Jeffrey Gayken's Reply
At the headquarters of the United nations in New York there is a meditation room, "a room of quiet where only thoughts should speak. It has been left deliberately bare so that people of all religions can use it equally to worship the God whom man worships under many names and in many forms," said Dag Hammarshkjold, Secretary General, "it is for those who come here to fill the void with what they find in their center of stillness".
Is this the way ahead for world religions? should they merge their identities, drop their distinctive doctrines, and simply realize that everyone is worshipping the same god? is there any point in staying divided when really all religions lead to god? Is this the antidote to religion?
You wrote saying, "the first thing that you have to get the hang of is that it is possible for two or more people to view one thing in different ways; to describe it, therefore, differently; but to be accurately describing the same thing in ways which may seem self contradictory".
It's an attractive thought on the face of it. If different religions are just attempts to locate God, inside our "center of stillness", or whatever they call it, why can't they all be one?
When we say all religions lead to God what exactly are we including? As William James showed many years ago in his famous Varieties of Religious Experience, "it is very difficult sometimes to define what is and isn't a real religion". Are we including in all religions faiths such as Satanism? Faiths that involve human sacrifice and ritual child slaughter? The sick sadism of the Charles Manson cult and the mind-bending techniques of Jim Jones (who
persuaded nine hundred of his followers to commit communal suicide in 1978)? All religions lead to god? really? Is it possible for everyone to be seeing the same thing (the diamond) but have very different views?
Now if all religions do lead to god then three things follow that are not so attractive. First, none of them tell us anything worth knowing. because they all disagree on the most basic points! Some say God is a person, others that there are many gods, others that God is just an impersonal force. Some say we live once and then are judged; others say we come back for life after life. some claim this world is real; others claim that reality is just an illusion. If all these religions really have an equal claim to be believed, in fact they cancel one another out, and we are no wiser than when we started.
Second, if all religions lead to God, God can't care very much about us, or he would have made his signals a little more clear. what kind of god allows this sort of confusion to continue, allowing the Hindus to believe one thing, the Muslims another, the Christians another, and all of them to fight and argue about it?
Isn't it more believable that, if God truly does care about us, he would make himself clear once and for all in one conclusive revelation, rather than spreading wild rumors around the planet? in fact this is exactly what the bible says did happen:
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son...The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being... Hebrews 1:1-3
And thirdly if all religions lead to god, Christianity is automatically excluded because it claims uniqueness for itself. "I am the way the truth and the life", announced Jesus, "no one comes to the father except through me" (John 14:6). Either you dismiss his claim as an arrogant lie and forget about it, or else you start to consider the possibility that just maybe, in this one way, God did give the ultimate revelation of himself to human beings.
(this surely sheds light on why people find it very difficult to be dispassionate about religion.)
Concerning Paul I would like to point to Some Scripture if for no other reason than to just give food for thought.
We know that his name was Saul of Tarsus, who upon his conversion became the Apostle Paul. He wrote at least twelve letters which have been included in the new testament. I want to ask the Question, "Should we accept this mans writing as being Gods Word?"
Paul claimed that he was, "an apostle, not from men, neither through men, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father". (Galatians 1:1) He was an apostle, one who had seen the risen Christ. "Am I not an apostle?" he asks rhetorically, "Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?" (1 Corinthians 9:1) He was therefore, in a position of authority in the early church.
The apostle also received a unique revelation from God. "The gospel which was preached by me...is not after man, nor was I taught it, but it came through revelation of Jesus Christ", he says (Galatians 1:11-12). This calling was given to the apostle at his birth: "It was the good pleasure of God, who separated me, even from my mother's womb...to reveal His Son in me" (Galatians 1:15-16).
The divine message which Paul received was transmitted correctly to both the churches and the individuals to whom he wrote. He tells Titus, "God, who cannot lie,...in His own seasons manifested His word in the message, wherewith I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior" (Titus 1:2-3).
He went on to say, "For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men but God, who examines our heart" (1 Thessolonians 2:3-4).
The revelation given to Paul was a yardstick by which to gauge other so-called revelations: "If any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed" (Galatians 1:8). His message bore the stamp of divine authority: "If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment" (1 Corinthians 14:37).
In Puals first letter to the Thessalonians, he made his authority crystal clear: "And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God's message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe" (1 Thessalonians 2:13). "Thus, he who rejects this is not rejecting men but God" (1 Thessalonians 4:8).
The disciple Simon Peter confirmed the fact that Puals writings were of divine authority: "And regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:15-16).
Therefore, Pual, who was called by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself on the Damascus road, writes with the authority of God. He was God's chosen instrument to reveal the mysteries of Christ Jesus, for without his writings, the explanation of the death and resurrection of Christ would be incomplete.
Can I here inject three reasons to at least consider?
If you are reading this line than the answer to my above question must have been yes. First, the Christian idea of God satisfies more of the real needs of human beings than any other. The great eastern religions talk about a god who is ultimately impersonal, a force, like electricity or the wind, what C.S.Lewis called, "an infinitely extended rice pudding". the traditional western religions talk about gods who are human all right, the pantheon of Greece or Rome, the Norse gods, but they are not very divine; they lie, cheat, fornicate, brawl and fall out of heaven. Only in Christianity do you find a god who is both transcendent and personal and who has come so close to human beings that he was actually born as a human baby.
Second, Christianity fulfills people as nothing else can. Vijay Menon was a proud Hindu, with a deep knowledge of Islam and nothing but scorn for Christianity. But he came to see that he was missing the greatest thing in life by rejecting Christ. "I know that Jesus is the only way", he says today, "in other religions people are always seeking, always looking at what man has written about God...now I love God out of thankfulness for what he has done for me".
Third, and this is a clincher, Christianity lays itself open to verification as no other religion does. The Bible insists that you can prove to yourself, in your own experience, whether Jesus' claims were true or not. All you have to do is invite him to take charge of your life and transform your experience. "If anybody is a Christian", claims the bible, "he is a brand new person inside" (2 Corinthians 5:17). If you give your life into Jesus' control, and nothing happens than you have disproved Christianity.
But as millions have found, Jesus never lets people down, he keeps his promises. and the experience of reality and friendship leaves no room for doubt.......
(Resources taken from different authors)
Latest update 23rd Sept '98, layout updated July 2013
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