Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Inter-Faith Relations

Marcus Braybrooke says this in his Time to Meet (pp. 89-90):

At any meeting where the subject of the relationship of Christianity to other faiths is discussed, someone is sure to quote the words, "No man cometh to the Father but through me" (John 14:6). Critical scholarship has made clear that the words of Jesus quoted in the Fourth Gospel should not be treated as his actual words. Equally important, although claims to unique authority were implicit in Jesus' teaching, historically at least, christological claims in the New Testament have to be treated with caution ... Many New Testament scholars now recognize that Jesus' own message centred on the kingdom of God rather than on himself. Further, traditional understandngs of the doctrine of the incarnation are being re-examined. Some writers suggest that overmuch emphasis on Jesus has obscured the fact that Jesus leads us to the Father, the one God of all humankind."

In response I contend: (1) Regardless of the dominical origins of John 14.6 it is still part of the church's witness to Jesus, it is cross referenced by Acts 4.12, and thus not merely a Johannine eccentricity (in fact, John 14.6 was the first memory verse that I taught my eldest daugher). (2) The old addage that Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God and the Church proclaimed Jesus is a half truth. Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom but there was always an implicit element of self-reference as it was his ministry of proclamation, exorcisms, and healings which are the means by which God's kingdom was breaking in (see esp. Lk. 11.20). Moreover, in the Gospels, the lines between divine author and divine agent are blurred as Jesus' authority becomes that of one who shares the very throne of God (e.g. Matt 22-24). Jesus also speaks in such a way as to imply his own pre-existence. (3) As for the incarnation being re-examined, I think Braybrooke means dumbed down or denied (e.g. John Hick The Myth of God Incarnate). I will never forget hearing a doctoral student at the University of Queensland try to tell me that panentheism is the best model for explaining the incarnation. (4) The rest of Braybrooke is pretty much Adolf von Harnack's "Das Wesen des Christentum" regurgitated - believe with Jesus not in Jesus, love of God and brotherhood of man. Ultimately, Niebuhr is correct about this entire approach: "A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross." (5) Ultimately Christians believe in the all exclusive claims of the all inclusive saviour. That doesn't mean that Christian cannot relate to peoples of other faiths in positive terms. There are shared values and common ideals across religious frontiers, a common concern to end human suffering, a desire to stop religious differences descending into religious violence, engineering transparency and mutual understanding across religious communities, and promoting the freedom of religion. People of all religions also experience common grace and general revelation.


The Mr. said...

But what will that kingdom of God look like? What Jesus said, or like Muhammad said? And won't what that kingdom is like reflect a lot on what God is like?

Even if you throw Jesus out of it and say he is not the revelation of who God is, you are still stuck with questions of what God is like, what he desires of us, how we ought to live. And different faiths do not answer that the same way. So is God confused if he is working through them all? Seems like a crummy god.

I think inter-faith dialogue is at its best when the different faith's are able to offer what direction their faith takes them to one another, but not when we say they are all taking us to the same place in how we live, etc.

Jason B. Hood said...

Michael, what do you make of McLaren's take on the same:

Gordon Kennedy said...

Thanks for this Mike, a helpful reminder and encouragement.
Recently I've been involved in conversations on Inter-Faith relations in the Church of Scotland, it is good to remind myself of the uniqueness of our glorious Lord Jesus.