Interfaith Dialogue?

Had an interesting dialogue with an older Catholic woman today. We covered a lot of ground but I found it odd that she insisted that people from other faiths (e.g., Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus) worship the same God as Christians while simultaneously chiding me for not being Catholic as if I was (a) not Christian, and (b) missing out on God.

The discussion about the Bible was just as weird but I’ll save that for some other time.

B”H

16 thoughts on “Interfaith Dialogue?

  1. Nick you may want to have a look at Vatican II document Nostra Aetate where it states the Catholic Church rejects nothing that is good and holy in these religions. So though she may have come across as odd she may have a point

  2. Isn’t that the point? God’s glory is not shared with another. There is nothing holy and good in other religions because other religions refuse to honor or acknowledge God in all their supposedly good moral deeds and causes. Check me if I am wrong, but idolatry is the inevitable and necessary product of the fall. Her response is the product of natural theology at work in Rome. At the end of the day, every system external to Christian theism reduces to irrationalism. Can an idolatrous system by holy in any sense of the word?

  3. This may be a process of poor Catechesis. I was teaching a class of 3rd graders this past year and found the textbook we were using (which the USCCB had on its approved list, but it did not contain an imprimateur. I get the impression that the publishers discent from Church teaching, but want to get their books into parishes and thus play games with the guidelines).

    Anyway, the children’s Catechism I was instructed to use stated this:
    “Christians are people of faith who believe in and follow Jesus Christ. Not everyone in the world believes in Jesus as Christians do. This does not mean that they are not people of faith. They believe in God and worship God in different ways. They live their faith at home, in school, and in their communities. […]Many native tribes worship God by honoring and respecting his creation. They call God the Great Spirit.”

    It was supposed to be based off of paragraph 843 of the official Catechism (that the children’s Catechisms are supposed to adhere to). The publishes completely ignored and tried to get around paragraph 844. The two paragraphs read:

    “843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as “a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.”

    The very next paragraph says that they ignore is:

    844 In their religious behavior, however, men also display the limits and errors that disfigure the image of God in them: ‘Very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasonings, and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and served the creature rather than the Creator. Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair.’”

    I wrote a letter to the director of religious education stating this:
    It could be argued that the concepts in the official Catechism are too complicated for 3rd graders, but why not say something like “Many people throughout the world do not know Jesus or His Gospel. Instead, people’s desire to find God leads them to other religions. These religions do teach some good things that are true. The Church teaches that these good things help prepare people for the Gospel.”

  4. Andrew: I’m familiar with Nostra Aetate (and Lumen Gentium) and have two things to say in response: (1) it’s one thing to not reject what’s true and holy about other religions, if there’s anything true or holy in them at all, and another thing altogether to accept those religions in toto as valid or worshiping the same God as Christians, and (2) I disagree with the parts of both Nostra Aetate and Lumen Gentium that assert that Muslims worship the one true God along with Jews and Christians. Anyone who rejects the Trinity most certainly does not worship the one true God. So this particular lady may have had a point; but it wasn’t a particularly good or convincing one.

    Ed: I’m of the opinion that every falsehood is a distortion of the truth so all religions will have some seed of truth in them somewhere. But just because a Mormon or a Muslim or a Buddhist says or believes something that is true, that doesn’t in turn make their faith true, or holy, or honoring to God. Whatever bits and pieces of truth are there are God’s truth, since all truth is God’s truth, but that truth has been distorted so as to lead people away from the ultimate truth of the Christian God.

    Honestly: Thanks. I appreciate the exposition. I’d disagree with the Catechism on that particular point though. The quotation from Romans in paragraph 844 gets to the heart of the matter as I see it. If we take 843 on its own then it seems like the bits of truth and goodness in other religions could be a good thing. I wouldn’t agree that they “prepare” people for the Gospel; if anything, they keep them away from it by presenting themselves as competing truth claims.

  5. It sounds as though you’re having an interfaith discussion with another Catholic.

    The problem, I think, seems to be that we all (so to speak, I know there are a few humble people out there who accept their limitations) think we understand the Truth. I mean, every Catholic and Muslim and whatever. It is evident here in your discussion with another Catholic. You think you understand your mutual faith better than she. In essence, you’re having an interfaith discussion with another Catholic.

    Anyway, lets set that aside and go back to the Word of God. Is there anything holy in other religions? What does Scripture say?
    Acts 17:22 Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. 23 For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.

    I think that is the essence of what the Catholic woman was saying to you. Assuming good faith, what they, (Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus) are seeking is the Truth. Just as we are doing. Do you deny this?

