Christian Attitude Toward Other Religions
Through The Catholic Model
by Thich nu Minh Tam
Down the centuries ago even until nowadays, Christians have still confirmed that their religion is the best and only way to true faith and salvation.Jesus Christ, deeply in the bottom of their heart, has always been a unique and powerful savior, Jesus is the symbol of love, belief, sacrifice, and liberation.
That belief of Christians’s followers have been more concreted with the guidance of priests and step by step, the role of Catholic priests has become more important than Jesus; the Holy Bible is under priestly authority and the Roman Catholic Church has transformed into a kind of rulership, power, and political kingdom. Therefore, we are not surprising when we hear the dictum formulated by Oxygen and applied by Cyprian that “outside the church, there is no salvation,” and under Emperor Theodosius (379-395) Christianity became the official state religion; no longer did Christians have to argue the reasonableness of their beliefs before pagan believers and philosophers.Christianity became Christendom; the church became more secure, and security breeds ideology – that is, the intent to maintain one’s privileged position.Also, as the popes became political leaders, the security of the empire was linked with the security of the church.So, the enemies of the empire became the enemies of the church. (Knitter)
Through that identification, we can notice the necessity and power of the church in Christians’ souls and how it has influenced concretely in its disciples to force them look only toward one conservative direction that “Christianity is the best and unique religion in the world” and Catholic belief moved from holding “outside the church, no salvation,” to “without the church, no salvation.”
However, in the 20th century, some changes have taken place and previously, the development of radical changing of the Second Vatican Council has turned Christians’ view into a new direction of belief and realization of truth toward other religions.
This historical Second Vatican Council, especially in its “Declaration on the Relationship of the church to non-Christian Religions” stands as a standpoint, a watershed.It carries on the tradition but it does so in clearly new directions.More resolutely than ever before, the concil affirms the universality of grace and salvation, stating that even express atheists who follow their conscience are moved by grace and can partake in eternal life. (Knitter)
Also as Knitter writes: “The council summarizes the beliefs and practices of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, and recognizes that they contain what is “true and holy,” and reflect the truth that enlightens every human being.”We can see that reflection of opinion about the connection of religions in the world through Huston Smith in World Religions: “Islam honors Jesus as a prophet and accepts his virgin birth; Adam’s and Jesus’ souls are the only two that God created directly.The Koran draws the line at the doctrine of incarnation and the Trinity; however, seeing these as inventions that blur the Divine/human distinction.In the words of the Koran: “Perfect is the Word of your Lord in truth and justice.”Muslims worship God as exactly the same way Christians believe in Christ: “God is the unity, omnipotence, omniscience, and mercy – and correctly the total dependence of human life upon him.”
The council accepts the truth that all religions are interrelating to each other, all are many ways to the final goal of salvation but one norm that is the faith in the existence of the supreme divinely power above human description and knowledge.However, although the council has said some very new and positive things about the religions, it still maintains that “the church is necessary for salvation,” and that “it is through Christ’s Catholic Church alone, which is the all-embracing means of salvation, that the fullness of the means of salvation can be found.”
That statement makes us realize that deeply and secretly in the hearts of Christians, Jesus Christ still remains the uniqueness and powerfulness which penetrate and spread in their blood and the Catholic priests have tried many ways to emphasize the importance of the role of church in Christians’ life.In other words, we can say that, church is a symbol of Christ in material form, and priests arerepresentatives of church; so, you worship and believe in Christ, depend on church for your salvation, it means you worship priests and indirectly you become their slaves of soul.
We have to be careful ofand alert about that fact.