Interfaith

“The Inter Faith Network for the UK was founded in 1987 to promote good relations between people of different faiths in this country. Its member organisations include representative bodies from the Baha’i;Buddhist;Christian; Hindu; Jain; Jewish; Muslim; Sikh; and Zoroastrian communities; national and local inter faith bodies; and academic institutions and educational bodies concerned with inter faith issues.” – Website

Despite this desire to promote ‘good relations’ I believe that Interfaith is one of the major threats to the evangelical Christian church today. Like an intruder, it is interloping into the affairs of the evangelical Christian Church, and seeking to change the very foundations on which such a church is built.

But how is it possible to say such a thing? Don’t such comments, at least, go against the spirit of the law of religious hatred? How can the desire to be united in a bond of friendship and understanding produce such a problem and a threat? The answer to these, and indeed other questions you might have, is found in what exactly Interfaith means to many people today; but before we go further we want to make a few clear statements:

It is good to understand each other and know what different people believe.

It is wrong to promote any kind of hatred on the grounds of belief or indeed any other basis.

No one person is ‘better than another’ simply because of their religion.

Talking to and being involved in the community with those of other religions is to be welcomed and encouraged.

There will be times when we should stand together on moral grounds and we will agree on certain courses of action.

“Many areas of Britain are now very religiously diverse – particularly its major cities. People of most of the world’s great faith traditions live in the UK. In the 2001 census, 76.8% of people identified themselves as having a religious faith: Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Jewish as well as Baha’i, Buddhist, Jain, Zoroastrian and other traditions. This is a situation of great richness, with remarkable opportunities for mutual understanding and for creating a society rooted in common values, while acknowledging variety of belief and practice. Followers of different faiths are able to coexist with mutual respect and understanding. They have much to offer, drawing on their own particular spiritual heritages, to help create a society rooted in values which are held in common between the distinct historic faiths… There is still much to be done and inter religious understanding should never be taken for granted. It has to be worked for in each… generation.” – Website

However, these areas of understanding, community and social relationships are not simply what Interfaith is about; the heart and goal is in the “spiritual heritage”; in other words, who and why we worship; do we all really worship the one God? This is where the problems start, and to achieve such unity entails compromise. Everyone is entitled to hold the belief of their choosing but do all these variety of beliefs acknowledge the same God? Everyone is entitled to worship as they want but none of us should be forced into a corner where we must accept another god. By all means there should be dialogue and a clear presentation of the differences, but once force is involved we have crossed the line of love and peace, the very things we seek to achieve.

What are some of the practical outcomes of such desires to be one and worship the same God?

“‘Churches are not doing their part to help defeat global health ills,’ said the director of an African faith-based AIDS relief organisation. He said churches should make the difference that everyone is looking for. An interfaith gathering on Nov. 2 urged churches, government and NGOs to do more about child healthcare… speakers at the interfaith gathering included The Rev. Cheryl Pyrch, Rutgers Presbyterian Church; Father Thomas Kamau of the Catholic Mission Board; Rabbi Marla Feld, Union for Reform Judaism; Imam Al-haaj Ghazi Y. Khankan from Council on American Islamic Relations; Jeffery Huffines, U.N. Representative of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the U.S.; and Patrecia Lenore, Order of the Interbeing (Buddhist). The service ended with praise and prayer.” – WebsiteThe need to be concerned about global health is not in dispute but when you look at the list of the various faiths represented, just who were they praying to? Practical work uniting churches will usually involve some form of worship or act of reverence and here the compromise will begin. However, it can go deeper than a few churches working together, as the following shows:

“‘The coronation of the Prince of Wales must be an ‘interfaith’ event,’ the former Archbishop of Canterbury has controversially claimed. Lord Carey believes that the next coronation needs ‘very significant changes’ so that it is ‘inclusive’ of other religions that have spread across Britain… The prince, who will become Supreme Governor of the Church of England when he becomes king, has already said that he wants to be Defender of Faith – not Defender of the Faith – when he accedes to the throne… Lord Carey says: ‘When the time comes for the next coronation there’s got to be a number of changes. Very significant changes. The Queen came to the throne at a time when the Church of England was really the only Christian faith in the country. And there were no Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus around to be in any way evident in the life of the country. Now it’s a completely different world, so the coronation oath would have to be looked at more critically. It’s got to be a much more interfaith coronation service next time’ …” – Website

Such changes will go to the very heart of the monarchy and its relationship with the Church of England. Is it really possible to defend all faiths at the same time? If they are all the same then there is no problem but while there are differences, the only solution would be compromise and pressure to ‘be different’ and to accept other ways of worship would likely be brought on the Church of England and create, for many, an impossible situation.

These are just two of the changes that could arise, but are not all religions the same? And interestingly, it is this question that shows up the ignorance of many in Interfaith. Religion is an outward set of rules and regulations, a series of beliefs that I adhere to; but true evangelical Christianity, as the New Testament shows so well, is not initially and outward agreement – it is an inward life. All religions may be in essence the same but all relationships with the Living God are not. If, then, as we would assert, the issue here is not religion but relationship we need to answer the question we asked earlier, “Do we all really worship or even believe in the same God?” Let’s check some definitions.

Who is God?

Hinduism

“Why do we worship God in different forms?

“Actually, Hindus believe in only one formless and all-pervading, all-existing, and all-blissful God. That formless God, however, can best be realized by concentrating on various forms of ideal personalities as recorded in the scriptures.

