Discourse 91 - Interreligious Ecumenism: Are the Religions Merely Different Paths to Salvation?




The Dialogue of Religions. / The International “Waldzell Meeting 2007” at the Melk Benedictine Abbey.

Is Buddhism a Tolerant and Peaceable Religion? / Perry Schmidt-Leukel, University of Glasgow.

Pope and King Abdullah of Saudi-Arabia agreed on Interreligious Dialogue. / G. De Candia 2007-11-06)/

Commentary from the Catholic and Evangelical Churches on Interreligious Dialogue.

The Borders between the Religions Should Fall. / Article by Lothar Gassmann.

(US Evangelicals Hold Allah in High Esteem and Place Jesus and Mohammed on the Same Level. / Information Service TOPIC, 2007/12)


The Dialogue of Religions

With the argument that Jesus Christ acts in revolutions and foreign religions for the salvation of the world, the leaders of the ecumenical movement in (Christian) churches are now also striving for an ecumenism of religions. In particular, the four great world religions - Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity - are increasing their efforts to find a common basis. The central ecumenical idea here is the “utopian vision” of a community of world peace among all races, religions and ideologies achieved by united human efforts.

At the “Waldzell Meeting 2007” in the Melk Abbey in Lower Austria, representatives of these four world religions met together to conduct an Interreligious Dialogue with the Dalai Lama as the guest of honor. The Tibetan Buddhist debated with representatives of Islam, Judaism, the Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches. Here we will give only a short, very suggestive summary of this event by H. Rauscher (of the daily newspaper Der Standard) and then some succinct statements by the speakers, about which we will make some remarks based on the Bible.


(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(The International “Waldzell Meeting 2007” / Hans Rauscher, DER STANDARD, 2007-09-19)


0

 

0
http://www.waldzell.org/


Melk Abbey - His Holiness received the most laughs. If there is one religious leader in the world who could also be a stand-up comedian, it is the Dalai Lama. This quality - which takes some getting used to - was on display also at the “Waldzell Dialogue” in the Melk Abbey, where the Tibetan Buddhist debated with representatives of Islam, Judaism, the Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox Churches.

The audience at “Waldzell” - consisting of managers and business people with esoteric tendencies - is, like so many in the West, extremely willing to allow themselves to be impressed by the Dalai Lama. When asked what use faith is for coping with everyday concerns, he answered with an extra dry “I don’t know”, and the Kolomann Hall of the baroque abbey shook with laughter. Sometimes, it seems that the Dalai Lama has had enough of the mysticism that these Westerners in search of meaning expect from him. He has other problems - the rapid suppression of the Tibetan culture by the massive immigration of the Chinese, for example. But here as well he is counting on crafty pragmatism: Buddhism is again gaining ground in China itself. Thus “I have nothing against educated Chinese Buddhists coming to Tibet. They bring us good food, we give them spiritual nourishment.”

The “living Buddha” presented himself in Melk once again as a tolerant, multicultural non-Fundamentalist. There are different religions; everyone - if he believes - considers his own religion to be the only true one. But that doesn't matter, as long as everyone lives only according to the fundamental human values. All religions have the same message of love, tolerance and sympathy. “The whole world is merging into one body but is multireligious.” The Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast could only agree with that wholistic view in its entirety.

Nevertheless, tensions became visible when the moderator asked if the spiritual leaders gathered on the podium ever - like Mother Teresa - doubted their faith. That Islam is subtly different was noticeable in the answer by Ahmed Mohammed El-Tayyib, Rector of the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the most important Islamic educational institution. He had no doubt because Islam was different. If the adherents of Western religions doubted, it was because they were searching for empirical evidence - but that was only knowledge, not faith. In Islam doubt was “continually accompanied by the spirit that examines if it is still correct.” If a Muslim doubts, he has his rules of conduct: “If you doubt Allah, you must appeal to him until you believe again.”

Rabbi David Rosen, President of the Israeli Institute for Communication with Other Religions, responded with a brilliant argument for critical examination: “Anyone who does not doubt is a dangerous individual.” The Dalai Lama explained: “Buddha has given me the freedom to examine things.” And Archbishop Philip of Poltava, sent by the Patriarch of Moscow for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church observed “Everyone doubts his faith sometimes. If you don't doubt, your soul is dead.” It was not a case of “everyone against Islam,” but the breach was visible: Elizabeth Lesser, founder of the Omega Institute said: “I have an affinity with Islam because of my Sufi teacher, but how women are treated is simply ridiculous.”


