This is the first of what I hope will be a weekly blog on current issues relating to the interfaith world we live in! I guess the first thing that comes to mind when you are thinking about interfaith work is “why?” I mean, why care about doing interfaith work at all, when most of us come from a religious tradition that is quite full of ideas, good work, history, community, etc? I must say, that is a very good question. Christians, Jews, Muslims – all the Abrahamic religions have traditions that go back thousands of years. That’s a lot of history, theology, noble endeavors, questionable decisions, and family connections to dissect. There are religious holidays, what you were taught as a child, what you are teaching your own children – all of this can take place solely and quite happily within your own religious tradition. And it is rich, varied, and beautiful all by itself. So why venture out at all from the world of “faith” to the world of “interfaith”? I’ll give one answer in this post.
For me as a Christian, I view the world as a theater for God’s activity, God’s revelation. This revelation has traditionally in Christian theology been thought of as being divided between general revelation, revelation that is accessible to all people, and special revelation, revelation that is centered around the person and work of Jesus. For Christians, Jesus’ saving work is central to understanding God’s work in the world, hence its description as “special revelation.” But theologians throughout history have noted another category where God reveals something of Godself to all of creation – general revelation, available to all people, regardless of place and time, social status, or religious affiliation. This general revelation tells us something about God. So that for me as a Christian, “special revelation” is a great place to start learning about God, but God’s involvement with the world does not stop there. In creation, in people, in other religions, we see God working, and so it is imperative that I see and learn from that work and presence. Otherwise, my own faith is not as robust as it could be from looking around. I need to augment, enrich, enliven my own tradition through what God is doing in other places, people, and faith. This is why I am interested in “interfaith.” Maybe it’s why you should be too.