This past Sunday at One Church, Rev Bill Schnell gave a wonderful sermon (you can watch here).
Many things spoke to me, but perhaps one of the things that jumped out at me was the idea that humans use different words to speak about the same thing. Rev Schnell gave an example of a chair. There are multiple ways to say chair in English and on top of that we have different languages – each one with different words that are trying to define or point to the same thing.
- Could it be that different cultures, religions, and wisdom traditions use different words to all point to the same Ultimate Reality?
For some, this question is challenging because they hold to a belief system that argues it is the one, true system. I was raised in such a tradition, but it now seems to me to be arrogant to think that any one faith tradition could have it all right. Even people within this kind of tradition will usually admit that God is indescribable or beyond comprehension. Doesn’t it seem reasonable then to conclude that God may be working in faith traditions other than one’s own?
Others may struggle with this because they have experienced something that has formed them deeply and have a great desire for others to experience this as well. I get this, but should we discredit the very real experience of people from other faith traditions and ways that tradition has formed them?
I think we can be true to our tradition, while simultaneously being open to people of other traditions.
Let’s take the image of a bicycle wheel. A bicycle wheel has many spokes, but each spoke is leading in the same direction.
- Could it be that all the wisdom traditions lead us in a similar direction?
- If all the wisdom traditions lead us along a similar path, why be a part of any one singular tradition?
If we keep with the image of the bicycle wheel, what happens when we take one spoke and follow it for a little while, but then quickly jump on to the next spoke? If we continue to do this we will find that it is not actually taking us anywhere – we restart at the beginning every time.
Perhaps being rooted and grounded in a single tradition allows us to journey long enough and deep enough to find the center point that we have been searching for.
In a similar way, the deeper I go into my own faith tradition, the more I see similarities from people of other traditions (notice how the distance between the spokes decreases the closer to the center you get!). Entering into religious dialogue does not mean watering down our own traditions, rather it opens us up to the beauty and truth found in other traditions as well. For Christians in particular, it may be helpful to remember that Jesus was not a Christian, but a Jew. The very person Christianity claims as its founder was actually a part of a different religious tradition!
- Do you struggle to be open to truth found in other religions? If so, why do you think this is?
- If God is beyond description, why should we even bother trying to describe God?
- What words do you use to describe God, Ultimate Reality, Truth, or the Sacred? How do these descriptions hinder or enhance your view of God?