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Six – Talk 3 – Don’t All Religions Lead to God? Introduction This week’s talk will focus on life in a spiritual supermarket. Being aware of the wisdom and richness of so many different world faiths, all with millions of faithful followers, how can we, or what right do we have, to prioritize one of them? Is claiming one right way to God coherent or acceptable? "Christianity started out in Palestine as a fellowship; it moved to Greece and became a philosophy; it moved to Italy and became an institution; it moved to Europe and became a culture; it came to America and became an enterprise." 1 1.

What does the religious World look Like?

Just to paint the current picture, from a religious point of view this is roughly how the world looks :2 1. Christianity : 2.1 billion 2. Islam : 1.5 billion 3. Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billion 4. Hinduism : 900 million 5. Chinese traditional religion: 394 million 6. Buddhism : 376 million 7. primal-indigenous: 300 million 8. African Traditional : 100 million 9. Sikhism : 23 million 10. Juche : 19 million 11. Spiritism : 15 million 12. Judaism : 14 million 13. Baha'i : 7 million 14. Jainism : 4.2 million 15. Shinto : 4 million 16. Cao Dai : 4 million 17. Zoroastrianism: 2.6 million 18. Tenrikyo : 2 million 19. Neo-Paganism : 1 million 20. Unitarian-Universalism: 800 thousand 21. Rastafarianism: 600 thousand 22. Scientology : 500 thousand 1

Variously attributed to Sam Pascoe, an American scholar and to Richard Halverson, former chaplain to the U.S. Senate 2 Various internet sources consulted, this one was http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html


In the UK : 2.

About 2.5 % of the UK population follow other faiths About 10% go to Christian churches About 80% would do so if they went anywhere at all. Postmodernism

Recent developments in the way we think make the notion of absolute right and wrong rather unfashionable. It is very much the case these days that most people would prefer everyone to be right. “Postmodernism”, as we call it, describes this trend away from thinking in absolute terms. We have all met people who believed that they knew the truth that their opinions were right and everyone else was wrong, and maybe we don’t find it all that attractive. Perhaps we find it all too easy to find holes in their logic and doubt their right to claim what they claim. One example of such a truth claim would be the Christian claim that Jesus is the only way to God and that the Bible is the message of God to us. Postmodernism is very suspicious of “objective reality” and postulates that reality is in the mind of the beholder. We create our own truth, and every culture has its precepts, prejudices and ways of looking at things. Who are we to judge another culture or belief as wrong, for all of us are conditioned by our own culture and language towards certain assumptions and conclusions? We create our own truth, and society creates us. Given that there is no objective truth “out there", whether anyone believes in it or not, all absolutist claims" are viewed with suspicion - as tools with which one sub-culture seeks to impose its values and morality on another. This is seen as a very bad thing. To question or denigrate in any way the viewpoint of another is seen as intolerance, arrogance and a bad thing. Therefore, to say Jesus is the only way to God is Arrogant, Unjust, Unfashionable but most of all “Western”. So, I am not going to argue that it is true; I am simply going to put the case that it is unique. Its truth, in my experience, is something you will encounter, not “understand”. 3.

What all religions have in common?

Let’s assume the answer is yes, just for a moment, all or most faiths have the following in common:1.

That god exists, that man’s allegiance belongs to God and that life is sacred and worth living.

2.

Man’s self-centeredness to be the source of his troubles and seek to help him overcome this.

3.

All seem to contain some version of the “Golden Rule,” that is, that people should love God, but also treat others with the same concern, respect and kindness that they would like to be shown by others. Do as you would be done by is found in most faiths Judaism : but love your neighbor as yourself. - Leviticus 19:18, NIB Christianity: Do to others as you would have them do to you, Luke 6:31 NIB Islam, No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. - Hadith recorded by al-Bukhari, Sunnah


Hinduism : This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you. Mahabharata 5,1517 Buddhism, Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. Udana-Varga 5,18 4.

A moral code of right and wrong behaviour where actions and to a lesser degree, thoughts and motives, determine a person’s destiny.

5.

The belief in some form of existence after death is prevalent (though varies in form) as is some form of ‘judgement’ by God.

6.

Religions generally provide a more detailed system of ethics and a worldview* which supply a stable context within which each person can relate himself to others and to the world, and can understand his own significance. They impart a sense of identity and a direction in life through the medium of values.

7.

Most faiths give people an identity partially posited upon a basic distinction between believers and nonbelievers, ins and outs, a superior in-group and a different and inferior out-group. Most faiths (though not all) exhibit a basic belief in their own monopoly of truth.

