From Religious Threats and Tricks to Treats
4) Aspirations for a Third Way. Our call to move beyond objectification of religious others and the transformation of them into monsters of faith should not be taken to suggest compromise, but rather clarification and even collaboration with them wherever possible. We are not calling for the abandonment of our Evangelical distinctiveness or declaring that there is no difference between Evangelicals and others, including Mormons, Muslims, and Pagans. We do share things in common, but of course, there are many important differences, especially convictions centering on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Still, we need to develop and maintain strong faith identities, which do not depend upon the existence of monstrous others by way of opposition. This is the model we are pursuing at the Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy with a growing network of Evangelicals that maintains a balance between fair understanding and civil engagement, without compromise to our or another's religious convictions. A religious movement that is reactionary rather than proactive is never healthy. In fact, it is often spiritually paranoid. We should not prejudge or look for weaknesses in the various traditions that Christians encounter so as to deconstruct and destroy them, but rather seek to understand them on their own terms, looking for common ground, and attending to important differences between our traditions whenever we come upon them.
If we Evangelicals do not want to be viewed as monsters of faith, if we want to be known for what we are for rather than what we are against, if we want to win the religious other over as a friend and even by God's grace to orthodox faith in Jesus Christ, as God so leads and with no trickery involved, we need to make sure we are not trying to slay the religious dragons of our own creations. Our battle is not with flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12), but with the Great Dragon (Rev. 12:9). Certainly, that Dragon deceives and leads people and movements astray. Yes, we need to be discerning and not allow him to take us captive as well and lead us away from the truth of Jesus Christ revealed in the Bible. We also need to be discerning by not allowing his cunning to lead us to lead other Evangelicals astray from understanding those of other faith paths in our midst for who they truly are, and not the monsters we might otherwise create them to be. Misunderstanding, distrust, and hate never bears witness to our Lord. Let's not demonize those religious others who are our neighbors.
This Halloween Season, let's move beyond threats and nasty tricks, and treat the religious others in our midst as neighbors, approaching them as we would want to be treated.
Paul Louis Metzger, Ph.D., is professor of Christian Theology and Theology of Culture, and director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins, at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is also a Charter Member of the Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy. Dr. Metzger's most recent book is Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths.
John W. Morehead is the Custodian of the Evangelical Chapter of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, the Director of the Western Institute for Intercultural Studies, and has been involved in interreligious dialogue for many years in the contexts of Islam, Mormonism, and Paganism. He is editor of Beyond the Burning Times: A Pagan and Christian in Dialogue, by Philip Johnson and Gus diZerega.