Good Old Religions Are Not All Saying the Same Thing: Beyond Syncretism and Dogmatism

Two statements that frustrate me to no end on interfaith matters are, first that “We are all basically saying the same thing” and, second, that “There is nothing good in other religions.” From my personal Christian vantage point, the first discounts the particularity of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, and for that matter, the distinctive, fundamental features of the various other faith traditions. The second discounts the universality of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, and from the vantage point of other traditions, their own claims to universality.
The first statement can easily give rise to syncretism, where one mixes and matches different religions; in some cases, syncretism comes across like blending and wearing different styles of clothing that one sheds and discards at will. The second statement connotes a close-minded, brittle, dogmatic posture, where one closes oneself off from learning deeply from other religious traditions. As a result, one also loses out on learning more about one’s own faith from different angles.

C.S. Lewis once was asked a question about what makes Christianity distinctive. He answered “Grace”.

And mercy.

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