The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk: Is there one true religion? Part 2

All of the major religions say ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Jesus said to ‘Love one another and that, of faith, hope and charity, love is the greatest of these.’ So why do they also say that their religion is the ‘one, true religion,’ when they all share the same premise?

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at http://topics.mlive.com/tag/ethics-and-religion-talk/. More recent columns can be found on TheRapidian.org by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

 

Elisabeth G-P asked the Ethics and Religion Talk panel:

“All of the major religions say ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Jesus said to ‘Love one another and that, of faith, hope and charity, love is the greatest of these.’ So why do they also say that their religion is the ‘one, true religion,’ when they all share the same premise?”

Last week, our non-Christian panels, representing Judaism, Hinduism, and Unitarian Universalism, were united in their view that their traditions embrace pluralism and cooperation among faiths. This week, we present the views of three fairly traditional Christian denominations.

Rev. Ray Lanning, a retired minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, responds:

“All religions do not share the same premises or foundational truths. The ‘Golden Rule’ (Matthew 7:14), Christ’s ‘New Commandment’ (John 13:34), and Paul’s estimate of the relative value of the Three Graces (I Corinthians 13:13) are not premises, but only ethical conclusions or applications drawn from the basic beliefs of Christianity. The moral force of these conclusions depends entirely on the basic beliefs from which they are drawn.

“Those beliefs include the creation of humankind in the image of God (Genesis 1:21); the shared humanity (and equal worth) of all nations on earth (Acts 17:26); and the requirement of God’s law that each human being must love God above all others, and love other humans (‘neighbors’) as one loves oneself (Matthew 22:37-40). ‘He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?’ (Micah 6:8).

“Other Christian teachings add force to this requirement. The apostle John poses a very searching question: ‘He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (I John 4:20). Paul warns us that although saved by grace through faith, Christians ‘must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in the body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad’ (II Corinthians 5:10).”

Father Michael Nasser, who writes from an Eastern Christian perspective and is Pastor of St. Nicholas Orthodox Christian Church, responds:

“Orthodox Christians make the bold claim that the faith they have received is the fullness of God’s revelation to humanity. We never claim that this revelation is exclusively to us. We believe no one has received Divine Revelation to the exclusion of others. Not only do we believe there is much truth in all sincere religions, but that God’s revelation is intended for all: God didn’t reveal Himself to Christians. Rather, His revelation is for all creation. Christians are those who accept the revelation from God that comes in the Incarnation of God’s Son in the person of Jesus Christ, as revealed in His words and deeds. The fact that many tenets are held by many religions underscores the fact that Truth is universal. But added to the general revelation of Truth that so many share, we cannot and would not minimize our belief that the fullness of Truth is found in the revelation brought by Jesus Christ, by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.”

Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Adjutant Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:

“The major religions in the world, by estimated numbers, are: 1) Christianity-2.2 billion; 2) Islam-1.6 billion; 3) secular/Agnostic/Atheist-1.1 billion; 4) Hinduism-900 million… with approximately 15 million Jewish people worldwide. The question seems to presume Christian religions, given the reference to the ‘Golden Rule’ found in Christian scriptures, the Gospels of Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31.​​

“The Catholic Church says Christianity is the ‘one, true religion.’ Each Sunday, when the Nicaean Creed is prayed, the words spoken are: ‘the Church is one, holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.’ The origin of the world ‘Catholic’ is the Greek word, katholikos, which means universal.

“Christianity is one because of its source, Jesus Christ. There is much diversity in the membership of the Church and this has led to wounds or divisions, which reflect the origin fall of Adam and Eve. As a result, continued dialogue is needed with the Church hoping that one day all baptized Christians will be gathered into one communion yet again.

“The Catholic Church highly respects other religions. The Jewish people because they were the first to hear the Word of God. With Muslims, we share a common father in Abraham. And, we are part of the one worldly community with other non-Christian religions.

“May we all live as one, peacefully in a world of respect and dignity for all human life.”

This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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