Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox, Muslims, Jews, Mormons EACH
follow absolutely True and Correct methods of Faith!
A new perspective on these Faiths opens the door to greatly improved
tolerance and even acceptance between these various religions.|
ALL of these Faiths fully believe and accept the first Five Books of the Bible, including all references to Adam, Abraham, Moses and many others. All agree that Abraham was the first person to truly demonstrate total Faith in the One True Lord, by his willingness to sacrifice his son simply because the Lord requested it of him. Therefore, all of these religions make a central claim of Worshipping the "God of Abraham". They all accept the Commandments that Moses brought down from the Lord, the First of which made clear that there is ONE True God. Therefore, all of these religions can be said to Worship the "One True God of Abraham".
We see it that a Christian, at the moment of Baptism, publicly and privately makes a "promise" to the Lord to thoroughly and completely follow ALL the Teachings of THAT Church. Each time he/she properly follows those Teachings, it is a confirmation to the Lord of proper Faith and Devotion. The (physical) Church becomes somewhat secondary in this view. A person is continuously monitored by the Lord regarding adherence to those Teachings, (whatever they might be or involve), 24/7.
Possibly a more palatable example is "What language is 'correct', English or Russian?" If you are fluent in either language, you can describe and discuss absolutely any subject, as each is a "complete" language. At no point would you ever "need" the other language. There is no relativism involved in trying to determine which is "better". Similarly, there is no valid subjectivism involved in trying to claim one or the other is better. They are absolutely independent, parallel methods for communication. This premise should be seen in that light.
Note that an English grammatician could look at the sentence structure of a Russian sentence and think that he finds many errors. In his own realm of English, such a criticism might seem to make sense, but a Russian grammatician could confirm the correctness of the actual Russian sentence. Trying to apply rules and concepts of one, in analyzing sentences in the other, can be meaningless and misleading. This error seems to be often applied in the field of religion, where analyses within one religion seems to find many faults in all other religions, but those flaws are not actually there, and only appear to be there due to the viewpoint applied.
Now, any Members of any other Church would likely find humor in the behavior of the Members of such a Church, and would likely try to humiliate such Members as stupid! The reason for those attitudes is clear, that THEIR Churches do not require such jumping, and so from THEIR viewpoint, the jumping is a foolish activity. However, any person who accepts the leadership of that specific Church HAS ACCEPTED that they have a clear and obvious way in which they can SHOW THE LORD their deep Devotion, by jumping! And so from THEIR viewpoint, jumping would have an immensely important and central part of their Church-based attitudes and activities.
From the viewpoint of any other Church, such a Church and the activities of its Members would be considered worthless and foolish. Such a Church would be universally considered a Cult by most of the world! But consider the situation for each Member of such a Church. If it is really true that the Lord was constantly Watching each of them for evidence of their Devotion (as we all hope is true!), AND if they joined that Church KNOWING that jumping was considered a clear and obvious way for anyone to show the Lord of their deep Devotion, wouldn't it seem obvious that the Members of THAT Church would see an "obvious" need to practice jumping?
Over the years, each of these belief systems has become absolutely convinced that THEY fully know and understand the Truth. That would be reasonable, but each has also concluded that ANYONE who disagrees with them, even on minor points, is TOTALLY wrong and sin-driven and heretical. This second point is actually an assumption, and it is not necessarily true.
This new perspective presents a way of visualizing and understanding how these various and VERY DIFFERENT belief systems might be seen as being "equivalent" to each other. A VERY IMPORTANT aspect of this perspective is that NONE of the Belief Systems involved needs to give up the tiniest detail of their current beliefs! Many (generally unsuccessful) previous efforts at trying to establish peace or tolerance between these disparate belief systems have been tried. A common feature of all of them is an effect of "harmonizing" the two beliefs. That sounds good to begin with, but that approach invariably requires that one or both sides "give up" some aspects of their own Faith. That seems like a terrible thing to ask people on either side to do, and it almost always results in intense negative emotional reaction! Yes, some people from each side might consider it "tolerable" to concede some apparently minor aspect of their Faith. But this approach soon becomes a dangerous "slippery slope" where it becomes hard to determine where such "trimming" of Faith should be stopped! This current perspective eliminates that problem completely by never asking EITHER side to give ANYTHING up!
Followers of each of these religions generally know very little about the beliefs of the other Faiths. The little they ARE taught are nearly always the aspects that are perceived as negative (whether actually true or not!). Followers of any Faith other than "this one" are invariably presented in such teachings as being poor (often weak) humans who are being sinfully misled by some Satan-inspired organization that is masquerading as being of God. How sad that such a large number of the Teachers of all of these Faiths resort to this sort of distorted teaching!
A point seldom made is that, IF one of these groups was actually absolutely correct about that conclusion, then ONLY their members would actually have a chance at getting into Heaven. That means that BILLIONS of other Souls, who are Devoutly attempting to Worship the Lord, would automatically be left out! We believe that Jesus is Loving and Compassionate. It seems absolutely inconceivable that He would participate in such an arrangement, where those billions of people devoutly Prayed to Him and to God, only to be denied entrance to Heaven because they Prayed in a method different from what was "correct". We believe that His Loving Nature would certainly provide a solution for such an unfair situation.