(Hans Rauscher/Austrian Daily Newspaper DER STANDARD, 19.9.2007 http://derstandard.at/?url=/?ressort=Dialog2 )



The question, quoted in the above article, that a conference participant asked the Dalai Lama as to what use faith is for coping with everyday concerns and his answer “I don't know”, made the room in Waldzell break out in thunderous laughter. It is the usual way that the spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhists astonishes his Western listeners. Since the conference participants were composed of managers and business people, one wonders if the executive board of a business answered the question of how profit could be made in a business with the statement “I don't know” would have evoked such enthusiasm.

The “crafty pragmatism” of the Dalai Lama is apparent not only from his statements on the massive immigration of the Chinese into Tibet but also and especially in the way he knows how to win the West for his cause through careful tactics. There could absolutely be no objection to that, if this Tibetan Buddhist was the prime minister of his country and this conference was political in nature. But this meeting was a dialogue of religions and the Dalai Lama is the spiritual head of a religious community that makes very clear and concrete statements precisely on the effects of someone’s way of life on the situation after his death. But the “living Buddha” deliberately keeps quiet about that in this circle. And, unfortunately, there was no one, apparently, who might have asked about this.

The statement by the Catholic nun, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, i.e. “Mother Teresa,” mentioned in the article above with regard to her doubting her faith, is taken from the book on her private writings, where she writes:

“since 49 or 50 this terrible sense of loss-this untold darkness … The place of God in my soul is blank. – There is no God in me. - When the emptiness and longing is so great - I just long & long for God … He is not there … Sometimes I just hear my own heart cry out – ‘My God’ and nothing else comes.”

(From the book, Come be My Light: The Private Writings of the “Saint of Calcutta”, Doubleday Publishers)



With this, the “Saint of Calcutta” confesses, on the one hand, that she has lived for the last thirty years without fellowship with the Holy Spirit and, on the other, that she has obviously sought God in the wrong place. God cannot be found in the soul. According to Scripture, the soul is the blood (Lev 17,11.14; Deut. 12,23) and for people and animals the blood is the seat of all compulsive stirrings. But God is spirit (Jn 4,24) and those who seek and worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. Therefore, God cannot be found in our souls but in our spirit.

On the margins of this top dialogue of representatives from the world religions, which was not accessible to the media - apart from Der Standard, obviously - the ORF (Austrian Broadcasting) interviewed some participants on these statements in their lectures. And here the Dalai Lama appealed once more, as he said, to human values. Spirituality will be helpful to continually more people. But sympathy and mercy are not important only for believers.


(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

The 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso), Head of Tibetan Buddhism

0

There is much in our religions that they share: love that is practiced, sympathy, forgiveness, tolerance, frugality, simplicity, self-discipline such as, for example, celibacy for Catholic nuns and monks. Thus, there are many similarities, but the philosophy is different. Some, Christians for example, believe in one God; others, such as we Buddhists, do not. But the goal is the same: to strengthen the enthusiasm that is experienced with these values.

(Waldzell Meeting 2007 - http://religion.orf.at/)



For the Dalai Lama, therefore, the issue is enthusiasm (passion) with which the commonalties in the religions are experienced. If we take a look at the individual criteria that are cited here, no extensive theological treatment is necessary to see the difference - at least with the Christian religion. Buddhists practice these ways of acting because they hope for a better starting position at their “rebirth” as a result of the “fruit of a good deed” (Buddhism teaches the rebirth of every person, in line with his karma, as a human being, an animal, etc., until he can enter Nirvana at the end of the rebirths).

Of course, values such as love, sympathy, forgiveness, etc. also have a high standing in Christianity. But the foundation for true Christian action is not the gathering of good points on some “account” (ones own merits) but faith in the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins (salvation through grace). This distinguishes true Christianity from Buddhism (fruit of the good deed), Judaism (righteousness), Islam (wrongly proclaimed struggle against unbelievers) and Catholicism (bearing suffering). And if the Dalai Lama declares that “Buddha has given me the freedom to examine things”, then through his son Jesus Christ the one and only God has given all people the freedom to accept this substitutionary redemptive death for their sins and through that to be saved eternally.

