I’m at a gathering of Lutheran Ethicists. Sam Wells was asked a question about his book,”The Drama of Christian Ethics.” What are te implications of his ethical persoective on interfaith relations.
He reflected that the question poses a dilemma. Some people look for an answer that says “We’re right. they’re wrong.” Others want an answer that says, we all believe the same thing in the final analysis. How to avoid both traps.
Since today is Epiphany, perhaps a reflection on the Magi. They are, let us say, of a different religion. God talks to them. Natural science gets them to Jerusalem, but only the revelation of Scripture gets them to Bethlehem.
Walt Bouman spent time with us on natural science. Science is a form of revelation, as Paul says in Romans 1: “Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made.” Even if one sees science as a modern religion, it must be embraced as a way of seeing. So also with Confucianism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism and Hinduism. God can reveal through other religions. Saying Christianity is “right,” (a precarious proposition) doesn’t necessarily mean every aspect of Confucianism is wrong.
Interfaith dialog too often focuses on our differences. I don’t propose skirting them, but this kind of polemical dialog only heightens suspicious and antipathy. Blowing some of those differences out of proportion, as if they are all that matter.
The future of interfaith dialog in a shrinking world may rest more on listening, more time getting to know and understand one another, and more time fanning the flames of those articles of faith on which the great faiths of the world agree. This may not get us to Bethlehem just yet, but perhaps it will get us to Jerusalem.