“In other words, the Hindu religion is flexible and provides many ways to develop one’s spiritual ideas in order to suit individual needs. “Unity in the diverse plan of nature” is recognized in the Hindu faith. Just as people tailor clothes to fit their needs, Hindus
have different gods and goddesses for their religious needs.

“All these gods and goddesses resemble humans, animals or natural forces such as wind, water, fire, sun, and moon; each has different powers to bless the world. These godheads, when worshipped, fulfill people’s desires in an easier way but with the same qualities of blessings as from one God.” – Website

Many gods, image representations, not monotheism, acceptance of all formulations of truth, are these the beliefs of evangelical Christianity? Do these statements describe the same God as found in the Bible of the evangelical Christian? The answer is obviously no; this is a different god and indeed a different relationship with that god.

Sikhism

“The Sikh religion is regarded by many scholars as a syncretic religious system which borrows heavily from Hinduism and Sufi mysticism. Other scholars treat it as a branch of Hinduism’s bhakti mystical devotion, as an attempt to reform Hinduism or as an attempt to harmonize Hinduism and Islam which ended up becoming its own religious tradition.

“God: Sikhs follow a strict monotheistic faith in an eternal, creator god within which there exists two distinct natures. One nature is physical and encompasses perfect attributes; this is the nature which Sikhs can understand and meditate upon.

“The second nature, non-physical, is too complex for the human mind to understand. Among Sikhs, God is generally called Sat Guru, which means the ‘supreme Guru,’ or ‘supreme teacher.’ Other names include Akal Purukh and Vahiguru. This second nature is so abstract and mystical that Sikhism sometimes borders on being pantheistic rather than simply monotheistic.

“God is believed to govern the universe absolutely – this divine order is called hukam. According to Sikh doctrine, absolutely nothing is exempt from God’s will. The divine order of the universe is based upon two principles: justice (nian) and grace (nadar). – Website

A syncretic religious system, trying to harmonise two distinct religions, one God with two natures, one of which cannot even be understood with the mind, pantheistic – are these the beliefs of evangelical Christianity? Do these statements describe the same God as found in the Bible of the evangelical Christian? The answer is obviously no; this is a different god and indeed a different relationship with that god.

Zoroastrian

“A single god Ahura Mazda who is supreme. Communication between Himself and humans is by… Immortals… sometimes described as concepts…

“One school of thought promotes a cosmic dualism between: An all powerful God Ahura Mazda who is the only deity worthy of being worshipped, and an evil spirit of violence and death, Angra Mainyu, who opposes Ahura Mazda.

“The resulting cosmic conflict involves the entire universe, including humanity who is required to choose which to follow…

“Another school of thought perceives the battle between Good and Evil as an ethical dualism, set within the human consciousness.” – WebsiteCommunication through ‘Attributes’, cosmic dualism, set within the human consciousness, are these the beliefs of evangelical Christianity? Do these statements describe the same God as found in the Bible of the evangelical Christian? The answer is obviously no; this is a different god and indeed a different relationship with that god.

Here then we have the heart of the problem of Interfaith for evangelical Christianity; three different definitions of God and three clearly different relationships with that God. These different beliefs are clearly, by very definition, not talking about the same God and therefore to state that each religion has a different god is not in anyway racists or stirring up hatred, it is a matter of fact.

How Many Gods?

Some religions, as we have seen, allow for the worship of more than one god, but the God of the Scriptures as seen by evangelical Christians does not. This becomes clear in many places of the Old Testament when God speaks against the idolatry of His people and is summarised in what we call the ’10 Commandments’.

“Then God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them… ” – Exodus 20:1-6

Once we embrace a different God we are turning our back on the God Whom we love and serve and have moved into idolatry, which has been a major problem through the history of Christianity. For Christians to seek to become one in worship and faith with other religions is to go against one of the major teachings of the God they claim to serve. The moment I start embracing a different definition of God, and seek to incorporate that in my belief system, I am turning away from the One that I claim to serve.

The reconciling of different religions is called by the name syncretism, “the reconciling of different beliefs so that all are acceptable at the same time”. We saw above that Sikhism calls itself syncretic but evangelical Christianity can never be. We do not believe in the same God and there is a real question as to whether we all have the same levels of morality too. For instance, the belief in reincarnation means that certain levels of ‘worship’ are placed on some animals, even to the detriment of human beings. Some would also look at the teachings that are clearly expounded today and say that it is quite clear we have a different morality:

“Multiculturism is based on the lie that all cultures are morally equal… But all cultures are not equal in respecting representative government, guaranteed liberties, and the rule of law… In America, as in Britain, multiculturism has become the fashion in large swaths of our society …

“Multiculturist intellectuals do not think our kind of society is worth defending… Obviously, Nazism created a culture in Germany of which most Germans are now ashamed and that they would like to forget. Yet after more than sixty years, Hitler’s Mein Kamp is still a bestseller in Muslim countries… The Palestinian Peace Prize for Culture was awarded to Abu Daoud for his book telling how he planned and carries out the murder of eleven Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Imagine a self-confessed mass murderer in the West, instead of being imprisoned or executed for his crime, boasting of it in a bestselling book, for which he is honored with a special prize!