    And Christ is the Truth:
    John 14:6
    Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

    Therefore, they seek to worship the same God we worship. What they worship in ignorance, we declare unto them. And that takes us back to Nostra Aetate which someone else referenced, “the Catholic Church rejects nothing which is good and holy in these religions”. Which is summarized in Scripture also as:
    1 Thessalonians 5:21
    21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

    Sincerely,

    De Maria

  6. I think that is the essence of what the Catholic woman was saying to you. Assuming good faith, what they, (Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus) are seeking is the Truth. Just as we are doing. Do you deny this? —– De Maria

    If those Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus you mention eventually come to faith in Christ, that proves that they were truly seeking the truth. If they fall short of faith in Christ, that’s undeniable proof that they were NEVER seeking the truth to begin with. All who seek the truth will come to faith in Christ.

  7. If those Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus you mention eventually come to faith in Christ, that proves that they were truly seeking the truth. If they fall short of faith in Christ, that’s undeniable proof that they were NEVER seeking the truth to begin with. All who seek the truth will come to faith in Christ.–EDH

    The Catholic Church teaches that:
    843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as “a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.”

    So, I’m going to venture a guess that you aren’t Catholic?

  8. De Maria,

    Can you give an example of a truth that God supposedly gives to these false religions? I’m not sure I’m understanding that statement correctly.

    Christianity was around about 600-700 years before Islam, so the complete Gospel could have easily been given to Muhammad. Is the Catholic Church saying that God enlightened Muslims with other lesser truths when he could have given them the Gospel instead?

    Is the Church officially saying that there are Muslims who are truly seeking THE truth who may remain Muslims until death?

  9. Can you give an example of a truth that God supposedly gives to these false religions? I’m not sure I’m understanding that statement correctly.–EDH

    Every truth is from God. Satan is the Father of lies. An example of a true doctrine which the Muslims believe is the doctrine that God is one.

    Christianity was around about 600-700 years before Islam, so the complete Gospel could have easily been given to Muhammad.

    The complete Gospel was given to Muhammad. Muhammad discarded those parts of the truth of the Gospel which he didn’t care to hear.

    Is the Catholic Church saying that God enlightened Muslims with other lesser truths when he could have given them the Gospel instead?

    Jesus established a Church and commanded her to teach the Gospel to the world. The Muslims, like all men, have free will. They chose to reject some of the message.

    Is the Church officially saying that there are Muslims who are truly seeking THE truth who may remain Muslims until death?

    That would be reading too much into that Catholic doctrine. That said, the Church has hope in mankind. That all men begin seeking the truth and from all walks of life some men, even purported Christians, die, seeking the truth and not finding it. The fact that we have received the Gospel is no guarantee that we will live by its principles. And the fact that some men have not received the Gospel does not mean that they will not live according to the principles of the natural law written in their hearts.

    As Scripture says:
    Acts 10:34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.

  10. And the fact that some men have not received the Gospel does not mean that they will not live according to the principles of the natural law written in their hearts. — De Maria

    When you say that” some men have not received the Gospel”, what do you mean? Do you mean people who have never heard the Gospel message?

    And the fact that some men have not received the Gospel does not mean that they will not live according to the principles of the natural law written in their hearts.– De Maria

    Okay. What is the end result for those who don’t know the gospel yet still live according to the principles of the natural law?

    Is it possible for a Muslim to reject the Gospel (knowing full well what it is) and still be accepted by God for living according to the natural law written on their hearts? I guess that’s the main issue I’m trying to get at.

    Every truth is from God. Satan is the Father of lies. An example of a true doctrine which the Muslims believe is the doctrine that God is one.– De Maria

    Muslims believe in a unitarian God. Their version of ‘one’ is different from ours.

  11. Ok, I’m submitting again to correct the run together version above:

    When you say that” some men have not received the Gospel”, what do you mean? Do you mean people who have never heard the Gospel message?–EDH

    Some who have and some who haven’t. Many have heard the Gospel and not accepted it.

    Okay. What is the end result for those who don’t know the gospel yet still live according to the principles of the natural law?–EDH

    Ultimate salvation and union with God.

    Is it possible for a Muslim to reject the Gospel (knowing full well what it is) and still be accepted by God for living according to the natural law written on their hearts? I guess that’s the main issue I’m trying to get at.–EDH

    That’s a good question. On the one hand they are rejecting Christ. On the other they are accepting God in their hearts. Scripture says:

    Romans 2:
    13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.14For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
    Which I think corresponds to St. Peter saying that all who work righteousness in any nation are acceptable to God.

    In addition, Jesus says:
    Matthew 12:32
    32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.

    So, I conclude that, yes, they are accepted by God.

    Muslims believe in a unitarian God. Their version of ‘one’ is different from ours.–EDH

    It is a partial truth. But there is truth there, nonetheless.

    That’s easier to read. Sorry for the multiple postings.

  12. De Maria,

    Thanks for your responses.

    I must say I couldn’t disagree more strongly with statements like, “On the one hand they are rejecting Christ. On the other they are accepting God in their hearts.” To me, this is a contradiction of the highest order, an impossibility.

    What does it mean to accept “God in your heart”? I’m having the hardest time picturing someone truly accepting God’s truth while rejecting Christ. Maybe you aren’t familiar with Muslim theology and don’t realize what you are truly saying?

    To the average Muslim, the Christian view of Jesus is blasphemous (“shirk” in their language, which is the HIGHEST form of blasphemy) If Jesus claimed to be God (which he did) that would mean to them that he was not only a sinner, but an unforgivable sinner. Their God will forgive ANY sin except for the sin of Shirk.

    The average Muslim also denies that Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for sin. Actually, the very idea of atonement is ridiculous to them, they accuse our God of being unjust for sending Jesus to the cross.

  13. Thanks for your responses.-EDH

    You’re welcome. I always enjoy cordial debates.

    I must say I couldn’t disagree more strongly with statements like, “On the one hand they are rejecting Christ. On the other they are accepting God in their hearts.” To me, this is a contradiction of the highest order, an impossibility.-EDH

    In their mind, they accept Christ. I have heard Muslims claim that they are Christ’s true disciples.

    What does it mean to accept “God in your heart”? I’m having the hardest time picturing someone truly accepting God’s truth while rejecting Christ. Maybe you aren’t familiar with Muslim theology and don’t realize what you are truly saying?-EDH

    See for yourself.

    To the average Muslim, the Christian view of Jesus is blasphemous (“shirk” in their language, which is the HIGHEST form of blasphemy) If Jesus claimed to be God (which he did) that would mean to them that he was not only a sinner, but an unforgivable sinner. Their God will forgive ANY sin except for the sin of Shirk.-EDH

    True. But they don’t believe that Jesus made that claim. They believe that Christians have corrupted the Scriptures and made that claim of Jesus.

    Essentially, they say of Christians and Christ what Protestants say of Catholics and Mary. They claim that Christians have made an idol of Christ.

    The average Muslim also denies that Jesus died on the cross as a sacrifice for sin. Actually, the very idea of atonement is ridiculous to them, they accuse our God of being unjust for sending Jesus to the cross.-EDH

    Its more like they accuse us of adding to the Word of God as they understand it. They believe that God is one, as the Jews do. They claim to believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Therefore, they regressed to the Old Testament understanding of the nature of God and refuse to accept that Jesus is revealed as the Son of God. I used to debate with Muslims quite a bit, years ago.

  14. Lots of discussion in my absence.

    De Maria: Just to clear up any confusion; I’m what you might consider a lapsed Catholic. I was baptized and confirmed as a kid but I left God for a number of years and returned to him in a Pentecostal church.

    Now that that’s out of the way; I can’t say whether or not what people of others faiths are seeking is good. I suppose it’s good to seek something beyond yourself. I suppose it’s good to seek truth. But what good is it if you never find it? Paul wasn’t content to leave the Athenians worshiping an unknown god; rather he declared to them Israel’s God and preached the truth to them. The lady I spoke with doesn’t believe in trying to convert people because they’re good where they’re at; they all allegedly worship the same God that Christians do.

    In your discussion with EDH you referenced CCC 843, but as Honestly Catholic noted above, 843 has to be read with what follows in 844. Reading it out of context can lead to the wrong idea. Also, you mentioned Muhammad receiving the Gospel but rejecting parts of it; in fact, he rejected all of it. He rejected Christ crucified; he rejected Christ resurrected; and he certainly rejected Christ the Son of God, second person of the Trinity. And as EDH pointed out; there’s no similarity in Islam’s conception of God’s oneness and Christianity’s. They deny the Holy Trinity; we adore it.

