How Can We Claim Our Faith as Exclusive?


#1

In all my life, I never thought I would be one to utter the question of how I can claim my faith to be the only true one. I mean, I’ve always been dogmatic and viewed others’ beliefs as wrong-headed. But now I don’t know.

I was raised in a fundamantalist, evangelical atmosphere, came to be a Calvinist as a young adult, and recently joined the Catholic Church after a three-year study of it. Interestingly, after I moved from one position to another, I suddenly saw those who believed like I use to as inferior.

Maybe I’m just a jerk.

But I think there’s more at stake than just that. I’m beginning to think this: before globalization, we were all relatively tucked away in our cultural corners safely with our own traditions. We knew there were those that believed differently than us, we came into contact with them on occasion, but they were wrong in what they believed. And we were right. I mean, it’s how we were all raised.

But now, we are a global society, without the luxury of being cut off from these other cultures. And it’s becoming harder and harder to resist the temptation of not seeing similarities between, say, the teachings of Buddha and the teachings of Christ. And it’s becoming harder to reconcile the teachings of Paul with the teachings of Christ.

Point is, claiming dogmatically that mine is the exclusive, true faith is looking pretty narrow and meaningless in this small world of ours. What do we do?


#2

You can accept that there is One Church and Outside of her there is no salvation, or you can go your own way.

The teachings of Christ leave no room for personal opinions. Our Lord didnt become man to make everyone feel better about themselves. He came here to redeem us of our sins and lead us to eternal life. We are saved through the grace of God given to His Church.


#3

Look, I know all this jargon. But it ignores my question: How can I know that this stuff is true? What about all the other great wisdom traditions of the world? Only partial truths, if that? How can we know!?!

It’s all about faith, huh?

It is written that faith is a gift. But if you lose it, does that make God an Indian giver?


#4

If we lose our faith we have only ourselves to blame (well, we can blame the Evil One for tempting us in usch ways to lose our faith, but we still have full control of our free will).


#5

What about the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away?


#6

And it’s becoming harder to reconcile the teachings of Paul with the teachings of Christ.

What is hard about it?


#7

Everyone who sins likes to blame it on God, dont they?

Interesting how even the first sin was blamed on God,

“And he said to him: And who hath told thee that thou wast naked, but that thou hast eaten of the tree whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat? And Adam said: The woman, *whom thou gavest me *to be my companion, gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said to the woman: Why hast thou done this?”

Adam blamed God for placing the woman, the temptation, there.


#8

We can claim as such because our faith is universally applicable. When you really get down to it- that is a quality that is lacking in other religions. And it makes sense to believe that the One Supreme God cares for his creation universally.

Has Christianity been regional and nationalistic in the past? Yes it has; but this is due to human limitations and biases. Global openness has occured before- just look at the Romans who traded for spices with India and adopted “mystery religions” of middle eastern/egyptian origin and the Buddhists missionaries in Eastern Europe. (Even check out the Buddhist/Zoroastrian/Christian influenced Manicheanism.) Our global society is to navigate easier because of technology; but it is not so different. We speak of a global society; but many peoples are largely ignored with such a term. Who makes up this society that trades culture and goods? It is dominated by Europeans, North Africans, the Middle East, India, and China. The world really hasn’t changed all that much.

It is hard to directly answer your questions because they are rather broad and cover a lot of academic areas. But I get the impression that you see this awfully big world that for around two millenia had little choice but to follow any religion outside of their cultural heritage- and you are wondering how God could allow such a thing, especially if it is one that is exclusive and meant for all. And I say that from God’s persepective little time has passed- two thousand years is not a whole lot of time, and already the Gospel has been brought to every nation and with modern technology and ideas like freedom of religion- truly a global religion can be accomodated.


#9

From a Southern Baptist,
Regarding seeming disagreements between Paul and Jesus -

You have apparently seen Paul getting stricter with, say, Timothy than Jesus ever sounded. As a general rule, the Book of Acts of the Apostles gives a lot of background that helps us see where Paul is coming from. Paul comes into town, sounds probably just like Jesus, shakes the place up, converts bunches of Greeks - and then leaves Timothy or someone behind to be the pastor/priest. Inevitable problems develop, and Paul writes a letter or two to the church to remediate what he hears was the problem. We get in disagreements with seeming conflicts with Paul’s words on, say, women im the ministry, drinking, slavery, etc.

Two more thoughts - take individual events/commands of Paul’s and decide/study whether they were specifically local directives or global statements, and read multiple translations. My curent faves are the New Living Testament and The Message, tho’ I have access to over a dozen.

I visualize Christianity as diverse groups of pilgrims walking in the same direction at different speeds who may throw ideas back and forth, not a single file going down a narrow path.

One More Thing: I am convinced that once you have repented and been saved, you can not lose your faith. The security of the believer is paramount to many protestants.

There is nothing you can say or do that will make Jesus Christ give up on yourself or any saved believer. Nothing. Ever.

He is omnipotent unto all generations - Omnes, omnes!


#10

You may be interested in listening to CAF program on Jan. 26th of this month: “The Lure of Relativism” featuring guest Anthony Clark. He presents some good theological and philosophical arguments in regards to Truth and being able to distinguish it from the current societal trend of relativism.


#11

Thank you. Your response hits the most directly on my questions. I still think, however, that it is more than mere coincidence that relativism coincides with more ready contact with the broader world. And no, I don’t just mean the select areas you’ve pointed out. Those little, ignored folks you mention have also had a big impact on my thinking. Like the Kung in southern Africa or the Plains Indians. There are so many rich and beautiful traits found among these groups. And since they’re less associated with institutionalized corruption, it’s easy to see why Christianity sometimes falls out of popularity, with some open people favoring these more simple expressions of life.


