linguistic pluralists and the religious pluralists.

    a. Linguistic pluralism. The linguistic pluralist denies the ability of language to express the speaker's thought, especially theological thought. So when a Muslim professes his allegiance to Mohammad, he might in fact be professing his belief in Christ. Perhaps in the mind of the Muslim, Mohammad is shorthand for prophethood, morality and the goodness of God, which might be exactly what a Christians means when he says an act of faith. Under linguistic pluralism also comes the idea of 'the anonymous Christian' (coined by the theologian Karl Rahner), in which a person may unknowingly be united in love with Christ, not by an explicit profession of creed but by their inner spirituality and desire for goodness and redemption. While linguistic pluralism does effectively mean that all faiths are equal in word, it technically maintains the salvific power of Christ (it is just this does not need to be explicitly said in Christian terms.)

    b. Religious pluralism. Religious pluralism is the much more common type of pluralism. The Christian pluralist basically says that all faiths are the same. Religion is basically a cultural phenomenon and there is no truth-content to any religion. The Christian admits that he is a Christian because of his family, ethnicity or culture, rather than because of the validity of Christianity. For the Christian pluralist, to be a Christian is to be a member of a Christian culture, not to be united by an assent to a common profession. All that matters is the inner spirituality and in that way all religions are the same except in the rituals, institutions and expressions used to express it. Religious pluralism is like linguistic pluralism in acknowledging the role of culture. Religious pluralism however denies the salvific power of Christ and rather sees this as a Western way of thinking equivalent to Eastern religion.

    3. Invisible unity. I have not actually heard of any official name to describe this approach to ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. It is a particularly Catholic way. Basically, the Christian acknowledges the unique and fundamental role of Christ and his Church. He affirms that salvation lies in faith and baptism and in the Church which nourishes that faith with the sacraments. He affirms that 'there is no salvation outside the Church' because Christ established his Church as the salvific institution on earth; he affirms that baptism is necessary for salvation (whether by actual water or desire.) However, at the same time, the Christian acknowledges that there is fluidity in the Church, no clear-cut dividing line. The Christian acknowledges that there is partial unity with other Christians who practice the sacraments (particularly the Eucharist); there is also partial unity in those who read the Bible. In some way they are united with all members of the Church who are baptised, celebrate the sacraments and cherish the Scriptures. The Christian lastly acknowledges unity with anyone else who seeks God, tries to live a moral life and by the activity of the Holy Spirit is united 'invisibly' into the Church. They are invisible members of the visible Church. This idea of the Church means that dialogue is not primarily evangelical nor pluralist. The Christian must seek to find elements of sanctity which unite that faith with his Church.

    Importantly, these approaches in moderation need not be mutually exclusive. A Catholic engaging in ecumenical dialogue with another Christian would firstly use the third approach. He would recognise in what ways they are united as Christians: their shared biblical passion and spirituality, profession of Christ and possibly use of the sacraments. He would look for elements of sanctity found in both churches. In that process, he would also recognise pluralism, that what the other Christian says might not mean the same thing to both of them and that they are possibly in agreement. Lastly, however, he would seek to correct errors when they are made known. To an Orthodox Christian, he might argue about the theology of the 'filioque', whether it is historically and theologically valid -- but always at the same time recognising their partial unity in profession of the Trinity and possibility of pluralism in talking about the Trinity.
  15. Illinois
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    02 Jan '10 06:56
    Originally posted by karoly aczel
    That was very well put dude!! I think it summed up a "thinking christians" perspective very nicely.

    I wonder how you would view my faith.
    On the one hand I believe in nothing. Now having said that,and bearing in mind that life is a paradox, I actually subscribe to a great many viewpoints.(You could say these great many viewpoints have lead me to my ...[text shortened]... esh breeze coming and the light nearing. Hold on tight to your sanity. Peace.
    Like another poster said , you could've been born in a non christian country. Would you still be a christian then? Honestly?

    It's hard to say. There are Christians in every country on earth. It is possible to have been born into a Christian family virtually anywhere. In my particular case, I wasn't raised to be Christian, even in the midst of a so-called "Christian" country. I've been an atheist, a pantheist, a buddhist, a sufi, an acid-head, etc., long before I knew Christ. I would never have guessed that I'd end up following Christ; in fact, the thought would've severely horrified my old self as I used to harbor strong feelings of contempt for Christians and their boring ways. All this in a country which is supposedly the shining city on a hill (LOL).

    If God is knowable then shouldn't everyone be able to tap into this "unmanifested condition"? I say "yes". Anyone that has had direct experience with "God" wil know that that experience is the primary knowldge.

    Well, if there is anything more difficult to interpret than religious language, it has to be the religious experience. I don't doubt that we are spiritual beings and experiences can be sought and attained, what I doubt is their ultimate significance. How much faith does it take to believe that a specific yogi has reached a level of enlightenment beyond your own? Perhaps some particular feeling of expansion and liberation may be achieved while pursuing samadhi; two people might interpret the same experience in two different ways, one perhaps indicating enlightenment and he acts accordingly, and the other might see the same experience as mundane, a minor blip on the path to the real thing he longs for. These experience may give substance to the religious language one interprets, but there's absolutely no way of telling if the bulls-eye has been hit. I don't see how one can put any real stock in the words of those who are called enlightened, since it is impossible to determine what exactly they're enlightened about. To use vistesd's language, how do we know that their territory applies to the map? Or for that matter how do we know if our own territory applies to the map? If you want claim that it is impossible to pin down what Christ or the apostles originally intended to convey, as if there were no immediate or religious (Judaic) context to help establish their intended meaning, then you should also be willing to part with any suggestion of certainty regarding the supposed 'direct experiences of God' and the questionable authority they impart to those who have them.
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