“… Islam destroys the essential sense of right and wrong that God has implanted in every human conscience – so that murder is rewarded with Paradise, and murderers are lauded as the most highly honored heroes! This is the atmosphere Islam has created and in which not a few fanatics but the average follower of Islam is immersed from earliest childhood. Muslims in the West may attempt to be aloof from such evil, but in the long run they cannot be. Is it not time for them to admit the truth about the religion to which they still cling in denial of its established teachings and many centuries of violent history?” – Dave Hunt, Judgment Day! – Islam, Israel and the Nations, The Berean Call, Bend, Oregon

Some strong words, which if taken out of context could create hatred against the Muslims.This is not the purpose, but rather to underline the fact that the teaching, we know goes on because we have seen and heard so much about it and it is clearly not compatible with the beliefs, teachings and indeed the moral code of evangelical Christians. Therefore, although we can understand, dialogue and respect, we cannot worship and compromise our beliefs. But see what Ephesians 4:1-13 teaches us.

1. We are to walk in a manner appropriate to our calling. Worshipping other Gods, and being disobedient to the one we serve, would definitely mean that we would fail that instruction.

2. We are to preserve the unity of the Spirit, showing it must be there in the first place. Amongst all true Christians there is the unity of the Spirit. There was Jew and Gentile in the Ephesian church, coming from different backgrounds and a different initial understanding of salvation and God, but because of the Holy Spirit they now had unity.

The Greek word for unity here only appears twice in the Scriptures and both in this passage. It seems to imply that on the central issues of God, Christ and His church there was oneness because they all had received of the same Holy Spirit and He was leading them all in the same way. Please finally note that we are to take great care and diligence that this unity is clearly preserved and not broken. This is a unity that is not created by our human councils and workshops; because such resolutions are often broken, but a unity that already divinely exists, and that through our obedience to Him, is maintained.

3. Does that mean we agree on every little minute detail? No, because as we see when the word is used for the second time, there will come a point when we have unity of faith, but it will only come because, on the essentials of God and Christ, we maintain the inward unity of the spirit until we come to the outward unity of the faith. You will never get the second without the first.

Modern-Day History

Where and how has this modern revival of interfaith developed? In many ways it can be traced back to 1893 when the Parliament of World Religions was held in Chicago, USA. A key figure at this gathering was Swami Vivekananda, the founder of the Vedanta Society. This teaching has influenced many in West, including Prince Charles.

“‘People grow like their gods,’ warns C.S. Lewis. That is a sobering thought, applied to the low-profile but widely entertained philosophy of Advaita Vedanta.

“I met a writer once who confided that she was a Vedantist. ‘ Worship is good for you!’ she exclaimed. ‘Whether of Kali, Jesus, or your bicycle!’ Kali, the ma
n-hating evil goddess in Hinduism: Jesus, the self-sacrificing Son of God ‘in Whom is no darkness at all’: your bicycle, an inanimate object. All led, for her, to the same goal of enlightenment.

“Advaita Vedanta, though rarely named, is nothing new. A core strand of Hinduism with a philosophical emphasis, it was brought to the first Chicago Parliament of Religions in 1893 by Swami Vivekenanda, in a deliberate push to proselytise the West. ‘Advaita’ literally means ‘all is one’. Man and God are one…

“Vedanta has takers in influential quarters, too. Kathleen Raine, poet, founder of the Temenos Academy, based by Prince Charles at his Institute of Architecture, and invited to teach there, is highly regarded in esoteric circles for a selection of eclectic spiritual pronouncements. These are rarely specific, but in Issue Number 9 of her Temenos Review she writes: ‘I believe that it is to Advaita Vedanta, perhaps, that we must look.'” – Reachout Trust

In 1910 the World Missionary Conference took place in Edinburgh and this was another step in the path of Interfaith and will introduce us to the world of Ecumenism.

“British and Irish participants at the historic thirteenth Conference on World Mission and Evangelism… are calling for ‘an ecumenical recovery of the central Christian vocation to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ’ through a clearer focus on evangelism.

“The plea comes in a letter to the WCC’s mission commission, which has been meeting this week in the aftermath of a gathering that drew together participants from 300 Churches, confessions and Christian bodies across 105 countries. It was the most widely representative conference of its kind, involving Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Evangelical and Pentecostal delegates from six continents…

“‘The ecumenical movement was birthed out of the Edinburgh 1910 world mission conference,’ explains CCOM Secretary Simon Barrow…” – Website

“The forthcoming Centenary of the World Missionary Conference held in Edinburgh 1910 is proving to be a suggestive moment for many people who are seeking direction for Christian mission in the 21st century.

“Several different constituencies within World Christianity have begun to plan significant events in 2010. Since 2005 an international group has worked collaboratively under the aegis of Edinburgh 2010.

“This initiative sought to bring together representatives of many different strands of mission and church life for a well focused and highly organised process of preparation for the Centenary. The memory of the 1910 Conference brings people together in a creative way and can lead to new perspectives on mission today.

“This intercontinental and multi-denominational project, now known as EDINBURGH 2010, is based at New College, Edinburgh, and headed by an International Director, Dr Daryl Balia.

“It is governed by a 20 member General Council representative of the majority Christian family combined with the following as its intended outcomes:

“Churches will be provided with an opportunity to celebrate what God has done in the growth of the Church worldwide over the past century and to prayerfully commit to God the witness of the churches in the 21st Century

“The biblical call to mission will be affirmed and articulated within our contemporary contexts with particular focus on the meaning of evangelization and relevance of Christian witness today

“A key conversation on mission will be initiated with mission leaders from the older mission movements of the North and the new mission movements from the South and East, with dialogues held among representatives of different Christian traditions

“Guidelines will be developed and studies published to help church and mission leaders evaluate for their own situation models of mission which are proving effective elsewhere

“Based on a critical assessment of the status of the world, a new vision of God’s purposes for creation in Christ and a renewed spirituality and mission ethos will be developed in the life of the churches worldwide.

