Faith and Interfaith in the New Global Age
|By: Carl Teichrib; ©2003|
|We are living in a “global” world. We see and hear evidence of that fact in financial and industrial sectors, in politics, even in the military. There are many benefits to this perspective. But when it comes to the area of religion, thinking globally has some dangerous implications.|
Faith and Interfaith in the New Global Age
We are living in a “global” world. In financial and industrial sectors, we speak in terms of “world trade” and the “global economy.” In the realm of politics, terms such as “global governance” and the “international community” represent the new geopolitical paradigm. Militarily, we speak of “peacekeeping,” “international and multi-national coalitions,” and of “geo-strategic imperatives.” Yes, our long-held political, economic, and military structures have radically shifted in order to fit within a new global reality.
Religion, as in all other segments of society, is likewise taking on international dimensions. Some of these dimensions, from a Christian mission’s perspective, are important to the furthering of the Gospel message. Globe-spanning technologies such as the internet and satellite link-ups have brought to us new avenues in communicating the Good News. Moreover, international travel and cultural exchange programs have provided fantastic opportunities—both to share the message of salvation, and in learning of and responding to the needs of believers in other parts of the world.
While the above mentioned benefits are important, there is another side to “religious globalization” that is of tremendous concern to fundamental Christians. This concern was expressed by Erwin Lutzer, senior pastor of Moody Memorial Church, in his sobering Christian response to what he witnessed at the 1993 Chicago Parliament of the World’s Religions,
- The gods are on a roll, and woe to those who stand in the way of their agenda! With lofty ideals and utopian plans to unify the religions of the world for the common good, this parliament met to break down the barriers that exist in the accelerated march toward unity…. What I saw and heard in Chicago is a microcosm of your school, business, and community. The people who live next door and your associates at work most likely believe that it doesn’t matter what god you pray to because every deity is ultimately the same deity shrouded in a different name.
An Interfaith “Olympics”
In the book of John, Jesus Christ proclaimed, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6) —an incredibly exclusive statement! And Isaiah 45 tells us, “there is no other God besides Me, A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me.” Sadly, in our “New Age,” these timeless truths are being bumped—even by many Christians—for a new “global ethic” which seeks to incorporate all faiths into a pluralist religious experience. Hence, the exclusive message of Jesus Christ is no longer tolerated in today’s politically correct world.
Already in 1982, controversial Catholic theologian Hans Küng wrote in glowing terms, “after intra-Protestant and intra-Christian ecumenism we have irrevocably reached the third ecumenical dimension, ecumenism of the world religions!” More recently, Marcus Braybrooke—President of the World Congress of Faiths—suggested that this growing interfaith trend is the beginning of a “global theology.” And now, a little over ten years after the 1993 Chicago Parliament of the World’s Religions, another major interfaith parliament is being organized—this time scheduled to take place in Barcelona, Spain, 2004.
Dubbed by its organizers as an “Olympics” of the world’s religions, this fourth parliament is being sponsored by the Chicago-based Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, the Forum Barcelona 2004, and the UNESCO Centre of Catalonia. And like the previous parliaments of 1893, 1993, and 1999, thousands of political and religious leaders from every “faith tradition” imaginable will join in collectively seeking to forge a new religious and political system—all based on the concepts of international governance and religious equality.
Yes, the drive towards a global theology is rapidly speeding up. But the road isn’t new. Rather, it’s a course that has long-been forwarded behind the closed doors of secretive lodges and occult societies.
The Brotherhood Of Religions
Religious universalism, which is today expressed through the interfaith movement, has been a fundamental creed within esoteric societies—teaching that mankind can unite in a common spiritual bond around a common alter of “faith.” Two such societies, Freemasonry and Theosophy, have long espoused this inter-religious philosophy.
Within the Masonic Lodge, religious universalism is expressed in its proclaimed bonds of accepted spiritual tolerance. As eminent Freemason Joseph Fort Newton wrote,
- With eloquent unanimity our Masonic thinkers proclaim the unity and love of God— whence their vision of the ultimate unity and love of mankind—to be the great truth of Masonic philosophy; the unity of God and the immortality of the soul.
On the surface this may sound rather benign, even pleasant in a soft-sort of way. But when weighed against the exclusive claims of Jesus Christ and God’s Word, it smacks of spiritual compromise. In the Masonic Service Association’s document, Universality of Freemasonry, it states,
- The power which has held it [Masonry] together, the chemical which has caused its growth, the central doctrine which makes it unique, is the opportunity it affords men of every faith, happily to kneel together at the same Altar, each in worship of the God he reveres, under the universal name of Great Architect of the Universe…The universality of Freemasonry is in its toleration of every man’s faith….
