Ecumenism

October 6, 2010 at 6:30 am | Posted in Christianity | 5 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Everyone has a cause or number of causes that they are passionate about. We seek out others of like mind to band together and make our voices heard. Depending on the cause, we may or may not agree with everything said and we weigh the causes based on this. Recently, Glenn Beck held a rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that drew 300,000 – 400,000 people. The rally was labeled as a religious one and not a political one. Among those gathered were Muslims, Mormons, Evangelicals, Catholics, and other faiths. Throughout the day, the group was encouraged to turn to God and to rule themselves. This brings me to a question that I think that the church needs to consider very carefully.

What God is Glenn Beck talking about? Mr. Beck talks about God and uses many Christian terms when he addresses religious topics. But, is his “God” the same as the one found in the Bible? To a large number of people, this doesn’t seem to be something that they consider. If someone talks about God, is that enough? If someone of a different faith feels the same as you do on an issue can you work together? I’ve heard many people complain when someone brings this up. “He (or she) is a good person and they are trying to get our country back to God”. Which God are they “bringing us back to”? If it’s not the God of the Bible, it’s not the right God. At one point in Glenn Beck’s rally, a number of Catholic priests, Muslim Imams, Protestant pastors, Mormons, and Jewish Rabbis all linked arms on stage to show their solidarity. Should this have been done? Can Christians and Muslims work together? Jews and Catholics? I don’t think so….The idea of all of these different religions working together is called ecumenism. It has become more and more common lately and it is a danger.

To help explain why I feel this way I wanted to show the basic beliefs of these major religions and why they are incompatible. All of these different religious leaders are trying to lead their followers according to the tenets of their faith. If they are leading them back to “God”, it needs to be determined whether or not that God is the same God. If it’s not, then the groups are not compatible. If I’m trying to lead a group to the right and you’re trying to lead a group to the left, we’re not going in the same direction and we’re incompatible. For me to follow you, I would have to stop going in my direction in order to go in yours. This may sound kind of silly, but it’s what is happening. Muslims (at least those who are actually Muslims) follow the Quran and the tenets of Muhammad. On the other hand, Christians (at least those who are actually Christians) follow the Bible and the tenets of Christianity. Those tenets are diametrically opposed and can’t bring harmony. Below are the basic tenets of the most common religions in the U.S. Take a look at them and see if it is possible for them to be compatible with Christianity:

Islam:  

I covered the differences between Islam and Christianity in another blog, but I believe that they need to be looked at again. The main reason that I believe that Christians and Muslims cannot work together is the fact that Muslims deny Jesus as the Son of God. Because they deny this, they also deny that He died on the cross or rose from the grave.  This is the foundation of the Christian doctrine. Instead, Muslims believe that Jesus was just a prophet (like Moses, Noah, David, and Adam) who taught people about God. They believe that Muhammad is the final and best prophet who brought the true revelation of Allah (which was given to him from the “angel” Gabriel). The fact that this “revelation” denies a multitude of Christian teachings is more reason that Muslims and Christians cannot work together. Finally, the main goal of Islam is to get the entire world to submit to the will of Allah. It’s not about salvation or the great work God has done. Christianity is about the salvation from sin that has been made available to all mankind through repentance and faith because of Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave three days later.

Mormonism:

Mormonism is a growing religion that has most recently been promoted by Glenn Beck. While many see Mormonism as a denomination within Christianity, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Mormonism may use some of the same terms as Christianity, but those terms have been given very different meanings by Mormons. Mormonism was started in the early 1800’s by Joseph Smith. Smith had a “vision” while praying in the woods as a young boy. In this vision, “God” visited him and told him that Christianity was corrupt and that he shouldn’t join any of the churches because they were abominations and had become corrupted. Later, Smith was visited by an angel named Moroni who gave him directions to a place where golden plates were buried. These plates were written in “reformed Egyptian” and explained the true gospel. Smith translated these plates into English and it became what is known as the Book of Mormon.

There are many contentions between Christianity and Mormonism. The “God” they believe in is called Heavenly Father. At one point in time this god used to be a man from the planet Kolob who followed the tenets of Mormonism and became a god. He was then given his own planet to rule over. He brought his wife and they began to make “spirit babies”. The first two “babies” they made were Jesus and Lucifer. In other words, Jesus is a created being and the “spirit brother” of Lucifer. Mormons believe that we are all spirit children and that if we follow the tenets of Mormonism (doing good works) we can become gods like “Heavenly Father”. Mormons believe in salvation by grace after all we can do. This is in direct opposition to the scriptures of the Bible. Because they preach a different Jesus (see Galatians 1:8) and because they believe in works-based salvation, Christians should have no partnerships with them.

