Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Inter-faith Relations, One of Many Ways to God or an Abomination to God?

The October 29th edition of Presbyweb carried a link to the Presbyterian News Service article on John Butt. The Reverend John Butt is a Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) mission co-worker in Thailand. He has served in Thailand for thirty years. The Rev. Butt has been very active in the inter-faith arena in Thailand, teaching at Payap University and becoming the Director of its Institute for the Study of Religion and Culture.

We talked about the great religions of the world, and he said that each of us should consider our own religion to be one piece of the puzzle of “human religiousness”. I lamented the narrowness of religious fundamentalism, and its divisiveness. A well-known quotation by the President of the United States came to mind, “You’re either with us or against us”. While made in a political context, it also appears to apply to many who espouse very conservative religious viewpoints. John says that religious fundamentalists believe that their religion is the “whole puzzle” rather than one piece of the puzzle. It is an “arrogance” that divides rather than unites. He encourages his students to closely examine their beliefs, to discard those that are built on sand and replace them with those of substance.

-Chiang Mai Mail, Vol. IV No. 46.

Butt acknowledged that “reinterpreting” the Christian message in the context of today’s religious world is “risky and it's scary, but it’s also, I think, necessary.”

The point is to build on more solid foundation that is closer to the truth, he said. For example, people should start thinking of terms like Christian, Muslim and Buddhist as adjectives and not nouns, Butt said.

Encountering other religions can help get to the truth, he said.

“We need to learn to respect and appreciate the faiths of our neighbors,” and use it as a way of deepening and enriching our own faith, Butt said.

-Presbyterian News Service, October 26, 2007.

In many instances the Ecumenical Movement has morphed into the Inter-faith movement. Associated Ministries of Tacoma-Pierce County (Washington) is an example of that shift. Their Thanksgiving Eve Worship Service brings together “people from varied faith traditions” to gather together “to pray, to reflect God’s blessings and simply to celebrate being brothers and sisters. Make no mistake, this is a worship service! Faith traditions that participate are “Protestants, Catholics, Latter Day Saints, Bahá’ís, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, members of Unity, Unitarian Universalists, and Christian Scientists.”

Is the Christian faith only one of many ways to God? What does the Bible say about the uniqueness of the Christian faith? What are the ramifications of having “recognized” PCUSA ministries that believe that the Christian faith is but one of many ways to God? Is there a difference between “understand” another religious tradition and “accepting” it as a way to God? And now the toughest question… Has the PCUSA become apostate because it sanctions worshipping other Gods?

The next several posts of this blog will look at the issue of inter-faith relations, paths to God and whether the PCUSA is an abomination in the sight of God.


At 5:20 PM , Blogger Benjamin P. Glaser said...

Those who are seeking "inter-faith dialogue" need to understand how dangerous it is to associate oneself with Baal. Will we ever learn?

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