So now my agnostic friends are actually worried about my faith. My nonbelieving friends are concerned for the state of my beliefs!! That's when you know you've gone over some line.
Well at least it provides fodder for the blog. Here's what I wrote to this guy:
Let me do a little defining. [this in response to his saying: "for me, it is impossible to come up with a way to reconcile Christianity with, say, Hinduism, or most Buddhist strains. Certainly with Islam."]
First, actually, Islam is much closer to Christianity than Hinduism or Buddhism (the latter doesn't even acknowledge a diety!). Islam considers Jews and Christians "people of the book", meaning saved and worshippers of Allah. Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship the same God, the God of Abraham. Jews stop there, Christians add Jesus, and Muslims add Mohammed (and also recognize Jesus). Bahai's recognize all as prophets and add Baha'u'llah.
The question at hand for most Christians is whether God is concerned with people acknowledging Jesus as God's son. I've been questioning the degrees to which God will exclude a person from God's kingdom or life simply because this condition is not met (for whatever reason). Frequently I think that Christians and the Institution have screwed up the faith so much that people can hardly be held responsible for rejecting it. And that often means rejecting Jesus because he's part of the package of Christianity.
But then you look at someone like Ghandi who didn't like our religion but loved our Savior. And lived by his teachings. I can't not believe Ghandi was part of the Kingdom. I really think we are known to God much more by our actions and our searching for Truth than by praying a magic "prayer of salvation". Oh, but the actions and the searching include, usually, attending a church (or other faith group) that provides a spiritual community and a context for one's search.
As I've said, I still believe Jesus is the son of God, and he's the best way to know God. So that does not make me a pluralist. But I also don't think it's my problem who's going to be happy in the afterlife. I do think it's my problem who's fulfilled and blessed in this life. And if that means I share with them about Jesus' teachings or I simply give them a dollar, then that's what I should do.
Oh, but it's important that it's not all deeds. I mean, that's how we see it, how we know each other. But the effectiveness of being able to enter God's life (or the Good Life if you prefer) was done by Jesus/God when he(they?) Incarnated and lived here and let us kill them and rose again. Then there was hope. But that's all heavy theology that doesn't interest you, I bet. The point of it is that Jesus didn't only give us a good way to live our lives - he did something that I don't completely understand that opened up a way for us to enter God's life more fully. A way for this world to head back towards its creator. A hope that things could in fact get better and not continue to get worse.
My Jewish friend says the world needs repairing and we're here to repair it. I believe Jesus gave us the blueprint for doing so (it's a scary one, though - self-sacrifice. Heebie jeebie if you ask me).
Anyway so when Jesus did whatever he did (haven't taken systematic theology yet so I'm not sure), he saved everybody. The thing I'm thinking lately is that what God did was big enough for all of us, not just those who believe a certain way. Our systems don't need satisfaction, and I don't think God works in systems. I think God wanted to save everybody and so God did it.
The difference between us, I think, is that I can swallow the entire Christian worldview (while also criticizing it) and still accept that Truth-seekers exist in all faith traditions (and "no faith" traditions). But believing this doesn't mean I don't think there's a best way to Truth, nor that I think true seekers won't eventually find the same Truth I've found (ah, there's the rub!). But I don't think it has to be in this lifetime. I have a theory that there will be a lot of people realizing Jesus is actually God's son after they die - and that's not going to mean they don't get to spend forever with him. After all, on earth they were partners with him without knowing it fully, so why not continue that after life? These are not things I can say to my friends in other faiths - they are offensive. But they are what I believe in my heart of hearts (wherever that is). And I will say them to people like you who should know better than to doubt. :-)
What you need to know is that there are Christians who believe this wacky stuff like I do (and more - a couple comment posters on my blog have great sites - I recently found a very cool Quaker, the Velveteen Rabbi (awesome name), and there's always Dylan at Sarah Laughed). Not all Christians are Evangelicals. And I think you'd be very comfortable affiliating with a group that is more like me and John. We do get to have all that wonderful community and music at church. And there's that cool mystical element. It really does add something deeper to one's life - you're more in touch with the cosmos or something.
Anyway, that's about as close as I'll get to evangelism. Sorry to lay it on so thick (though you kind of set yourself up). I want you to know that I don't see myself losing my faith over all this. In fact, it is getting stronger - but it's also widening (which is fine, because I believe God's mercy is very, very wide).
Well now I've written a blog entry. Thanks for the help with that!
In Conclusion...not from the email but just read to me by J:
C.S. Lewis: "There are people in other religions who are being led by God's secret influence to conentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it." (Mere Christianity)
"All the paths that lead to God end up at Jesus, but they do not all start with him." (Mark Heim, Is Christ the Only Way? Christian Faith in a Pluralistic World)
both quoted by Clark H. Pinnock in Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World
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Aha.. Interesting. Quite informative, because I haven't had much time to study the different religions myself.
Lewis also addresses this in the last book of the Narnia series, The Last Battle .
Thank you for the kind words!
I'm loving this set of posts -- I'm so glad you're sharing this conversation with us.
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