“Centenary celebrations of mission in humility and hope will be held throughout the world with the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh, again, being the venue from 2- 6 June 2010 for the historic celebration involving over 1000 delegates.” – Website

The aims and the way Ecumenism is described here seem good but is that what all mean by ecumenism and can we ever truly bring even the Protestants and Catholics together without compromise? This is a thorny problem because will find a spectrum of believers in both movements but we quote below some clear statements to show that there are basic differences that cannot be glossed over:

“Authority: The Bible, Tradition, Etc

“Catholics have various sources of authority: The Bible, Tradition, the Creeds, the Bishops, and the Pope, among others. Ultimately, Christ is our authority, but this authority has been passed from Christ to His Apostles. The Bible and Tradition come from the same Apostolic Deposit, and we do not pit them against each other. Thus the Church understands that the Bible must be interpreted, and the Church does so using the Tradition of the Apostles. The Catholic Church (and the Orthodox Church) has retained this Apostolic authority through Apostolic Succession, which is the passing down of authority from the apostles to their successors. The pope, or bishop of Rome, has a first place among the successors to the apostles as the successor to Peter, the “Rock,” and prince of the apostles, and in certain rare occasions can speak infallibly on behalf of the Church. However, this does not mean everything the pope says is error free, or that the pope is sinless. While Catholics (and the Orthodox, many Anglicans, and the early Church) do not embrace sola scriptura, the 16th century belief that the Bible alone is our final authority, Catholics hold the Bible in high regard as the word of God and cannot teach contrary to the Bible’s Teachings. For information about interpreting the Bible, please see There is no Plain Meaning of Scripture.” – Website

“Salvation and Grace

“Catholics believe we are saved only by God’s grace working in us. Thus we are justified, transformed from the state of unrighteousness into a state of holiness and the sonship of God, on account of Christ. Justification is the merciful and freely given act of God which takes away our sins and makes us just and holy in our whole being. This justification is given to us in the sacrament of baptism. Justification is the beginning of our free response to God, that is our faith in Christ and our cooperation with the grace of the Holy Spirit. Thus Catholics believe in salvation by grace alone, solely on account of the work of Christ. However, neither Catholics nor Orthodox accept the reformation concept of forensic justification or ‘justification by faith alone.’

“Yes, the Catholic Church does believe a person must be born again to be saved. However, Catholics believe that one is born again at Baptism. In fact, when Christians for the first 1500 years of Christianity, including Martin Luther, used the phrase ‘born again,’ they were referring to baptism. Please check out, Are Catholics Born Again?: Reclaiming the New Birth for more information. The Catholic Church recognizes the possibility of salvation for Protestants and even for non-Christians, although in Catholic Teaching, all salvation comes th
rough Jesus, who is ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life.'” – Website

“Purgatory (Lat., “purgare”, to make clean, to purify) in accordance with Catholic teaching is a place or condition of temporal punishment for those who, departing this life in God’s grace, are, not entirely free from venial faults, or have not fully paid the satisfaction due to their transgressions.

“The faith of the Church concerning purgatory is clearly expressed in the Decree of Union drawn up by the Council of Florence (Mansi, t. XXXI, col. 1031), and in the decree of the Council of Trent which (Sess. XXV) defined:

‘Whereas the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has from the Sacred Scriptures and the ancient tradition of the Fathers taught in Councils and very recently in this Ecumenical synod (Sess. VI, cap. XXX; Sess. XXII cap.ii, iii) that there is a purgatory, and that the souls therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar; the Holy Synod enjoins on the Bishops that they diligently endeavor to have the sound doctrine of the Fathers in Councils regarding purgatory everywhere taught and preached, held and believed by the faithful” (Denzinger, “Enchiridon”, 983).’” – Website

It is not the intention of this article to answer all these points, that is accomplished elsewhere; but we want to show that in the basic beliefs, the core beliefs of central vital issues, of Catholics and Protestants are different and there can never be oneness without compromise.

“Perhaps the main difference between conservative Protestantism and Roman Catholicism is expressed by the ‘five Solas’. ‘Sola’ means ‘alone’ in Latin. The first three Sola statements of the early Protestant movement stressed that:

“‘Sola Scriptura:’ The Bible is the sole authority for Christian beliefs and practices. The Catholic Church stresses a balance between Biblical support and the tradition of the Church itself.

“‘Sola Gratia:’ One is saved through grace alone, given to the believer by God directly. The Catholic Church stresses the importance of church sacraments as a channel for God’s grace.

“‘Sola Fide:’ Salvation is by the individual’s faith alone in trusting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Again, the Catholic Church stresses the importance of church sacraments.” – Website

This compromise is evident:

“We saw the beginning of institutional ecumenism in the 1960’s, with The World Council of Churches, mostly liberal mainline Protestant denominations who denied such essential doctrines as the inerrancy of Scripture and a literal, bodily resurrection of Christ. For years, Evangelicals distanced themselves from this institutional ecumenism because of the unsound theology of the groups involved.

“Today, however, that spirit of compromise has invaded Evangelicalism. The recent Catholic-Evangelical accord is an example of such compromise. In this accord, Evangelicals compromised essential doctrines such as justification by faith alone and the sufficiency of Scripture in order to unite with Roman Catholics on issues such as abortion and school prayer.” – Website

But even if ecumenism started out with the simple desire to bring two groups together it has evolved into something much bigger:

“Ecumenism – ‘The word ecumenical itself has changed its meaning and is now used by the World Council of Churches to mean, not just fellowship within different Christian bodies, but with the entire human race.'” – Dr Edward Norman, BBC Reith Lecture, 1978.