And it is quite interesting to observe that the representative of Judaism in this dialogue of religions, the President of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations, Rabbi David Rosen, who actually should share the belief in this one and only God with Christians, argues in his lecture for a critical examination and confesses that his truth is not better than the other religions.


(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

Rabbi David Rosen, President of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations:

0

I do not believe that there is only one way. If God speaks to us in such diversity, there must be different ways. I believe in my truth but I cannot say that it is better than the truth of another.

(Waldzell Meeting 2007 - http://religion.orf.at/)



If one recalls that, in the Jewish as well as in the Christian faith, the other two religions represented here are completely unbiblical, since Islam worships a false God in Allah and Buddhism does not worship any God at all, the assertion that the truth of these religions is not better than the truth of the Bible is - particularly for a Jewish spiritual leader like Rabbi Rosen - an extremely disturbing statement.

See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me.

Deut 32,39 ‘See now that I, I am He, And there is no god besides Me; It is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, And there is no one who can deliver from My hand. 32,40 ‘Indeed, I lift up My hand to heaven, And say, as I live forever. Deut 32,39-40;

Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me.

Isa 43,10 "You are My witnesses," declares the LORD, "And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me. 43,11 "I, even I, am the LORD, And there is no savior besides Me. 43,12 "It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed, And there was no strange god among you; So you are My witnesses," declares the LORD, "And I am God. Isa 43,10-12;

Remember the former things long past, For I am God and there is no one like Me.

Isa 46,5 "To whom would you liken Me And make Me equal and compare Me, That we would be alike? 46,6 "Those who lavish gold from the purse And weigh silver on the scale Hire a goldsmith, and he makes it into a god; They bow down, indeed they worship it. 46,7 "They lift it upon the shoulder and carry it; They set it in its place and it stands there. It does not move from its place. Though one may cry to it, it cannot answer; It cannot deliver him from his distress. 46,8 "Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors. 46,9 "Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me. Isa 46, 5- 9;


Rabbi Rosen confesses that his Jewish religion is only one of “different ways” and, what is more, not even better, although his Torah (the five books of Moses, the Pentateuch) and the Jewish Scriptures say that there is no God besides the God of Israel. If he can do so, as a representative with knowledge of the Mosaic confession of faith, it is not surprising that the representative of the Catholic Church, the Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast, also holds the view that Christianity, like the other religions, is only “a door through which we go to the Ultimate.”


(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

Father David Steindl-Rast, Benedictine Monk Austria/USA:

0

As long as we consider our religion to be the only correct one and only tolerate the others, we will not be able to make ourselves understood in the end. Then there is only pious talk and politeness. But if we are aware that our religion, like every other, is a door though which we go to the Ultimate, that can no longer be articulated, that can no longer be expressed, then we can manage, with this possibility, where words and forms fail, to get along nicely with one another.

(Waldzell Meeting 2007 - http://religion.orf.at/)



In his attempt to blur the distinctions between the religions with a kind of “politics of appeasement,” the Benedictine monk Steindl-Rast indicates unawares the background of his position. When he says that we cannot “make ourselves understood in the end” if we “consider our religion to be the only correct one,” he simply confirms, like Rabbi Rosen further above, that his own religion is not the only right one. On the other hand, he also indicates what it is all about for him: he wants understanding between the religions.

An understanding is certainly a good thing and worthy to be striven after, if it brings advantages for all concerned. Thus, to stay within the business milieu, an understanding between employers and employees is to be approved if it means more profit for the former and an adequate pay raise for the latter. But the well-known attempt to motivate the trade unions with gifts to keep an unequal division of advantages quiet is to be strictly rejected.

But something very much like that is being done here. Similarly, as these trade unionists no longer represent the employees, D. Steindl-Rast obviously does not represent the Catholic Church and certainly not the Christian churches. As can be deduced from his resume, his actual achievements are to be found in the area of Buddhist-Christian dialogue and “building bridges between religious traditions.”