Followers of each of these widely diverse Faiths are generally surprised that Moses and his whole story are revered in ALL of these religions. The stories of Abraham and of Adam and Eve are also quite similar in each. (There ARE slight differences: In the Islamic Koran, Adam had a second wife, Lilith. The Ten Commandments are not organized as concisely in the Muslim Koran as they are in the Jewish Torah or the Christian Bible, but they ARE there. Islam reveres Jesus, but as a Prophet and not a Savior, mostly because Muhammad seems to have misunderstood that Jesus IS God and he thought that Jesus represented a SECOND God, which Islam [and Christianity and Judaism] strongly forbids, since ALL agree that there is ONE God.) As a result of this misunderstanding, Muhammad and the Koran have a number of extremely negative attitudes toward Jesus and Christians. Muslims don't realize this misunderstanding, consider Christians to believe in a SECOND God, and are intensely offended by that apparent disrespect of the First Commandment.
Once all of these similarities and parallels are understood, it seems like far too great of a coincidence for these religions not to be somehow intimately related. It is truly unfortunate that proponents of each Faith have chosen to focus on the few serious differences between Faiths rather than the many amazing similarities of them. Exploring that area, and showing how even the apparently irreconcilable differences are actually compatible (in a broad understanding of that word), is the purpose of this essay.
A complicating factor is that each of these religions holds beliefs that require very specific actions and thoughts and attitudes, and that these various beliefs are sometimes wholly incompatible with each other. Protestant Christians believe that accepting Jesus as a personal Savior is the ONLY path to Salvation and Heaven. Catholic and Orthodox Christians insist that a Priest must intercede on the person's behalf to accomplish this. Jews do not accept the Divinity of Jesus at all and believe that a life of Good Works will get them into Heaven. Muslims also do not believe in the Divinity of Jesus, but have a set of five requirements that must be fulfilled to be able to enter Heaven. These beliefs clearly have mutually contradictory aspects. Previous attempts at looking for compatibilities between ("harmonizing") these various religions have always involved each religion having to "give up" some aspects of their beliefs. This is clearly unacceptable to many followers of each of the groups and such efforts have therefore always ended in almost complete failure.
Since each group teaches only a dark viewpoint of all competing religions and faiths, it is understandable why followers of such groups would develop bad feelings and even hatred for members of the other groups. They actually don't know much about them, and what they DO know is bad! This has resulted in a lot of terrible things during the past two thousand years, including the deaths of millions of followers of Father/God/Allah/YHWH by OTHER followers of Father/God/Allah/YHWH.
This is a truly amazing and sad result, since every one of these groups generally emphasizes love and peacefulness and tolerance and understanding! Imagine what Jesus must think when He sees us doing such things to other Believers!
Each, in turn, stands up and tells Jesus all the Wonderful ways his Church Worships and Praises Him/Father/God/Jehovah/Allah/YHWH, and Prays to Him/Them. Jesus smiles! But He doesn't say anything. In the process of presenting and describing the perfection of their own methods, each might offer criticism of the methods or beliefs of the other group. Yet, Jesus still does not speak and continues to smile because He recognizes the deep devotion that is in the heart of each speaker.
After each speaker has had full opportunity to present the case for his belief system, Jesus will finally speak. Imagine what He will say.
Do you think Jesus would dwell on the differences or criticisms? Do you think He would rebuke either of them for any of their beliefs or methods? Not a chance! He would lovingly smile and compliment and thank EACH of them for the Adoration they offer. Hopefully, neither of the two men would interrupt Jesus, but eventually one is certain to ask Him which one was best (or even, which was "Ultimately Correct!"). After all, the answer to that question would have been a primary reason why they just presented their cases so thoroughly! It seems doubtful that He would directly answer that question (think of His many such answers while He was on Earth!) Rather, it seems far likelier that He would just say that EACH group was wonderful because they were each TRYING to Worship God in the best way they knew how.
Rather than finding flaw in either of their current approaches, the author is tempted to think that He would just state that they each (and Catholics and Orthodox and Jews and Muslims) had come to their current Worship methods based on their individual cultures and some subtle, apparently necessary and correct, assumptions they each made along the way. He would affirm that ALL of these methods of Worship of Him/Father/God/Allah/Jehovah were equally Wonderful, even though they were obviously different, and obviously (to us) incompatible.
Jesus might place a single rhetorical question before each of them. He might ask if that specific group of mortal humans claims to have the intellect to totally know AND UNDERSTAND the mind of God. It would seem that any Faith could only claim to be absolutely perfect if it had such an unlimited knowledge and understanding. When orating among humans, many Churches CLAIM to have such absolute knowledge and understanding! In reality, it seems that ANY group of mortal humans will necessarily fall FAR short of this absolute requirement. Further, it would seem that such mortals who claim such infinite understanding are exhibiting a non-Christian ARROGANCE when they make such claims! It would be unimaginable that any would make such claims to Jesus Himself!
It is impossible to imagine Jesus responding in any other way in that hypothetical meeting! And, if that's true, then, some day, a broader insight and understanding might be recognized, where Mormon and Christian and Catholic and the others, will be shown to have ALL properly and successfully Adored the Lord all along. (Even though their individual Church leaderships often have left something to be desired!)
