In nomine Jesu I offer all peace,
I recently had a wonderful discussion with Ahimsa and Ahimsaman72 concerning Buddhists and Buddhism which I found enlightening and thought-provoking.
Since this discussion came about in a thread which wandered off topic and I felt the need to start-up this thread to further explore ecumenical dialog and deeper exploration of the deep truths shown to man throughout history.
Some are fearful of such dialog for they assume it leads to syncretism and often times it does. Religious syncretism, in its modern form, regards all paths as possessing “equal” truth simultaneously, and in so doing is forced to overlook certain basic distinctions, or to offer complicated explanations in order to rationalize these distinctions away. The ancient Christian teachers, on the other hand, took a more honest and discerning approach, which in the end proved to be more simple, natural, and organic. Rather than mixing all the religions together like the moderns do, these ancients understood that these was an unfolding of wisdom throughout the ages. They saw foreshadowing, glimpses and prophecies of Christ not only among the ancient Hebrews, but also among other peoples who lived before Him, and they saw the writings of pre-Christian sages as a preparation for Christ as the apogee of revelation. This is explained most clearly in the quote by St. Seraphim:
If we concede that the pre-Christian philosophers did seek the truth, and that they did catch glimpses of it, it only stands to reason that their teachings should bear some similarities, like a broken reflection of the moon in water, to the fullness of Truth in Jesus Christ. Therefore, these similarities need not appear as a threat to Christianity; instead, they offer one more proof of Christ as universal Truth.
We can further look into this not as syncretism of our modern era but rather in the ancient apologetic tradition. The latter began less than a century after Christ, with St. Justin Martyr (AD 110-165), St. Clement of Alexandria (AD 153-217), and Lactantius (AD 260-330).
In speaking to the Greek polytheists of his time, St. Justin called upon the testimony of the pre-Christian Greek philosophers and poets who, like Lao Tzu and many Hindus, taught that there are not many gods, but only one God: the Uncreated Cause and Creator of the universe, omnipotent, eternal, and infinite. Each of these writers, Justin affirmed, “spoke well in proportion to the share he had of the Logos disseminated among people, seeing what was related to it… For all the writers were able to see realities darkly through the sowing of the implanted Logos that was in them. Elsewhere Justin went so far as to call the pre-Christian sages by the name of Christians, even though they were called godless, such as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus and others like them…. So also those who lived before Christ and did not live by the Logos were ungracious and enemies of Christ, and murders of those who lived by the Logos. But those who lived by the Logos, and those who so live now, are Christians, fearless and unperturbed and share in the generous breadth of grace and mercy which extend from His Sacrifice.
Peace, Love and Blessings,