Saturday, May 03, 2008

Absolute Truth living with Absolute Respect

Today I made a short presentation at the Victorian Council of Churches AGM to promote the resource "On the path to Mutual Respect" (I was on the editorial board for the production).

I was asked to focus on the section regarding the "exclusive claims of Jesus", focusing on John 14:6 and Acts 4:12.

Here's the outline of what I presented. Tell me what you think of the conclusion.

Background
  • 2001 Racial and Religious Tolerance Act
  • 2004 ICV vs Catch the Fire VCAT
  • 2005 Premier’s Summit Meeting with Faith Leaders
  • 2006 RRTA amended to included 'teaching, conveying and proselytising of a religion’ under 'religious purpose'
  • 2006 Appeal of Catch the Fire upheld
  • 2006 Victorian Government Grant to VCC to promote religious harmony
  • Formation of Editorial Committee: Philip Newman, Maureen Postma, Mark Zirnsac, Mark Lindsay, and David Schütz
  • Employment of Alan Nichols as writer
  • Publication “On the Path to Mutual Respect” (2007)
Issues
  • Freedom of speech (Freedom to critique)
  • Free exercise of religion (Freedom to proselytise)
  • Fear of prosecution
  • Tolerance? Or Respect?
  • Harmonious living in a multi-Ethnic, multi-Culture society

The exclusive claim of Jesus
  • John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
  • Acts 4:12 “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.”
Exclusive Truth Claims
  • Many social commentators blame religious discord on mutally exclusive claims to truth
    Such claims are said to foster
    - intolerance
    - disrespect
    - vilification, etc.
  • Multi-Faith society therefore poses a challenge to the traditional Christian conviction of the exclusivity of salvation in Christ alone

Alternatives to Religious Conflict?

  • Is it necessary that believers give up their conviction that their religious beliefs are “absolutely true” in order to live in harmony with people of other faiths or no faith?
  • Can Christians proclaim Christ as “the only Way” and as “the only Saviour” without being disrespectful of the beliefs of others?
  • Is there an alternative approach to the question “Who can be saved?” other than the “Exclusivist / Inclusivist / Pluralist”?

Two Alternatives to Conflict

  • Absolute Truth of Religious Freedom
    “Absolute Truth” claims will not lead to conflict as long as one of those absolute truths is the conviction of the dignity of every human being and the primacy of conscience
  • Ask “Who saves?” rather than “Who is saved?”
    Both the John 14 and Acts 4 speak of the Saviour, not of who is saved. We are called to be “his witnesses”, not “his judges”.

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