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Ida Glaser: The Bible and Other Faiths

All of this is in sharp contrast with the so-called deities, or idols, of the Canaanites. Why? It is because Israel’s God is the God who really exists. He is (Exodus 3:14). God cannot be defined or controlled by human religion. Although Israel is his special people, the whole earth with all its peoples belongs to God. Accordingly, God’s purpose for Israel is for them to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. The distinctiveness of their God made their identity as God’s people a source of missional destiny in behalf of other nations. Rather than cutting Israel off from their neighbors of other faiths, their faith in the One God conferred responsibility toward them.

Glaser garners significant insights for understanding other faiths from the story of the woman of Samaria at the well and the debate at Corinth over food offered to idols. These offer rich resources for balancing real faithfulness to Christ with respectful openness to others. The treasures she mines from Scripture are valuable truths that, if acknowledged and obeyed, could transform our world. And that’s Glaser’s basic point throughout this helpful and informative book. In a day of essentially mass confusion over how to understand and address the perplexities of interreligious coexistence, she brings us back to the Bible for critically needed aid. This reason alone is enough to highly recommend The Bible and Other Faiths to pastors and parishioners as well as scholars and students who desire to behave biblically in the area of interfaith relations.

Admittedly, I sometimes felt frustrated reading The Bible and Other Faiths by Ida Glaser. The research is well done. The writing is first rate. And vitally important implications for interfaith relations are clearly evident. However, its tone is too tentative. Often after an exceptional overview and analysis of a relevant biblical passage or topic when readers likely would be ready for sound applications or at least strong implications she would simply draw back leaving us hanging. I can appreciate a non-dogmatic tolerant approach to interpreting the biblical plot; but, at some point we need to bring it to a close, to wrap it all up, to unflinchingly affirm where we ourselves at least feel it points us. What’s the point of it all? In the margins of my copy of The Bible and Other Faiths I sometimes wrote, “If so, then what?” We need direction.

The trajectory of Scripture’s essential teaching is usually clear enough for substantive conclusions.

Reading this book is a bit like watching an old Alfred Hitchcock movie. The suspense builds to an unrelenting climax that often isn’t really resolved. Or perhaps better still it’s kind of like some contemporary movies with DVDs offering alternate endings, usually quite different, inviting viewers to select the one they like best. This may appeal to some. And to an extent it appeals to me. I’m certainly tired of arrogant rigidity in which Bible readers mistake their interpretation of God’s Word for God’s Word itself. That being said, I find that the trajectory of Scripture’s essential teaching is usually clear enough for substantive conclusions.

Sometimes we need to go ahead and commit! At least, be plain about our own best guess and thus our best advice to others. They can take it or leave it or some mixture of both as they so choose. And Glaser does clearly commit on one point: the thrust of Micah 6:8 for Christians’ understanding of and interactions with other faiths. The Lord requires us “To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” This sublime text sums up our responsibilities toward God and all human beings—including people of other faiths. She’s quite clear on that point. And it’s a very good one.

Reviewed by Tony Richie

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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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