Multi-faith: Jews & Christians

Multi-faith: Jews & Christians

Multi-faith philosophy. Moses seemed to have one. And so do I.

So here are two offerings on a multi-faith theme. (1) A 13-minute podcast where I speak with two pastors about Christians reading the Jewish Bible. (2) A short Torah reflection from Parshat Va’etchanan.

1. Podcast: Jewish-Christian Relations

Jews hold the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) precious. So do Christians. Can Christians approach the Bible in a way that respects its ancient Jewish authors? And also its modern Jewish readers? Does the Tanakh itself offer hope for healing Jewish-Christian relations?

In this 13-minute episode, I discuss these questions with Pastors Jason Chesnut and Tim Brown at the Anam Cara (soul friend) project.

Link to podcast with image of the rings inside a tree, scorched by a lightning strike

2. Torah notes: Moses and Multi-faith

Moses explains the right and wrong ways to worship God. To the Israelites, he says:

Don’t make a statue, image, symbol…of any male or female [human]…animal on the land…winged bird that flies in the sky…creeper on the land…fish in the water under the landsun, moon, stars... (Deut. 4:16-17)

Do you recognize this list? It’s a (partial) list of creatures from Genesis 1. The water, land, sun, moon, stars, creeping reptiles, swarming fish and amphibians, land animals, and a male-female human.

Why, you might ask, shouldn’t we represent God in these ways? And you might find a creative answer. Maybe, for example, each species only reflects a part of the divine image. So, none is an adequate representation of God’s glory.

But Moses doesn’t give that answer. Instead, he gives two of his own reasons. (1) God didn’t reveal God’s self that way at Mt. Sinai. (2) God gave these practices to other communities.

So, Moses implies, God appears differently to different communities. But it’s important to honour God as God appears to us.

Of course you might have questions about this. For example, does God only appear to communities? If so, must everyone there have exactly the same spiritual practice? What if God appears to me in a unique way? How, then, should I honour that?

These are great questions. But Moses, as Torah presents him, spends his life building spiritual community. So, throughout the Torah, he takes it personally when someone turns away from what he built. (And we can ask hard questions about that, too!)

Still, here I want to appreciate Moses for a moment. He does not have to give reasons for avoiding images in worship. He could just say, “God said so at Mt. Sinai.” But he doesn’t. Instead, he shares his philosophy about variety in religious tradition. You might call it his multi-faith perspective.

God wants the variety! So, God shows up in different ways to different communities. And thus people worship in different ways. There is one true God, but there is no one true religion.

Now—as my Christian colleagues at Anam Cara also know—it’s our challenge to live into that.

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