Friday, December 21, 2012

Learning from Each Other...

In my latest reading of No Other Name? A Critical Survey of Christian Attitudes Toward the World Religions, Paul Knitter interacts with the view that all religions are essentially the same.  Granted, this view acknowledges that the religions of the world have their differences, but it maintains that, at their core, there are commonalities----such as losing self-centeredness and entering a state of harmony with someone or something larger than oneself.

Does God interact with people in other religions----and, by "other", I mean non-Christian?  Suppose that we have a religion that doesn't believe in a personal God.  Does the God of Christianity interact with someone who believes in that religion----even if that person does not recognize that the higher power or transcendent reality with which he is interacting is the personal God of Christianity?

But then I wonder something else.  Suppose that the answer to my questions above is "yes"----the God of Christianity does interact with people from other religions, even if they don't know or think that they are interacting with the God of Christianity.  Does not that imply that people from other religions can learn from Christians, and not vice-versa, since Christians know the truth about the spiritual experience that people from other religions are experiencing?  If Christians are right and other religions are not-quite-right, what can Christians learn from other religions?

Well, maybe Christians can learn something.  I remember hearing Tim Keller say that a good reason for Christian community is that we can get to know Jesus more by learning about other Christians' experiences of Jesus----and we get a richer and broader picture thereby because Jesus does not relate to all of us in the exact same way.  Tim Keller most likely wouldn't approve of my pluralistic application of his point, but couldn't we have the same sort of approach to other religions:  We can learn more about the divine by seeing how others----even people in non-Christian religions----interact with God, as we learn from their experiences and how they conceptualize them?

But then there's another question.  If that's the case, were people spiritually poorer and deficient in their knowledge of God before the era of inter-religious dialogue and multiculturalism?  Well, perhaps God gave them enough knowledge of himself so they could get through.  At the same time, there's nothing wrong with realizing that there is still much to learn, and that knowledge of God can increase over the years.

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