Summary: A biblical look at the ideas posed by religious pluralism and religious exclusivism.

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Vespers, 1-31-06

1"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God[a]; trust also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going."

5Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" 6Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

For those of you that don’t know I’m not very decisive and sometimes I have a hard time making decisions. My lovely fiancé, Mindy, who I will be marrying in 45 days also isn’t the most decisive person. A Friday evening can be pretty tough for us. “So what do you want to do, Oh I don’t care, what do you want to do? Well I guess we could go out to eat. Yea that would be ok, where do you want to eat? Oh I don’t know, I’d be happy eating wherever, where do you want to eat? Well I’m the same way, I could eat anywhere.” Sometimes that can go on for a while. Brad and I sometimes have the same problem when we try to pick a place for lunch, though we’ve come up with a system. I will pick one or two types of food, then he will pick two or three restaurants, then I will pick the restaurant. It has worked pretty well for us so far. You know there are just a lot of choices out there. Where should we eat, what movie should we see, what game do you want to play, what book should I read. Another thing that I have noticed more and more in today’s culture is the choices we have in churches: big church, small church, charismatic church, big production, small production, traditional, contemporary, you name it. We also have a lot of choices when it comes to picking a religion. There are all kinds of religions and beliefs out there and if you can’t find it then you can just as easily start your own.

In an interview with 60 minutes Madonna said, “I go to synagogue, I study Hindiusm…all paths lead to God.”

Actress Halle Berry said, “I believe in God. I just don’t know if that God is Jehovah, Buddha or Allah.

Actress Meg Ryan said, “Eastern thought, Western mysticism. I really dig the whole Hindu pantheon. And I just pull from all kinds of different things.”

Following the attacks on September 11th, New York Mayor, Rudy Guilliani spoke before the United Nations. And in his speech he mentioned that on a typical weekend he will visit an Islamic mosque on Friday and a Christian Church on Sunday. Then he commented that both groups worship the same God, but in different ways.

- Is he right? Do we worship the same God in different ways? Is Jesus really the only way to heaven? Or is there more than one way?

These are all questions and issues that have no doubt been debated and considered for 100s of years, but in reality it has mostly been confined to the last 50 years. From the time of Constantine diversity was discouraged. The colossal achievements of Western culture through the enlightenment, the formation of capitalism, the industrial revolution, and the alarming yet satisfying advances of modern science gave the west a sense of superiority that made it easy to discount or underestimate the achievements of other religions and cultures. It really wasn’t until about 1960 that we began to see a major change in our attitudes about Christianity compared to other religions.

This major change of attitude and thought began to occur for three major reasons. First was the growth of indigenous Western interest in Eastern religions, especially Buddhism, and Hinduism. Second was the resurgence of Islam, which couldn’t be ignored after the wake of the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and of course the media interest following September 11th. The third major reason for change was the tremendous success of Japanese economics, followed by that of Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore all of which gave new weight to Far Eastern cultures and religions.

The fact is today we live in a different time and a different place then what this country was 50 years ago. No longer is the Buddhist or the Hindu living on the other side of the world or confined only to major cosmopolitan cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago.

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