How can Christians give credence to other religions?

To be Christian in today's context means to be deeply committed to one's own tradition, even as one recognizes the validity of other traditions.

Do spiritual practices that are most often associated with Eastern religions have a place in the lives of Christians?

Written By Renée Miller

Just as there is no way of saying with certainty where and when He will appear at the end of the world, so too there is no way of saying with certainty where and when He will manifest Himself to contemplative souls.
Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

In Western Christianity, we have a hesitancy about exploring other traditions, and spiritual practices that are not a part of our own experience. Part of our aversion comes from the theology and doctrines that have been so much a part of our religious formation. But, there is also our own fear that if we expose ourselves to what is outside our tradition, we will in some way diminish our tradition—and even, our faith. In reality, if we are uncertain that our faith can be strong enough to maintain its integrity if it's exposed to what is different from it, then the certitude of our faith is in question.

God is not going to strike you with lightning should you try the Buddhist practice of walking meditation, for example. And no 'evil' will accrue to you if you explore other spiritual practices that are unlike your own. You will find instead, that there are more similarities than dissimilarities between the various disciplines practiced throughout the world. You may also find when you experiment with a practice such as Zen 'sitting meditation' that your own practice of contemplative prayer has new life and energy breathed into it. Or, if you learn how to pray using prayer beads from the Islamic tradition, you are likely to find that you have a renewed appreciation and attraction for the practice of praying the Christian rosary. A bishop friend of mine once said, "We may not agree with others theologically or doctrinally, but we can learn about the holy life from one another." All spiritual practice in the West and the East is based on the desire to dip one's foot into the water of holiness and there is much we can teach and learn from one another about doing just that.

Thomas Merton, clearly an important figure in the life of Christian prayer and spirituality, did not limit his spiritual practices to those of Western Christianity. Toward the end of his life, he began exploring the practices of the East and found that the manifestation of God in his own life was not limited to the spiritual practices that were a part of his own Western monastic tradition. If, like him, you try Eastern spiritual practices, you will find that you are able to incorporate elements of those practices into your own discipline, and your own life of holiness will be enlarged and deepened.

The role of spiritual practice is to bring you more and more into union with God. The time and effort taken to do spiritual practice is richly rewarded because in the unseen depths of your own spirit, God is revealed and your longing is met by Love. It's more important to do spiritual practice than it is to do the "right" or "acceptable" practice as defined by the West. So, experiment. Attend to your deep longing. Your faith will not falter as a result. It will simply increase.

—The Rev. Canon Renée Miller