"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: The Bible and Pluralism

Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Bible and Pluralism

Would you want to know if your deeply-held convictions were based on a misunderstanding of the Bible? If you were wrong, would you want to know?

Please consider this carefully.

If Jesus is the "only way," who is Jesus?
Jesus was a mystic, especially as he is depicted in John. That is, he experienced God directly, within himself. Many Christian mystics have shared this experience over the last 2,000 years. The “I am” passages may be Jesus’ poetic expressions of such a mystical experience in which his personality and ego fell away and the only reality he sensed was that of God. If this is how we understand the passages, then when Jesus said “I am the way ... no one comes to the Father, but by me”, this may mean that the way to God was to become one with God, as Jesus did. It may mean that we do not get to God through dogma or doctrine, but rather through mystical union with God, an experience shared by mystics of many religions throughout history.

Other passages in the Bible provide helpful language to express religious pluralism. Philippians 2: 5-7 is a beautiful expression of the humility of the Christ: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” We might well ask: how could the religion of an empty man get so full of itself that it would claim to be the only true faith? Integral to having a mind of humility among ourselves is abandonment of any claim to the superiority of our religion. Our walk of faith is hindered by this hubris, and it is insulting and hurtful to others. Jesus said “whoever would be great among you must be your servant.” (Matthew 20: 26) To declare that we have the true faith compared to all others would contradict our calling as servants. It gets in the way of having a mind of humility. The highest values of our religion, the very reasons that we follow the path of the Christ, are contradicted by claiming that Christianity is superior to other faiths. (Jim Burklo)

This passes my mind check and my gut check. It allows me to embrace Christ fully and passionately, to see him everywhere, in everyone.


  1. Now Free, I agree almost totally with this. Yes, Jesus WAS a mystic, and true and living faith is a mystical faith. Mysticism, in my opinion, seems to have an occult connotation when it really doesn't. Because it is not by the rational mind that we see things of faith, or become empty so that we can be filled, or become great by serving. These are mystical and supernatural experiences.

    William Blake was called a mystic and was misunderstood by many in his day. And yet, there's this:

    Little Lamb, who made thee
    Does thou know who made thee
    Gave thee life & bid thee feed.
    By the stream & o'er the mead;
    Gave thee clothing of delight,
    Softest clothing woolly bright;
    Gave thee such a tender voice.
    Making all the vales rejoice:
    Little Lamb who made thee
    Does thou know who made thee

    Little Lamb I'll tell thee,
    Little Lamb I'll tell thee;
    He is called by thy name,
    For he calls himself a Lamb:
    He is meek & he is mild,
    He became a little child
    I a child & thou a lamb,
    We are called by His name,
    Little Lamb God bless thee,
    Little Lamb God bless thee

    The only portion of the article you posted that I would disagree with is the last statement about Christianity being superior to other faiths. And I would have to say that it is. There is only one God, the Creator of all. He created the Hindu, the Muslim, the Jew, the Confucian. People of faith believe there is Someone and Something beyond human understanding. The Bible says God has written His laws on man's heart. Mankind knows. But in most instances their faith requires them to live under laws. Christianity does not. Christ has come to set the captives free. In servanthood and humility we follow Christ's example, and are compelled to share this message of freedom. How can that not be superior?

  2. Superiority is a scalar term. When a Christian claims superiority, he/she is in a mindset of comparison to others, not of humility and service to others.

    This is not a great example, but I may think that my children are extraordinary (and that's entirely normal and healthy). But what if I was consumed with the idea of their superiority to others? What would that do to me, and to them, and to those I shared these thoughts with?

    Humility is not an impediment to loving one's children, or one's faith.

    I respect the Dalai Lama's views on this. When asked if he thought BUddhism "the best," he answered:

    "Yes," he replied, "I can say that for me personally, Buddhism is best because the Buddhist approach is most effective to me. This does not mean Buddhism is best for everyone. . . for my Christian brother or sister, Christianity is best for him or for her . . . the concept of one religion, one truth, is very relevant for the individual . . . but for the community it must be several truths. . . "

    If we all thought thusly, peace would increase.

  3. Great post, free! It reminded me of a couple of things.

    First, a book I read a few years ago called: Mystical Christianity: A Psychological Commentary on the Gospel of John. Great book that gets in depth about the linkages between Jungian psychology, mystical spirituality, and John's gospel.

