Does Interfaith Dialogue Lead To Syncretism?

119927522_729802e22eLast year I attended a women’s bible study for a short period of time.  We met on Monday evenings for a couple of hours.  We prayed together, studied scripture together and socialized.  We are new in the community and I was hoping to make some new friends.  It didn’t turn out that way.

One evening, a few weeks into the study, I shared with a few of the women that I had been participating in an interfaith dialogue and that I was really enjoying it.  They had never heard of such a thing and wanted to know more.  They were uncomfortable with the idea that an interfaith dialogue is not focused on trying to convert others to Christianity.  They could not grasp that we, as Christians, could learn anything of value from someone outside of our faith.  They thought it was probably a sin to be willing to take the position that we might discover that we are wrong about something we believe.  In the end they believed that there was some sort of evil involved in the idea of interfaith dialogues and that there was probably a hidden agenda of syncretism.  The result for me was that I became someone they, at least, were worried about or, at worst, suspicious about.  Needless to say, I didn’t keep attending the Bible study for long after that.

My understanding and experience has been that interfaith dialogue does not require one to give up or hide one’s own beliefs.  It is true that it is not a dialogue that is focused on validating one’s own religious conviction but at the same time there is a need for one to be rooted in their own tradition in order to have a meaningful dialogue.  I believe that the dialogue not only offers us the opportunity to learn about the faith of others but to also discover dimensions of our own faith that may have been unknown or forgotten by us.  In addition, I believe that interfaith dialogue opens up the possibility of people of different faiths working together for the common good.

Still, there are many who believe that it is not worth the risk of our faith becoming polluted with what they would consider false ideas and beliefs and that the most probable outcome is a blended belief system.

What do you think?  Is interfaith dialogue a slippery slope that leads to syncretism that will just end up dilluting and harming Christianity?  Or is interfaith dialogue a worthy endeavor that will heal divides, make the world a better place and lead to Christians becoming better followers of Christ because of our encounter with others?

This month a group of us have decided to synchroblog on syncretism. The synchrobloggers so far:

How To Cook Up A Personal Jesus by Matt Stone

How to be a Syncretist by Ellen Haroutunian

Our Uncomfortable God by Susan Barnes

Synching on Syncing by Phil Wyman

The Man In The Moss by Steve Hayes

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17 thoughts on “Does Interfaith Dialogue Lead To Syncretism?

  1. Catholic Apologist

    The problem with interfaith dialogue is thata there is no dialogue to be done. I used to believe that interfaith dialogue was good. However, Jesus himself is extremeley clear on the matter: “you are Peter and over this Rock I shall build MY CHURCH, and shadows will not prevail”. The Church is, by means of Revelation and the exclusive presence of the Holy Spirit (which cannot be found in any other religion, not even in judaism) the least inaccurate of all religions.

    We are not called to dialogue, but to spread the Gospel. We are not to legitimize buddhism, or islam, or jewish tradition, we are to claim that Jesus is the Living Son of God, who came to us so that we shall not perish, but have eternal life. That His Kingdom is not from this world, and no one meets the father if it is not through him. Acknowledging truth in other religions is denying truth in Jesus. Did Jesus acknowledged buddhism, hinduism, islam? No. Then who are we to do so?

    If all other religions have a “truth component” then they should have all had lead people to christianity. Did that happen? NO. Therefore, the other religions are misleading, therefore they are not true (or not as true as christianity).

    Reply

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