Our attitude is different. We acknowledge that we humans certainly have limited capabliity of understanding God and His doings. This is actually a good thing! If even ONE of us TOTALLY knew AND UNDERSTOOD the entirety of God's Plan, then that person would be "equal" to God. This is not only impossible, but it would be bad even if it could ever occur, because we humans would tend to misuse such unlimited knowledge (and power).
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If this were actually the case, then the implicit assumption is that All other human members of All other denominations and All other religions are Wrong, no matter how insightful, how intelligent or how committed to their beliefs they may be. This may seem realistic and possible if there are only a few hundred or a few thousand believers of such an erroneous belief system, or if the believers are so naive and trusting as to blindly follow some smooth talking leader. Many cults can be discounted for such reasons, but how about the 800 million current Roman Catholics who have followed relatively constant beliefs for nearly 2,000 years? Can Protestants just dismiss ALL of them as stupid? Even if most were, doesn't it seem likely that at least a few have the Faith and depth of belief to truly know and worship God? Doesn't it seem arrogant to immediately dismiss all of them?
And what about all the other Protestant denominations? Can ONE arrogantly believe that all the others are wrong and only THEY are right?
A large Denomination (of a million true believers) would still be assuming that the other 5,000 millions of living people are Lost and thereby destined to miss the opportunity of entering Heaven. Since nearly 2,000 millions of these currently consider themselves Christians (Catholic or Protestant or Orthodox) and thereby believe that they will each have that opportunity, it is tempting to conclude that the narrowness of the view of each Denomination (of excluding Salvation of all others) must be incorrect.
Looking at this from another perspective, does it seem likely that our Loving, Compassionate, Caring Lord Jesus would participate in running such a blatantly unfair system? Where the vast majority of people who devote their lives to Him, and who are passionate in that Devotion, would be automatically banned from Heaven, just because they had chosen the wrong Church to walk into? Jesus would never allow such a thing!
In 1522, Martin Luther wrote: "Let us abolish all party names and call ourselves Christians, after him whose teaching we hold . . . I hold, together with the universal church, the one universal teaching of Christ, who is our only Master."
This movement toward non-Denominationalism, essentially an acknowledgement of our limitations in fully understanding our Faiths, is definitely moving in the right direction. It could continue even further, to welcome Catholics, Orthodox, Jews, and even Moslems. After all, all of these belief systems worship the SAME God/Father/Allah/Jehovah and recognize the importance of Adam, Abraham, Moses and the Ten Commandments. They differ in their separate understandings of just what God expects of us mortals and in how we are to Worship Him. Many times, these differences in understanding arose based on slightly different societal environments or different translations or versions of Biblical source materials.
What if these major religions are actually just subsets of humans who believe in God? This is possible, and actually even logical. We Protestant Christians, Roman Catholic Christians, Orthodox, Jews, and Muslims may just be using different procedures to worship our One and Only and same God. For Christians, He provided Jesus as the focal point of religious belief. Once a person has accepted Jesus as his personal Savior and become a Christian, he has established a relationship with God. Similarly, if a person accepts the Prophecy of Mohammad as the proper path, he has established a different but equally valid relationship with Allah (God.) Different procedures may have been appropriate to establish the God - relationship because of differing social orders and structure. God's infinite insight and wisdom would have realized just which vehicle would be most appropriate for those peoples at those specific times and places.
If a particular society did not generally revere and respect Moses or Jesus or Mohammad, that particular society would probably not be likely to learn to follow God through that particular vehicle. God may have chosen to approach different peoples, at different times, in different ways, but always with the same goal - a stable society with consistent rules of conduct and which generally or universally worships only Him.
No true formal creedal statement exists for Judaism, but one commonly accepted aspect is that Good Works are necessary and required, in order to receive the reward of Heaven. The Torah, or Books of the Old Testament of the Bible are used as Divine.
The Torah makes it VERY clear that there is ONLY one God, as in the First Commandment.
Within two centuries of Jesus' Crucifixion, a collection of Books was collected together as the New Testament. The existing earlier Divine texts of the Old Testament were equally followed. The New Testament taught Christians that they could Worship God (often called Father) through His Son, Jesus, and that personally accepting Jesus' Death on the Cross as Atonement for our human sins was the method of achieving Salvation, and thus entry to Heaven. God came to be perceived in a peculiar way, where He had Three distinct Presences to us, as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, referred to as the Trinity. This method of receiving Salvation is ENTIRELY due to the Grace of God, and can occur only as a result of individual Faith. This means that Good Works do not contribute toward receiving Salvation. However, Good Works should naturally occur AFTER a person is Saved, as a result of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in each Christian.