“The word ecumenism… derived from Greek… means ‘the inhabited world’, and was historically used with specific reference to the Roman Empire. In its broadest meaning, ecumenism refers to initiatives aimed at worldwide religious unity.” – Website

“Within the ecumenical movement the WCC has sought to integrate the vision of John 17:21… with the vision of Eph. 1:10… But the effort to integrate these two biblical visions has been challenged by a continuing tension and sometimes antagonism between those who advocate the primacy of the social dimension of ecumenism and those who advocate the primacy of spiritual or ecclesial ecumenism. More recently, a growing number of voices from the churches, especially in Asia but also in Latin America, have spoken of the need for a “wider ecumenism” or “macro-ecumenism” – an understanding which would open the ecumenical movement to other religious and cultural traditions beyond the Christian community.” – Website

This is indeed where ecumenism is heading, “beyond the Christian community”, as we shall see in our continuing look at its development.

In 1932 World Goodwill was set up by The Lucis Trust. The works of Alice Bailey are highly revered in the Trust. Alice Bailey was part of the Theosophical Movement’, which is recognised by UN.

“Most of the teaching pamphlets of the Lucis Trust are distributed through the World Goodwill. This organisation is an international movement established in 1932 by Alice Bailey to help establish right human relationships. Its aim is to deliver pamphlets and newsletters all over the world in as many languages as possible. World Goodwill is recognised by the Office of Public Information at UN Headquarters and is represented at UN briefing sessions both in New York and Geneva…

“The definitions and ‘theology’ of the Lucis Trust is gleaned from their publications… as most of these pamphlets are either adaptations of, or the direct work of, Alice Bailey we need to say a little about her.

“Bailey came in the tradition of Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society although rejected by many of its ‘purists’. She started the Arcane School in 1923, which the Lucis Trust now support generally…

“The writings quoted by the Lucis Trust are in the strictest sense not Bailey’s because she claimed they were channelled through her by Djwhal Khul, a Tibetan master.

“This admitted channelling of course does raise a question mark as to where the writings really came from. If a supernatural power is involved, which Bailey admitted, what is the source of this power? There is no proof that it was Djwhal Khul and it could just as easily have been some demonic spirit masquerading as such a person. As such we must look with a very critical eye at the teachings offered and the beliefs of Alice Bailey as shown in the following quotations.

“‘The plan as at present sensed, and for which the Masters are steadily working, might be defined as follows:- It is the production of a subjective synthesis in humanity and of a telepathic interplay which will eventually annihilate time. It will make available to every man all past achievements and knowledges, it will reveal to man the true significance of his mind and brain and make him master of the equipment and will make him therefore omnipresent and eventually open the door to omniscience.’ – A Treatise on White Magic, p.403, quoted in Time, a selection of quotations from the writings of Alice A Bailey, issued by World Goodwill.

“‘Personal Meditation 1. Relax and focus yourself in the soul. Then sound the O M, breathing it out upon the world of men and saying to yourself inaudibly: “The will of God moves the world.” This is the thought lying behind your use of the O M. 2. Then ponder upon the significance of time … I make the future also by m
y present knowledge of the past and the beauty of the present. And, therefore, I am that I am.’ – Discipleship in the New Age, Vol. I, p.210, ibid., p.25.” – Reachout Trust

The World Council of Churches was constituted at the first general assembly in Amsterdam on 23 August 1948. Whereas much that was said at this first assembly, and indeed since, seems good, there is always the problem of ecumenism being at the heart of decisions and many evangelical groups will not take part because they feel that the organisation is too liberal.

In 1986 the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) held its 25th Anniversary at Assisi. The WWF, although not initially a religious organisation, has, in recent years, become an influence on the religious scene and always from an Interfaith position. Attendees at this Anniversary were the Duke of Edinburgh, the president of WWF who officiated. The Pope who stated that we were, “all praying to same God”, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, plus Buddhists, Spiritists, Muslims, Hindus and Baptists.

The official description of the celebrations was:

“As part of its 25th anniversary celebrations, WWF invited leaders from the world’s five main religions to a two-day retreat in the historic Italian town of Assisi. After the retreat, the leaders issued declarations that conservation was a fundamental element in their respective faiths. This led to the formation of an international network, that now includes eight religions, through which WWF and religious groups work together to achieve common aims.” – Website

However, the online newsletter of the Bahá’í community described it as a milestone and went on to show that a book recently published carries forward this work:

The WWF was also behind a number of ‘Creation Festivals’ held in major Cathedral towns of Britain. Whereas there was a ‘nature’ theme running though it there was also the idea of spirituality which was more akin to new age thinking than to evangelical Christianity.

In 1993 the Parliament of World Religions held its centenary celebrations.

“In 1993, the Parliament was convened at the Palmer House hotel in Chicago. Over 8,000 people from all over the world, from many diverse religions, gathered to celebrate and dialog and explore how religious traditions can work together on the critical issues which confront us all. Dr. Gerald Barney of the Millennium Institute gave the keynote address on the state of the environment.” – Website
When we look at the list of sponsors for this gathering, we see just how far Interfaith has come. This is not now a grouping of ‘Christian’ churches but has opened up to many other belief systems with, as we have seen on their own admission, different Gods.

