Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Logos In Other Religions

Are other religions wrong? Asked this question to a Christian with Calvinistic-Barthian orientation and they would answer with a resounding “yes.” In the same way, the conservative Protestant view sees other religions as only error and idolatry. Revelation of God is not possible through other religions.

I don’t know if I can still hold that position. I can no longer believe that revelation is the monopoly of the Christian religion. It is true that we have a definitive revelation of God in Jesus Christ, but it does not mean that God could not use other religions to make himself known to human.

Buddhism is more tolerant of other religions than Christianity and Islam. It is tolerant of other beliefs and religions and agrees with their moral teachings. They never fought wars in for their belief. They claim they do not preach and try to convert people to Buddhism. So from its perspective, it will not claim that their religion is right and the others are wrong just like many Christians have often been doing.

As Christians, we can commit ourselves with our church and in terms of the symbols established in that community, and yet believe that for a person in other circumstances, the same God reveals himself in another community and under different symbols. Observing other religion as an outsider we could not make an outright judgment that God reveals himself in that community but just the same we could not deny it.

I agree with John Macquarrie when he says that,
“if we see in that persons of that community growth in selfhood and the workings of grace, can we doubt that God is indeed with them and is making himself known to them? And… should we not rejoice that the grace of holy Being is not narrowly confined to one community or one particular occasion and history of revelation.”
If we reject the notion of an exclusive divine revelation in the Christian faith, then some of the motives that impelled us to mission are no longer operative. A news perspective on a missionary task must be seen here. In fact, the whole conception of mission has been changing rapidly in the last few decades. There is a general disgust in identifying Christianity as western formulations. The direction is to respect the indigenous culture.

Missionary task is no longer bringing an outsider religion by bringing in an outside Christ. If a Christian believes that these other indigenous religions have received a revelation of the same Logos in their own faiths, then we can acknowledge that is some sense the form of Christ is hidden in these faiths. Missionary is not bringing Christ to the non-Christian for the first time, as if he were not there before, but a missionary can think that he is awakening the non-Christian to more explicit awareness of the Christ who is already present in that faith.

Macquarrie further suggests that:
“Christian communication of Christ to the non-Christian would take the form of helping him to recognize Christ in his own tradition and encouraging that tradition to grow into Christ. But clearly such communication would be reciprocal or dialogical. For even if Jesus Christ is the fullness of the divine truth, at any given time are not fully possessed that truth.”
Christ is universal and he can be found in other religions. Missiologists call this phenomena as "redemptive analogies" that are found in all cultures and religions. Missions is not about replacing non-Christian religions by Christianity but it can be seen side by side in an indefinite helpful dialogue until a person grows to maturity in his faith in Christ that is reveal differently in his own culture and religious belief. Now here is a question that may solicit different answers: Can a Buddhist Thai be a disciple of Christ? Your answer is as good as mine.


Bro. Bartleby said...

The wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes; so it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. --John 3:8

I would think it up to the Holy Spirit to know and go to places and persons that I know not. But the places and persons that I do know and meet, I can but share my encounter and everlasting relationship with Jesus, and share is not a monologue, but a dialogue, and I must be confident enough in my own faith to be able to listen respectfully to the other 'half' of sharing, their faith story. And for those without a faith story? I will offer mine in both deed and word for their consideration.

Joey said...

Bro. Bartleby,

Thanks for the comments... as always you have been an encouragement in this journey. I have been learning a lot and your insights are always welcome here.