    Regarding your reference to Romans 2 above, I’d point out that the Gentiles in question are Gentile Christians in distinction from Jewish Christians. He’s not talking about Gentile pagans. The fact of the matter is that a chapter later Paul will reiterate something already well established in the OT: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:10-12). And later that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). The point is that no one becomes united to God by following the law written on their heart because no one actually follows it. It takes the new birth and the endowment of the Spirit to be able to live in accord with God’s will.

    EDH: We seem to be in agreement on pretty much all of the issues you commented on.

  15. Lots of discussion in my absence.–NN

    Hi,

    De Maria: Just to clear up any confusion; I’m what you might consider a lapsed Catholic. I was baptized and confirmed as a kid but I left God for a number of years and returned to him in a Pentecostal church.-NN

    So it was an interfaith discussion after all. ;)

    Now that that’s out of the way; I can’t say whether or not what people of others faiths are seeking is good.-NN

    None of us can read hearts. But the Catholic Church assumes that men are of good will based upon the fact that men are made in God’s image. CCC#30 amongst others

    I suppose it’s good to seek something beyond yourself. -NN

    That depends upon what it i s. But if one seeks to know the truth about God, that is good. Scripture says so (Ez 11:20), so does the Catholic Church (CCC#2104) .

    I suppose it’s good to seek truth.-NN

    Jesus is the way, truth and life, therefore I agree.

    But what good is it if you never find it?-NN

    Scripture says:
    Hebrews 11:6
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
    Note that it doesn’t say that we must find Him. But only, diligently seek Him.

    Paul wasn’t content to leave the Athenians worshiping an unknown god; rather he declared to them Israel’s God and preached the truth to them. The lady I spoke with doesn’t believe in trying to convert people because they’re good where they’re at; they all allegedly worship the same God that Christians do.-NN

    Let me read that again, because I didn’t get that from what you wrote.
    1st. If she chided you for not being Catholic, then she certainly didn’t believe that they were absolutely saved where they were. However, in the Catholic Church, we let God be the ultimate Judge of salvation. As the Apostle says (Romans 14:10).

    2nd. As for worshipping the same God, they claim to worship the God of Abraham. That is the same God we worship.

    3rd. Now ask me if I believe they understand God? The answer is, “No!” At least, I don’t believe they do and if you had asked that lady, I suspect she would have answered the same.

    In your discussion with EDH you referenced CCC 843, but as Honestly Catholic noted above, 843 has to be read with what follows in 844. Reading it out of context can lead to the wrong idea. -NN

    True. But I’m aware of both and I don’t believe that I read it out of context.

    Also, you mentioned Muhammad receiving the Gospel but rejecting parts of it; in fact, he rejected all of it. He rejected Christ crucified; he rejected Christ resurrected; and he certainly rejected Christ the Son of God, second person of the Trinity.-NN

    That, however, is not all the Gospel. There are many points which Islam has in common with Christianity. They believe in One God, Angels, Demons, the Virgin Birth, the miracles of Jesus, the 2nd coming of Jesus and other things. But they did reject all which you enumerated and more.

    And as EDH pointed out; there’s no similarity in Islam’s conception of God’s oneness and Christianity’s. They deny the Holy Trinity; we adore it.-NN

    The Jews also reject the Holy Trinity. Do we have anything in common with them concerning the Oneness of God?

    Regarding your reference to Romans 2 above, I’d point out that the Gentiles in question are Gentile Christians in distinction from Jewish Christians. He’s not talking about Gentile pagans. The fact of the matter is that a chapter later Paul will reiterate something already well established in the OT: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Rom. 3:10-12). -NN

    Unless you want to turn St. Paul against himself and Scripture against itself, you have to let Scripture interpret Scripture in that verse. It is not intended by St. Paul for you to take literally. If St. Paul truly believed that no one did any good, ever, then he would not believe that anyone could be saved (Romans 2:13).

    However, St. Paul is there paraphrasing the Old Testament where it frequently refers to atheists as fools who do not believe in God and therefore commit evil (Psalms 53:1).

    And later that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).-NN

    Still part of the same metaphor. In Romans 5:14, he admits that some have lived who did not commit any sin and yet died.

    The point is that no one becomes united to God by following the law written on their heart because no one actually follows it. -NN

    The Catholic point is that no one works their way into heaven. But if one does not do the works which God commands, God will not save them (Rev 22:13-15).

    It takes the new birth and the endowment of the Spirit to be able to live in accord with God’s will.-NN

    That is a reference to the Sacraments. Specifically Baptism (Titus 3:5; Col 2:12). Without the Sacraments, we won’t walk on Mount Sion in this life (Heb 12:22). The Sacraments are pre-judgement events.

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