After twelve years of monastic training and studies in philosophy and theology, Brother David was sent by his abbot to participate in Buddhist-Christian dialog, for which he received Vatican approval in 1967. His Zen teachers were Hakkuun Yasutani Roshi, Soen Nakagawa Roshi, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, and Eido Shimano Roshi. He co-founded the Center for Spiritual Studies in 1968 and received the 1975 Martin Buber Award for his achievements in building bridges between religious traditions. (http://www.waldzell.org/site?page=147)


This is therefore also the reason why the Benedictine monk could agree with the “holistic” view of the Dalai Lama: “The whole world is merging into one body but is multireligious.” Buddhism in particular, whose faith has nothing at all to offer to its adherents - not even a God - attempts to compensate for this deficit by making itself equal to the other religions.

And also, as Rabbi Rosen further above had to be reminded of the statements made by his God (if he still believes in him) in the books of Moses and the prophets, one cannot help pointing out to Father Steindl-Rast the statements made by his Lord Jesus Christ (if he still believes in him) in the New Testament:

He who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber.

Jn 10,1 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. 10,2 "But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. Jn 10, 1. 2;

Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.

Jn 10,7 So Jesus said to them again, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 10,8 "All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 10,9 "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. 10,10 "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. Jn 10, 7-10;

For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth.

Jn 18,37 Therefore Pilate said to Him, "So You are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." Jn 18,37;

I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

Jn 14,6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. Jn 14, 6:


According to these - for an orthodox Christian - binding statements by the Son of God, there is no other way to the one and only God than through Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Everyone who is of the truth hears His voice. Whoever does not proclaim Jesus Christ to be the only savior of humankind proclaims a false gospel and, according to Gal. 1,9 is accursed (Greek: anáthema Gal 1,8.9; 1 Cor 16,22).

If any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!

Gal 1,6 I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 1,7 which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 1,8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! 1,9 As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! Gal 1, 6- 9;

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting.

2Jn 1,9 Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. 1,10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; 1,11 for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. 2Jn 1, 9-11;



The Pope confirms the Interreligious Dialogue.

These Scripture passages apply not only to Steindl-Rast but to the whole Catholic Church, for it is precisely the Vatican (see above) that approves of such unbiblical developments in its ranks. And, as Giuseppe De Candia, a frequent visitor to Immanuel.at, informs us, the pope himself has personally agreed with representatives of Islam on this Interreligious Dialogue. Brother De Candia writes:

“The following topical news report is in the same tenor as the above statements. Actually, this is pleasant news – because it confirms the truth of the Bible about the things of the end times.”


(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Pope and King Abdullah of Saudi-Arabia agreed on Interreligious Dialogue / Giuseppe De Candia 2007-11-06)


November 6, 2007: For the first time Pope Benedict XVI received Abdullah, the King of Saudi Arabia, on Tuesday. Both shook hands in greeting and exchanged gifts. In a subsequent conversation on “Iinterreligious Dialogue” and the situation in the Near East, the pope and King Abdullah agreed that Christians, Muslims and Jews should work together for “peace, justice and spiritual and moral values.” Moreover, they declared themselves in favor of a “just solution” in the Near East. Here the “Israeli-Palestinian conflict” was emphasized in particular.

http://www.die-topnews.de/koenig-abdullah-besucht-den-papst-3536



And it is remarkable here that there were two representatives of Catholicism among the speakers at this dialogue of religions - namely Archbishop Philip of Poltava and Kremenchug from the Ukraine, as a delegate of the Orthodox Church of the Patriarch of Moscow, and David Steindl-Rast from Austria/the USA, a Benedictine monk and “spiritual leader,” as the representative of Roman Catholicism. Apparently, no representative of the Christian churches was even invited, because he would have - hopefully!! - called this premature vision of a politically correct union of the great world religions back to reality.

One of the speakers did attempt this, but his comments were not - as expected - taken seriously. The representative of Islam in this dialogue, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, Rector of the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the oldest university in the world (founded in 975), was the only one to point to obvious differences in the religions and the principles of faith.



(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, Rector of the Al-Azhar University in Cairo and Member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs.

0

What follows for humankind from this divinely ordained diversity is that human beings differ in their religions and principles of faith, and they will continue to do so until Judgment Day. The differences in principles of faith and their continued existence are a Koranic truth and also a truth of creation.