Even though this Three business rather complicates understanding some things, the Bible makes it VERY clear that there is ONLY one God.
Muslims follow the "Five Pillars" in their Faith, which includes Praying five times each day and giving to the poor.
One of the five pillars is the statement that "There is no God but God . . . ", confirming, as with the others, that there is ONLY one God.
All of these disparate groups maintain the Ten Commandments as guidelines to behavior. (In the Muslim Koran, they are not presented as concisely as in the Bible or Torah. They all (in principle) revere doing good for their neighbors and society in general. They all believe in angel-like beings (or the Holy Spirit) who can do God's work on Earth. MANY other parallels exist. These parallels are NOT accidental!
Whether Smith (Mormons) or Koresh (Branch Davidians) or many other purported Prophets actually represent God can be a tough call - especially from believers within the Denominations or sects which follow that individual. It is very tempting for humans to want to follow someonw who claims to know all the answers! Such individuals could conceivably be bringing new insights to us from Him which are necessary to cope with modern existence. Then again, they may be Satan - driven. Each individual human must decide whether to follow or not / whether to invest Faith in such person's teachings or not. Jesus knew that we would be faced with such dilemmas, and He warned us to be wary of false Prophets.
If we each are willing to acknowledge our pitifully limited understanding of these matters, we might be willing to consider that other fervent and devout believers, whether Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Jewish, Muslim or others, may indeed have an equal but different basis for belief in God, as related to ourselves. In such an environment, we may all be able to learn much more (from each other) and as a consequence, find ways to better live in harmony with others with whom we don't always see eye to eye. I, as a Protestant Christian, should show tolerance, understanding, and patience for believers of these other of God's religions. That is the approach that Jesus Taught me! That attitude should NOT be extended to groups or religions which do not worship and revere God, such as pagan or sorcery groups.
Most religious leaders in each of the religions discussed here believe that ONLY their system is correct and proper. This essay is meant to suggest that EACH probably ARE totally correct and proper FOR THAT SOCIETY. God obviously knows about the great diversity of humans. We tend not to ALL agree on almost anything! This essay is meant to suggest that He has apparently presented to mankind at least three very different and distinct ways of Worshipping Him, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but that all three are recognized and appreciated by Him. Some modern societies are just not willing to accept Judaism or Christianity, but maybe they will embrace Islam, which would give them a method of Worshipping God/Allah. Other societies might find Christianity more acceptable and embrace that. Others still, Judaism. None of the three are better or worse than the others, just different. A person would be initially free to choose any of the three, but once that decision was made, total commitment must be made to THAT Faith and all it includes. Devout commitment to whichever Faith is chosen is the important part.
Muhammad did not understand the concept of the Trinity in Christianity. When he saw that Christians were revering Jesus as a Divine God, he saw that as challenging God's (Allah's) First Commandment, that there is but one God. To Muhammad, Jesus appeared to be a SECOND God, in obvious violation of the First Commandment. As a result, Muhammad centrally focused all of his beliefs on there being ONE GOD, and the most important Prayer in Islam clearly states that fact.
What if Muhammad had clearly understood the Christian concept of the Trinity? He would then have realized that Jesus actually WAS Allah / God! Muhammad would then have NOT considered Jesus as being a SECOND God, but actually the ONE and ONLY God, Allah!
Other than this matter, Christianity and Islam are remarkably similar, in beliefs, in historical (Old Testament) origins, in virtually everything! If Muhammad had fully understood the Christian concept of the Trinity, Islam and Christianity would be essentially identical!
However, there is an interesting point to consider! Christians all believe that the Holy Spirit "indwells" within each Believer, as a Guide. What IS the Holy Spirit? As One of the Three of the Trinity, it IS God! In a substantial sense, Christians believe that God Himself is within every one of them! This might not actually be very different from what Mormons aspire to!
Perspectives like these might exist to explain the various diversities of our various belief systems in God. These two are presented as examples of the concept.
(Editor of BELIEVE)
A Christ Walk Church, (a non-Denominational Protestant Christian Church)
If this approach interests you, I have written a more extensive essay on the topic, at: Compatibility between Faiths.
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