Saturday, March 2, 2013

Don't Quote Scripture!

That's right; don't quote the Bible. It could be offensive.

Some weeks ago I was chastised on a book forum for quoting Scripture by someone claiming to be an Orthodox Christian.

As an ex New Ager, I'd been trying to witness at that forum for nearly two years. We had been discussing the books of an Indian guru author who wrote extensively about Jesus. He taught that Jesus was only a man and just one of many ascended masters who had attained the "Christ Consciousness". In his cosmology there is no sin as we Christians understand it and the path to "salvation" is through the guru's particular style of Kriya yoga meditation.

This "orthodox" Christian suddenly jumped into one of the conversations I was having with these people, and voiced his objection. He surmised we could all learn a lot from this guru about "spirituality" and how to love Jesus, even though he admitted that he'd never read Yogananda. Sadly, I've come across several Christians on that forum who shared similar beliefs and one pastor who was enthusiastically looking forward to sharing this guru's teachings in the pulpit!

The Christian insisted it was arrogant of me to be quoting Scripture to people who, either couldn't understand it, or didn't give it the same credibility "we" did. He insisted that it was like trying to teach quantum science to someone who couldn't understand algebra. Moreover, he criticized me for being combative.

I can, indeed, be arrogant and argumentative. In fact, I would add condescending and a bunch of other adjectives I constantly struggle with in my flesh. I checked back at my comments and there were some I probably would have rephrased in retrospect - a lesson for future witnessing. Ironically, one of the New Agers immediately came to my defense saying that she never found me to be argumentative. Still, I took the criticism on board and prayed over it.

The next day the penny dropped. I dug a little bit further into this Christian's profile and found out that he was a fan of Catholic priest Raimon Panikkar. So I asked him if he was a religious pluralist. He ignored the question. I then informed him that the guru we'd been discussing had selectively cited hundreds of Bible verses out of context in support of his teaching. Therefore it wasn't rocket science to respond to that book in like fashion. In fact I suggested to him that Christians are obligated to do so. He stopped posting soon after that exchange.

You can read all about Panikkar online. One of the books he wrote borders on New Age paganism: "The Cosmotheandric Experience: Emerging Religious Consciousness."

Panikkar's principles of religious dialogue etc can be found HERE.

A sampling:

1. It must be free from particular apologetics. The Christian, Hindu or Buddhist must not approach the dialogue with the a priori idea of defending one's own tradition over or against the other.  

2. It must be free from general apologetics. Those involved in interfaith dialogue should not see their task in terms of defending religion in general against the non-religious or anti-religious attitudes of secular society. This would turn the religious encounter into an ideological movement as well being simplistic in its rejection of modern secular consciousness.

3. One must face the challenge of conversion. To be involved in religious encounter is a challenge and a risk. The truly religious person is not a fanatic who has all the answers but a pilgrim who is always open to the experience of grace and truth. One may lose one's life or even lose faith in one's own tradition--but one may also be born again and one's own tradition transformed.

4. The historical dimension is necessary but not sufficient. All religions risk limiting themselves to particular, historical interpretations which quickly become truncated ideologies. Religious encounter is a meeting of religious persons who both carry the power and burden of their own religious traditions; yet they also carry the power and burden of reinterpreting that tradition anew, not breaking with past history, but carrying it forward in imaginative ways. Religious persons like all others belong to history; they also change history through responding to life's contemporary challenges.

Interestingly, just today I saw a link to an apologetic at Catholic Answers. The topic in question was:

Apart from God's saving works, no one can be saved. So how can atheists be saved just by acting charitably?

I guess that, as a Catholic, the apologist is no fan of Sola Scriptura. Here is part of the response:

"To the extent that belief in God has been made impossible for him [the atheist] by others, there may be some mitigation of his culpability for unbelief. Ultimately we must trust that even he is not beyond the reach of God’s mercy if he strives to live morally (cf. Lumen Gentium 16). The second great commandment is love of neighbor (Matt. 22:39) and Christ said of those who serve others, even if they do not explicitly do it for Christ’s sake..."

Read Bob Deffinbaugh's article on Romans 1:18-32 HERE

Back to the Panikkar website:

"Moreover, Panikkar's own kind of radical pluralism is appealing in the manner it develops a critical stance towards all imperialistic and monistic modes of thinking and acting. No more will one religion, culture or tradition impose itself on peoples of diverse if less powerful traditions. The cosmotheandric vision tells us that a new wholistic experience of reality is emerging in which every tradition, religious or otherwise, can play its part in the unfolding of a new revelation where all will live in harmony and peace. This does not require the abandonment of faith, since faith is what humanity holds in common." (Emphasis mine)

Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. Acts 4:12

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rom 6:23

Oops, there I go again!

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