    Second, it reminded me of Marcus Borg's comments on Jesus' "I am" statements in John. I find it inconsistent that a certain kind of Christian wants to take "I am the way. . ." literally, but never wants to take the other "I am statements" literally. "I am the bread of life" literally? Not often. "I am the vine and you are the branches" literally? Never.

    Marcus Borg's insight (obviously not original with him, but his was the first book I'd ever read about it) is that "I am the way" is not a statement about exclusivity. When Jesus says that he is the way he is saying that no one gets to the Father except through "the way" that Jesus embodies. Many (myself included) think that the way can be found in more than one religious tradition.

    It's meaningful to me that the first Christians did not call themselves Christians; they called themselves "the Way" (Acts 9:2).

    What is that way? As we enter into holy week, I think it is worthwhile to reflect on Jesus' words as written in John: "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends."(John 15:13) If we're serious about imitating Christ (as St. Paul exhorts us to do) our path will lead to the cross --giving up everything including life itself for the sake of loving God with all our heart, soul and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves.

    I dare say that no one reading this blog right now, no one claiming the label of Christianity (including myself) has actually given up their lives for the sake of another. That ought to inspire a bit of humility all around. :)

  4. Is having a home superior to being homeless? Would we want to become homeless so that we wouldn't elevate ourselves higher than another? Or would we humble ourselves to help and serve those who do not have food and shelter.

    I can't agree with the Dalai Lama that there are several truths. There is but one truth. But I admire anyone who does live a life of humility and service no matter what their faith tradition is. Can I say that the Dalai Lama does not know/have the truth? I cannot.

    Tomte, that was beautiful. I'm so glad you and Cvow have posted about Palm Sunday and Easter week.

  5. Methinks the homeless analogy is not quite apposite. Every faith or philosophical tradition is "home" for its adherents. When a Christian saysj (or implies) "my home is better than your home," or worse "you call that a home?" his/her spirit is not one of love but of competition and egotism. If one allows others into one's home (via friendship, acceptance and respect) the visitor can see for themselves.

    I guess this site is a kind of city in which we get to visit each others' homes. Door's open, coffee's on.

  6. backtothefuturecc4/01/2007 06:20:00 AM

    I like the coffee idea and "gustamista" - I have no idea how to spell it, but it always tasted sooo good!

  7. You may have misunderstood Free.. my point about the homeless is that we not turn our backs on those in need. Our mindset toward those in need is a choice, and if by helping others we see ourselves as superior then we are doing it for the wrong reasons. Be well.

  8. I believe Jesus is the only way as He said He is. That doesn't mean I believe He is literally a street any more than He is a loaf of bread. Have a blessed Lord's (Jesus's) day!

  9. I have a question for everyone if I may. With the discussions of one truth or one way....and somewhere it was said how God has written His laws on man's heart. Mankind knows I have a question.

    If Christianity or any other religon that states it is the only way what about the Idians who had no contact with "civilized" society? Are they all condemned? They had many gods....they prayed to them for food and rain and gave thanks when they recieved it. Where they laws too writtten in their hearts and it does not matter what you call your God but how you behave?

    I suppose I need a name instead of anonymous but I can't quite figure it out yet.

    God Bless All.

  10. Anonymous, that's a good question you pose. I remember wondering about that even as a child, and taking it a bit further -- what about the people who have never been exposed to the concept of God at all? I always thought it was pretty easy to understand that if a man through free will rejected God, then he would be lost. It seems to me that barring that rejection, we are all children of God. I do not believe that God would reject any of his creation just because they had not heard the same story as someone else.


  12. Something interesting heard lately;
    love is not a feeling, but a policy.

  13. Anonymous, that really is a good question, it's a hard question. The law written on tables of the heart is found in 2 Cor 3, and David also speaks of it in Psalm 40. Some time ago I came across a "Finnish Pagan Prayer" - http://www.geocities.com/gmahass/paganprayer.html. If you print it out, it's 10 pages long (altho in large print). If you ever have a chance to read it, please let us know what you think..

    "love is not a feeling, but a policy" - true! And a command, as well! "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" John 13:34-35