Judaism:

While Judaism shares the Old Testament with Christianity that is about all they share. Today, there are three types of Jews. Orthodox Jews are those who follow the strict interpretations of the law. They stand by tradition and strive to keep the Law of Moses. The second group of Jews today is called Reform. Reform Judaism is a very liberal group of Jews who believe that they don’t need to keep the laws but just need to live a good life. The third group is Conservative Judaism and is a midway point between Orthodox and Reform Judaism. Conservatives believe that rabbis can change the laws to reflect current times, but they also hold to the tradition. There is a group of Jewish believers that are known as Messianic Jews. These men, women, and children have come from a Jewish heritage and continue to hold to some of the traditions like the festivals. Unlike the other groups, Messianic Jews believe in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation.

Orthodox Jews believe in only one God that is a Spirit. He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. Reform Jews, however, do not believe this. Instead, they have a “God concept” that allows them to be basically any religion and still remain Jewish. Ultimately, all Jewish groups (except Messianic Jews) deny Jesus’ deity and this alone makes them incompatible with Christianity.

Hinduism:

Hinduism is an old religion and is often seen as a peaceful religion. It is most prominent in India and the surrounding regions. Hinduism doesn’t have a defined beginning and there are a lot of things about it that are unknown. Hinduism is based on what is called the caste system. This system ranks Hindus according to their status in life. The four classes in the system are ranked from highest to lowest as follows: priests, soldiers/warrior kings, merchants/farmers/laborers/craftsmen, the “untouchables”. The higher a person is in the system, the more blessings and privileges they are allowed. Hindus believe that all pathways lead to God and that all is God. One of the main ideas in Hinduism is karma. This is the idea that the actions, words, and thoughts of a person shape their future. If someone does bad things, their future will be worse. If they do good things, they will have a better future and may even move up in the caste system when they are reincarnated. This is works based and contrary to what the Bible says. It also impedes the society. Those who are suffering in this life are getting what they’ve earned because of past actions. Because of this, it is uncommon for people to help each other.

Hinduism is based in the belief that the only thing that exists is Brahman, their main “god” and that everything else is an illusion based on Brahman. Everything is a part of Brahman including humans and that makes us “gods”. Hinduism allows its followers to worship any number of gods because they are all just manifestations of Brahman. Hinduism currently has approximately 330 million different gods. Hindus see Jesus as one of the many incarnations of Brahman, but not the only incarnation. They also have no concept of heaven and hell and deny their sin against a holy and just God. Because of these things, Hinduism is not compatible with Christianity.

What does this mean?

It should be made clear that I’m not saying that Christians cannot have friends that are from other religions. There is nothing wrong with spending time with others who don’t share the same beliefs that you do. But, the problem comes when it turns to partnering with them to accomplish things. Because all other religions fail to lead people to the One, True God and His Son Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins; Christians should not partner with other religions even if it seems like a good cause. By doing so, they are giving their support to these other religions and making it confusing or leads them to attend churches that cannot lead them to the God who saves.

Jesus said that He is the only way to heaven and that there is no other way (John 14:6). Because this is true, everything other than Biblical Christianity will lead men away from the True God instead of bringing them to Him. Paul also admonishes his readers that Christians should not be bound up with non-believers (2 Corinthians 6:14). While Christians are in the world and should be influencing the world for the truth of Christ, we are not to be of the world. We are to be separated from the world and should be holding up the standard of God in the face of the darkness that fills the world. Instead of partnering with those who don’t believe, we should be preaching the gospel to them so that they have the opportunity to be saved from their sin and God’s wrath….

Advertisements

5 Comments »

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

  1. I am afraid that your section on Hinduism has a number of errors. Firstly you are mixing up the cast system and untouchability. Dalits, or untouchables are not mentioned in the Vedic texts, where everyone was assigned to a varna or caste. It is only later that approachability appeared, and it does not have any basis in scriptures. Gandhi had no difficulty in rejecting the concept of untouchability, though for a long time he supported the caste system as a concept. He eventually came to the conclusion that it should be abolished, but for much of his life he argued for it – though not the way it was implemented.

    Also, Caste system was originally not hereditary, and many Hindus now strongly reject the idea of a hereditary caste system.

    Secondly the idea that there is only Brahman and everything else is maya is only held by a minority of Hindus. It is a philosophy known as Smarta or Advaita Vedanta. The majority of Hindus are Vishnavas, who see Vishnu as the ultimate God and the world as real. Most of the rest are Saivites (I am a Saivite) and Shaktis, seeing God as Shiva or a female form respectively.