(Waldzell Meeting 2007 - http://www.waldzell.org/site?page=150)



For an orthodox Christian, it is shameful that a representative of a false faith with a false God and a false expectation of salvation was the only one apparently in this round to see through these hypocritical attempts at religious egalitarianism. To be sure, when he says,

If the adherents of Western religions doubted, it was because they were searching for empirical evidence - but that was only knowledge, not faith. In Islam doubt was “continually accompanied by the spirit that examines if it is still correct.” If a Muslim doubts, he has his rules of conduct: “If you doubt Allah, you must appeal to him until you believe again.”


it can be seen that it was not wisdom that made it possible for him to arrive at this insight but quite simply a lack of information. This is like the teacher of the Koran said to his students, “You should not ask any questions about the Koran, you must only learn it by heart”. And it is precisely this attitude that is probably also responsible for those problems in which Islam worldwide finds itself today. Believers are prevented from asking too many questions because otherwise they would “know” and not believe, but this also leads at the same time to other false teachers with false answers satisfying the believers’ thirst for knowledge.

 

Is Buddhism a Tolerant and Peaceable Religion?

Buddhism is seen by many in the West as an exemplary, tolerant and peaceable religion. It was precisely this perception that was the theme of a conference on Buddhism at the Salzburg Education Center St. Virgil. Perry Schmidt-Leukel, a religious scholar involved in Christian-Buddhist dialogue, and also an Anglican Christian, was a participant who relativizes the truth.

(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

Perry Schmidt-Leukel, Professor of Systematic Theology and Religious Studies, University of Glasgow.

0

The religious history of, for example, the eastern religions is not this magnificent, pure, peaceable, tolerant history, as it has often been presented here. You will indeed find people who will tell you, often subjectively with a good conscience, that a religious war was never conducted in the name of Buddhism. And that is historically and radically false ....

The question here is to say, on the basis of special criteria of one’s own religion, special norms from one’s own religion: Must we really say that this concrete, other religion testifies to less truth, testifies to less good, testifies to less holiness than mine? Or must we not rather say: Yes, it is different in many ways, it is dissimilar in many ways, but in the end equal. And the theological conception that would permit such a model is that - now stated from a Christian point of view - God has revealed himself to all people. That there are no people - since people have existed - who have lived without any connection to the divine. And that this connection that God has with every person manifests itself also of course in the different cultures and religions of humanity ....

(Conference on Buddhism at the Salzburg Education Centre St. Virgil. - http://religion.orf.at/)



Perry Schmidt-Leukel is an advocate of a pluralistic theology of religions. This view disputes the position that Christianity is superior to all other religions and assumes that at least some religions are equal with regard to their knowledge of the divine reality and their power to mediate salvation.

If we look at the statements above by P. Schmidt-Leukel, such as where he argues, among other things, that:

“Must we really say that this concrete other religion testifies to less truth?”


the whole problem of this way of thinking becomes clear: when a religious scholar involved in Christian-Buddhist dialogue compares Buddhism with Christianity - the one a religion without a God, without a Creator and the other with a God, the creator of all things - and then argues:

Or must we not rather say: Yes, it is different in many ways, it is dissimilar in many ways, but in the end equal,


this is very much like comparing a cab horse with a racehorse, from the vantage point of the cab driver. In all these attempts to argue that the different religions are equally valid, their content becomes unimportant. And then one can, of course, abandon the question of truth: unity at the cost of truth.

Particularly Buddhism is seen in the West - perhaps also partly because of the “crafty pragmatism” of the Dalai Lama - as an example of a tolerant, pluralistic religion, and the first part of the following parable by P. Schmidt-Leukel appears to confirm that as well.


(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

Perry Schmidt-Leukel, Professor of Systematic Theology and Religious Studies, University of Glasgow.

A Parable for Reflection.

Some men who had been born blind and were not familiar with elephants touched an elephant, each touching a different part of its body. The one touched the elephant’s leg, another the tail, a third its ear, a fourth its trunk. And then they were asked to describe the elephant: What is an elephant like? And they described it according to the part they touched. The one who touched the leg said: The elephant is like a tree trunk. The one who touched the trunk of the elephant said that it is like a liana and the one who touched its tail said that the elephant is like a fly whisk, which was widely used in India. And then they disputed with each other about the elephant, because they said that the other said something completely false about elephants. And this parable is used frequently today to present a pluralistic interpretation of religions in this way, i.e. that the religions perceive different aspects of the common reality and, instead of recognizing their complementarity, they become entangled in an argument with one another.

(Conference on Buddhism at the Salzburg Education Centre St. Virgil. -  http://religion.orf.at/)



This parable is actually very excellent, because it is so vivid and therefore easy to understand. The men born blind represent the founders of the world religions, who - each for himself - believe that they possess the truth, but in reality have only understood a more or less large part. And the argument about their different discoveries can also serve as an excellent comparison with reality. One can understand Schmidt-Leukel’s thesis very well here, which logically means that if these people, instead of arguing, would get together and exchange their respective discoveries, they would very quickly come much closer to the truth.

But this is, unfortunately, only the “Western variant” of this parable, whose second part the advocates of a pluralistic religion of unity do not cite.


(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

Perry Schmidt-Leukel, Professor of Systematic Theology und Religious Studies, University of Glasgow.

But this parable is not told in this way in Buddhism, because the point in Buddhism is entirely different. There it is, namely, a sighted king, who had the blind people led to this elephant. And the king is amused in the end about the argument of the blind men. And the context leaves no doubt that the sighted king represents Buddha. And the blind represent the rival religious teachers and masters in Buddha’s time. The context states even explicitly that the partial view of the others was not sufficient to attain redemption; only the complete view that the sighted king - who is thus not a blind man, i.e. the Buddha - has, can do this.

(Conference on Buddhism at the Salzburg Education Centre St. Virgil. -  http://religion.orf.at/)



Here we are again in the reality of this world. This closes the discussion on the tolerance and pluralism in Buddhism. To the contrary, the Buddha is amused in the end about the argument between the blind men, because he is the only one who sees, who has the complete view.

From a Christian point of view, however, we can still add something here:

The Buddha is pleased too quickly! With his inclination for malicious pleasure and arrogance, he provides the proof that he himself is blind and lacks insight. Actually, it does not even concern the question who sees the elephant or not. The elephant here represents knowing the truth and thus knowing God. But God is spirit and whoever wants to know him must worship him in spirit and truth. Thus it is not a question of the physical power of sight but of the spiritual.

And it is true that the majority of us are “born blind.” But contrary to the behavior of the Buddha in this parable, who causes these blind men to argue and laughs at them and thus disqualifies Buddhism as a religion of redemption, Christianity shows the right way. Christ does not laugh at these blind people but makes them see spiritually. And he also does not force them to convert to him, but he leaves it up to them to decide for or against him.

I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness;

Jn 12,44 And Jesus cried out and said, "He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me.12,45 "He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. 12,46 "I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness. Jn 12,44-46;

For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.

Jn 9,39 And Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind." 9,40 Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, "We are not blind too, are we?" 9,41 Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains. Jn 9,39-41;


And this is actually how a loving God acts. Buddha was a “sighted king” who was spiritually blind. He was one of those founders of a religion who, like blind men, stand around and argue about an elephant, without knowing that it is not their eyes they need but their spirit to obtain knowledge of God.

And we can see why the Christian religion is viewed as the only religion of redemption - because it has a redeemer and is not, like the other religions, dependent on some theory of self-redemption. It is God himself who reveals himself to all people in his Son. But Jesus Christ is not a demon who possesses the spirit of human beings without their consent. All people are free either to believe in the Son of God or to reject him. Whoever accepts him is saved and has eternal life; whoever rejects him remains in his sins and is judged. Whoever - precisely as theologian and as Anglican - has not understood that has not understood Christianity at all.

He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed.

Jn 3,16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 3,17 "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 3,18 "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Jn 3,16-18;

But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive.

Jn 7,38 "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’" 7,39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. Jn 7,38-39;

I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.

Jn 11,25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 11,26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" Jn 11,25-26;



(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(Commentary from the Catholic and Evangelical Churches on Interreligious Dialogue.)

The Catholic Church - The Archdiocese of Cologne (http://www.erzbistum-koeln.de/seel )

The great challenges confronting people in our time can be dealt with only through the cooperation of all. Interreligious Dialogue today makes a contribution to the understanding and peaceful coexistence of people from different cultural and religious backgrounds. The church witnesses to its faith and its hope in Interreligious Dialogue.


The Ecumenical Council of the Churches: Der interreligiöse Dialog (The Interreligious Dialiog]


The Evangelical Churches in Germany (www.ekd.de/ezw/42787_42920.php)

In a time in which religious plurality reigns in Germany, as in most countries of the world, and a uniform Christian culture can no longer be presupposed, dialogue on all possible levels is necessary and without any alternative ....

In general, Interreligious Dialogue is to be conducted in the spirit of politeness and mutual respect. It is important to have the ability and willingness even to testify to one’s own faith, without this entailing the explicit intention of winning the dialogue partner over to one’s own faith. Dialogue is not about finding a compromise truth or a compromise theology together but about understanding the other better and, via that way, sometimes, understanding one’s own faith better ....

This process includes the possibility for change, because religious traditions are not closed entities. The experiences that the adherents have had during encounters and Interreligious Dialogues throughout history do have consequences in time.



I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

Jn 14,6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. Jn 14, 6:



(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(The Borders between the Religions Should Fall / Article by Lothar Gassmann.)

Peace in the world suddenly becomes so important, that peace with God is lost to view. The former takes precedence over the latter, but, as a result, the latter is lost. Indeed, God is still spoken of, but he is given hardly more than the role of spectator at human attempts at peace - the kingdom of peace that we ourselves have built on this old earth by a united humanity. The human being should achieve through his “moral efforts,” what can no longer be expected from God. The Christian truth has been watered down.

People no longer want to hear that Jesus Christ claims to be the truth in person and the only way to the Father. For the sake of political peace, the view that the unity of humankind must have precedence over Christian truth is endorsed. The borders between the religions should fall. Jesus should be seen by many as the founder of a religion but not as God’s only Son and Redeemer. His claim to absoluteness should not stand in the way of the unity of humankind that is striven for and the world peace that people hope should stem from that. The peace with God becomes lost. Peace with God means taking his will and commandments seriously (Isa. 48:18).

Whoever transgresses the fundamental first commandment cannot count on God’s peace nor on an enduring earthly peace but at most on a short-lived false peace. It is clear in the whole biblical history of salvation that the people of God always lost true peace with their Lord when they thought they had to cut deals with the representatives of heathen religions.

(Lothar Gassmann)





(Texts enclosed in a black frame are quoted from visitors to the site or other authors.)

(US Evangelicals Hold Allah in High Esteem and Place Jesus and Mohammed on the Same Level / Information Service TOPIC, 2007/12)

In its November issue TOPIC had reported on a letter from 138 Islamic scholars that had been sent to a number of Christian leaders. In the letter the Muslims developed parallels between Islam and Christianity and encouraged Christians to enter into a dialogue with Islam on the basis of love of God and neighbor.

138 Christian leaders - mainly from the USA - answered the Muslims. In the letter that they signed jointly, they point out that both the God of the Bible and Allah command people to love and therefore Christians and Muslims can encounter each other on this common level of love. As a matter of course, Allah is placed on the same level as the God of the Bible and the statements by Jesus are placed, without any further comment, next to those by the Islamic prophet Muhammad. At the beginning of the letter, the signees ask forgiveness from Muslims for the Crusades and the “excesses of Christians” in the war against terror. At the end of the letter they challenge Muslim leaders to take the initial steps, together with Christians, to fulfill the “requirement that we love God and one another.”

Among the signers of the letter are:

Bill Hybels (founder of Willow Creek), Rick Warren (founder of Saddleback Community Church), Brian D. McLaren (one of the representatives of the Emerging Church), Robert Schuller (TV preacher), David Yonggi Cho (a world-famous Charismatic), Geoff Tunnicliffe (Chairperson of the worldwide Evangelical Alliance), George Verwer and Peter Maiden (Operation Mobilisation/OM), as well as a number of representatives of prominent Evangelical training centers in the USA.

In contrast, the letter from the 138 Islamic scholars was received in the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) with caution. The EKD Council chair, Bishop Wolfgang Huber, pointed out that the original text of the letter contained the Arabic word da’wa, which means “call to Islam.” The document thus did not make any concessions as regards the idea of the conclusiveness and unparalleled nature of Islam. Moreover, the Christian understanding of the “double command to love” - love of God and neighbor - is different from the explanation given by the Islamic scholars. According to Huber, for Christians, the foundation is the love of God that is shown in Christ and in the covenant with Israel.


