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Friday, November 25, 2005

In which I explain why I am more conservative on some matters than the Roseville Conservative 

Roseville Conservative includes the following post:

II [Intellectual Insurgent] e-mailed me the following article and challenged me to blog on it.

This is the kind of stuff that should be happening nationwide.

It is high time for people of different faiths to understand each other. Understanding dosen't constitute an endorsement or support for beliefs....

Here are quotes from the referenced article:

Thanksgiving and its tasty trimmings came early this year at the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay Area Mosque.

The mosque partnered with the Council on American-Islamic Relations Tuesday afternoon to host its third annual community Thanksgiving meal. After the dinner, mosque leaders and the Brandon Area Interfaith Coalition planned a Thanksgiving Interfaith Service, one of several community worship experiences held Tuesday throughout the [Tampa] bay area....

Later, at the service, members of diverse faiths would share their perspectives on thanking their creators - a rabbi reciting a Jewish daily prayer of thanks, a Christian minister taking up an offering for the mosque's clinic and for disaster relief in Pakistan....

Across town at Congregation Schaarai Zedek, a Jewish synagogue in South Tampa, hundreds of the faithful filed into an interfaith Thanksgiving service with Palma Ceia United Methodist Church.

A Jewish children's choir sang songs about peace in Hebrew, English and Arabic. Palma Ceia's Extreme Youth Band performed contemporary Christian songs. Clergy from both congregations said prayers and expressed goodwill at continuance of a five-decade fellowship....

Interfaith services are necessary, the clergy members said, because they help tear down walls and show people from different religious backgrounds how much they have in common.

I am in agreement with this...to a point. I think it's a wonderful idea for people of different religions to eat together. I think it's a wonderful idea for people of different religions to meet together. But I don't necessarily agree that it's a wonderful idea for people of different religions to participate in a single worship service. As I said, in part, in the Roseville Conservative blog:

It's a little muddy who's being worshipped at such a service, unless they're worshipping Thomas Jefferson's god.

Actually, I misspoke (or mistyped). Jefferson's god is a nonentity with no powers whatsoever, except as a really good ethical teacher. I probably should have referenced George Washington's god; here's what Edwin S. Gaustad had to say on the matter in Christianity Today:

As president for two terms, he did not altogether avoid the language of religion,but it was a public or civil religion that he addressed, doing so in a language that demonstrated no great passion. When he chose to speak of God, it was in terms like "the Grand Architect," "the Governor of the Universe," "the Supreme Dispenser of all Good," "the Great Ruler of Events," and even "the Higher Cause."...

Moreover, Washington studiously avoided referring to the person and ministry of Jesus. When in 1789 some Presbyterian leaders complained to Washington about the Constitution's absence of any reference to "the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent," the nation's first president calmly replied,"The path of true piety is so plain as to require but little political direction."...

Hmmm...grand architect. Where have we heard that before? Oh yeah - from the Freemasons. And what do they say about the exclusivity of Jesus Christ? Well, they're against it:

[The Freemasons] make a Christian man swear by God to doctrines which God has pronounced false and sinful. For example, Masonry teaches a universalist doctrine of "the Fatherhood of God"....

The Christian man swears to accept and promote the Masonic lie that Jesus is just one of many equally revered prohets in the world. He does this when agreeing that all religions can lead a man to God....

The Christian man swears he will remain silent in the Lodge and not talk of Christ when God commands every Christian to be a witness....

So when a Christian participates with a non-Christian in a worship service, the Christian is by definition denying, or at least downplaying, the exclusive role of Jesus Christ. And that's what happened in Tampa.

And this is not just a Christian views. Here are excerpts of what the National Jewish Scholars Project has said on Jews worshipping with Christians:

Christian worship is not a viable religious choice for Jews....

The humanly irreconcilable difference between Jews and Christians will not be settled until God redeems the entire world as promised in Scripture. Christians know and serve God through Jesus Christ and the Christian tradition. Jews know and serve God through Torah and the Jewish tradition. That difference will not be settled by one community insisting that it has interpreted Scripture more accurately than the other; nor by exercising political power over the other. Jews can respect Christians' faithfulness to their revelation just as we expect Christians to respect our faithfulness to our revelation. Neither Jew nor Christian should be pressed into affirming the teaching of the other community....

An improved relationship [between Christians and Jews]...[will not] persuade more Jews to convert to Christianity, nor create a false blending of Judaism and Christianity. We respect Christianity as a faith that originated within Judaism and that still has significant contacts with it. We do not see it as an extension of Judaism.

Similarly, here are some guidelines for Christian-Muslim dialogue:

Address the deep differences between Islam and Christianity. Most basically, these relate to the person of Jesus Christ, who is at the center of our Christian faith. Muslims do not believe that he was God incarnate, that he truly and willingly died on the cross, that his death was the one atonement for all human sin, and that he was truly raised from the dead for our eternal life. In addressing these differences, Christians show themselves wiser and more winsome when they place their emphasis on positive affirmations of their own Christian faith. Negative judgments about Islamic beliefs and practices-although these are sometimes necessary and are often implicit in the affirmations-should not be the principal theme of the Christian participants in the dialogue.

