Posted April 20, 2015
Principles for Interfaith Dialogue and Interfaith Attitudes
live inside a world and inside religions that are too given to disrespect and
violence. Virtually every newscast today documents the prevalence of disrespect
and violence done in the name of religion, disrespect done for the sake of God
(strange as that expression may seem). Invariably those acting in this way see
their actions as sacral, justified by sacred cause.
And, if history is to be
believed, it has always been so. No religion, Christianity no less than any
other, has been innocent. Every one of the great religions of the world has
been, at various times, both persecuted and persecutor. So this begs the
question: What are some fundamental principles we are asked to live out apposite
our relationship to other faiths, irrespective our particular faith?
best in each of our traditions would suggest these ten principles:
that is good, true, and beautiful comes from one and the same author, God.
Nothing that is true, irrespective of its particular religious or secular cloak,
may be seen as opposed to true faith and religion.
2. God wills the
salvation of all people, equally, without discrimination. God has no favorites.
All people have access to God and to God's Spirit, and the whole of humankind
has never lacked for divine providence. Moreover each religion is to reject
nothing that is true and holy in other religions.
3. No one religion or
denomination has the full and whole truth. God is both infinite and ineffable.
For this reason, by definition, God cannot be captured adequately in human
concepts and human language. Thus, while our knowledge of God may be true, it is
always only partial. God can be truly known, but God cannot be adequately
4. All faiths and all religions are journeying towards the
fullness of truth. No one religion or denomination may consider its truth
complete, something to permanently rest within; rather it must see it as a
starting point from which to journey. Moreover, as various religions (and
denominations and sectarian groups within those religions) we need to feel
secure enough within our own "home" so as to acknowledge the truth and beauty
that is expressed in other "homes". We need to accept (and, I suggest, be
pleased) that there are other lives within which the faith is written in a
5. Diversity within religions is a richness, willed by
God. God does not just wish our unity; God also blesses our diversity which
helps reveal the stunning over-abundance within God. Religious diversity is the
cause of much tension, but that diversity and the struggle to overcome it will
contribute strongly to the richness of our eventual unity.
6. God is
"scattered" in world religions. Anything that is positive within a religion
expresses something of God and contributes to divine revelation. Hence, seen
from this aspect, the various religions of the world all help to make God
7. Each person must account for his or her faith on the basis of
his or her own conscience. Each of us must take responsibility for our own faith
8. Intentionally all the great world religions
interpenetrate each other (and, for a Christian, that means that they
interpenetrate the mystery of Christ). A genuine faith knows that God is
solicitous for everyone and that God's spirit blows freely and therefore it
strives to relate itself to the intentionality of other religions and to other
denominations and sectarian groups within its own religion.
9. A simple
external, historical connection to any religion is less important than achieving
a personal relationship, ideally of intimacy, with God. What God wants most
deeply from us, irrespective of our religion, is not a religious practice but a
personal relationship that transforms our lives so as to radiate God's goodness,
truth, and beauty more clearly.
10. Within our lives and within our
relationship to other religions, respect, graciousness, and charity must trump
all other considerations. This does not mean that all religions are equal and
that faith can be reduced to its lowest common denominator, but it does mean
that what lies deepest inside of every sincere faith are these fundamentals:
respect, graciousness, and charity.
Throughout history, great thinkers have
grappled with the problem of the one and the many. And, consciously or
unconsciously, all of us also struggle with that tension between the one and the
many, the relationship between unity and diversity; but perhaps this not so much
a problem as it is a richness that reflects the over-abundance of God and our
human struggle to grasp that over-abundance. Perhaps the issue of religious
diversity might be described in this way:
Different peoples, one earth
Different beliefs, one God
Different languages, one heart
Different failings, one law of gravity
Different energies, one Spirit
Different scriptures, one Word
Different forms of worship, one desire
Different histories, one destiny
Different disciplines, one aim
Different approaches, one road
Different faiths -- one Mother, one Father, one earth, one sky, one beginning, one end.