We talk in class today about the British theologian, John Hick, who influenced religious conversations in the 70s and 80s with mind twists and turns, trying to make every religion equal and the world truly pluralistic. He hoped to bring about world harmony and peace. Instead, each religious tradition becomes reduced to its minimum, nothing can be True, and life is meaningless.
No one is happy. Hindus and Buddhists reject Hick's assumptions because of his evaluation of "good" religions is based on moving from being self-centered to other-centered. Hindus and Buddhists deliberately look inward to the self and have no ideals of helping others... unless their culture has been influenced by Christian missionaries. Muslims are outraged at Hick's suggestion that they are one among equals. Only liberal Christian theologians buy into his nonsense. A brilliant thinker in many disciplines, Hick becomes deluded by his human philosophies and his rejection of what God says about himself. And in the past decades, the liberal philosophy on which he based his reasoning has been discarded as a sham. Like a heap of cards, a lifetime of work falls down into meaninglessness.
In contrast, later in the day we are all leaning in. Around the table, we hold our breaths as the professor tells about sharing his faith while on a train ride in India. He's a good storyteller, but we are fascinated by his observations of Hindus and Buddhists, especially since Western entertainment stars are enamored of Eastern religions. The prof's interactions with people in India confirms what each of us has experienced. People are hungry for meaning and desperate for inner peace that cannot be found in Eastern systems of escapism and introspection.
I confess I tear up when our professor reads an article written by a Hindu friend. The man describes finding Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of his desperate, lifelong search. Dr S. explains, "Hindus do not care for others. Your station in life is the result of your previous incarnation, so why help the poor? They have earned their suffering and perhaps will do better the next time around. Christian missionaries brought an entirely new idea to India: treating lower castes and the helpless with love and attention. This is completely foreign to Indian thought." It's only beneficial to be Hindu if you are rich and well-educated, of the highest caste.
And, "The goal of Buddhism is like a light you reach toward in the distance. When you are fully actualized, the light blinks out… Now what is the hope or joy in that?" he asks.
"Muslims are uncertain of their fate and can only hope for God's mercy. There is no personal relationship or assurance of heaven with Allah. In history, wherever its adherents go, they bring violence and bloodshed," says Dr S. "It claims to be a religion of peace, but all of India is quivering under the intolerance and brutality of regional Islam."
As we're going through our study of World Religions this week, I am overwhelmed. No faith tradition outside of Christianity has any inkling of a Creator God who actively seeks a relationship with humankind. There is no person or idea comparable to Jesus, God among us, offering himself as a sacrifice for the sinful, unworthy, and unlovable.
I cannot grasp why we have been privileged to hear the Good News and are able to respond to God's invitation. "Why me? Why us?" We could have been born anywhere, unknowing and lost in the world.
"God with us." Immanuel. Is there any sweeter thought as Christmas approaches? If you haven't yet decided to accept the gift of forgiveness, peace, and reconciliation that comes through Jesus, why not consider it today.
*The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like total darkness. They have no idea what they are stumbling over. Proverbs 4:18–19 NLT
*For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 NKJV
*But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father." So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. Galatians 4:4-7 NIV
*But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:4-10 NIV