8.

However, most profess their religious beliefs enable them to be more compassionate toward other human beings regardless of their beliefs, though we can see that this is not always worked out in practice, and all faiths have been guilty to come degree of persecuting others through zeal (misplaced or otherwise, depending on your opinion).

9.

All religions recognize a sacred realm from which supernatural forces operate; a mediating priesthood and the use of ritual to establish a right relationship with the holy (though ritual used to manipulate the supernatural becomes magic). All but the most primitive religions have a set of writings considered to be inspired, that support their faith and practices.

To this we might add that all faiths, along with all philosophies, sciences and disciplines, contain truth. You will struggle to find any developed stream of thought that is clearly nonsense from start to finish. This is what happens when you want to find similarities, you will surely find them....... Taken from an internet thread/blog The beliefs of many religions have a common ground in that they believe that there is a supreme God or Gods. There is the belief that after death, a person goes to a better place or heaven. When you take two religions, and compare them you'll see the similarities. I remember for religious education, my teacher was highlighting the similarities between Christianity and Hinduism. both are very similar. Both have a trinity idea. Two festivals which Hindus celebrate, has ties with what Christians celebrate. Divali is the festival of lights. Christmas has lots of light. Divali is a time of giving and sharing, doesn't Christmas do the same thing? Then we have Easter. Hindus have holi. It's around the same time, and the both festivals have the same common thread in it. If you want to present all faiths as basically the same, you can find grounds for doing so.


4.

But do they all lead to God?

To compare religions objectively, strictly and meaningfully we have to look beyond moral codes and public holidays, and see what they say about God, and about our relationship with “Him” Or should I say It, /Them/Me/everything........ (i)

Who is God anyway?

Krishna : polytheism and pantheism (many gods and ‘’all is god”) Buddha : God not relevant – agnostic even atheistic in essence Confucius : Polytheistic Mohammed : One invisible God, not incarnate, not really ‘knowable’’ Baha’i : God and the universe are coeternal Christian : God in Three Persons, incarnate in Christ, highly personal and knows and shares our feelings because He experienced them himself. World faiths do not describe God in anything like the same way. They simply are not the same. (ii)

What is he Like?

Judaism and Christianity are the most similar in their idea of God (based on OT revelation). Islam is monotheistic, but concept of God is very different. - A close, personal knowable and predictable God of Covenant - A distant, powerful holy God who is essentially capricious and at whose mercy you lay. Other faiths differ even more markedly and make a vast array of different statements of how to relate to God. In terms of revealing God they cannot be all speaking about the same God as they are different to the point of being mutually exclusive. So not that similar so far except in asserting an ‘’unseen realm’’, a spirit realm. What lies there, however, is radically different. Post modernists have to work very hard to make out that all of these can be right though they can say they are all equally wrong, or maybe they all have a part of truth, somewhere...... (ii)

How do I meet Him?

How do I meet him and be in relations hip with him? In my view, the giver of this talk, this is the only purpose of religion – to encounter God and embark on a relationship with him. All other beliefs, moral codes, religious practices, rituals, and lifestyles stem from that basic foundational step. In Christianity God is revealed through Christ and his Word, the bible witnesses to him God is mysterious and all powerfully but knowable as a God of Covenant, a God of promise, which he cannot and will not break. That promise is enacted through the life death and resurrection of Christ and it is utterly knowable and reliable – we know an assurance of faith and life in God through Christ. The Biblical claim is exclusive, or so it sounds: I am the way the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father (God) but by me. This is unpalatable so, how can we maintain it?


5.

The Uniqueness of Christ

The following assertion describes the Christian view of God, Christ and a relationship with God, within which are some mutually exclusive elements. (i)

Unique in identity

In being God, and being described as the Son of God, central Christian belief leaves no room for co-equal places at the same table, since no other can be the one and only Son of God and be God.