In other words, it seems a certainty that Jesus would affirm that ALL of those Faiths are Correct and True in all beliefs and methods of Worship (for followers of those specific Faiths). [But the beliefs and methods of any of those Faiths would not apply for followers of other of these Faiths]. To clarify: For a Christian, the beliefs of that particular Church would be ABSOLUTE for members of that Church, but they would not necessarily apply to members of a different Faith. Such a meeting with Jesus would merely demonstrate that we arrogant humans just seem to often think we're smarter than we really are, and that we fully understand things that we only have the slightest hints of! The result of considering such a hypothetical meeting should be that we would learn some Humility, a characteristic we all claim to have to begin with!
He would be pointing out that the most important thing is to follow the beliefs and procedures and rites of the Faith you have chosen to use to follow Jesus and Worship the Father. Since Catholics have chosen a method of Worshipping God that involves Seven Sacraments, they MUST follow all Seven and not just Two. Because of different cultural circumstances, Protestants have chosen to only recognize the Two Sacraments which are actually mentioned in the Bible, and so THEY MUST observe those Two.
Do you see? For one, the correct answer is seven. For the other, it is two. Neither approach is better or worse than the other. But once a commitment is made to either specific method of Worship, it is EXTREMELY important to pursue that course carefully, completely and devoutly. EITHER method is equally Pleasing to God, but a person cannot drift back and forth or "mix-and-match" beliefs from the two systems. There is NO flexibility on this point!
Around noon, on that same (weekend) Anniversary day, your second child, a nine-year-old girl, decides to cook lunch for the two of you. When you sit down to the meal, you find that the toast is rock hard and the meat is so black you can't even tell just what it is. But you both smile and try to eat it.
Your two children had chosen very different ways to try to show you their love. Each had some complications in doing so.
A cynical observer might conclude that they each failed in their efforts. Such a viewer would be extremely wrong. They actually each succeeded 100% in demonstrating their love for the two of you. True, their efforts could have gone more smoothly. But the intended result was actually entirely accomplished, even if the children don't actually realize it themselves!
The two children chose very different methods in trying to demonstrate their love, and they didn't even do very well at accomplishing those methods. But they each totally succeeded.
Do you love one more than the other because of the specific method chosen to demonstrate love? No! Do you love them less because of the fact that they were not able to successfully complete their demonstrations of love? No! Those are not important considerations! The fact that you, as an intelligent, caring, feeling parent, recognize what was in their heart, now THAT was what was important! Yes, you may chuckle over the difficulties, but you won't doubt their love for you.
Notice also that the two children would almost certainly later argue over which had chosen a better (or THE BEST) way of demonstrating love for you. But they would be arguing over an irrelevant point. As soon as you recognized what was their intent, what was in their heart, the love was shown as fully as it could possibly be shown! In your eyes, the specific methodology attempted or the success at completing that methodology, are very much secondary.
This anecdote is essentially very similar with the hypothetical meeting mentioned above where the Christian and Mormon were each trying to demonstrate to Jesus how much they love Him. Due to cultural differences, they happened to have chosen rather different methods to try to show that love. And, sometimes, they don't even do a particularly good job of fulfilling their plans and intentions.
I'm implying that Jesus recognizes the intent in each of their hearts, and is warmed by each of their love for Him. The smile on His Face is like that on those parents who are so happy that their children have the right intentions. And that smile is there, whether orange juice is spilled or meat is burnt or believers in God/Christ aren't as perfect as they would want to be.
This premise suggests that Jesus would see the very different efforts that Orthodox, and Roman Catholic, and Protestant, and Mormon (and others) put forth in attempting to Worship Him and God, and He would overlook those differences that WE get so focused on. He would express no criticism for any of them, as long as they each devoutly followed the beliefs and methodology and Rites of that one Faith they each chose to follow. It seems certain that He would have some eloquent way of explaining to each group that there was a bigger picture that included all of them.
Let's extend the children scenario a little more. You also have a twelve-year-old son. He pops into your bedroom, hands you a Pop-Tart and a glass of water and asks if you two could split it. Would this sort of action strike you as a heartfelt expression of love? Probably not! But, you have a three-year-old daughter who very carefully brings in a tray with a still partially frozen Pop-Tart and a glass of water, and you know instantly that this is a wonderful expression of love. Same behavior (sort of) but CLEARLY very different levels of love being expressed. Your sensation of being loved clearly had nothing to do with the specific methodology chosen. Or, how successfully or accurately it was accomplished. You just somehow KNOW what was in the heart of the giver.
Out of all of your four children, only one actually successfully accomplished giving you an Anniversary gift. Interestingly, (in our example), that one seems to have demonstrated the least Love!
Whichever of these God-centered religions a person chooses to follow, it is centrally important to approach it seriously. God/Jesus is even better than parents at knowing what's in the hearts of His Children. A heartfelt Faith will be fully appreciated by God, whether it was offered by someone who called himself a Protestant, a Catholic, a Jew, a Muslim, an Orthodox, or a Mormon.
When individuals make "lame" efforts at Faith, in any of these religions, it is a hollow and nearly meaningless action. Do such people think they are fooling God? Seems unlikely! So why do many people sort of "walk through" religion? Such people need to learn that true Faith is the real value here, not just being able to mark a calendar as to regular attendance at religion. It is good for Christians to know the words to all the songs, or to be able to quote at will from the entire Bible. It is good that Muslims pray five times every day to Allah. It is good that Jews honor the Sabbath. BUT, what REALLY matters is WHY the person does these things. If it is because it is expected, by friends and neighbors and relatives, it is somewhat hollow. If it is because the motivation is to Honor and worship God/Allah/Father/Jesus/Jehovah, then the value is great.
This premise is essentially suggesting that we each have another characteristic similar to the "IQ rating", a "Devoutness rating!" At the Gates of Heaven, your 'DQ' would be checked as really the only criterion. If you had been devout in your Worship of God, Peter and Gabriel and the others will smile on you, no matter which specific Church, Synagogue or Temple you attended. Simple as that!
This essay is intended to suggest a new, larger understanding of a "larger picture", where each of the groups have their proper and True and Correct places. Even though there appear (to us mortals) to be absolute inconsistencies between the beliefs of these various groups, this bigger picture would provide for EACH group to be ABSOLUTELY CORRECT in its teachings and its beliefs. Essentially, each of the Faiths could be described as a sub-set of a larger Truth which we do not fully understand or comprehend. Once a believer chooses to follow any one of these God-centered Faiths, Protestant Christianity, Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, the Mormon Faith, Judaism, or Islam, ALL of the beliefs and methodologies of that Faith MUST be followed, and the beliefs and methodologies of the other "parallel" Faiths would not apply.
As far as the author knows, none of the previous approaches toward achieving compatibility has taken this perspective, so it is offered here for consideration. These thoughts are not meant to challenge in the slightest way the beliefs, teachings or procedures of any God-centered religion or group. On the contrary, these thoughts are meant to demonstrate that EACH is and always has been a correct and True Faith, to actually give improved foundational support to each of Islamic, Jewish, Orthodox, Catholic, Mormon, and Protestant belief systems. This essay offers a way to visualize the possibility of seeing logical parallel co-existence of these apparently very different religions. It is the belief of the author that this concept is totally compatible with each of these religions.
While you are pondering what you see, wishing you could get a better view of the antiquish round object in the building, you hear the voice of another person who has apparently climbed up a different path, and who came up to have access only to a single small window on a different side of the building. That person is apparently now also looking into the room, through his single small window that is present on THAT wall.
That voice begins commenting on the object in the center of the room. Comments about the beauty and reflectivity of the shiny new metal surface really confuse you. The rectangular shape is so wonderful! The greenish color of the reflection of light off the object is beautiful!
What is going on here? Is the person speaking a raving lunatic? Is he really looking into the building? Is he blind? Or stupid? Don't you wish that you could get around the corner to maybe knock some sense into his head? You can see with your own eyes, and he is clearly wrong, wrong, wrong! Fortunately for him, there is no easy path around the corner, and it would require you to climb all the way down and then back up on the other path to get there. What is the result of this? You are almost certain to disbelieve and disrespect the other person, and therefore you are certain to ignore any evidence he claims to be offering you.
It also turns out that if you express what you see to the unseen companion, an equally disrespectful attitude is likely to develop in him about you. Each of you is absolutely confident of what you are seeing, so you consider that to be the absolute and total truth. The unseen companion makes statements that are not compatible with what you know to be the truth. Such statements are obviously to be ignored!
Add to this situation, that each of you has a reference Book (Bible, Torah, or Koran) you happen to have, which happened to be available just outside that particular window, which does not actually offer explanations for the differences you are arguing about, but merely absolutely assures each of you that there is really only ONE OBJECT in the room and that YOUR VIEW of it is CORRECT and ACCURATE.
What neither of you know is that the object that you both are looking at in the room (and which neither of you has actual access to) is actually an object shaped like most of a 55-gallon oil drum, lying on its side, with the top (round) surface facing you. The other person is looking at the side, which appears to be rectangular. The materials and textures and colors of the drum's side and top are different, which explains the other disparate findings of the two of you.
If the two of you choose to be so narrow-minded as to only believe what your own eyes see, neither of you will LISTEN much or learn much and neither of you will ever understand the true nature of the object much better. Each of you sees something that seems to make sense to you, and seems to give a complete and self-consistent and comforting concept to you. Why look farther? Why even consider some stranger's comments that seem clearly incompatible with what you can see with your own eyes?
However, if the two of you would somehow be willing to give some credibility to each other, intellectual growth could occur. Each of you could have nearly twice as much information to build from. Eventually one or the other of you (maybe named Einstein??) might eventually realize that a more complete explanation exists of what you both saw. A moment of inspiration might be that it was a cylinder, lying on its side, with the end facing you.
It might even then happen that the companion notices that very thin line that rises up from the right edge of what he sees. He might then realize that that is probably the EDGE of the round disk that YOU are looking at. Prior to the constructive conversation between the two of you, he might not even have noticed that line, and certainly wouldn't have understood its significance. Your collective knowledge of the object is now greater than the sum of your independent knowledges! A whole new vista of understanding has been gained!
