This is a page that focuses on religious and theological issues, as well as providing comprehensive teaching from a classic Catholic perspective. As you read the articles, it is my hope they will educate and bless you.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Christians and Other Religions - a Primer

Being in graduate school has been a challenge, and after a course entitled "Christianity and World Religions" recently it has compelled me to address this issue from a more orthodox approach than some of the textbook material we have read.  As I relate what I am talking about tonight, it is important to remember that we who are Christians have the fullness of truth in Jesus Christ, and our salvation is based on the Scripture in John 14:6 - Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation, case closed!

What is our response to other religions as Christians, especially in a more pluralistic culture that we live in today?  To begin, it must be remembered that there are people we do have spiritual fellowship with, and others to whom we relate civilly.   That being said, let's talk.

Christians are in a position to where we have the fullness of truth (as Catholic Christians, we have even more than that - the fullness of salvation in the Church), and since we do have that endowed to us, it is not up for debate or negotiation.   However, on a grassroots level, it is entirely possible to get along with, befriend, and respect others of different religious backgrounds, and indeed our greatest witness to those people is showing them that we do respect them without giving full agreement to their belief systems.  Being almost 20 years in the corporate world, I have worked with all types of people - neo-pagans, Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Jains, and others - and for the most part I found them to be kind, courteous, and decent people.  On a grassroots level, we can and should talk to and get to know people like this, while at the same time finding that "bridge" to share our faith and the Gospel with them.  The problem arises when ambiguous language, often spouted from the mouths of ecclesiastical bureaucrats, haughty professors, and verbose theologians and academics of other disciplines, tries to reduce this dialogue into a formula - then you get into trouble!  The textbook we are using in the class for instance, written by a Pentecostal scholar by the name of Veli-Matti Karkainnen entitled An Introduction to the Theology of Religions, paints the Vatican II documents, the theologies of St. Irenaeus, Wesley, and the Anabaptists, and others, as being almost universalistic.  And, what is worse is that many of my fellow classmates, who are a generation younger than I am, buy into it.  Yet, when I read what these great leaders of the faith wrote, I didn't see an embrace of other religions at all, and as a matter of fact, it was Karkainnen who gave them that interpretation rather than they themselves.   But, it gets more bizarre - another book we used, John Kaltner's Introducing the Quran, basically paints the Muslim book as being some great text of pacifism, equality, and tolerance - it is obvious to me that Mr. Kaltner has no sense of history whatsoever, and that is disconcerting when this book is being used at a supposedly Christian university as part of a Theological Studies program.   Yet, younger kids (I call them kids, as my classmates are a good 20 years younger than me for the most part) swallow that crap hook, line, and sinker!  What material like that proves to me is that political correctness is even re-defining theology, and that cannot be tolerated by anyone who loves the Lord and stands for His truth.   And, that is why I am writing this now. 

To begin with, yes, some teachings of other religions have merit as far as they don't contradict Scripture, but a little truth here and there doesn't resolve the fact that these religions as a whole are still false.  The virtues and other things in non-Christian religions that are true are things that verify that at one time, six thousand years ago in the past, God created the heavens and the earth, and all that is within them.  Then, four thousand years ago a flood came, and Noah and his family were spared to repopulate the earth.  But, sin entered the world when Adam bit into that apple, pomegranate, or whatever that fruit was from the Tree of Knowledge, and Satan's lie is that man could become God.  Sure enough, a few short centuries after the Flood, Noah's descendants sought to build a tower, and God said "NO!" and scattered them.  Did all these people know something about God?  Yes, they did!  And, did not God create them, endowing them with a nature that carried some sense of ethical discernment?  Yes, He did!  Therefore, when a Jain values integrity in business dealings, or a Buddhist has respect for life, not to mention that some things such as sexual sin, over-indulgence, and murder are still universally taboo, it just means that some vestige of that original truth, of which the Judeo-Christian tradition possesses the fullness, exists in those people.  And, indeed, those virtues can be used to reach these people!  However, over the many millennia since Babel, as populations dispersed, a lot of error, mythology, and demonic revelation got mixed into the mindsets of these same people, and although they started off asking the right questions, they ended up at the wrong answer, thanks in part to Satan and his deception.  Many scholars these days criticize missionaries of the past - scholar Allan Anderson, a reader in Pentecostal Studies at the University of Birmingham in the UK, is one of them - by saying they were "racist" or "ignorant" because they saw the demonic forces behind pagan idols, and with their own eyes many of those dedicated missionaries were on the front lines battling very real manifestations of the demonic and knew what they were encountering.  Yet, political correctness has infiltrated theology, and people like Allan Anderson are actually sanctifying demonic bondage by saying that "no religions are evil," and that demons are a figment of a vivid imagination - people like Anderson have even gone as far as to call missionaries "liars" with "exaggeration to pull heart strings and purse straps" despite the fact that many of those same missionaries have reached more people for Christ than many Ivory-Tower scholastics ever will.  That being said, let me give my theory as to the origins of these religions.

Back in the day, after the Fall of man in the Garden, some fallen angels saw the "daughters of men" and lusted after them - they procreated with those girls and birthed a race of quasi-human beings of large stature called later the Nephilim.  Due to the origins of these creatures, they could not be redeemed, and ultimately their creation was a plan of Satan to thwart God's plan.  When the Nephilim died, their disembodied spirits became demons, which means the latter are not fallen angels, but rather the seed of fallen angels.   Genesis records that these Nephilim were giants, and "mighty men of renown," and to me that would speak of the mythologies of the half-god/half-human figures such as Gilgamesh (some believed him to be synonymous with Nimrod, incidentally) and Hercules - yes, I am saying these mythological figures had a basis in fact, and that they were real persons!  Two things happened after their days ended though.  The first was a series of legends that evolved into an elaborate mythology, and the second was the deification of demonic spirits as gods by different civilizations.  And, that is the origin of every other religion except Judaism and Christianity (except maybe Zoroastrians, Mandaeans, and the Confucians in China - the latter is more a civic philosophy than a religion anyway).  It is therefore my belief that behind every pagan idol is a demonic presence being worshipped (hence also the hideous appearances of some of the idols too!), and the head deity of a religious system may well be one of those "powers and principalities" it talks about in Ephesians 6.  This does not mean that all the followers of a religion are possessed themselves by demons, not at all - they may not even be totally devoted to all the practices of a given religion and may be nominal and thus more secularized anyway - but it does mean that the teachings of that religion are the "doctrines of devils" it speaks of in II Timothy.  Therefore, in this age of "political correctness" where the supernatural is often pooh-poohed by supposedly "Christian" scholarship as being fabrication and superstition, it is important to see past all the crap and instead know God's Word and the truth it contains, as well as the testimony of the Church throughout the ages, which would concur with what I have just said in many instances.   I will probably be the object of some ridicule by the supposedly "enlightened," but there are two things I am sure of.  First, I know what the testimony of the whole Church is.  Second, many of these self-appointed "intelligentsia" are themselves called by the Bible fools, because they have exalted their own wisdom to a form of idolatry.  Therefore, let them continue in their folly - I only smile pleasantly at them and say "you'll see one day."  Unfortunately, for some of them it may be too late. 

A lot more could be said on this subject, but we'll conclude for now as I am somewhat exhausted from such a hectic schedule in recent months.   God be with each who reads this, and see you next time.