“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
“O Brahma, lead us from the unreal to the real. / O Brahma, lead us from darkness to light. / O Brahma, lead us from death to immortality…”
“To give oneself up to indulgence is Sensual Pleasure, give oneself up to Self-mortification, the painful, unholy, unprofitable; both these two extremes the Perfect One has avoided and found out the Middle Path which makes one both to see and to know, which leads to peace, to discernment, to enlightenment, to Nirvana.”
“Allah! There is no god but He—the Living, the Self-subsisting, Eternal… His Throne does extend over the heavens and the earth, and He feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them for He is the Most High, the Supreme (in glory).”
“This human body has been given to you. This is your chance to meet God. All other works are of no use. Join the holy congregation and meditate on the Name of God.”
“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
“There is government, when the prince is prince, and the minister is minister; when the father is father, and the son is son.”
“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
In Luke 4, just before Jesus was taken out to a cliff in his hometown to be murdered, he references the II Kings 5 story of Naaman the Syrian. Jesus’s main point in bringing up the story of Elisha healing the general of a foreign army of his leprosy is that God chose a gentile over any of the lepers of his own people—the Jews.
This is a crucial concept for ending our series on world religions. The first installment of this series delivered a critique of Abrahamic religions, those with which we are likely most familiar. The second directed us toward different avenues by which we might better understand the religions of the East and learn from them. And now, for the last post, I want to ask what is to be our posture toward faiths not our own?
Before we can answer this daunting question, I think it will be helpful to identity those features of religion that are shared (of which, there are admittedly few). To a secularist, the clearest common thread is mysticism. Almost every religion holds that there is something—they may not know what, but something—beyond this reality that we can sense and almost touch. And this feature introduces us to one of the powerful privileges of postmodernism: you can recognize each religion’s claim to the supernatural without granting its internal logic or overall validity—that is, you can sympathize with what Hindus say without believing in Shiva.
Beyond this, there is another trait of faith that seems to emanate through all its manifestations: trying to do good in the here and now. Put into Christian parlance, every religion strives to bring God’s Kingdom to Earth. And this deserves a pause, for central to the mission of Christ was his task: on earth as it is in heaven. This common effort of all the world religions forces us to ask even more daunting questions. We must ask if Hosea 2:23 applies to these neighbors on the other side of the planet. We must ask if these infidels stand in the heritage of Melchizedek. This truth demands we consider if John 14:6 applies outward.
These considerations may scare us. But let me sooth you and say, listening to the sages of other religions does not negate the primacy and status of Christ. The Christian is, and always has been, free to gather wisdom from other faiths just as we do different philosophies. But as for ultimate truth, truth that overwrites, not a chosen truth but truth that exists above—it is determined by the divine, the divine we’re made sure of by our conviction in the man of Christ and his church.
Of course I cannot speak with confidence on salvation and the criteria for justification and whatever else—and this purposeful vagueness necessitates continual efforts to share a better and clearer truth—but an animosity is certainly not welcome. Neither even is a separation. God works through every community of faith and he is manifested by them.
Still, regarding salvation, the story of Naaman gives hope. In Naaman’s tale we see that our God is less concerned with right avenues or chosen peoples as he is with making his name known. The name of Israel, his holy nation, is not what saves Naaman, but the mercy of the Lord.