Now I want to follow up on that and begin the different direction. In case you missed it, my argument is based on the fact that John 14:6 is in no way about other religions but is a disciples invitation to follow Jesus’ way and relate to the Father as he relates.
It is predicated on the fact that:
- He is not talking to a person of another religion
- He is not answering a question about other religions
- He is not addressing other religions
John 14:6 is in no way about other religions. Having said that, SINCE John 14:6 is off the table … where DO we start in thinking about the question of other religions?
I am interested where you would begin the response if you can’t go to John 14:6 as a trump card. How would you play the hand that you have been dealt?
—— please craft the rough outline of your response before you read mine ——
Here is where I begin : it is a 1-2 punch Scripture and Tradition! First I go to acts Acts 17 (in the positive) for the precedent and then I go downstream and find where things have gotten plugged up and dislodge the block that limiting the flow of God’s Spirit.
In Acts 17 Paul walks into the Areopagus (Mars Hill in Athens, Greece) and he says three interesting things to start:
- He honors their religious culture “I see that you are very religious”.
- He quotes their poets and philosophers.
- He includes them in the ‘We’ (both v. 28 & 29).
This should be our model for cross-cultural missions. We honor their religious tradition. We learn their artists and thinkers. We include them in the we.
Unfortunately what has been the predominant modus operandi is a Colonial version of missions that does none of the three. It disparaged previous religious traditions as paganism, witchcraft, sorcery and superstition. It had no interest in indigenous voices and expressions. It was an us/them – in/out approach.
The second thing I would do is historical. I would revisit and reject the Filioque (Latin for “and (from) the Son”) a phrase found in the form of Nicene Creed in use in most of the Western Christian churches. It is not present in the Greek text of the Nicene Creed as originally formulated at the First Council of Constantinople, which says only that the Holy Spirit proceeds “from the Father”.
This later change (about 1,000 years into church history) is a disaster for mission. The application has been that the Holy Spirit does not precede the Gospel (preparing the culture) but follows the preaching of the Gospel. Thus when you showed up in another culture, don’t look for where the Spirit has been at work and join in … until Jesus is proclaimed, God is not at work.
Reject the Filioque and recognize that Holy Spirit has proceeded from the Father – equal to the Gospel – and is not limited to only working in kind of a 3rd tier operation. Holy Spirit is a work in every place and with every people, when we show up there we can humbly look around (as in Acts 17) to find signs of the divine activity. Having recognized it we can learn from it, and participate with it.
That is where I would start.