So, in effect, any "worship service" with Christian, Jewish, and Muslim participants is no worship service at all. Are the Jews and Muslims affirming the deity of Christ? Are the Jews and Christians affirming the prominent role of Muhammad as the prophet of Allah? I think not. So, what would such a service be like?

We make our beginning in the name of...well, we can't really say, but we make our beginning anyway.

Today we will talk a lot about ethical teachings. Murder is bad. Charity is good. We will talk about these, but we will not discuss in detail why we think these things are important.

Let us pray. On second thought, let's not.

It's important to distinguish between unionism (with which I personally have no problem, at least in some circumstances) and syncretism (which is the subject of this post). Here is a definition of the two terms, taken from a discussion of the Reverend David Benke case:

The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod suspended Rev. David Benke, one of its high-ranking pastors, both from his position as District President of the Atlantic District and from his position on the Board of Regents for Concordia College in Bronxville, NY. It is not because of what he said that afternoon in Yankee Stadium. It was the fact that there were a number of other clergy present -- Roman Catholic and Protestant Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh -- who also gave meditations and prayers to their deity(s).

He has been charged with two specific errors, both forbidden by the Missouri Synod's 1847 constitution:
  • "Unionism" which is defined, as mixing the beliefs of various Christian denominations (e.g. Roman Catholic and Missouri Synod).

  • "Syncretism" -- mixing Christian with non-Christian views (e.g. Christianity and Islam).

There does not appear to be any content in Rev. Benke's prayer itself which contains unionism or syncretism. It was the contribution of prayers and reflections during other parts of the prayer service by Roman Catholic leaders, other Protestants, representatives of non-Christian faiths: Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism.

Here's some of what Wikipedia has to say about syncretism:

Syncretism is the attempt to reconcile disparate, even opposing, beliefs and to meld practices of various schools of thought. It is especially associated with the attempt to merge and analogize several originally discrete traditions, especially in the theology and mythology of religion, and thus assert an underlying unity....

Some religious movements have embraced overt syncretism, such as the case of the adoption of Shinto elements into Buddhism. Others have strongly rejected it as devaluing precious and genuine distinctions; examples of this includes post-Exile Judaism and Islamism.

Syncretism tends to facilitate coexistence and constructive interaction between different cultures, a factor that has recommended it to rulers of multi-ethnic realms. Conversely the rejection of syncretism, usually in the name of "piety" and "orthodoxy", helps generate and authorize a sense of cultural unity....

Nascent Christianity appears to have incorporated many European Pagan cultural elements, "baptizing" or "Christianizing" them to conform with Christian belief and principles, at least partially through discarding theologically and morally incompatible elements. One example of this is the strong reliance of St. Augustine on pagan Greek Plato and St. Thomas Aquinas's many quotations of "The Philosopher", Aristotle. Many scholars agree to this syncretism in principle, though any specific example is likely to be labeled "controversial"....

The modern celebrations of Christmas (originating from Pagan Yule holidays), Easter and Halloween are examples of relatively late Christian syncretism. Roman Catholicism in Central and South America has also integrated a number of elements derived from indigenous cultures in those areas.

Syncretism can be contrasted with contextualization, the practice of making Christianity relevant to a culture....

The Bahá'ís follow a prophet whom they consider a successor to Muhammad, and recognise Jesus, Moses, Buddha and Zoroaster amongst others as former prophets. Some have therefore considered it a syncretic faith. However, Bahá'ís themselves and most scholars reject this definition, because Bahá'ís recognize the supremacy of Bahá'u'lláh's revelation in our time over previous ones (as much as Muhammad himself had done), and Bahá'ís have their own Sacred Writings and laws that supersede all others....

Examples of strongly syncretist Romantic and modern movements include mysticism, occultism, theosophy, astrology, and the New Age movement, and in the arts the eclectic aspects of postmodernism. The Rastafari movement is also syncretic, derived from a blend of Judaic ideology and a more secular one of emancipation.

In spite of the Jewish prohibitions on worshiping in religions other than Judaism (avodah zarah), several combinations of Judaism with other religions have sprung up: Jewish Buddhism, Nazarenism, Judeo-Paganism, Messianic Judaism, Jewish Mormonism, Crypto-Judaism (in which Jews outwardly profess another faith and inwardly celebrate Judaism), and others....

Well, that's enough for now. Basically, any kind of "worship" between Christianity and another religion demeans both religions.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

Thanks for the Trackback and the dialogue.

Also, thanks for reading!!!

BTW: Let's trade links...

God Bless,

Actually, I've linked to Roseville Conservative since who knows when. Can't even remember why I linked originally, unless it had to do with what's her name or what's his name. (This is what happens when you age.)
Real good commentary here, but I must take some issue with what Wikipedia had to say about examples of syncretism in Christianity, e.g. baptism, Aquinas' adoption of Aristotelian philosophy, Christmas, Easter etc.
It is not, by definition, syncretism unless it compromises the true, pure or essential teachings of the faith system in question. It must be compromise in the name of unity.
But that's Wikipedia...not always the most reliable source.
Nice of you to stop by my blog yesterday.
Grace and peace to all.
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