#12

Those expressions of life all have valuable practices we all can learn from. If they show love that is part of our faith, if they show kindness that is part of our faith. Every single good thing that they have is already part of the Catholic faith.

Now the cultural parts of their society as long as it isn’t something like polygamy or mutilation, etc… can all be enjoyed and made part of your life.

For example yoga, there is no problem taking the good out of a religion like Hinduism and using yoga as exercise. Now as long as you don’t start thinking you are going to be a yogi or anything.

But either things are true or not. So either we have a revelation from God of what truth is or God doesn’t exist, and you can believe whatever you want.

God Bless
Scylla


#13

Okay. I think what you’re saying is basically good. But I wonder if when you say things are either true or not you are referencing–like previous folks–concepts of absolute truth, whereby I’m right and you’re wrong.

If so, how do we *know *I’m right and you’re wrong. Again, it seems to go back to simply having faith. And that’s fine; it’s just the Scripture claims faith is a gift from God. So is losing faith a rejection of the gift? That seems a bit too simplistic an answer for me.

Some interesting things that have got me thinking on this is the study of comparative religion. It’s fascinating that the two major world religious systems, the Abrahamic and the Dharmic, have similar beginnings and traits. (Oh sure, there are many differences.) But, you know, those facts, along with studying many world indigineous religions, blows the mind.

And when I see that Christianity (Catholicism especially) is responsible for so many of the things I abhor in life (like industrialism, imperialism, colonization, “bigness,” etc.), it makes me wonder. Sometimes other traditions seem more “Christ-like” than Christianity.


#14

Everyman: I know what you mean. My wife and I have had similar discussions. Sometimes I wonder, if God maybe didn’t communicate to the different cultures and peoples of the world in different ways and methods. As you mentioned, many of the worlds religions and philosophies are very similar in doctrine and/or teachings. For instance, maybe God manifested himself/related to the Jews and people of that culture as Jesus Christ because that was appropriate for that time and place. Maybe for people of the Orient, it was as Buddha. I certainly don’t know this as a fact, just thinking out loud, but it does make you wonder sometimes.


#15

You said -
Some interesting things that have got me thinking on this is the study of comparative religion. It’s fascinating that the two major world religious systems, the Abrahamic and the Dharmic, have similar beginnings and traits. (Oh sure, there are many differences.) But, you know, those facts, along with studying many world indigineous religions, blows the mind.

I wonder if the Holy Spirit was working on all these seekers who just didn’t/haven’t figured out where the burning in their hearts was coming from. (I sound like John Calvin!) People have sought answers from the unknown since our prehistory. The Spirit was probably working on Kennebec Man when he showed up. Maybe God sent us K-Fed & Rosie to keep US looking for answers!

You said -

And when I see that Christianity (Catholicism especially) is responsible for so many of the things I abhor in life (like industrialism, imperialism, colonization, “bigness,” etc.), it makes me wonder. Sometimes other traditions seem more “Christ-like” than Christianity.

I wonder if you eventually will just have to forgive people for being people. Imperialism and colonialization did bring religious answers to the undeveloped world. Bishop Desmond Tutu spoke on this issue once, and basically said the Third World got the better of the deal.

Just because the physical world around you is busy, big, rushed, industrialized, and ruder than washing a cat doesn’t mean it has to be that way inside your heart. Inside your heart can be little tykes riding bikes down to grandma’s to dunk some cookies!

Read different Bible translations. Have you tried the New Living Testament and The Message?

P.S. You’re not the first to ask; you won’t be the last.

Steve in Hopkinsville (“Hoptown”) Ky



#16

Such a thing is relativism, which is a heresy.

Besides, if God worked through Buddha or Mohammed or whomever else, why did they all teach differant ideas, even on the nature of God?

No wonder even the recent Popes have warned us about relativism.


#17

Are you kidding? Imperialism and colonization destroyed civilizations that those committing the sins had no business messing with. Oh sure, it was all done in the name of God, to justify it on religious grounds, but it was outrightly wrong none the less.


#18

There are differences, no doubt. But the similarities have smacked me in the face. Why do we deny these things? Thich Nhat Hahn’s “Living Buddha, Living Christ” demonstrates the different language we use to explain the same things without ignoring difficult areas of true difference between the two traditions.


#19

For me, there is an enormous amount of reason in my continued belief in Christianity and my return to the Catholic Church. One of the wonderful things about Catholicism is that it is a reasonable religion, much more so than other religions.

As I continue living my life as a Catholic, I find that reason and faith interplay and complement each other. When one is weak, the other is usually strong. This is what I believe many theologians speak of when they reference a reasonable faith. As a Catholic, I don’t have to believe blindly. I can learn and study and see how the great thinkers of the past defended our faith rationally.

All in all, this is one of the great features of Catholicism. It is always reasonable and defensible.

Comparative religion classes are great and I really enjoyed the one I took in college. Don’t get to caught up in the presentation of religions on an equal footing, however. Also, don’t forget that the purpose of the class is not to explore which religion is more valid than another, but rather how the various belief systems shaped the cultures of the world. This is a valuable and laudable goal, and a completely secular approach is appropriate. Sometimes, it is hard to read about your own religion from a totally secular viewpoint, but if you keep in mind what the point of the study is, it becomes easier. In comparative religion, usually the point is to look at the logical extension of the belief system. i.e. culture A believes B so their culture has trait C. Culture D believes B, does their culture also have trait C? And so on. This has nothing to do with the validity or reality of the beliefs.


#20

Everything you just wrote could’ve been written by a Buddhist. So what’s the point?


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