Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
February 14, 2000
Not all religions are created equal
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
"It is against the faith of the Church to hold the thesis on the limited character of Christ's revelation, which would find its complement in other religions," Pope John Paul told the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Jan. 28.
The pontiff poured cold water on "certain ambiguities" that have arisen in theological circles, which equate inter-religious dialogue with a justification for syncretism. The various religions are not equivalent, said the pope, because Christ is the unique saviour of humanity.
Pope John Paul dismissed notions that relativize "Christ's revelation and his unique and universal mediation in regard to salvation," observing that "if this is permitted, the Church would also lose her reason for existing because she would no longer be the universal sacrament of salvation.
"Therefore, it is an error to consider the Church as one more road to salvation together with that of other religions."
Reaffirming the Church's evangelical role, the pope emphasized that the Church has been, is, and will be missionary, in the sense that she announces Christ - "Way, Truth, Life."
It is encouraging in this age of political correctness and multicultural cant for the pope to present such a ringing and unambiguous affirmation of Christianity's unique truth claims.
Last June, Canon Michael Green, the Archbishop of Canterbury's Special Envoy for evangelism, scandalized CBC Radio's Tapestry host Judy Maddren by unequivocally affirming that Christianity is the only valid faith, and that he would like to see an entirely Christian world.
"I think many of our listeners will find what you have to say offensive," Maddren told Green.
She obviously did, and I expect many will find Pope John Paul's comments on syncretism offensive as well.
However witnessing the Christian Gospel has never been a formula for popularity, and to accord salvific equivalence to other religions would render the explicit claims of Jesus Christ nonsensical: "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
Real Christianity and pluralism are uneasy bedfellows at best. Jesus Christ's essential claim to personifying the unique and universal truth leaves no room for ceding equal status to other religions.
If I believe in Christ, and affirm the catholic (universal) faith, it would be absurd to think that another religion could be "equally true." However, this affirmation collides with today's dominant worldviews.
Liberals believe in moral relativism and deny the concept of absolute truth. Jesus Christ claimed to be the truth that would set believers free.
Pluralists believe no point of view can legitimately impose its principles on society. Christians believe that all just law is based on God's law, which applies universally.
Multiculturalists assert that all religions lead to God, and that personal sincerity of belief (in whatever) is what really matters. Jesus Christ taught that the one and only way to God is through him.
Humanists affirm the sufficiency of individual values and assert that one must make one's own truth. Christianity demands conformity to the principles and standards defined by God's revelation in Christ and the Bible.
Modernists want a God whose fondest wish is for them to feel good, and a "morality" that reduces human purpose to achieving painless personal happiness. They cannot accept a God who does not share these cherished objectives.
Jesus Christ, on the other hand, taught the paradox that whoever clings too tightly to this life will lose it, and that the secret of happiness lies in renouncing the right to be happy.
If Jesus really did rise from the dead, the implications for those who reject him are dire. Christ claimed to save the world because he himself was God, and that he had personally defeated sin and death. No room exists in true Christian belief for the notion that other religions can be "just as true as Christianity."
If Jesus is not God and there was no literal resurrection, then all of Christianity is a fraud and not worth bothering with. However, if Christ is who he said he was, then he is not just a God for Christians, but the Creator of the universe with absolute authority over that creation and everyone in it, with the Church he founded possessing rightful claim to authority over the spiritual life and affairs of the entire human race.
"And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven," Christ told St. Peter.
As Pope John Paul observed, the Second Vatican Council itself, which opened the doors to dialogue with other religions, confirmed at the same time with total clarity, that "the pilgrim Church is necessary for salvation."
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