Monday, 5 September 2011

Sunday Blessings -What Do the Religions Teach About God

What Do the Religions Teach About God?

Jonathan Dodson

In the previous post, we observed the tendency to answer this theological question through social experience. Many Christians conclude that there must be many ways to God (or act like this) because their social experiences introduce them to kind, respectable people who do not believe Jesus is the only way to God. In fact, many of our friends believe the opposite, namely there are many ways to God, a view called religious pluralism. In the next few posts, we will examine the claims of the religious pluralist.

3 Reasons

Over the past four years in Austin, Texas (a case study city for Harvard’s Pluralism Project), I have had the opportunity to meet, know, and talk with both Christian and non-Christian pluralists. As I have reflected on these conversations, it seems that there are at least three reasons people drift to religious pluralism. They believe there are many ways to God, not just one, because it seems more enlightened, humble, and tolerant. In the next three posts, let’s take each of these–enlightened, humble, tolerant–and examine these reasons more closely.

What Do the Religions Teach About God?

Is the belief that all religious paths lead to the same God more enlightened or educated? Well, all religions teach very different things about whom God is and how to reach him. In fact, there is a lot of disagreement between the religions regarding the nature of God. Buddhism, for example, doesn’t believe in God. Islam teaches an impersonal monotheism, Allah. The Koran states that God reveals his will, but not his person. Christianity teaches a personal trinitarianism, where God is three persons in relationship, Father-Son-Spirit that can be known and enjoyed. Hinduism is all over the map on this question, ranging from polytheism to atheism. The reason for this is because there is an absence of definitive revelation to clarify their “theology.” Instead Hinduism has multiple sources of revelation (Upanishads, Vedas, etc.). Contrary to Islam, Hinduism has no presuppositions about the nature of God. In short, religious views of God differ. If so, it would seen far from “enlightened” or educated to claim that all religions lead to the same God, when their views of God are, in fact, radically different. The claim of the religious pluralist contradicts the tenants of the religions themselves.

“Religions are distinct and make very different claims about God and how to reach him."

What Do They Teach About How We Reach God?

Religions not only teach different things about who God is but also how we “reach him.” Buddhism suggests the 8-fold Noble Path, Islam the 5 Pillars (Shahadah, Prayer, Fasting, Charity, Pilgrimage) and Christianity the gospel of Jesus. Therefore, to say that all religions lead to God is not only unenlightened it is inaccurate. This is the thesis of Stephen Prothero, Boston University professor, in his new book God Is Not One. He writes:
It is comforting to pretend that the great religions make up one big, happy family. But this sentiment, however well-intentioned, is neither accurate nor ethically responsible. God is not one.

Prothero goes on to point out that just as God is not one, so also all religions are not one. They are distinct and make very different claims about God and how to reach him. In light of what we have observed regarding what religions teach about the nature of God and how to reach him, religious pluralism must be reconsidered. Subscribing to religious pluralism because it is more enlightened or a more educated view of world religions is not only unenlightened but also inaccurate.

9 Fertilize my soul:

Simply Shelley said...

I am so blessed to know and love the One True and living God and more blessed that he first loved me.
I pray others all over the world of every tongue and nation will come to know God the Father,Jesus his son and the Holy Spirit...that they too shall have life eternal in his Kingdom come. Blessings to you dear Amrita.

Nadwra┼╝liwiec said...

I agree with that. On this ideology is built cult New Age. I gave up thinking about many ways to God, when I started to learn differences between religions.

Anonymous said...

Religion is man trying to reach God...Christianity is God reaching down to man....all religion is based on works..Christianity is a relationship with the Living glad, so happy to know its not by works we are saved, but by faith....

Mel Avila Alarilla said...

Studying different religions and beliefs can lead us to utter confusion or the opposite which is unbelief. Many approach studies of different religions with the end view of acquiring head knowledge to impress others. How simpler it is to approach God through His written words inspired by the Holy Spirit and attain intimacy with God. God is the source and end view of wisdom and where else can we go to obtain divine wisdom than to God. The study of God needs qualitative approach and never quantitative approach. It is better to know, feel and experience God is His own domain than seek Him in so many different and confusing paths. As the sages say, little knowledge is dangerous. Thanks for the post. God bless you always.

SomeGurrrl—GreenDigitalist said...

I so disagree. The "God/s" (and Goddesses, I might add) that all religions ultimately reach toward is peace and love, universal and within the self. These are the same, whether reached by reciting biblical prayers, meditating in a crystal pyramid, bowing to Mecca 5x daily, doing yoga reciting a mantra or contemplation under the Bodhi tree. Some Christians, by their very personalities, interact conceptually with a much more austere God (like the Muslims you mention), whereas I would think some effusive and bubbly Muslims personalize their relationship with dei(a)-ty much more effusively. I think Heaven/Nirvana/the afterlife/re-incarnation to Enlightenment are all trying to express reaching for, on a human scale, and via various human points-of-view, the ineffable.

John Cowart said...

God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us.

Yet, Jesus is declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.

Dead is dead; live is live. That's the difference.

John Cowart

Mari Nu├▒ez said...

I believe it is much easier for many to follow any road that is convenient for them and "their lifestyles", rather then follow what God has always wanted for us. We always want OUR ways and not GOD's way.

Matthew 7:13 - “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it."

Ash said...

Thanks for this lovely, informative post Amrita.

Amrita said...

Dear friends I appreciate and value all your responses.

Dear Green Digitalist, welcome to my blog and sharing your opinion. I tried to find your blog but could not do so.

Yes all religions have moral and ethical teachinbgs geaqred towards peace, brotherhood and harmony.But religionists manage to twist and misinterpret their religion to suit their own needs or control others.
The truth of the Bible is founded on historic facts, logic and life changing events - no other religion comes tru on that anvil.

As we know in real life all roads do not lead to Rome.