Religious Pluralism – How Will It Shape Christian Faith?

Well I have finally finished my article for the upcoming Seed Sampler on What Will Shape Our Spirituality in the Coming Decade? It has been an interesting and somewhat daunting challenge as I do believe that we are at a major pivotal point in Christian history – what Phyllis Tickle in her important book The Great Emergence, calls the 500 year rummage sale.

In the last couple of days I wrote posts on two important trends that I believe will shape Christian faith in the coming decade:

The third trend I want to talk about here is religious pluralism.  Muslims in Europe, Sikhs in the US, Christians in Africa.  It is not just the geographic centre of Christianity that is changing.  So is the geographical centre of all religions.

In the last four years, the Muslim population in Britain multiplied 10 times faster than the rest of society increasing from 500,000 to 2.4 million.  In the same period the number of Christians in the country fell by more than 2 million. (read the entire article).   There are now an estimated 1.5 million Hindus in the United States, prevalent in Texas, New Jersey, and Ohio.  Worldwide Islam, Bahai, Sikhism, and Hinduism are all growing faster than Christianity. (Read more)

Interfaith dialogue will become increasingly important in the future as we grapple with both the gifts and conflicts of our changing world religious profile.  This, of course is not new for followers of Christ in India, Indonesia, the Middle East and many other parts of the world where Christianity has always been one faith amongst many.

We will see a growing recognition amongst some Christians that God is to be found outside the boundaries of Christian faith as well as inside.  However it could also result in growing conflict and misunderstanding as fundamentalists in all religions retreat behind the barriers of what feels safe and secure.  According to the rabbis of old, one of the ways the creation continues is through spirited conversations in which we are in a disagreement – the highest form of discourse. ( Samir Selmanovic in Its really All About God)

Discipleship and spiritual practices in the future will need to help us rediscover this art teaching us to listen to the voices of those who believe very differently from us.  We need to help all followers of Christ identify where the spirit of God is at work outside as as well as inside faith communities.   We need Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists and others to stretch and remold our understanding of God and of what it means to be a follower of Christ.

If God is confined to our way of believing and understanding then we believe in a very small God.  The God who create the vast expanses of space, is too big for any of us to fully understand.  In fact when I look up at the stars in the heavens I am awed at the immensity of God and my own inability to comprehend.  We all see through a glass darkly and believe we have the corner on truth then I think we miss out on much of who God is and what God wants us to become.

I would love to hear from others who have discovered creative ways of relating to this and other trends that they feel will shape our faith in the future.  Part of what we do at Mustard Seed Associates is help to connect people to creative responses to the challenges of the future.  If you are involved in a creative response, or if you feel that there are other trends that are more impacting on the future we would love to know and be able to share your ideas.


9 Responses

  1. I find this fascinating. Can see elements of what she is talking about have evolved in my own life/faith recently … I think this makes God more tangible, and creates a sense of inclusivity among people of faith

  2. Christine,

    N.T. Wright says:
    “The Christian is called to live in a world where there are some great moral absolutes and some grey areas in between. Problems arise not just when people get confused over which is which but when people who like absolutes try to eliminate grey areas and people who like grey areas try to eliminate absolutes.”

    The challenge for the Christian will be to honestly declare the absolutes of faith in Christ WHILE MAINTAINING GENTLENESS AND RESPECT TO THOSE OF OTHER FAITHS.

    This will become more difficult because pop culture (and westernized major religions) have already decided that “strong convictions” are bad because they lead to hate/war/ violence/etc. So instead of doing the hard work of learning how to disagree strongly and still like/respect each other our culture has already decided that strong convictions have no place in polite company so they have to be “throw them out with the bathwater of conflict.

    More and more it is becoming a “cultural sin” to even suggest that “Jesus is the only name by which humanity can be saved.”

    In 1Cor. 10 Paul boils down 3 chapters of teaching to four principles for Christians living in a pluralistic world: 1.The Earth is the Lords and all it contains-so relax; 2. Seek the good of others over your own; 3. Everything you do should be to God’s glory and also 4. Flee Idolatry.

    Interfaith dialogue is valuable and, necessary but followers of Jesus will still need to hold tight to the strong convictions of our faith in Christ and learn how to hold the absolutes of our faith (with gentleness and respect) in a world that thinks it’s distasteful, if not evil to do so.

    Love and Peace to you,
    -Skip Cadorette

    I’m not only teaching this just now but God has put me in a place where I’m living it right now as well. Quite challenging. I apologize for the mini-sermon. 😉

  3. Skip no apologies needed. This is a great response and in fact states something that we were talking about this afternoon. Followers of Christ will need to have very strong foundations in their faith in order to be able to enter into this type of dialogue. I think that discipleship material that helps to build these foundations while still leaving us open to dialogue will be incredibly important in the future

  4. This is great Christine. Lots I could write but not a lot of time just now. I am too busy just now walking the talk to talk much! But it’s an exciting and enriching journey that doesn’t make Christ any less but much more. With the figures you mentioned at the top, multicultural uk is definitely a happening place. How we deal with this will be at the heart of our upcoming election. Would love for us as Christians to be leading the way in graciousness but not sure we are there just yet. Need a new generation thinking this way, not just the advance guard. Keep stirring!!

  5. Peter ,
    Good to hear from you. I was looking at your site the other day. I am very impressed with what you are doing with reconciliation talks

  6. […] Religious Pluralism – how Will It Shape Christian Faith […]

  7. This is an interesting topic. I especially appreciated the look at how the 500 year changes occurred within Christianity.

  8. […] Religious Pluralism – How Will It Shape Christian Faith? […]

  9. […] Religious Pluralism – how Will It Shape Christian Faith […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: