January 25, Wednesday

Pastor Ryun Chang (AMI Teaching Pastor, Ph.D.) will present a series of blogs, dealing with various issues raised in the recent election that showed a deep divide, impacting both society at large and the church.  The thoughts presented are processed through the lens of the Radical-Middle (both/and), personal narratives, and pastoral concerns.  Your rational feedback is welcomed.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT FOR TODAY

Are All Religions, Including Islam, Good?

Acts 4:12 (NASB)

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

24aA Christian apologist writes, “Christianity is the only true faith, all other religions are of the Devil. . . .”[1]  Undoubtedly, he will hate what Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States (1953-61), once said about religion: “Our government makes no sense unless it is founded on a deeply held religious belief—and I don’t care what it is.”  This statement appears to align well with the popular slogan, “All religions lead to the same God.”

At first, I myself wasn’t too enamored with Eisenhower’s assertion; now, however, I agree with what was meant: Since the proper functioning of democracy (with fewer and less coercive laws) is contingent upon conscientious people, moral values advocated by any religion serves that purpose, since they are similar to one another.  I realized this after learning the functional view of religion—first advanced by the French sociologist Émile Durkheim—which sees “religion as a vast symbolic system which made social life possible by expressing and maintaining the sentiments or values of the society.”  This is to say, if the only goal of religion is to maintain public order and security, then, Islam or Buddhism is as good as Christianity.  For instance, the Koran discourages stealing: “As to the thief, male or female, cut off his or her hands: a punishment by way of example, from Allah . . .” (5:38).  Of course, Moses discouraged stealing as well, saying, “If a man steals an ox or a sheep . . ., he must pay back 5 head of cattle for the ox (Ex. 22:1).  As for Buddhism, its followers are told to avoid “killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct, lying, divisive speech, hurtful speech, idle chatter, covetousness, malice . . . .”[2]  On this account, we break with the apologist.

24bWhat’s substantially different among them is their afterlife strategy: Buddhism exhorts its followers to do good on earth to achieve a better reincarnation, while Islam demands that its adherents obey the Five Pillars of Faith (the confession, daily prayers, almsgiving, fast, pilgrimage to Mecca).  In short, these are man’s effort to save himself.  On the contrary, the Christian faith declares that since man cannot save himself because of sin, God saves him through the atoning death of His Son Jesus.  In short, this is God’s effort to save man.  On this account, we break with Eisenhower: Our salvation makes no sense unless it is founded on the belief in Jesus Christ.

We don’t need to trash religions of the world: Give them credit for making valuable contributions toward building a safer and orderly society; but we should respectfully disagree when it comes to salvation, “for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved”— except Jesus.

Prayer: Lord, I’m so grateful to know that You not only care for the Christians, but the people of other faiths as well.  Forgive me for failing to reflect such a heart of Yours through my ethnocentrism and religious ignorance. Help me to understand world religions, while not forgetting our fundamental differences with them.  Amen.

[1] Shoebat, Walid. Shoebat.com. “Awareness and Action,” 28 August 2015.  http://shoebat.com/2016/08/28/christianity-is-the-only-true-faith-all-other-religions-are-of-the-devil-islam-is-the-religion-of-antichrist-christianity-will-destroy-islam-in-the-end-and-christ-will-be-victorious/. Accessed 19 Dec. 2016

[2] Geshe, Kelsang Gyatso, Introduction to Buddhism (Glen Spey, New York: Tharpa Publication, 2008), p. 32.

Bible Reading for Today: Judges 2


LUNCH BREAK STUDY

Read Acts 14:17 (This is told to pagans in Lystra.) “Yet [God] has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

Matt. 5:45: He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Questions to Consider

  1. Based on what Paul and Jesus say, what can you conclude about how God feels toward the people of other faiths? How should this change our attitude toward them?
  2. What seems to be God’s specific concern about them?
  3. What is suggested by the fact that God sent Paul to these pagans in Lystra to declare the gospel to them (15 “We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God”)?

Notes

  1. In short, God cares about the people of other faiths; Paul states that God is kind to them. This means that our attitude toward them should be more sympathetic and caring.
  2. The sun and rain suggest that God is concerned about their socioeconomic welfare: God cares that they have enough to eat.
  3. Ultimately, God cares that the people of other faiths hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and go to heaven as a result of believing in Him.

EVENING REFLECTION

What did you do for entertainment today?  The same old movie and music?  How about getting yourself prepared to discuss competently with people of other faiths at work or school?  This can be risky but also a lot of fun and may to leading someone to the Lord.  Paul exhorts you to “let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:6).  Try this book: Fritz Ridenour, So What’s the Difference?: A Look at 20 Worldviews, Faiths and Religions and How They Compare to Christianity (Regal 2001).  Pray for a friend; pray for someone of other faith.

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