Christianity & Other Faith Traditions
In this episode of Christian Mythbusters, Father Jared debunks the myth the idea that all Christians believe people in other faith traditions are condemned. You can hear Christian Mythbusters in the Grand Haven area on 92.1, WGHN, on Wednesdays at 10:30am and Sundays at 8:50am.
The transcript of the episode is below, or you can listen to the audio at the bottom of the post.
This is Father Jared Cramer from St. John’s Episcopal Church in Grand Haven, Michigan, here with today’s edition of Christian Mythbusters, a regular segment I offer to counter some common misconceptions about the Christian faith.
In the life of the church, today is the Feast of the Epiphany (or Revelation) of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.
The Feast of the Epiphany on January 6 is actually the more ancient Christian feast which celebrates the Incarnation. Christmas didn’t develop until later. In Eastern Christianity, Epiphany celebrates the Baptism of Christ, but in Western Christianity, it celebrates the visit of the Magi from the East who brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the Christ Child. In some cultures, like the Mexican community, this feast is actually the more significant, known as Día de los Tres Reyes, the Day of the Three Kings. It is the Three Kings who bring gifts on this day in Mexico , not the Santa Clause we are familiar with.
And so, given this feast day which (in actuality) celebrates some Persian Astrologers worshipping Jesus, I thought today would be a great day to break the myth of what Christians actually believe when it comes to other world religions. The shorthand for this question is the Christian view on religious pluralism.
Now, sure, every Christian tradition will nuance the question of its relationship to other faith traditions differently. Most think that there are either one of two approaches: a traditional approach that believes followers of other religions are condemned unless they come to faith in Jesus Christ (the exclusivist position) and an open one that basically says everyone is OK and goes to heaven in the end, Christianity is just one of many paths (the universalist position).
By now you probably know me as someone often on the more progressive side of Christianity, but actually, as with many things, the teaching of the church is just more nuanced than either the entirely closed or entirely open side would lead you to believe.
Writing in the third century, for instance, Origen was perhaps the first Church Father to fully engage the question of religious pluralism. Before Origen, those who wrote about pagan religions largely did so primarily in a dismissive fashion. Origen believed that eventually all people would be united with God through Jesus Christ, saying that even those who did not do so in this life would be given the opportunity following death to choose God. He said this was a possibility and certainly not definite but given eternity and God’s love he thought it was possible.
Make no mistake, Origen was certainly no “liberal” or “relativist.” He argued strongly that if only local convention and custom are the standards of religious truth, then religion becomes merely a matter of “arbitrary arrangement and opinion.” You’re kind of saved—or not—depending on where you happen to be born. Instead of each locality worshiping the deity for that region or group, Origen insisted there must be one true God. As a Christian, Origen believed that Jesus directed people not to a local or tribal deity, but to the God of all people. He just also believed that in the end all people wo...