Godtalk: Seeking Christian Unity

POST BY PKnott

A Unity Cross
Unity Cross purple by Gwen Meharg

All major religions believe that the first thing we need to affirm about God is that God is ineffable, beyond all human imagination and language. Everything we think and say about God reveals some truth, but, this side of eternity, never the complete truth. No dogma and no religion provides an adequate expression of God.

All religious truth is partial and limited in its historical expression and cannot claim adequacy. All religions,  all expressions of theology, irrespective of denomination or religion, must humbly acknowledge their incompleteness. Only God is absolute:  an absolute knowledge of God lies at the end of our religious journey.

That affects the way we need to think of ecumenism and interfaith dialogue. As no one, ourselves included, has the full truth, the way of ecumenism and interfaith dialogue should never be thought of as one side winning the other side over.  Rather the way has to be seen as each of us, with an open heart, longing for those others becoming engaged in the search for deeper conversion.

Unity among the various Churches and various faiths will not come about by everyone converting to one denomination or one religion. Rather it will come about, and can only come about, by each of us converting more
deeply inside our own tradition. As each of us and each faith moves more deeply into the mystery of God we will progressively draw closer to each other.

And this does not lead us into relativism and the naïve belief that all religions are equal. Nor does it mean that we aren’t ready to defend our own faith tradition, and ready to welcome anyone into it. But it does mean that we must humbly accept that the truth is not ours alone.

God is not a tribal deity. God desires the salvation of those in other denominations and in other religious traditions just surely as he desires our own.  As Jesus teaches, God has “other sheep”, loved individuals and loved communities who are not of our fold. God’s love embrace everyone. John 10.16

The path to unity among Christians of different denominations and the path to unity among world religions lies in each of us, within our own tradition, converting more deeply into the mystery of God and into all this asks of us. As we move deeper into the mystery of God we will find ourselves more and more one, as brothers and sisters in faith.

No religion is absolute, only God is absolute. Knowing this should make us more respectful of other denominations and religions, and more willing to let God’s vision trump our own.

Peter Knott SJ