Temple of Understanding

“MISSION STATEMENT. The mission of the Temple of Understanding (TOU) is to achieve peaceful coexistence among individuals, communities, and societies through interfaith education. Our programs emphasize experiential knowledge and dialogue as a means of connecting people of all ages across a spectrum of religious traditions. Our goals are to: foster appreciation of religious and cultural diversity; expand public discourse on religion and spirituality; educate for global citizenship; create a more just and peaceful world.

“Founded in 1960, the Temple of Understanding is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit and a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.” – http://www.templeofunderstanding.org Covenant of the Goddess

“From August 28th through September 4th, 1993, representatives of virtually all of the world’s major religions came together in Chicago, Illinois for the second Parliament of World’s Religions. The first Parliament, held 100 years earlier, saw the introduction of Asian religious thought to western audiences. Now, over 200 representatives of Pagan religious groups attended the latest Parliament, including: Covenant of the Goddess; Circle Sanctuary; EarthSpirit Community; Fellowship of Isis.” – Website

The following Press Release was distributed at the Parliament to provide background information on the Covenant of the Goddess and Witchcraft

“The Covenant of the Goddess is one of the largest and oldest Wiccan religious organizations with members in North America, Europe and Australia. Wicca, or Witchcraft is the most popular expression of the religious movement known as Neo-Paganism, which, according to the Institute for the Study of American Religion, is the fastest growing religion in the United States. It practitioners are reviving ancient Pagan practices and beliefs of pre-Christian Europe and adapting them to contemporary life. The result is a religion that is both old and new, both ‘traditional’ and creative.

“Witchcraft is a life-affirming, earth- and nature-oriented religion which sees all of life as sacred and interconnected, honors the natural world as the embodiment of divinity, immanent as well as transcendent, and experiences the divine as feminine and often as masculine, as well. Like the spiritual world view and practices of Native Americans and Taoists, Wiccan spiritual practices are intended to attune humanity to the natural rhythms and cycles of the universe as a means of personally experiencing divinity. Rituals, therefore, coincide with the phases of the moon, the change of the seasons, solstices and equinoxes and days which fall in between these such as May Day and Halloween. This calendar of celebrations is referred to as the Wheel of the Year. Most Witches consider their practice a priest/esshood, akin to the mystery schools of classical Greece and Rome, involving years of training and passage through life-transforming initiatory rituals…

“In the Spring of 1975, a number of Wiccan elders from diverse traditions, all sharing the idea of forming a religious organization for all practitioners of Witchcraft, gathered to draft a ‘covenant’ among themselves…

“The Covenant is an umbrella organization of cooperating autonomous Witchcraft congregations with the power to confer credentials on its qualified clergy. It fosters cooperation and mutual support among Witches and secures for them the legal protections enjoyed by members of other religions…

“In recent years, the Covenant has taken part in spiritual and educational conferences, interfaith outreach, large public rituals, environmental activism, community projects and social action, as well as efforts to correct negative stereotypes and promote accurate media portrayals…

“The Covenant’s participation in the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions continues its efforts to restore the respect due to a legitimate and deeply-rooted religion, protect and preserve the earth through its public dissemination of its wisdom and traditions, and participate in dialogue as a contributing member of the world’s community of faiths.” – Website

Theosophical Society

“The Theosophical Society is made up of men and women who are united by their determination to promote brotherhood and to remove religious, racial and other antagonisms. The Society, which imposes no belief on its members, wishes to draw together all persons of goodwill, whatsoever their opinions or religious persuasion (if any). We think that the prime emphasis on brotherhood, tolerance and freedom of thought, will eventually dissolve the barriers which have separated us…

“Theosophy reveals the wisdom and secret doctrine underlying all religions and mythologies. Our maxim is that ‘There is no religion higher than Truth’. Theosophy further declares that by exploring the deeps and heights of our own natures we can come to the inner experience of that Truth. Put simply, we affirm that all life is one life, a natural law pervades the universe, and an evolutionary process is universal…

“Esoteric Eastern philosophy is set forth alongside an ancient western mystery tradition including that of Kabbalah, Alchemy, & Gnosticism. Today, the Society exists world-wide with some 50 national sections, each with autonomous local branches (38 in England). The International Headquarters is at Adyar, Chennai, India.” – Website

In addition there were at least 4,500 delegates whose backgrounds included: Protestant, Catholic, Bahá’í, Buddhist, Pagan, Wiccan, and Shaman.

There were many blessings given to the attendees, including one from the High Priestess of Temple of Isis.

“Many members who could not attend have written asking for a full account of the participation of the Fellowship of Isis at this Parliament, which only meets every hundred years… the only delegate representing the Goddess Religion who spoke from the platform at the Opening Plenary was Olivia Robertson, who had been invited to represent not only the F.O.I. but other Goddess groups. This turned out to be a dramatic experience!

“In an article in ‘The Chicago Sun Times’ Sept. 2nd, Greek Orthodox Church Representatives are described as ‘pulling out of the conference on Monday’, saying they did not wish to have ‘relationships with groups who profess no belief in God or a supreme purpose’… The rumour that it was Olivia’s presence and prayer from the dais that led to this ‘walk-out’ has turned out to be of benefit for the Goddess Religion! Olivia’s ‘Blessing of Isis’, linked with this rumour, was the only prayer given from the platform that was networked by radio throughout the world. This included the BBC World Service and the BBC4 Religious Programme…

“Her prayer which caused such commotion went as follows: ‘SISTRUM Hra ku. Holy Goddess Isis, Mother of all beings, come to our hearts! Grant us Thy children Love, Beauty and Truth. SISTRUM In the Name of Isis of Ten Thousand Names, of all Faiths, may all beings be blessed! The company here assembled: the Spirit Beings who surround us: humans, animals, birds, reptiles, insects, trees, the great rain forests, and their inhabitants: The earth and all Her sacred elements. Baraka…

“The main Presentation of F.O.I. was the Mystery Drama. ‘Isis of Ten Thousand Names’… This was the first public Isian Procession for fifteen hundred years.

“The Fellowship of Isis was represented by Olivia Robertson and Caro
line Wise at the inner Assembly of the World’s Spiritual Leaders. The meeting-place was secret, presumably because of the presence of H.H. The Dalai Lama…

“Olivia had the pleasure of accompanying Selena Fox of Circle to a top secret rendezvous to attend a small gathering for Inter-Faith Dialogue. The Dalai Lama spoke; he was friendly, down-to-earth and had a sense of humour! When a Christian Monk was describing him as ‘the Buddha of Compassion’ His Holiness was making funny faces! His personality was outstanding. It was a bit hard to meditate, surrounded by armed Security Guards! Practised meditators don’t move.” – Website

Truly Interfaith has gone far beyond ‘Christian’ churches and other supernatural powers, apart from God’s Holy Spirit, are being made manifest.

Since 1993 there have been other Parliaments and the work of Interfaith continues through them. In 2004 it was held in Barcelona, Spain, and, according to the organisers, was an international success with over 8,900 participants from over 75 countries.

A Forum is being planned for Monterrey in 2007 and the next full Parliament is planned for 2009 with the potential host cities of Delhi, Melbourne and Singapore being visited in August and September 2006 so that a final choice can be made.

Conclusions

Biblical

The conclusions we draw from all this will in actual fact depend on which viewpoint we take. The Christian Fundamentalist would say it is wrong and we do not want it. Indeed, the evangelical Christian of whatever persuasion would point out the potential dangers of allowing supernatural powers, not of God, to be worshipped and invoked at a gathering.

Interestingly God’s Viewpoint is that whatever we desire or long for as Christians it will happen. Revelation 17:1-5 prophecies the fact that there will be a counterfeit religious/political system typified in Scripture by Babylon the Great.

“Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and spoke with me, saying, ‘Come here, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters, with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit into a wilderness; and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, full of blasphemous names, having seven heads and ten horns. The woman was clothed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls, having in her hand a gold cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality, and on her forehead a name was written, a mystery, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” – Revelation 17:1-5

Indeed, you can follow the typology of Babylon throughout Scripture from its inception in Genesis 10:

“Now Cush became the father of Nimrod; he became a mighty one on the earth. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD; therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.’ The beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.” – Genesis 10:8-10

Do not think that the mighty hunter before the Lord is positive, Nimrod means ‘rebellion’! This is especially seen after the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11.

What is happening today, God was aware beforehand that it would come to pass and so it should not take us by surprise. What should our attitude be then; first we need to seek God and know how to act towards these things as they manifest themselves in our day; second we should neither be fatalistic nor fanatical about what we see. We should neither have the ‘cloud of doom’ hovering over our heads nor see a conspiracy theory under every pew.

Notice Revelation 17:4 above, Satan is only adorned, it is all outward. That which is part of this Interfaith empire will also be made up of people and a system that is an outward presentation of one thing but something very different under the surface.

That is why God always looks inward, at the heart. See for instance the description in John 17:21 which shows the true unity not a false man-made one.

Where is it heading?

There is little doubt that the eventual aim is for a ‘One World Religion’ which of course can only include those that are willing to compromise on their central beliefs. This was evident from several quotes made against ‘fundamentals’ at the World Parliament in 1993. Dr George Carey, the then Archbishop of Canterbury supported these by saying that, “Few things are more important to our world today than the growth of mutual respect and understanding between different faith communities”.

Also at the Parliament, Dr Robert Muller, a UN executive called for a World Council of Religion by 1995. Such a council would be likely to agree on many of the areas that we have outlined in these notes:

1. We all share same God – syncretism

2. World issues of peace and justice being paramount would bring together religion and politics. Interestingly, these two areas are identified by the two beasts of Revelation 13. Verse 11 coming from the land and causes the worship of all those in religion; and verse 1 coming from the sea and linked with world governments.

3. Extreme evangelical activities such as, ‘preaching the gospel’ would be a hindrance to unity.

4. Unity will be more important than doctrine and compromise the watch word of all groups.

Final Thoughts

What then, in view of all this, do evangelical Christians need to do?

1. Observe all that is happening very carefully and be clear about the issues.

“But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22

We are to check all things concerning Interfaith very carefully, and decide, on the basis of what God has said in His Word, whether it is good or not. If it is not good we are to let go of it and only hold fast that which is good. We are clearly instructed to make such decisions because this will bring about a true separation between good and evil. It is not judging but discerning and ensuring we take the right decisions and be obedient to the Lord and His Word.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” – 1 John 4:1-3

Once again, we are encouraged to test the spirit that the belief comes from – not just the outward impression but the inward motivation. The word for ‘test’ means to scrutinize or, prove something is true. It is not something that can be done easily but takes time and should be dealt with seriously. Is the spirit behind Interfaith that of the true revelation of Jesus Christ? I believe we have seen that fro a number of groups involved in Interfaith, they would not declare that Jesus is from God, but rather was just ‘another prophet’ or some other lesser being. As such, these verses clearly tell us this is not the spirit that comes from God and we should have nothing to do with it.

