Interfaith Positions


rabbi sachs

Jonathan Sacks, who is Chief Rabbi of the British Commonwealth, rejects attempts to impose a man-made unity on divinely created diversity.’ He argues for the dignity of difference and that although

God is God of all humanity ... no single faith is or should be the faith of all humanity

Pierre-François de Bethune, a Christian monk, says that he has practiced Zen meditation every day for twenty-five years...

pierre bethuneIt is an experience of radical silence at the heart of an existence in which the Word of God is paramount. This type of meditation, practised as a Christian, but in explicit communion with Buddhism has rejuvenated my religious practice by challenging it to be utterly simple and open....(A)s Christians borrow the methods of hatha yoga, aikidô, dô, or zazen, - practices which begin with the body but engage the whole person -many elements of our spiritual life are overturned. A re-evaluation takes place. Certain convictions that seemed central lose their attraction while other gospel values make a new impact. For those who have allowed their faith to take bodily expression in their whole being, this discovery is very beneficial as it can help to incarnate faith still more.

He is one of those who approach another tradition confident in their own faith own.

Wayne Teasdale suggess that for some people labels lose their meaning. He writes:

Interspirituality honours all the experience and insight of each tradition, and gathers these experiences together into an organic synthesis. We awaken to this synthesis when we walk the intermystical path with an open heart and a capacity to be transformed in our understanding and in our being. When we do that, we can utter, like Raimon Panikkar: “I am a Hindu, Christian, Buddhist”, and more, “I am a Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, Moslem!”

Baha'is claim that the various ‘Manifestations of God’ - including Abraham, Moses, Gautama Buddha, Jesus, Muhammad and the Bab and Baha’u’llah all reflect and manifest the attributes of God, although their teachings vary according to the receptivity and maturity of the people of their era. They all, however, proclaim, one single ‘religion of God.’

Universalists also, whilst accepting the revelations of the great spiritual teachers, reject one definitive revelation. The position was clearly put in a passage in one of the private notebooks of Walt Whitman (1819-92), an American essayist and poet:

walt whitmanThere are that specialize a book, or some one divine life, as the only revelation. I, too, doubtless own it, whatever it is, to be a revelation, a part, but I see all else, all nature, and each all that to it appertains, the processes of time, all men, the universe, all likes and dislikes and developments - a hundred, a thousand other Saviours and Mediators and Bibles - they too are just as much revelations as any. The grand and vital theory of religion ... must admit all, and not a part merely.

Critics, however, suggest that universalism, instead of drawing religions together, has in effect become a new religion and glosses over the profound differences between religions. The United Religions Initiative makes clear that its aim is not to create one united world religion, but that, like the United Nations, it aims to unite religious people in work for peace and human welfare. This would be true of most people who are active in interfaith organisations. Sometimes, however, the word ‘interfaith’ is used to suggest such a universalism as, for example, by those who call themselves ‘interfaith ministers’ and to seek to promote a universal religion.

Devout Sceptics - or Spiritual but not Religious.
There are also many today who do not belong to an organised religious group who may have universalist sympathies. They are people of a spiritual outlook who find inspiration in the writings of holy people of many religious traditions. Some religious thinkers are taking this development very seriously and trying to enter into dialogue with those who think of themselves as spiritual but not religious, although others rather unkindly have called this D-I-Y religion’ (Do it Yourself Religion) or ‘Pick and Mix spirituality’. Interfaith groups vary in their openness to such people and to new religious movements.

Marcus Braybrooke in the Introduction to his anthology 1,000 World Prayers writes:

This anthology, I hope, will enrich the path of all who seek a deeper understanding of the Divine Mystery and the Oneness of all life. Those who are committed to a particular way may gain in appreciation of those who follow a different path, whilst spiritual seekers will become more aware of the vast throng of fellow pilgrims.

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