Sunday, 3 November 2013

Can we preach the Good News and still respect other faiths?

So here we are with the second of the evangelism triplet:

Can we preach the Good News and still respect other faiths? 

This is one of the really interesting and challenging of questions in that it finds itself occupying the same framework and considerations that those who ask the questions about the sort of church people should come back to and the 'exclusivity' issue that troubles so many in terms of having 'One god many iterations'.

First and foremost we have decide what position we occupy with regard to God. As I understand it there is but one God - that's the teaching of the Christian Church. God has three separate natures but is of one substance (take a look at ousios and the blasted trinity posts elsewhere on this blog) and Christianity it a monotheistic faith (mono = one, theos = god) and so I have to say that the 'all the same god - just a different name' approach does not fit with my own belief (as a Christian). 


The question uses the term respect and the answer to that is that unless one respects other people and their beliefs (or lack of belief) then our own faith and professed Christian attitudes are hollow and valueless. I have relationships with people of many and no faiths and I am especially impressed by the commitment and devotion shown to their faith as Muslims. We share our respective faiths and often find that we coalesce (no surprise there when one considers the history of Islam) but I'm sure we both also present our beliefs in mutual respect and the hope that the other will come and join us. I have people I consider to be friends (not bessies - but nevertheless they are friends) and whilst I respect (and even enjoy) their views - I still would love to see them come and join my club (and I assume they would like the opposite and have me join them).

I respect the fact that other people think and believe differently to me - although I sometimes worry when they're in the same church (locally or denominationally speaking) - but I believe that what I have found is the right path and therefore, having found something I consider worth having, I want to share it with others. I do the same with good magic shops, eating places and the like - it's called being in relationship!

But being in relationship with God (for I don't do religion) means that I bring Him into all my dealings and relationships and so whilst respect is present, so too is God.

So the answer to the question has to be: We cannot preach the Good News to others unless we respect them and their beliefs. We are called to be ellenctic and this form of dialogue demands that we speak and listen (the first being so easy where I'm involved and the second always a hard task) equally and afford people the rights, respect and dignity, that our faith demands.

Looking back to Micah we find ourselves being made aware that God expects justice, mercy and humility and these three are met under the label 'respect' - respect for self, for others and for God.

The problem is that some of my friends tell me that we must never try to share our faith with Jews because they are the chosen people. They continue that we must never try to share our faith with Muslims because they are, like us, an Abrahamic faith. They then tell that we mustn't tell people of no faith because we are being superior to them and we mustn't try and evangelise this religion, or that religion, or ...  because then we are causing division and being exclusive and other negatives besides.

We are told that we are to share the Good News (and that's the Gospel truth) and that we should go and do it without hesitation - in and out of season (that means when it's popular and when it's not - when we feel like it and when we don't feel like it) to ALL people (Abrahamic, Jewish, none and cultic).

So the simple answer is 'Yes' - the difficult answer is to be found in the bits above this sentence :-)


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