    The “330 million different Gods” is a bit of an urban legend. It occurred because the Veda talks about 33 types of God. The sanskrit “koti” for type was mistaken for “crore” meaning 10, million. There are many Devas (only one Ishvara or God), but not 330 million!

    Some forms of Hinduism to have a concept of hell (Naraka loka) , but it is temporary rather than for eternity. Also we believe that all will eventually come to God, but this does not mean that all paths are as good as each other!

    That said I absolutely agree that Hinduism is incompatible with the Christianity in many ways. We don’t believe in original sin, eternal hell, a single creation, and many more things. We do believe in reincarnation, Karma, God loving everyone whatever belief, and many things that Christians don’t.

    • Thank you for stopping by and providing more information on Hinduism. It may be that the information that I have is older or, as you’ve noted, incomplete. I also appreciate your honesty about the incompatibility of Hinduism and Christianity.

      If I may ask, would you agree that Christians and Hindus should find it impossible to form partnerships? Not that we can’t talk or work for the same company, but that because of our differences there is no way for us to partner together?

      Also, if I may ask, how does Hinduism see the state of man? Was I correct with the idea that (according to Hinduism) we are continuously reborn until we become good enough to reach oneness with Vishnu? Also, who is in charge of the karma system and how many good deeds do you have to do to move up the chain?

      Thanks again for the comments!

  2. I really don’t see why Hindus and Christians can’t work together in almost anything: poverty relief, work, fighting a war (both would require a just course), and many more.

    About the only difficulty would be worshipping together. This would be limited to those sort of public prayers which talk about God in vague terms, which is OK if a community is coming together after a disaster or something but would not be sufficient as the only form of prayer for either religion.

    The state of Man in Hinduism is seen as essentially good, one of the key differences with Christianity. People do terrible things, but this is from not knowing our true nature which is God (either the divine spark of God within us or a soul of the same nature as God – it varies between traditions). Sin results in ignorance of this nature.

    You are essentially correct about karma. Karma comes ultimately from God, but it is seen as a natural law that he set up rather than him judging on a case-by-case basis. It is not a case of how many good deeds you must perform to reach oneness with God (not all schools believe in oneness, some believe in being with God in perfect harmony), but exhausting bad karma. This means not omitting adharmic (sinful) acts, doing good deeds (dharmic acts) and having God wipe away the fruit of previous deeds. We refer to the latter as “Kripa” which can be translated as either grace, mercy, or kindness. I prefer the simple term kindness, its directness makes it clearer that this is something we should show to others, not just something God does.

    • There is a fundamental reason why Hindus and Christians cannot partner together. But, that is different than what you seem to be talking about. If you and I were to work for the same company, there is no reason we can’t work together. I have worked with hindus and muslims before with no problem. The same would go with fighting a war. You and I could sit down for a soda and talk about spiritual things with no problem. As for things like poverty relief, that would depend on what level of cooperation we’re talking about. If you and I are just giving to the same organization to help with poverty, it isn’t a problem. If we are talking about actually being a part of that organization then I would have to say no.

      The reason for this is simple and is something you touch on when talking about worshipping together. You and I don’t serve the same God. I serve the God of the Bible and you don’t. The God of the Bible presents Himself as the One True God and He is never presented as a female. The God of the Bible says that there are no other gods beside Him. Even 33 types of god is 32 too many. When God sent His Son to earth, He was the embodiment of perfection. Jesus never sinned. The things He taught were/are true. He taught on the reality and eternality of hell. He taught that there was no other way to heaven but through Him. You and I couldn’t worship together because my doing so would be a sin. I would be worshipping a false god. That is idolatry and is forbidden. Not ony that, but the limited prayers that talk about God vaguely wouldn’t work either. I don’t serve a vague God. He is extremely clear on who He is and what He says should happen and will happen. Anything that would go against this is wrong for me.

      It is even more than that though. The reasons for Christians helping to relieve poverty, AIDS, etc. are different than those of Hindus. Christianity says that there is nothing that you can do to be saved. No amount of good works can remove the sins that you’ve committed. Christians do good works because they are saved. It is because God has been gracious enough to provide a substitutionary sacrifice on our behalf that we do good things. We are grateful for what Christ has done and we wish to tell others about it. We also wish to show His love for others by doing good things. The doing of good things is a result in Christianity and not a cause. The doing of good deeds should also be followed with a presentation of the truth found in the gospel. This would conflict with Hinduism greatly. Hinduism, as you’ve noted, doesn’t believe the gospel and instead requires its followers to do good deeds in order to “remove bad karma”. The question remains: How do you know how many good deeds you must do to “exhaust” your bad karma? Is there a formula for this?

