This article was originally posted at my site. Only some of my articles are posted on SBC Voices. If you would like access to all of my articles, you can follow my feed here. You can also connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
The title of this article sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but it is a serious and growing reality in our pluralistic society. In an article I recently read in Christian Century Amy Frykholm examines three Christians who have embraced other religions without leaving Christianity behind. Here is an abstract I wrote of her article:
In today’s American pluralistic society, it is common practice for men and women to attend church on Sunday, but also to benefit from yoga and other forms of meditation inspired by Eastern traditions. Some have even taken religious pluralism to a deeper level by enjoying two distinctly different religions. Amy Frykholm refers to these people as “explorers.” Frykholm profiles three such explorers in this article: Paul Knitter, Deborah Risa Mrantz, and Ann Holmes Redding.
Paul Knitter, a former Catholic priest who is still a devout Catholic, found spiritual fulfillment simultaneously in Christianity and Buddhism. Buddhism brought a richer understanding of Christianity for Knitter. He consistently belongs to both communities, firmly believing that “without Buddha, he could not be a Christian.” In spite of this declaration, Knitter is against a “divine deli” mentality where Christians look to other religions for self-confirmation instead of self-transformation. Self-transformation should be the goal of multiple-belonging.
Deborah Risa Mrantz belongs concurrently to Christianity and Judaism. To her, these are not two distinct faiths, but rather, two ways that the one God comes to be known. In her eyes, these faiths are intertwined “as a double-strand DNA helix,” within her heart and soul for the worship of the one God.
Ann Holmes Redding, after 20 years as an Episcopal priest, publicly embraced Islam. She describes what happened to her as convergence instead of conversion, since in accepting Islam she did not leave Christianity behind. Even though she struggles at times with these two religions coexisting within her life, she intends to stand at the fault lines between the two, revealing their common ground.
In conclusion, people like the explorers mentioned above reveal their various needs in their embracing of multiple religions. It is possible that one religion is not providing all that the seeker needs; therefore, he or she embraces another religion without leaving the previous religion behind. Although such call of God may be hard to understand, one must admit that lots of things are hard to imagine and are also true.
I agree with Frykholm that these individuals are “explorers.” The problem is they are merely exploring the forgotten ground of the Serpent. They’re using Satan’s mantra from the Garden of Eden, “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4), to live as if they possess God-like knowledge to join other religions with Christianity in spite of God’s Word revealing that Christianity is exclusive. Jesus in John 14:6 claimed to be the only Way to God the Father, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In other words, there were no Christian-Buddhists, Christian-Judaizers, or Christian-Muslims in the New Testament Church. The apostle Paul referred to preaching Christ crucified as a “stumbling block for the Jews and folly to the Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24).
Knitter argues that without Buddha, he could not be a Christian. What an interesting statement! It’s interesting because if one reaches the highest point in Buddhism, then he or she is sovereign in a God-like fashion. The ultimate goal of Buddhism is to be god-like in sovereignty. Can you hear the Serpent’s voice as he says, “You will be like God?”
Mrantz is a Christian-Judaizer. If Mrantz is correct, someone needs to tell the apostles that they didn’t need to leave Judaism behind in order to become Christians. Someone should have rebuked the apostle Paul in Galatians 2:13 for rebuking the apostle Peter. What was Peter’s sin according to Paul? He withdrew from eating with Gentile Christians when Jews came around. So, the apostle Paul rebuked him for living as if the gospel was not true (Gal. 2:14-16). What New Testament Christians understood is that when the Fulfillment (Jesus Christ) of Judaism came, true Jews became Christians. They could not live as if their Messiah had not come.
Redding is a Christian-Muslim. Even though Isalm rejects the Trinity and diminishes Christ to less than God’s Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, Redding still thinks she can embrace Isalm without leaving Christianity behind. She is correct that there is common ground between Christianity and Islam in that both are monotheistic, but Allah is not a personal god in the least. The Christian God is personal. One can see the distinction by comparing Islamic Paradise with the Christian heaven. The Islamic Paradise is about pleasure, but the Christian heaven is about pleasure in God. All the joys experienced in the Christian heaven serve the purpose of worship. Furthermore, the Islamic gospel is works-based and is a shot-in-the-dark concerning salvation unless one dies in a holy war. In Christianity, God is clear that all those who come to God through Christ will be saved (John 3:16).
In conclusion, there is a wicked presupposition, an idol, an undergirding religion that encourages such pluralistic merging of exclusive belief systems. The true religion of the above three individuals is the religion of the sovereign tolerant interpreter. These individuals believe the merging of Christianity with other religions is true for them, and no one can tell them differently; however, they do not believe their merging of these religions is exclusive. So, they do not demand others agree with them. Make no mistake though these individuals will not accept someone telling them they’re wrong either. Therefore, even though they will not force their merging of religions with Christianity on others, they will force their presuppositions on others; namely that ideas and individuals must be accepted if their beliefs appear to pragmatically “work for them.” Can you hear the Serpent say, yet again, “You will not surely die. You will be like God” (Genesis 3:4-5)?
Source: Frykholm, Amy. “Double Belonging: One person, two faiths.” Christian Century, 25 January 2011, 20-23.