Saturday, 17 May 2014

Many roads, one God?

The lectionary reading for this week is one that I grew up with as a child - "I am the way the truth and the life, no-one come to the father but through me". It was for many years a passage which underscored my pure faith and belief as a Christian. Nowadays though, I have to say, it troubles me.

Over many years I have worked alongside, and learned to deeply value men and women of faiths different from my own. I recall a local Rabbi who taught me so much about the Jewish faith and what it meant to be a persecuted people. He told me once that he felt protected and cherished by God like a small and tender bird in the hand. He asked me if I felt the same and I can honestly say that I did, and still do. I won't name him, but I am in no doubt that he was a man who walked with God, and I honour his faith. But he did not believe that Jesus was the only way to The Father, and he did not believe that no-one can come to God except through Jesus. 

We reflected that he was a Jew and I a Christian essentially because of accidents of birth, and if our positions were reversed, then as men of faith it is likely that our religious stand points would likewise be reversed.

This week has seen many remarkable events. The world's largest democratic country, with (relatively) free and fair elections. I am referring of course to the magnificent Indian election where a possible 800m people were able to vote and around 90% appear to have done so.

Some of these people will be bad people, there will be many murderers, rapists, fraudsters and the like, but there will be many Hindus Muslims Christians and a myriad other faiths represented in people who live good devout lives according to the faith they were brought up in, each believing that they hold the true way, and that others are mistaken. Are we saying that the vast majority of that 800m will be condemned because their faith is in someone or something other than Jesus?

How then, as today's Christians are we to reconcile this?

C.S.Lewis faced the same dilemma and tried to answer it honestly. In "The Last battle",  he depicts a battle which may well represent the final battle between good and evil - i.e. the people and animals of Narnia versus those of a neighbouring, hostile and country called Calormen who worship a different deity called Tash. It is a battle in which Aslan the Lion is noticeable only by his absence. A Prince of Calormen offers to go through a doorway which he believes will bring him face to face with Tash, a deity he has worshipped honestly since a child believing him to be the true god. What he finds the other side is Aslan who accepts him as a true son. Lewis is saying clearly that whoever you worship, as long as that worship is pure and honest, that God will accept it as his own.

I recently spent some time leading sessions with Christians of different churches some miles away. I asked what had brought them to church. The answer was unanimous - family. One man had attended the church all of his life, even though he now lives next door to one of my own church members and travels a long way to church each Sunday. Why? Because that was the church his parents went to.

If this is true of your church and mine will it not also be true of people who were brought up Muslim? Hindu? Jew? Of no faith?

What do you think?


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