Information Service TOPIC / published by: Ulrich Skambraks (Kreuztal bei Siegen).





Are all religions equal?

At the "Waldzell Meeting 2007", at Melk Abbey in Lower Austria, representatives of the four major world religions came together to conduct an Interreligious dialog with the Dalai Lama as guest of honor. The Tibetan Buddhist engaged in discussion with representatives of Islam, Judaism, the Catholic and Ukrainian Orthodox churches.

(See also Discourse 91: “Interreligious Ecumenism: Are the Religions merely Different Paths to Salvation?”)


In this Interreligious dialog the representatives of the various religions issued the following position statements, which (all but that of the Islamic representative) give the impression that all religions are indeed equal and that it is a matter of complete indifference to which religion one belongs, seeing that every religion is "a gate through which we all pass to the last", as the Austrian representative of Catholicism puts it.

Dalai Lama


The 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso), head of Tibetan Buddhism: “There is much in our religions that they share: love that is practiced, sympathy, forgiveness, tolerance, frugality, simplicity, self-discipline such as, for example, celibacy for Catholic nuns and monks. Thus, there are many similarities, but the philosophy is different. Some, Christians for example, believe in one God; others, such as we Buddhists, do not. But the goal is the same: to strengthen the enthusiasm that is experienced with these values.”

David Rosen

Rabbi David Rosen, President of the International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultation: “I do not believe that there is only one path. If God speaks to us in so many different ways, there must be different paths. I believe in my truth but I could not say that it is better than the truth of others.”

David Steindl-Rast


Father David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine from Austria / the USA: “As long as we consider our religion to be the only correct one and only tolerate the others, we will not be able to make ourselves understood in the end. Then there is only pious talk and politeness. But if we are aware that our religion, like every other, is a door though which we go to the Ultimate, that can no longer be articulated, that can no longer be expressed, then we can manage, with this possibility, where words and forms fail, to get along nicely with one another.”

Ahmad Al-Tayyeb Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, Rector of Al-Azhar University in Cairo and member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs: “The differences in principles of faith and their continued existence are a Koranic truth and also a truth of creation.”



So far as the statements of the participants in this religious dialogue. Now it is clear to a correctly believing Christian that these religions on the one hand worship idols – Islam that "Allah" whom Mohammed invented in the Koran (610-630 AD), Catholicism that "Mary" invented at the Council of Ephesus (431 AD) – while Judaism and Buddhism, on the other hand, do not have any God: the Jews because God abandoned them two thousand years ago, when they handed over his Son to be crucified (Jn 8:24), and the Buddhists because Buddhism basically doesn’t have a God at all.

A representative of the biblical Christian religion – unfortunately not invited to this meeting – would of course have contradicted all these statements, and would have pointed out that all these religions may well be a "gate", but only a gate leading to hell. It is solely and exclusively faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God whereby people can be saved (Jn 3:17-18). That is why Christianity is called Christianity. And if the Catholic Father fails to mention this fact to his colleagues and to the world, the Son of God will likewise deny him before his heavenly Father (Mt 10:32-33).


The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. (Jn 3,35-36)

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me". (Jn 14,6)


But of course this very argument, as we know from experience, is repeatedly declared to be inadmissible on the grounds that there is no way of testing its validity in reality. It’s the same situation as with the New Testament promise of Jesus, that where two or three people are gathered together in his name, he is present among them (Mt 18:20).

And in this connection it is an interesting fact that the diagram below, which summarizes the worldwide statistics for access to this website over 10 years (2000-2010), testifies - at least for this period - to an undeniable preponderance of hits coming from Europe and the USA. Seeing that Immanuel.at stands for a biblically grounded Christianity, we have to assume that visitors to this website have also been looking for a biblically grounded exposition, and so have been searching "in the name of Jesus".

Now if these geographical areas are at the same time those regions of the world where affluence, democracy and human rights have been furthest developed, while the other, for the most part non-Christian countries are to a large extent subject to war, corruption, crime and oppression, this can hardly – from an objective point of view – be a coincidence, and places this promise of the Son of God in a quite special light.

Statistik