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Ida Glaser: The Bible and Other Faiths

The former questions supposedly lead to conflict, and thus to undermine coexistence. The latter supposedly encourage Christians to understand and accept responsibility for their own ideas about religious others, and thus to foster cooperation and coexistence. My initial impression of this juxtaposition is to affirm the latter set of questions without avoiding the former set. In other words, focusing on the eternal destiny of those of other religions without giving attention to our earthly relationships with them as Christians is incomplete at best and, at worst, potentially a prime contributor to chronic problems. Yet as Christians we cannot ignore anyone’s eternal need of Christ. Thus, we may have more both/and conversations than either/or ones. Yet Glaser’s searching study of the Scriptures does indeed provide abundant help in working through both sets of questions. She doesn’t offer easy answers but she does help us open up to hear what God’s Word says to us.

Focusing on the eternal destiny of those of other religions without giving attention to our earthly relationships with them as Christians is incomplete at best and, at worst, potentially a prime contributor to chronic problems.

The guiding theme for The Bible and Other Faiths comes from Micah 6:8: “He has showed you, O human being, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Glaser’s translation). Many may recognize this text from its frequent social advocacy usage but it’s a fertile one nonetheless. For Glaser, it informs an approach to other religions that takes into account the moral and ethical commitments serving the Lord has for biblically-minded Christians. I might say it thus: my involvement in interreligious dialogue begins with who I am as a Christian not who someone else is as a non-Christian. True enough, at some point their identity is critical for developing authentic relationship—genuine mutuality and reciprocity are essential—but its basis and beginning for me is in my identity in and commitment to Jesus Christ.

Glaser shares the heart-rending story of her time in January 2002 in Jos, Nigeria. She learned that during the previous September Christian and Muslim youths set up roadblocks and stopped cars. Only if people were from the “right” religion were they allowed through. To verify people’s religion the youths devised a plan. Muslims asked them to recite the shahada (Muslim creed). Those who failed were killed. Christians asked them to recite John 3:16. Those who failed were killed.

As Christians we cannot ignore anyone’s eternal need of Christ.

Surely such an atrocity ought to drive us to the Scriptures for wisdom on how to relate rightly to those of other religions! Accordingly, Glaser looks carefully at both the Old and New Testaments for insights regarding relating to other faiths. To give an example, she admits that in many ways the ancient Israelites were much like their Canaanite neighbors—even their sacred stories and texts had some literary similarities. Yet Israel’s God was decidedly and definitively different than the Canaanite gods. For instance, all the gods had temples—including Israel’s God. Yet Yahweh did not live in his temple. And, God did not need a temple. Still again, there was no image of Yahweh in his temple. Further, Israel’s God is holy—and requires that the people of God be holy as well.

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2015

About the Author: Tony Richie, D.Min, Ph.D., is missionary teacher at SEMISUD (Quito, Ecuador) and adjunct professor at the Pentecostal Theological Seminary (Cleveland, TN). Dr. Richie is an Ordained Bishop in the Church of God, and Senior Pastor at New Harvest in Knoxville, TN. He has served the Society for Pentecostal Studies as Ecumenical Studies Interest Group Leader and is currently Liaison to the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches (USA), and represents Pentecostals with Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation of the World Council of Churches and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs. He is the author of Speaking by the Spirit: A Pentecostal Model for Interreligious Dialogue (Emeth Press, 2011) and Toward a Pentecostal Theology of Religions: Encountering Cornelius Today (CPT Press, 2013) as well as several journal articles and books chapters on Pentecostal theology and experience.

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