can Christians accept Christianity as the way to God, and
still give credence to the truth and reality of other religions?
pluralism is a fact of life in North America, and in the world.
To absolutize one's own religion as the only way means that one
sees all of the other religious traditions of the world as wrong,
and dialogue, genuine dialogue, becomes impossible. Conversion
can be the only goal.
affirm, along with many others, that the major enduring religions
of the world are all valid and legitimate. I see them as the
responses to the experience of God in the various cultures in
which each originated. To be Christian means to find the decisive
revelation of God in Jesus. To be Muslim means to find the decisive
revelation of God in the Koran. To be Jewish means to find the
decisive revelation of God in the Torah, and so forth. I don't
think that one of these is better than the other. You could even
say they are all divinely given paths to the sacred. To
be Christian in this kind of context means to be deeply committed
to one's own tradition, even as one recognizes the validity of
use an analogy based on being a citizen of a nation, I can deeply
love my own homeland, cherish it, feel that it's the best place
in the world for me to live, and not want to live anywhere else.
I can do all of that without needing to say, “Our country
is the best one,” or “Our country has the only way
of life that's worth following.” I sometimes think it would
be good for us Americans if we could have a sense of what it's
like to be Dutch. You can be Dutch and love the Netherlands and
be so grateful to be living there without being preoccupied about
being number one, being the best, and so forth. It would be very
good for Christians to be able to love their own tradition deeply
without feeling that they're being disloyal in saying that God
is known in other traditions as well.
different people interpret the Bible often tells us more about them
than it does about God or the scriptures. The old barb "you
can prove anything with scripture" is not entirely true, but
lots of alternative and opposite opinions can find supportive texts.
am especially bothered by those who use Bible verses to promote
a God who is bent on condemning everyone to hell except Christians.
And there are some who go so far as to expect God to eternally annihilate
every Christian that doesn't belong to their specific denomination.
That sounds more like tribalism than the religion of Jesus.
get me wrong. You can make a Biblical case for such extremes. You
can even promote genocide in the name of God if you cite certain
I've never understood why
people would want to worship a God who was meaner than they are.
That's not a God who deserves our worship. What kind of God would
condemn Gandhi and the Dalai Lama to hell? Maybe an unjust, tribal
deity. But that's not the God we see reflected in the life of Jesus,
and it is not the God of healthy Christianity.
Christians speak of God, we look first to the person of Jesus as
the incarnation of God, the human face of God. Jesus did not run
around trying to convert everyone to his religion. He reached out
with compassion and understanding toward those who were outside
his religion, and he treated them with love and respect.
healed a Canaanite woman's child and the slave of an officer of
the occupying Roman legions. He restored a demoniac living in a
cemetery. He touched unclean lepers and a menstruating woman. He
dined in the homes of tax collectors and sinners. His attitude toward
those of uncertain religious virtue was remarkably tolerant, outgoing
and forgiving. In fact, the only people who seemed to rile him were
those who were certain of their own goodness and tried to cast everyone
else in the shadow of their own rightness. He saved his harshest
words for the moralists.
wonder it was the outcast and marginalized who most embraced Jesus
and his message. The people who failed to see him for who he was
were mostly the Biblical literalists. Jesus didn't fit their Biblical
expectations. No messiah was to arise from Galilee, they said. He
broke one of the Ten Commandments when he healed on the Sabbath.
He offered forgiveness freely to all instead of through the Biblically
mandated Temple sacrifice monopoly. And he didn't throw out the
occupying armies like the scripture promised. It was the Bible quoters
who were blind to the good things he was doing. They couldn't see
him as God's person because it didn't fit their Bible verses.
many good Christians continue to make the same tragic mistakes.
They fail to see the goodness and authenticity of those outside
their own circles.
The fruit of the Spirit is "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and temperance." (Galatians
5:22) Wherever such Spirit is manifest, in any culture or religion,
that is the Spirit of God being manifested. Christians name that
see Jesus in the Dalai Lama, and, were we to meet, I would be honored
if the Dalai Lama could see the Buddha-nature in me. When we follow
a God who is big enough to have been revealed in many various cultural
expressions, we open ourselves to the possibility of being spiritually
enriched by religious pluralism rather than threatened by it.
worship a great God who loves this creation and its creatures. God
will go to any length to be in communion with us, even unto death.
God is revealed in every time and in every culture, not just in
mine. And I believe God intends to lose nothing
of what God has made. If God can make resurrection out of the evil
of Jesus' crucifixion, then God will find a way to bring blessing,
healing and new life to all.
Rev. Lowell Grisham
is a matter of debate within the faith communities. Each of the
world’s primary faiths would claim that it is the one way
to God. I prefer to think of God as one and our responses to God
as partial and inevitably flawed. Each
faith, then, might have a piece of the truth.
English Biblical translators inserted “the” into the
text, in the original Greek manuscript Jesus described himself as
“way,” not “the way,” suggesting
that we could come to God through him, but that other ways might
exist, as well. That idea is offensive to some Christians.
seems to me that we each make our choice as to which way we will
follow. What matters then isn’t that our way be absolutely
correct, but that we make a sustained and faithful effort to follow
our chosen path to God. Our way must withstand scrutiny –
we can’t just create a faith that suits our fancy –
but it need not be the way that others follow.