As Iron Sharpens Iron

An ongoing and online discussion between: an Orthodox informed Ecumaniac without a denominational home, an ordained Baptist youth pastor with an open mind, a Calvinist worship leader/seminarian with a staggering vocabulary and ability to make a point, and a cradle Catholic with a love/hate relationship to Rome.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

"My religion is like no other."

One of the things I tend to notice Christians doing is trying to make Christianity "completely different" from everything else. I also seem to see some Orthodox Christians trying to do the same thing. There is actually a problem with this way of thinking.

Having something be "completely different" doesn't make it true. In fact, it may indeed lend credence to the idea that it is not true at all. There are many many ways that Christianity is very similar to other religions (and Orthodoxy to the rest of Christianity).

You can't go around basing your faith in Christ on the ability to hang on to a 'difference' between Christianity and something else. It just doesn't work. You have to hang on to Jesus...a living person...who is God. It's the only way.

Here are some examples of how 'Completely Different' thinking works:
  • Some New Agers agree that the kingdom of God is within you. Some scholars, wanting Christianity to be 'completely different' from New Age thought, go to the Greek and decide that it says "among you' instead of 'in you'. Voila. Now we don't agree with the New Agers. However, we are now no longer in agreement with the Fathers.
  • Someone makes a convincing argument as to why religion is bad. We want to be 'completely different' from other religions, so we claim that Christianity is not a religion.
This type of thinking has to stop. First of all, it ends up distorting the faith, because we keep feeling that in order to combat culture, we have to makes changes to the faith itself. Also, it causes us to be failures at evangelism because we end up developing a "view" of other religions and of Christianity that is distorted.

I don't know how many times people from other Christian churches had to correct my thinking when I first got on the internet and actually met people practicing those religions in chat rooms. I thought I had all the answers, having been raised in a smattering of Protestant churches (Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Foursquare, non-denominational) and progressing through Roman Catholicism. I found out just how distorted my thinking really was.


Blogger fra edwin said...

One of the reasons I do not like "Tridentine" Catholicism (Catholicism which is based on the strictures of the Council of Trent), is that it is a very, very reactionary version of Catholicism. In its attempt to hold onto itself and defend itself against Protestantism (and later the Enlightenment), it hoarded its power to the Papacy and reigned in the immense cultural and liturgical life of the Church. The Church's reaction made the Church much more like what the Protestants accused it of: monolithic and clergy-centered. Worse, in an attempt to diffuse Protestant criticism, it de-emphasized the honoring of the Saints and even of Mother Mary making itself in that way more Protestant.

A defensive Church is often a closed Church. The old Celtic Church separated themselves from their Anglo-Saxon oppressors rather than evangelizing them. The Roman St. Augustine of Canturbury warned them that they had open up, but they saw him as just one more outsider. Eventually they were overwhelmed by Pagan aggression and continental tradition.

The Apostles, after the Crucifixion but before Pentacost, were much the same way. They barred their doors for fear of the Jews. I sincerely hope that the breath of the Holy Spirit will enliven and vivify all the Churches in Christ that we might, in fraternity, bring the good news to all the world - and blessings to each other.

3:04 AM  
Blogger Hajiburton said...


I am happy to read this thread. Just yesterday I was considering the wisdom of repeating, in evangelical company, something I read about the Buddha. It seems that he was capable of great "signs and wonders," (I forget the sanskrit term), but eschewed them because open displays of power tend to deceive and manipulate, rather than enlighten others. This struck me as very similar to Christ's behavior on earth, and the attitudes of the wisest of his ministers in our own time.

To add to your list of false dichotomies, I must raise the oft-touted assertion that "All other religions are about man reaching out to God. Christianity is the only religion about God reaching out to man." This is fundamentally true, but misleading. Most of Christian Religion (that is, the content of its ritual life, its cultus), is actually about man reaching out (in response) to God. And in many major religions (Islam would be a prominent example), God is the prime mover in motivating man to seek salvation. It was Allah who gave Mohammed the Koran, which taught man the perfect way to work out his salvtion. Islam is "submission" to Allah's initiation, not the other way around.
The true crux of the matter is, as Edwin stated, the humanity and deity of Jesus Himself, who, as God-made-Man, forms the core of what is not the only, but the supreme, unbelievable, and paradoxical story of God reaching out to man- it is the crowning act of grace- the step beyond which no other may be imagined. It is Jesus Himself who is unique.

Sir R.F. Burton

8:55 AM  

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