Tag Archives: interfaith

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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Dreaming Quantum Dreams

This post is part of the January Interfaith Synchroblog.  The theme is “Religion and Science”.  Links to all contributors are listed at the end of this post.

 
Before I begin I just want to make it clear that anyone out there with the least bit of knowledge about quantum physics could easily prove that I don’t know a thing about it.  Sure I could talk a little bit about entanglement, which is the quantum physics theory that some form of communication, faster than the speed of light, allows particles that have become entangled to know and respond to what the other one does no matter how far apart they are, or I could talk a little bit about the amazing double slit experiment that basically says nothing is real unless it is observed – but like I said, just “a little bit”.  However, in my defense, even Richard Feynman, the American physicist who received the Nobel Prize in 1965 for his contributions to quantum electrodynamics said, “I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” 
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I first became interested in the connection between quantum physics and faith when I read the essay “Physics and Faith: The Luminous Web”  by Barbara Brown Taylor.   She absolutely astounded me with the way she allowed science to enhance her perception of God and his creation. Below are a few paragraphs from the essay that really spoke to me (you can find the whole thing  here):

“When I am dreaming quantum dreams, the picture I see is more like a web of relationships–an infinite web, flung across the vastness of space like a luminous net. It is made of energy, not thread. As I look, I can see light moving through it like a pulse moving through veins. I know the light is an illusion, since what I am seeing moves faster than light, but what I see out there is no different from what I feel inside. There is a living hum that might be coming from my neurons but might just as well be coming from the furnace of the stars. When I look up at them there is a small commotion in my bones, as the ashes of dead stars that house my marrow rise up like metal filings toward the magnet of their living kin.

Where am I in this picture? All over the place. Up there. Down here. Inside my skin and out. Large compared to a virus and small compared to the sun, with a life that is permeable to them both. Am I alone? How could I ever be alone? I am part of the web that is pure relationship, with energy available to me that has been around since the universe was born.

Where is God in this picture? All over the place. Up there. Down here. Inside my skin and out. God is the web, the energy, the space, the light — not captured in them, as if any of those concepts were more real than what unites them, but revealed in that singular, vast net of relationship that animates everything that is.

It is not enough for me to proclaim that God is responsible for all this unity. Instead, I want to proclaim that God is the unity — the very energy, the very intelligence, the very elegance and passion that make it all go. This is the God who is not somewhere (up there, down here) but everywhere”

Like Barbara Brown Taylor, I also dream quantum dreams – dreams of unseen connections and unexplained phenomenon, dreams of a broken world made whole again, dreams of unity without uniformity and diversity without fragmentation, dreams that allow me to imagine that when science and faith meet, secrets buried in the physical universe will be revealed, secrets that bear witness to the glorious attributes of its creator, secrets that will urge us to seek, to marvel and even to doubt in order that our theology will be edified. 

At times science can be alarming for many of us, stripping away answers without providing new ones…and yet I sense that it may be from these uncertain places that a fresh and more robust gospel will emerge.  A gospel that is not just scientifically sound and spiritually alive, but a gospel for all things – a whole gospel for the whole world – a gospel that dares to imagine a world where God’s dreams come true. 

Here is a list of all the contributors to this synchroblog:

Reality Isn’t What It Used To Be at Notes From Underground

Dreaming Quantum Dreams at Grace Rules

How I Taught Science instead of “Christian” Science at the Evening of Kent

Is Evolution Atheistic? at glocal Christianity

Post-Modernism: A Challenge to Science? at Fr Ted’s Blog

Faith, Reason And Unreason at The Musings of a Confused Man

 

 

The Dialogue Begins

If you are interested in the dialogue that has been sparked by the “Interreligious Dialogue Synchroblog” (that is a mouth full) then hop on over to Khanya  or More Than Cake where there are ongoing dialogues about the difference in evangelizing and proselytizing (if there is a difference), what is permissable or at least, preferable, in an interreligious dialogue and truth.