Casting net too wide dilutes core message
The Rev. Marc Day, associate pastor, Christ Community Church, 1100 Kasold Drive:
When considering the incorporation of aspects from various religions into Christian worship and lifestyle, a distinction needs to be made between cultural preference and theological content. It is often appropriate for Christians to worship in ways that reflect their own culture while maintaining the core content of biblical faith. At the same time, the exclusivity of the Christian message should be recognized, and worshippers must avoid the indiscriminate mixing of various contradictory beliefs.
Jesus himself speaks to the issue of true worship in John 4:23, and in Galatians 1:8, the apostle Paul warns, "But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!" Paul is so emphatic because he knows that worshippers will not experience the freedom God offers through Jesus Christ if the message is diluted. Christians must be discerning about incorporating the worship practices of various religions. Religious practices typically carry with them significant meaning, and followers of Jesus Christ might quickly find themselves on the slippery slope toward a different gospel.
Every major world religion brings with it absolute truth claims. Faith traditions that claim all religions are equally valid are advancing an absolute truth claim. Postmodern philosophical claims of there being no absolute truth are, in fact, absolute truth statements.
The central truth claim of Christianity is that there is only one God and that this God revealed himself in human form through Jesus Christ. The exclusivity of this historical event points to the authority of Jesus Christ in his teachings, his truth claims and his right to be worshiped as Lord. Religious materials or practices diluting this core message have no place in Christian worship and lifestyle.
- Send e-mail to Marc Day at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christianity borrows from other traditions
The Rev. Peter Luckey, senior pastor, Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.:
Yes. At Plymouth, we incorporate aspects of other religions almost every time we gather for corporate worship. We read aloud the Hebrew scriptures (The Old Testament).
When we do this, we are reminded that Christianity is inseparable from Judaism.
After all, Jesus was a Jew. First-century Christians adopted Jewish festivals and made them into Christian celebrations - like Pentecost, which signifies the coming of the Holy Spirit.
For two millennia, Christianity has been pilfering from religion and culture alike. No one really knows the day Jesus was born, and so the church settled the issue by naming a Roman holiday - Dec. 25 - Christmas.
Martin Luther stole tunes from German beer halls and turned them into the great hymns of the church, like "A Mighty Fortress is Our God."
In sum: To say that a Christian should not incorporate aspects of other religions into their spiritual life is silly because the faith itself has freely borrowed from so many other traditions.
The more significant question to be asked is: What traditions and or practices, Christian or otherwise, will nourish your soul?
A Christian seeker once asked the Dalai Lama whether she should become a Buddhist. He responded by saying, "No, become more deeply Christian; live more deeply into your own tradition."
Huston Smith makes the same point by saying that if you are looking for water, better to dig one well 60 feet deep than dig six wells 10 feet deep.
For 2,000 years, men and women as diverse as Bach and Michelangelo, Julian of Norwich and Martin Luther King Jr. have drawn nourishment from this well.
The greatest gift that may come from delving into other religions is that it will whet your thirst to dig more deeply into your own.
- Send e-mail to Peter Luckey at email@example.com.