      The state of man is just one of the differing points between Hinduism and Christianity. Christianity says that there is not one person that does righteous deeds. No one. This is not the main difference though. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man. He was/is/will be the only perfect human being. Every other person that has ever lived has sinned and continues to do so. This isn’t the result of their ignorance about their true state. Instead, it is the fact that their sinful natures leads them to rebel against God and be in direct opposition to His truth. According to the Bible, when man was created He was perfect. God breathed life into him and he was sinless. When he and his wife ate of the fruit in the garden, they disobeyed God and rebelled against His commands. Because they were the first two humans, this sinful, rebellious nature has been passed down to all subsequent generations. This is the origin of sin and it is only getting worse.

      According to what you believe, sin is the result of man’s ignorance about his true nature. It would seem to me that you know about the truth of man’s nature (according to the stripe of Hinduism you believe). Does this mean that you no longer sin? If you do still sin, wouldn’t the cause of sin have to be something else?

      Without the sacrifice of Christ on the cross, no one would go to heaven. Unless a person is born again, they still won’t go to heaven. It doesn’t matter how good a Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, or atheist they are. It doesn’t matter how nice they’ve been. The amount of good deeds means nothing because it can’t pay for someone’s sins. In the Bible, God is called a just Judge. He has appointed a time when each man will die (you only get one chance, not many) and then they will be judged for the sins that they’ve committed. These sins include everything from lying to stealing to lusting to hatred to idolatry. Unless the person can pay for their sins, they will be judged and found guilty of breaking God’s law. They will be condemned to an eternal hell to pay for their sins. To say that refraining from sinful acts and doing good things can save you is like a criminal saying to a judge that they haven’t done anything bad after they murdered someone and even did nice things for others. It doesn’t matter. The crime still stands and that is what is being judged. The amazing thing about Christianity is that God knew that all of us would be wretched, vile sinners. He knew that we would rebel against Him and create gods in our minds that like the things that we like and hate the things that we hate. He knew that we would be the way that we are, and yet, He sent His Son to die on a cross for our sins. Because of Christ’s death, the Bible says that there is a way for man to be reconciled to God. This happens when a man recognizes that he is sinful and has rebelled against the One True God. He admits his sinfulness to God and realizes that he deserves God’s wrath for his disobedience. He then repents of that sin. This is more than just saying “I’m sorry”. It is turning away from those things and no longer living in them. He then puts his faith/trust totally in the fact that Jesus died for his sins. He knows that it is only because of Jesus that he can see heaven and he trusts in that completely to save him.

      That is the only way that someone will see heaven. Anything else is an attempt by man to comfort himself and bring false peace….

      • Thank you Ateasetees, I think you have very clearly expressed your beliefs there – though in my experience not all Christians are so stringent about not working together within organisations. I would like to clarify some points on Hinduism though.

        With the exception of a few minor sects Hindus believe in one uncreated God, who is neither male or female. Hindus are not polytheistic as much as henotheistic. The belief is in one eternal God (Ishvara) and many created divine beings (Devas). This is not unlike the Judeo-Christian idea of archangels and angels except that we are directed to worship these beings as well as God. We see the ultimate God as the same whichever religion worships Him (male pronoun used for convenience), so Vishnavas worshipping Vishnus, Saivas worshipping Shiva, Shaktis worshipping Durga, and even Christians worshipping Yahweh are all worshipping God.

        When I talked about vague prayers this is not because Hindus have a vague God, just sometimes it is good for a community to pray together. After an accident to a war or something it is good to say “God take care of the souls of the departed” in public, though acknowledging that in my mind I will be praying for them to have a good birth whereas a Christian might be praying that they held the “correct view of God” and would not be punished.

        There may well be some Hindus who do good deeds with the thought of Karmic reward, but the vast majority do it because it is commanded, because it brings us closer to God, and because it is the right thing to do.

        It would seem to me that you know about the truth of man’s nature (according to the stripe of Hinduism you believe). Does this mean that you no longer sin? If you do still sin, wouldn’t the cause of sin have to be something else?

        I only know a little about man’s true nature, and I know that intellectually. To truly know it is to live it. An analogy might be that I know that to get from Russia to China you have to cross the Gobi desert. If I read some books about desert survival I might “know” the principle of conserving water, finding springs, etc. But to fully really know and be able to do it I would have to practice this, maybe living with the nomadic people there for years.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Entries and comments feeds.

%d bloggers like this: