About a year ago, I enjoyed an email correspondence about religious diversity with one of my theological mentors and former professors, Glenn Hinson, who now teaches at Baptist Seminary of Kentucky. Glenn said, The God of a universe of 150+ billion galaxies surely does not have such little candlepower that God can illumine only those in the Abrahamic tradition. He went on to say that, The future of humankind depends on a very different attitude toward other faiths than we have shown in the past.
We've missed the point of John 14:6 if it becomes a truth-claim to be defended rather than a cruciform call to live/follow Jesus' path. The Johannine claim that Jesus is the “way, the truth, and the life” isn’t a rational truth-claim to be defended, it is a way of life to be lived. It’s not a truth over against other truth claims. It is simply true that living the way of love, self-sacrifice, service, and reconciliation (i.e. the way of Jesus) is the way to God. Or, better yet, it is the way to awaken to the reality that God is already here. Once we start defending this statement as “a truth” we have, ipso-facto, denied the very truth claim that we want to defend. Our defensive posture contradicts the way of the cross, that is the way of love, self-sacrifice, service, and reconciliation. One of the most grievous sins of the Christian faith is that we have made “truth” into sets of propositions to be defended rather than the Jesus-way-of-life-truth to be followed. Jesus reveals living truth and we Christians tend to reduce him to propositional truth. Holding fast to propositional truth while failing to live out Jesus-lifestyle-truth is a primary way in which Christianity becomes a force for evil rather than for good in the world. Too many Christians are more concerned with what happens to their precious truth claims than what happens to their precious neighbor, with what happens to their dogmas than with loving neighbors and enemies.
Evangelism is living and sharing God's good news. Sometimes this means that someone will be converted. Sometimes it means that people of different faith traditions can work in solidarity to create a better world while remaining faithful within each tradition. Sometimes God's good news happens when we learn from someone of another faith tradition. Sometimes it happens when they learn from us. Always, living God's good news is cruciform, living in the form of the cross. This is to say, living sacrificial love while trusting the power of resurrection; losing life and--good news--finding life.
Glenn emphasized, The future of humankind depends on a very different attitude toward other faiths than we have shown in the past. What if God's good news mandates taking on this different attitude? What if all of our exclusive defending of Christian belief has created bad news in the name of God who seeks to bring good news to all? What if we are more faithful to our beloved "evangelism" by working in solidarity with faithful people of other traditions rather than trying to convert them? The God of a universe of 150+ billion galaxies surely does not have such little candlepower that God can illumine only those in the Abrahamic tradition.