Evangelization & World Religions
By: Allison Ramirez
This past week, as part of our summer series, we discussed the topic of Christian evangelization considering the many world religions currently in existence in our world. Matthew 28: 19-20 gives us Jesus’ great commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” As encouraging and convicting as this commission might be, this verse calls into question how we to view Jesus’ words considering the many other religions that exists. Are we to assume that our Christian religion is superior to others? Are we to claim ignorance to truth of all other religions? While Christianity still remains the number one religion in the world, Islam and Atheism are fast-growing in popularity along with the long-enduring popularity of Hinduism and Buddhism in many Asian countries.
We know from common sense reasoning that it doesn’t make rational sense for two mutually contradictory truths to in fact, both be true. And yet, this is exactly what we see when comparing the monotheistic reasoning of Christian to the many polytheistic religions of Hinduism, for example. How are we to reconcile the belief of one God with the belief of multiple Gods? How are to reconcile a view of continual reincarnation with the view of a singular heaven? These are just two of the many vast and diverse truth claims that exist among religions. The reality, however, is that it just doesn’t make logical sense that “all religions are true.” Indeed, some religions even posit truths that are in direct opposition to the truths of Christianity. How are we to respond?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church in articles #836-856 outlines the church’s profession regarding other faiths and evangelization. One point worth emphasizing is that “The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all people to be saved” (ccc #843). In this way, we as the Church desire, to the extent that is possible, to recognize and acknowledge the truth we share with other religions. For indeed, we believe that God is capable of being present and working within all faiths to draw all people toward him and the fullest expression of his truth within the Church. However, to believe that God desires the existence of multiple religions, or that we don’t have an obligation as Christians to engage those in other faith backgrounds as to the teachings of Jesus and the authority of the Church is very problematic and a great dishonor to all those martyrs throughout our history who died defending the truths and teachings of our great faith. As Catholic Christians, we believe we hold the fullness of faith and truth, and Jesus makes it quite clear that he desires us to share our faith and draw others into that faith. However, our dialogue must always be carried out in love. It is important to have a basic understanding of other religions to approach them in charity and compassion. The truth must always be spoken in love and with great sensitivity and care. Much more could be said on this topic, but if you’d like to learn more, I suggest listening to the Crisis Point podcast episode titled “What is Religion and Why Does it Matter?”