With just the information from the view through one window, neither of you could ever figure out such things.
Once the basic concept (of front and side views) was presented and found acceptable to both of you, the other details could quickly be analyzed to develop a decently complete idea of just what the object actually seemed to be. You two would start to ask productive questions of each other! Sharing your knowledge and insights would become exhilarating! Will the resultant conclusions be absolutely correct? Probably not, particularly since neither of you would likely figure out that much of the top part of the drum had been cut away, but they will certainly be a LOT more correct and complete than would otherwise have been possible.
This analogy would suggest that the different groups of Christians (Orthodox, Catholics, and Protestants), are possibly looking in through different small windows in that one wall that Christians have access to. Since these windows are in different places in the wall, each has a slightly different perspective of the objects in the room. The room contains Jesus (God) and Mary and Moses and a multitude of others, so a person looking through the "Orthodox" window might see Mary as being especially prominent, and therefore important, just because she happened to be at a place in the room near that window. However, Jesus (God) would be centrally prominent through any window in that Christian wall, whether that window was Catholic, Orthodox or any Denomination of Protestantism.
The point here is that, it is easy to be very narrow-minded as to only believe what your own eyes see through YOUR window, without even considering that there might be different views that exist of the object in the room. This attitude would cause you to ignore or dismiss anything you might hear from those unseen strangers that you have no reason to respect. If such a person happens to say ANYTHING that seems to contradict what you can personally see and already personally know as the (complete) Truth, why would you even consider it? Actually, considering the emotional intensity often associated with devout religious belief, your immediate response is likely to be violently defensive. Blasphemy! Heresy! How DARE someone try to pollute the purity of what you KNOW to be the Truth with such LIES!?
As a result, neither of you will probably learn much about the true nature of what's in that room. Each group has a view that gives it certain information about the room's contents, some of which is uniquely prominent from that view. Since each group has been Divinely given a Book that insists and confirms that the view being seen is AN absolutely accurate and correct and true view, why even pay attention to strangers who are trying to convince you of strange things that are clearly not even logical?
Each view makes sense in itself and does not appear to be incomplete in any way. With nothing apparently missing, why look to untrusted, unknown strangers for their peculiar (heretical??) opinions on it? An implicit assumption is made by viewers through each of the windows. We just stated that each window was accompanied by a Book that confirmed that the view being seen is AN accurate and correct and true view. The assumption is in extrapolating that to meaning that the view is THE one and only accurate and correct and true view. But, the reality is, that with just the information from the view through a single window, whether you realize it or not, which DOES show you the Truth, there are additional Truths that you have no possible way of ever comprehending.
The modern situation seems to be similar to the "Babel" situation. Without full and complete mutual respect and open and honest communication, none of us have any hope of truly comprehending a deeper level of God and His Plan.
Once people would become willing to accept a more comprehensive concept of Faith, we could then probably learn much more by comparing notes with the other viewers. Unfortunately, because of the location and position of the building, an individual will probably never be able to ever look in any of the other windows himself. It will devolve to whether people can establish enough respect for those "other" viewers to come to accept what they say without any way of personal verification. But, if this can be achieved, each could start to ask productive questions of those other viewers to refine existing understandings of the actual Truth.
In a separate and parallel way, a Roman Catholic Christian can therefore safely totally believe in and follow all the Catholic beliefs and traditions, which include the observance of Seven Sacraments.
In a separate and parallel way, a Jew can safely totally believe in and follow all the beliefs and methods of that Faith. For that person, the ONLY correct method of Worship and the only possible path to Heaven is in accord with that Faith. For example, for a Jew, it is centrally important to do Good Works.
In yet another separate and parallel way, a Muslim can safely totally believe in and follow all the beliefs of that Faith. It is centrally important to accurately follow the Five Pillars of Faith as the ONLY possible path to Heaven.
A VERY IMPORTANT aspect of this perspective is that these various belief systems are PARALLEL to and independent of each other. By definition, parallel lines can never cross. Similarly, there can be no possible situation where aspects (beliefs, dogma, methodology, attitudes) of any two of these belief systems could ever have to simultaneously apply. This "parallel" situation introduces a SINGLE condition on any believer. A believer could INITIALLY select ANY of these various God-centered Faiths to follow, but then ONLY the beliefs and methods of THAT Faith would have importance in Worshipping in that Faith. In other words, it is absolutely impossible to Worship in any two Faiths at the same time! In our analogy, this is because one person could not possibly look in through two separated windows at the same time! In our Parallelism concept, it means that you initially CHOOSE to become committed to any ONE of the several PARALLEL paths that all are equally True and valid, and then, devout worshipping IN THAT FAITH would get EACH and EVERY person to the same eventual destination, Heaven! However, no other Faith's beliefs or methodologies have any application to you within your chosen Faith. The parallel paths never intersect, so the opinions of a member of one Faith system are only valid WITHIN that specific Faith system.
This single condition of this Parallelism perspective has the additional benefit of resolving the many arguments that are everywhere in religious discussions! Virtually ALL such arguments have arisen by someone attempting to apply "external" concepts to a specific Faith. This Parallelism perspective makes it abundantly clear that application of such external concepts (which may be extremely important within some OTHER parallel Faith) just have no application WITHIN a specific Faith. In many areas, there happen to be extremely similar beliefs, attitudes, methods and ideas in these different Faiths, but there is no necessity for this to be so!
If you think about our building analogy, there is no reason that your insistence on the color BROWN has any significance or importance to the person who is looking in the other window at a shiny green metal rectangle. Your comment to him might be interesting to him, but it just cannot change the fact that HE SEES A GREEN RECTANGLE! He might come to eventually trust your words, but he can clearly see that those words just don't seem to apply to what he is looking at. Of course, at the same time, you obviously have doubts about him, because he keeps talking about Green and rectangular and metallic. If, instead, you think about the parallel paths visualization, you can see that anything within one of the parallel paths can never intersect anything that occurs in any of the other parallel paths. WE can understand why the two viewers could be so adamant about their 'brown' and 'green' even though THEY probably do not.
This is just saying that this Parallelism perspective does not permit random "mixing and matching" concepts perceived in different windows or within different parallel paths. Since the external concepts have no necessary relevance, all of those many apparent contradictions never actually exist! Each window-view or parallel path is absolutely complete and self-consistent and obviously offers the Truth for those people.
It would only be if one tries to "harmonize" a Jewish belief of the central importance of Good Works in attaining Heaven with the very different Protestant Christian belief of Salvation by Faith and Divine Grace alone. All Protestant Christians violently defend the position where Good Works have absolutely no contribution toward a person being Saved and therefore going to Heaven. (Protestant Christians all believe that Good Works arise AS A RESULT of proper Christian thought and behavior). It certainly appears that this is an apparent irreconcilable contradiction. But this example, and all others, are NOT actually contradictions! They only seem so because of the error in trying to mix things seen from the two windows. In reality, within the Jewish window (or within the Jewish Parallel path), the doing of Good Works IS critically important in attaining Heaven, and the Christian attitudes just have no actual application, and are essentially meaningless FOR JEWS. Within the Christian window (or within the Protestant Christian parallel path), the doing of Good Works IS NOT the slightest requirement for Salvation (and Heaven), and the Jewish attitudes about the extreme importance of Good Works must have no actual application, and are essentially meaningless FOR PROTESTANT CHRISTIANS.
As long as these two societies and approaches are isolated from each other, no obvious problem is perceived. But, some time back, a Dutch citizen was arrested in Singapore for smuggling drugs. NOW there was a perceived problem. From within the Dutch perception, the Singapore approach was barbaric, and there was public and political uproar. From within the Singapore perception, the Dutch approach was ineffective, and considered absolutely out-of-touch with reality.
In theory, a person has the choice of living in the Netherlands or in Singapore, and therefore chooses to live within that specific set of laws and values. INSIDE either country, the governmental approach generally works well, and can be considered successful. It is only if we try to "evaluate" either system from within the "parallel" other system where we encounter negative reactions. This example somewhat introduces another analogy for the subject at hand.
No trains or vehicles are in our tunnels, just an extended walking trip! And, some individuals or groups might even decide to walk backwards in the tunnel or just sit down and stop! But, in ALL cases, ONLY the "rules" of that specific tunnel group would apply. The interactions between the individual walkers would be affected by those rules, as well as pretty much everything else that might occur within that tunnel over the succeeding years of walking.
If members of the groups in the different tunnels could ever communicate, they would violently disagree about loads of things. But, within their own tunnel, isolated from the others, they will each eventually be able to walk from England to France, or here to Heaven, the desired goal. Is one tunnel better than the others? No! Does one accomplish the goal any better or more efficiently or more completely than the others? No! Is there any reason whatever for a person initially selecting one over the others? Actually, no. The one great requirement of each person is that, once IN that particular tunnel, they must comply with ALL the rules and requirements of that group. As long as each person does that, they will be able to progress with the group (or individually or in a smaller separate group), and will eventually arrive at the goal, France (or Heaven). Once they are IN Heaven (or even in France!) they will be joyous and will immediately forget about whatever burdens they had along the journey, and they will all be happy and universally friendly. While still INSIDE any of the tunnels, if they were aware of the "other" tunnels, they might have private (or even public) conversations criticizing the people or the groups or the beliefs in the other tunnels, but, with NO interaction between the groups, such conversation is essentially meaningless. Since such conclusions are based on the viewpoint from WITHIN THIS tunnel, about those in a different tunnel, the conclusions are actually also vacuous.
The author sees a substantial number of such "parallel tunnels" with our various Denominations in them. The specific methodologies and behaviors and beliefs which apply within a specific "tunnel" ONLY apply to the people and environment within that specific tunnel and no other. As long as the people believe in certain basic things, like God, like something that resembles the Ten Commandments, like a concept of good and evil, they can be on one of a number of "parallel" paths to "Heaven". That doesn't mean they will all GET there. Some will go the wrong way in the tunnel, some will sit down and not advance. But the situation would represent a number of equivalent "parallel" methods of getting to Heaven.
This perspective also seems to be able to include separate "tunnels" for Jews and for Muslims. Again, the "rules" that would apply in those "tunnels" would be VERY different from in the other tunnels we are considering, but the end result could be a parallel journey to Heaven.
The various tunnels' populations would have some "leaders" who carried guidebooks, which might be the Bible, the Torah or the Koran. Within that tunnel, that Book would represent the absolute Truth and Authority. That particular Book might not have equal importance in one of the other parallel tunnels. Even if one of the groups happened to have a Guidebook that was (unknowingly) incomplete, the same would still be true.
Unfortunately, the reality is that there are even MORE "tunnel entrances" but they are connected to "tunnels" that are NOT parallel with the ones we are discussing. That means that they don't actually end in France or Heaven. Satan had a hand in providing those. This immensely complicates the initial choice of tunnel, but is a consideration which we shall bypass in this essay. We are just considering "valid" "parallel" tunnels here.
This does NOT mean that anyone, with ANY Bible, has the freedom to personally "twist" any of the meanings for selfish motives. But, if a devout Christian (with the assistance of his/her Holy Spirit) happens to understand a particular Scripture in some unique new way, that does not necessarily mean it is heretical. This can result in the arising of many Denominations, and seems to just represent such discovering of some previously unknown parallel Paths.
When Christians look in, they are looking in through windows on the side of the room where the One Being (God) is facing them, and they see the Gentle, Kind, Loving face of Jesus looking back at them, so His Wonderful human-like characteristics are prominent in their minds. Christians effectively see everything else in the room as being of far less importance than Him. The Virgin Mary and the Apostles of the New Testament are on that side of the room, so they, too, are prominent in what Christians can view through their various windows.
When Muslims look in, through a window on a separated wall, they might see the profile of the One Being as being an impressively Powerful looking Allah. Because of this viewpoint, Allah and His obvious power and might and authority is clear to all Muslims. They don't see any smiling Face!
When Jews look in, through a window on yet another wall, they might see yet another profile view of the One Being in the room. They also see a Powerful and Stern Being, who they recognize as YHWH or God. They also don't see Jesus and His Loving Face.
Some Christians have managed to climb up to the roof to look down through the tiny window directly above the Being. The view is pretty confusing, since the window is so dirty it's hard to see anything really clearly, and all that is visible anyway is the top of the head of the One Being! These Christians KNOW that they are looking at the One and Only Divine Being (God), but they choose to describe what they see as the helpful, supportive, and inspirational Holy Spirit.
Christians have listened to the Jews for thousands of years, and they have come to respect and trust in many of the things Judaism believes. Therefore, the Christian Faith has accepted the fact (even though they have never seen it) that the view through the Jewish window is that of a Powerful, Stern, Mighty, Strict, and Just God, who Christians generally have chosen to call Father. By combining knowledge from the Jewish window and their own Christian window and the roof viewer's comments, Christian belief has come to accept that there is really only ONE GOD but that He appears to be present as THREE PERSONS, which is the important Christian belief of the Trinity. Do you see how confusion could have arisen? Christians KNOW that there is One God, because the Bible says so. But they have seen Jesus and experienced the Holy Spirit and trust earlier Jewish writings about the Father. These Three appear to be VERY different! It seems OBVIOUS that there are Three! But we know there's One! Voila, the concept of the Trinity!
Note that this sort of description enables Christianity to have a Trinity perception while simultaneously enabling Islam and Judaism to not recognize it. Consideration of this type of description permits substantial additional insights into many religious subjects, specifically the ones that have caused divisiveness in our various Faiths which all Worship the One and Only God/Father/Allah/Jehovah/YHWH.
Continuing this analogy, Christians see the Virgin Mary as being particularly prominent, because she is probably near the Christian windows, while Muslims also see Mary, but as a far less significant person because she is quite far off to the side from their window.
From every window, Moses can be seen somewhere in the room. This is equally true of Abraham, Adam and many others. The room contains a large number of individuals, objects and experiences.
In each case, we are all seeing the same actual things! Of course, instead of just seeing different colors or textures on a simple object, we each see immensely complicated images and multitudes of active people with complex interactions. Worse, all of our windows are really dirty, so none of us can get a really clear view of what we are looking at. (Exceptions have been rare individuals like Ezekiel and John and Daniel, who have had crystal clear views of what's in the room!)
Does it also seem obvious how different groups, looking in through their various windows, could come to different conclusions as to just what they were actually looking at? Cultural backgrounds could be quite significant in groups making 'logical' assumptions and developing conclusions to base their Faiths on.
There are multitudes of additional consequences of this sort of approach. Abraham's two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, might be standing side-by-side (from the Christian window). From the Jewish window, Isaac would seem significant, while Ishmael would be hardly seen, appearing to be behind his brother. From the (opposite) Islam window, Ishmael would seem significant, while Isaac would be hardly seen, appearing to be behind his brother. Such a situation might help to explain why those two religions perceive such differences regarding them.
Obviously, the situation with all of the contents of religion is infinitely more complicated than for some single piece of modern sculpture in a mountain cabin. Rather than dealing with a single solid, material object, we are now considering many scenes that have seldom been individually witnessed by anyone! Adding to the complexity are the multitudes of people, places and things, and their various activities!
In addition, "looking in through a window" may not be the ideal metaphor. It's obviously immensely more complex than this. People at each window cannot actually touch or access or interact with any of the people or contents of the room. But the room is not just a room, it is the totality of human experience and history and knowledge. Fortunately for us, just outside each window, a Book is found which helps in understanding the many wonderful and mysterious things seen inside! But the Books are slightly different from each other, because they must each describe the view from that window. This explains why the Old Testament (Torah), the New Testament and the Koran are not absolutely identical, even though they share many similarities. As suggested above, certain of the room's contents and occupants might seem more or less important, depending on which window is being used for viewing.
Yes, trying to present all of organized religion in such simplistic a form is wrong. It is not claimed that this perspective is entirely correct or complete. Instead, it is humbly offered it as seeds for potential future growth.
The author feels there is great value in considering this perspective. In a subject area that is so commonly divisive and difficult to conceptualize, this approach can allow confidence in knowing that we each can intensely and devoutly support our own beliefs while still openly listening to those of other Faiths and religions.
A very serious hurdle still seems to remain to be discussed. In every case, a religion insists to its followers that IT is the ONLY way to be able to ever enter Heaven. This apparent obstacle actually fits in and makes sense when considering our remote hilltop building analogy. Each of the paths up to the building was long and arduous. Once a person arrived at the building, and looked in the window that was available there, he then used the Book that was available there to attempt to understand the contents of the room (from that viewpoint). Due to these two pre-conditions, that person is somewhat committed to considering that particular perspective. Based on that viewpoint, only one course is available for possible entry to Heaven, which is the method presented by that belief system. This means that a Christian truly only DOES have one possible method of entering Heaven, based on the Grace of God and Faith of the person and an acceptance of Jesus as Savior. But those factors would not apply to a person who made the long and hard climb up to the Jewish window. For that person, it is absolutely necessary to do many Good Works and to fulfill the other Jewish requirements. A similar situation applies for Muslims, who must comply with the Five Pillars and the other requirements of Islam.
Even though these requirements are rather different, there is not a problem of incompatibility here. Each set of rules totally but ONLY applies to the people who climbed up to that particular side of the building, and NOT to the people on other sides of the building. In the Parallel paths concept, each set of "rules" only applies to people within that Parallel Path (or "tunnel").
On first consideration, this sounds hard to swallow. How could it be reconciled that Jews are REQUIRED to do Good Works while Christians are taught that Good Works have no effect of being able to enter Heaven? This seemingly impossible impasse actually has a solution, as briefly presented above. It seems most clear in the "tunnel" analogy presented above.
This present essay is an offshoot of an earlier essay on the Christianity and Science ARE Compatible, which includes an extensive discussion of an historic example of such a solution involving Einstein. In that case, Einstein proved absolutely that two exactly opposite and totally contradictory viewpoints were EACH completely true regarding the nature of light. Light IS a particle. And, light IS a wave. Even though these two statements are easily proven to be absolutely incompatible with each other. For nearly three hundred years, the world's greatest scientific minds hadn't been able to resolve the argument. What had been beyond solution to many thousands of the world's greatest minds for centuries, Einstein explained very simply and elegantly!
Briefly, the conclusion of that discussion is that the view through EACH window is absolutely INTERNALLY self-consistent and complete, even though it is not necessarily apparently compatible with facts or beliefs of groups looking through another window.
This result then confirms the validity of each Denomination of Protestant Christianity, down to the smallest detail, while at the same time confirming the absolute and complete validity of Islamic beliefs and teachings, Jewish beliefs and teachings, Catholic beliefs and teachings and Orthodox beliefs and teachings. Each, in itself, is a complete and valid system for worshipping God/Father/Allah/Jehovah/YHWH and for learning the path necessary to follow to someday enter Heaven.
God clearly realized that our limited minds and our mind-boggling populations could never all comprehend a single approach to Worshipping Him. He provided us with this variety of equally valid methods of Worshipping. We are each required to choose one of those paths (windows) (tunnels) and then use His Book there to learn everything else necessary.
A few people have misunderstood this essay as suggesting that a believer is INSIDE such a building as in the analogy, looking outward at the Universe. That situation is NOT compatible with the premise being offered here. Such a situation could possibly allow a person to somehow simultaneously look outward through more than one window at the same time, which is not possible within this premise. The great difficulty that would be involved in climbing down from one window to then climb up to a different window is relevant in defining the significant (cultural) differences between Faiths and makes it more clear that it is impossible to simultaneously look in two windows at the same time.
Also, please note that there are a number of world religions that are NOT included in this premise, such as Buddhism, Shintoism, Taoism and many others.
This conceptualization of compatibility between religions arose as a consequence of an earlier essay written by the same author that presents a "building on a hill" analogy. It similarly suggests a way of better understanding of how two apparently very incompatible perspectives can actually be just different views of the same actual situation. That article relates to the subject of Christianity and Science ARE Compatible http://mb-soft.com/public/duality.html
It includes a more comprehensive discussion on how seemingly contradictory things might actually be compatible, including a fuller discussion of the historic example involving Einstein that proved that it is possible. The initial inspiration for embarking on this whole approach was a combination of being a Devout Christian and a Physicist, and a fascination of the dynamics involved in Einstein resolving a centuries-old debate regarding the nature of light.
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Pastor C Johnson
A Christ Walk Church