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Blog-o-Brisbane » Multiple ways to Spirituality…?
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Blog-o-Brisbane

June 18, 2007

Multiple ways to Spirituality…?

Filed under: Reflections, General — Scott @ 3:03 pm

It is often said by people often considered wise in the eyes of society that there are multiple ways to God. Pluralism (acceptance of all beliefs as equal) is seen as the only stance to be tolerated, and all else is considered religious fundamentalism and ought to be shunned. I see such beliefs often set and encouraged in magazines, the media, and even talk shows. “It is fine to believe in your version of God, but just don’t go saying that yours is the only true belief,” says our pluralistic culture (ignoring the illogical self-reflexive nature of their own comments when applied to their own beliefs).

Yet, I do not wish to dwell on the gripes Pluralists often have against those who dare to believe their religion is actually true. Rather I want to focus upon the belief of Pluralists that all sorts of spirituality leads to “God”, whether you accept the universe is “God”, that we are all “God”, or one of the portrayals of “God” as portrayed in mainstream religions such as Christianity, Judaism or Islam. For example, Oprah appears to support such beliefs, especially if the people she promotes on her show are an indication. Consider “The Secret” she promoted which taps into a universal positive energy, or Russell Simmonn’s “Do You!” (book titled by Oprah herself) who explicitly states all religions lead to “god.” With a platform as big and influential as Oprah to launch from, such beliefs are no doubt going to find root with many people of our day.

Now am I, a Christian, daring or “bigoted” enough (depending on who you talk to) to say the wisdom of such people is wrong and that Christ is the only way? Well, my response may both please and annoy both Pluralists and Christians. For I agree with Christ who taught that he was the only way to God (as recorded in the New Testament), yet I also agree with Pluralists that there are actually multiple ways to “god”. Please be careful not to equivocate what I mean in each case. When Christ says he is the only way, He is meaning it is only through Him that we can come to the Father, God who is a personal being. If you listen to Pluralists who teach there being multiple ways to “god,” they are often using “god” to mean a spiritual force which we can become one with, a force with underlies and unites everything. This is my reason for using a lower-case ‘g’ for they are not really referring to the name of an individual person.

To expound further, I interpreted Simmonn on The Oprah Show as believing this heightened spiritual state is a universal energy that unites us all. He explicitly stated his success is because of his ability to tap into this universal higher spiritual which some call “god”. For Simmonn, yoga provides him with the ability to tap into “god,” yet for others tapping into this spirituality (Rudolf Otto’s “numinous” perhaps) might be accomplished through their own way whether it be through Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, or something else. Thus, what Jesus means by being the only way to God, and what Pluralists such as Simmonn (and I am confident Oprah) believe as being multiple ways to “god” are two entirely different things. To be clear, Jesus is saying He is the only way to God the Father, a personal being and entity; while Pluralists are saying there are multiple ways to reach a higher spirituality where one becomes aware of their oneness with everything.

Yet, more can be said. I have learnt through my theological education, where I was inundated with many differing beliefs and left to swim my way through them, that it is wise not to forego having a knee-jerk reaction to them. Influential beliefs are usually influential because they ring true, and I have found that many beliefs I was initially repulsed by have had elements I would consider to be true upon closer investigation. There is a saying that a lie is best buried between two truths (for a person is more likely to swallow it whole), and so would be the case with an untruth being buried between two truths. I think it is therefore often better to try dissect where truth in a set of beliefs actually lies. This has certainly been a more enriching experience for me personally, and if entering into discussions with others who differ in belief to you, it would no doubt create some common friendly ground with which to work.

Now while Christianity can offer a heightened spiritual experience (which I believe can be similarly attained in other religions as Pluralists would believe), it also offers something more than this. If offers hope in an opportunity to actually be acquainted with the One in whom rationality and spirituality both spring forth; a personal being who is both good and loving, and who is our ultimate Father. This is something quite different to obtaining some spiritual state, and for this, I defer to the wisdom of Jesus who clearly stated that he was the only way to this personal God.

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