(ii)

John 1:1

:

the Word was God

Pre-existent

:

Colossians 1:15-19

Unique in Purpose

The underlying realisation, claim or assumption in Christianity, is that not only are we not OK with God, but that it matters, and cannot be addressed by ourselves. Man has sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. Christ has come to put that right and only Christ can put that right. Mankind is saved by the grace of God, through Christ, and not by anything we can do ourselves. Whatever good we do stems from our relationship with God, it does not create that relationship. (iv)

Unique in Life as revealed by the Bible Unique in Conception – born by the Holy Spirit but also by man. Unique in Life: Miracles and signs. John 3:2 Forgave sins : a reserved for God alone Unique in sinlessless : Hebrews 4:15 Not claimed by other founders Unique in Death - a death accompanied by apocalyptic circumstances (Mark 15:33) Unique in Resurrection and Ascension

Jesus himself became a perfect sign of God's overwhelming mercy by taking on the punishment due to man because of sin and he became the perfect example of his own teaching of the truth about man by embracing the wood of the cross. He emptied himself, becoming weak, taking the form of a slave--abandoning for a little while his radiant, overwhelming majesty-- to win us (individually and collectively), to woo us, to take us to himself and become one with us, to abandon his life for us and to hand over his life to us. God has revealed himself to the world through the person of Jesus Christ, whose entire life, but especially his passion and death, stand as the archetype of complete self-gift. Jesus' sacrifice, his passion and death on Calvary, exemplify love. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us (1 Jn 3:16). He gave his life for us freely: ``No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.'' (Jn 10:18) In following the example of Jesus' love we become truly human.


6.

So, what about other faiths?

C S Lewis put it like this: If you are a Christian you do not have to believe that all the other religions are simply wrong through and through. If you are an atheist you do have to believe that the main point in all the religions of the whole world is simply one huge mistake. If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all those religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth. When I was an atheist I had to try and persuade myself that most of the human race has always been wrong about the question that mattered to them most; when I became a Christian I was able to take a more liberal view. But of course, being a Christian does not mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions Christianity is right and they are wrong. As in arithmetic – there is only one right answer to a sum, and all other answers are wrong: but some of the wrong answers are much nearer being right than others. What about those who have never heard the gospel ? This question arises because of our own innate sense of justice, and we believe God to be just and fair. The Bible is much more about practical application of faith than about philosophy and our concept of God as relational and loving compels us to be sure that God will be just. The Bible taken as a whole tells us that. As such no one is saved or condemned by their religion – anyone who is saved by God is saved by the undeserved mercy of God through Christ. How does that work? Here is a summary of views. The “Three fold Paradigm” – 3 Views of what happens : (i)

Pluralistic view

All roads lead to God. Aside from the defiant atheists, all people of faith are “in”, sometimes expressed as, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you believe it sincerely). This is popular in a post modern culture because it adheres to the central post-modern article of faith that we are all free to arrive at our own truth. Christian Universalism is similar in saying that Christ’s death was sufficient to save all mankind; Christ is unique but his benefits extend to everyone regardless. (ii)

Exclusive view

This is the logical opposite – only Christians are in, everyone else is out. It provides a clear, firm and solid foundation on which to build a coherent belief system, and there are no vagaries and as little mystery as possible. This I what most people think that Christians believe (and indeed what most Hindus, Muslims and Jews believe about their own faiths. (iii)

Inclusivist view

The inclusivist view asserts Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and no one “comes to the Father but by him”, but regards him as saviour and mediator, allowing the possibility of God extending his mercy to people according to his own sovereignty, and according to whatever grounds He chooses (perhaps people who have lived according to his precepts and character without knowing Christ per se). This view is attractive because it both asserts the uniqueness of Christ and allows for the correction of evidential injustices namely people who have had no opportunity to turn to Christ or those whom God can decide in his mercy to save. The decision is


always God’s – we cannot presume to know anything further than the assurance of our own faith. Christians across the world and throughout history hold differing convictions about this. The bottom line will always be, meet God, meet Jesus and decide your own view for yourself. Do not assume that to be part of the family of the church you need assent to views you do not, or cannot, hold. A Christian is someone who calls out to Christ, not someone who has their doctrine sorted out. Conclusion Christianity asserts that God is love and reveals himself to the world by becoming human and giving himself to us completely, even to a brutal, ignominious death. Other religions profess belief in God or a divine principle and extol sacrifice, but in no other religion does God show his love by handing himself over to his creatures as an example of love. The heart of Christianity is the heart of Jesus Christ, which is both human and divine. Here, the central reality is not some Abstract Principle, some Impersonal Force or some Distant Deity, not some Legalistic, Bean counting Judge or Capricious Emperor. The central reality is a person who's very being is to be a Lover, the person of Jesus Christ. Christ reveals the transcendent love of God and invites us to enter into the most intimate relationship with him. Without Christ's love, life is selfishness and decay, and man can have no peace within himself. Without love there is only loneliness. With love, men can enter into communion with each other to build true unity and lasting peace. The centrality of love in the Christian religion is its greatness and the simplest way to know its truth. Look within yourself and ask, ``Do I want to love? Do I want to want to love?''

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