“As for you, the anointing which you received from
Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him.” – 1 John 2:27

The word ‘anointing’ is used in many different ways in today’s Christian vocabulary but here we have the original meaning; it was given so we know what is true and what is false. He will teach us if we spend the time seeking to find out. The Lord told His disciples that to them had been given the privilege of understanding previous mysteries but He would often share these insights when they came to ask Him, at other times He spoke in parables. It is the same for us today, have we asked the Lord and taken time to listen to His answer over these issues?

“Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” – Jude 3

Jude wanted to write a letter encouraging them about salvation but as he sat with ‘pen in hand’ he felt compelled to write to them about contending for the faith. In other words the Spirit of God wanted this message to be recorded. It has not changed for us today; we live in days of apostasy and counterfeit; we live in days where Jesus is simply ‘one among many’ and God is a ‘force’. We need to contend for the faith. The Greek word for ‘contend’ is only used this one time in the New Testament. It has a degree of strength in it, meaning to struggle or to earnestly contend for. Not a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude but a determination to get things right from God’s standpoint and be obedient to His faith without compromise. Not the way of least resistance and hassle but His way whatever the cost might be to me.

2. Ensure that by the grace of God we are not caught up in the system.

“After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illumined with his glory. And he cried out with a mighty voice, saying, ‘Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great! She has become a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit, and a prison of every unclean and hateful bird. For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the passion of her immorality, and the kings of the earth have committed acts of immorality with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich by the wealth of her sensuality.’ I heard another voice from heaven, saying, ‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues…'” – Revelation 18:1-4

Separation from this man-made system; we are indeed living in this world but we are not to be involved with the system of this world. Knowing what is right is the first stage ensuring that by His grace we are not caught up in it is a separate issue. We need a daily walk with the Lord to ensure we are walking worthily of our calling (Ephesians 4:1) and not being involved with things as an evangelical Christian that are not fitting to the calling that the Lord has given me.

3. Help others to understand the problems too.

“But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons.” – 1 Timothy 4:1

The only way we can really help others to understand is by having a clear understanding ourselves. It is no good preaching to others if we do not live out the message personally. We are told ‘explicitly’ that this will happen. Some will be deceived and others will follow doctrines that do not come from the Lord but rather from the devil. With a humble attitude and a realisation that it is only by the grace of God that we are not involved, we need to lovingly explain what is happening and warn of the consequences. Many may not want to believe that is their right although a tragic one as we see in Acts 28.

“When they had set a day for Paul, they came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. Some were being persuaded by the things spoken, but others would not believe.” – Acts 28:23, 24

Paul took all day to carefully lay out the truth from the Scriptures. It was not the way that these Jews were living and many had read the same Scriptures and through ignorance and blindness had never seen the truth. Now they heard and the saw it clearly laid out before them; all of them heard and all of them had some sort of mental appreciation of the truth but only some were persuaded, others chose deliberately not to believe. Our job is to communicate and to persuade we must leave the decision up to each individual.
“Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” – 1 Timothy 4:16

This is a great verse to end on; it is not pointing the finger at others telling them they are wrong; it is not claiming that I am better than others because of what I believe or what I do but it shows where we must start and what we must do.

1. We must pay attention to ourselves and ensure that what we do and what we teach is correct.

2. We must persevere in the doing and teaching whatever the attitude is of those who receive.

3. This is all we can do and the rest is up to the work of the Holy Spirit, who will work in some and give them the opportunity but at the same time will clearly show that with grace and humility we are working out our salvation.

 

“Thoughtful people have always understood the connection between nature and spirituality. But in terms of an explicit connection between organized religion and the conservation movement, an important milestone came in 1987, when the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) invited global religions to participate in an interfaith event at Assisi, Italy, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Fund.

“The idea of involving the religions in conservation work stemmed from the realization that the great majority of the world’s peoples, especially at the grassroots level, can perhaps best be motivated to embrace environmentalism if they see it as connected to their religious belief, which is for many the most important thing in their lives.

“Since Assisi, there has been an ever enlarging body of thought on the intersection between faith and ecology. At first, the focus was on showing what the scriptures of each religion had to say about protecting the environment; later, there came more complex explorations of the locus between the two realms.

“Into this latter realm of increasingly deep exploration falls the new book, A Sacred Trust: Ecology & Spiritual Vision, which was recently published by The Prince’s Foundation – an organization established by Prince Charles, HRH the Prince of Wales, and the Temenos Academy (see earlier on Vedanta), of which Prince Charles is patron.

“Based on a series of lectures organized by the Foundation and the Academy, and introduced with a preface from Prince Charles himself, A Sacred Trust features essays by more than a dozen leading thinkers whose work has touched on the junction between faith and ecology…

“Vandana Shiva draws on Hindu scriptural references and rituals that uphold the sacred and spiritual nature of food. Her essay advocates the rejection of global industrialized agriculture in favor of organic methods of food production. Industrial agriculture, she writes, with its emphasis on petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides, not only poisons the soil but also the life forms – such as earth worms – upon which sustainable agriculture is dependent.

“A Sacred Trust is, then, a significant contribution to the growing literature that connects religion and ecology. Indeed, the range and depth of exploration found in the volume’s essays offer a persuasive brief on the degree to which any successful approach to sustainable development in today’s world must encompass the realms of spirituality and religious belief.” – Website

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