More Than Just Neighbours in a Multi-Faith World

This weekend I will be co-leading a workshop at “From Peices to Peace: More Than Just Neighbours in a Multi-Faith World“, a conference being run in Sydney by the Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand.

I am basing the workshop around the seven dimensions of religion as a way of opening up conversations about different religions, how they differ, and how this necessitates different ways of dialoging. In particular I want to move beyond the stereotype of interfaith dialogue as doctrinal discussion (given doctrine / theology / philosophy is just one of the seven dimensions of religion, and not even a particularly important one for some religions).

I viewed with interest therefore, John Morehead’s musings on whether Jews, Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God? In particular his critique of writers claiming that “Interfaith dialogue is made possible by monotheism … Polytheism defines dialogue out of existence”. Like John, I strongly disagree, especially from my own experience. Indeed, I have heard polytheists argue the opposite, that polytheism is more suited than monotheism to dialogue. I strongly disagree with that as well of course, but I think it illustrates my point well, the we need to be able to approach interfaith dialogue from a multiplicity of angles.

In particular, I think we need a broad enough definition of religion (and religious experience, religious community, religious teaching, etc) to ensure we don’t exclude different religions from interfaith discussions (unintentionally or otherwise) before we even get started. If the definition is too narrow to encompass eastern traditions (like Buddhism, Hinduism and Daoism) and esoteric traditions (like Wicca, Astrology and Alchemy) then we’ve proscribed the answer before we’ve even asked the question.

Personally I consider the question, “Do Jews, Christians and Muslims worship the same God?” to be a bit of a furphy. It presumes a binary answer, a simple yes or no, when I think an … err, yes and no … answer would be far more authentic. After all, while you may get a rousing agreement by asking them, “Is God one?” I doubt you’d get so unified a response by asking, “Is the Father and the Son then one?” What then can we say together about prayer to that one God? It’s complicated. Even more so if you welcome polytheists to the conversation. So lets not superimpose simplicity so prematurely or artificially. Let’s ask “open” rather than “closed” questions of one another.

5 Comments

  1. Many a times inter-faith dialogue can get stuck in theological issues which can go on in circles. My experience is that what helps is if people focus on the ethical and moral dimensions of their faiths and use that to chart a concrete path to make the world a better place across faith traditions.

    Like

  2. Yes, I’ve seen a number initiative like that, where people of different faiths rally around a common cause and build relationships between each other in the process. One particular one that comes to mind is a multifaith school in Palastine that was initiated by Muslims, Christians and Jews working together.
    The same could be said of the other dimensions too though. The material / creative arts dimension comes immediately to mind. I have seen multifaith art festivals that worked well and have personally participated in a Pagan Drumming Circle as a Christian. Music is a passion of mine and I am happy to jam with people who share this common interest. Fascinating insights and frienships came come out of these conversations.

    Like

  3. The Bible does not teach interfaith, it teaches one truth:
    (Ephesians 4:4-6) One body there is, and one spirit, even as YOU were called in the one hope to which YOU were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all [persons], who is over all and through all and in all.
    In the first century it was the Christian congregation that had been established at Pentecost 33 CE. In time – even before the death of all the apostles – Jesus’ teachings were no longer followed. An apostasy that he foretold began to develop. In order to win pagan converts, Bible teachings were watered down and pagan teachings and philosphies filetered into the Christian congregation. Jesus, however, said that true worship would eventually be restored. Isaiah also prophesied it (Isaiah 2:2-4)It has been restored, by honest hearted individuals who are interested in doing God’s will and not man’s. They:
    1. Base all their teachings on the Bible
    2. Worship only Jehovah and make his name known as Jesus did
    3. Show genuine love for one another.
    4. Accept Jesus as God’s means for salvation
    5. Are to be no part of the world.
    6. Preach God’s Kingdom as mankind’s only hope.

    Like

  4. Matt, I was so glad I was there at the conference! It was quite miraculous, really… spending the weekend in a context where I saw that people of apparently opposing viewpoints could actually have genuinely gracious and warm social experience together. This was, surprisingly to me, as a radical Jesus follower, NOT entirely because of finding some kind of syncretistic (possibly false?) commonality, but, in fact, largely BECAUSE of being willing to affirm each other in DIVERSITY of opinion.
    I learned a tremendous amount from the closer study of salient Scriptural texts which the diverse speakers helped us to explore and unpack, as well as from the less cerebral learning methods employed by creative arts facilition, several of which were interspersed in the weekend’s conference programme… some were intentional and some were unintentional, but learning experiences, nonetheless!
    Graciousness and good-spirited humour amongst people who could have chosen to perceive each other as “anathematical other”, but instead chose to humble themselves and actually listen to and learn from one another was a taste of what transformation through the Spirit of God could really be like! My hope, faith and love for people were truly increased through this unexpectedly blessed experience…
    Thanks for your contribution to the weekend’s activities!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s