Remember, Newton clearly said that, “our Masonic thinkers proclaim the unity…of God.” With this in mind, carefully consider the following quotes penned by some of the most widely recognized Masonic philosophers and historians of all time,
- …Masons are only expected to be of that religion in which all men agree, leaving their particular opinion to themselves. Under the shelter of this wise provision, the Christian and the Jew, the Mohammedan and the Brahmin, are permitted to unite around our common altar; and Masonry becomes, in practice as well as in theory, universal. The truth is, that Masonry is undoubtedly a religious institution—its religion being of that universal kind in which all men agree…. — Albert G. Mackey.
- It [Masonry] reverences all the great reformers. It sees in Moses, the Lawgiver of the Jews, in Confucius and Zoroaster, in Jesus of Nazareth, and in the Arabian Iconoclast, Great Teachers of Morality, and Eminent Reformers, if no more: and allows every brother of the Order to assign to each such higher and even Divine Character as his Creed and Truth require.
- Thus Masonry disbelieves no truth, and teaches unbelief in no creed…. — Albert Pike.
- And so, whether we worship at the shrines and embrace the doctrines of Zoroaster or Mohammad or Confucius or Moses or Buddha or those of the Christian world, we know that there moves among us every day a timeless Force, greater and stronger than ourselves. — Henry C. Clausen.
Joseph Fort Newton, in his book The Religion of Masonry, explained, “As some of us prefer to put it, Masonry is not a religion but Religion—not a church but worship, in which men of all religions many unite….” Yet, 2 Corinthians 6 clearly tells us not to yoke ourselves with unbelievers, and rhetorically asks, “what agreement has the temple of God with idols?” Sadly, many who claim Christ as their Lord and Savior have also bent their knees in unity and conformity with the gods of the Lodge—and have often done so out of complete naivety.
Like Freemasonry, the Theosophical Society—which claims to be the “WISDOM-RELIGION”—preaches a similar doctrine of universalism. Madame Blavatsky, founder of the Theosophical Society and long-considered the “Mother of the New Age,” filled hundreds of pages elaborating on the universal aspects of “Deity.” Furthermore, Madame Blavatsky— who was associated with a variety of Masonic personalities—openly wrote that the “first and Fundamental dogma of Occultism is Universal Unity,…”
Upon Blavatsky’s death, Annie Besant took over the leadership of the Theosophical Society, and likewise emphasized an interfaith approach. Indeed, the entire Theosophical system embraces an interfaith perspective. Moreover, Theosophy advances the concept of the deification of man and advocates this occult doctrine throughout their core materials. In Esoteric Christianity, Besant made this very clear, “Man is not to be compelled; he is to be free. He is not a slave, but a God in the making.”
Theosophy, which is still very active around the world, is currently involved in promoting and participating in major interfaith events. Representatives of the Theosophical Society were present at the 1993 and 1999 Parliament of the World’s Religions (and the first one in 1893), and also played a role in the 2001, St. Petersburg, Florida, “Religions in Dialogue” conference. No doubt there will be a Theosophical presence at the 2004 Barcelona Parliament.
Not surprisingly, today’s interfaith movement and the Masonic-Theosophical ideal of religious universalism uses similar language and overlapping terms. Within the Lodge and the materials of the Theosophical Society, this concept of universalism is wrapped-up in the expression, the “Brotherhood of Man and the Fatherhood of God.” This type of metaphorical language was used in the 1893, 1993 and 1999 Parliament of the World’s Religions, and in many other interfaith events during the last one hundred plus years.
Charles Carroll Bonney, in welcoming delegates to the first Parliament of the World’s Religions, boldly proclaimed that this inter-religious movement would grow to become “THE BROTHERHOOD OF RELIGIONS” (capitals in original).
Christian Fundamentalists And A Global Theology
For fundamental Christians—those who believe in the foundational truths of the faith— the question of where we fit within this new inter-religious paradigm, is of vital importance.
Marcus Braybrooke, a professing liberal-pluralist Christian, writes that “the pluralist acknowledges that the richness of the Divine Mystery cannot be contained in one tradition.” Braybrooke also recognizes that this pluralistic approach fits with our new global era while being at odds with the fundamentalist position,
- Fundamentalists… adopt an a-historical attitude to the central “truths” of a religion. They are unchanging and not open to reinterpretation in a changing world. Likewise, fundamentalists reject the idea of symbolism regarding their own truths—they take their particular myth as true in a literal sense.
- For the fundamentalist, there is only one truth—which they possess. They cannot then accept a pluralist society in which equal status is given to a variety of truth claims…
- The pluralistic interfaith vision rests on radically different presuppositions. It assumes the possibility of those of different faiths respecting each other and affirming tighter certain basic moral values. It opens out also the possibility of theology becoming an inter-religious discipline and also the possibility of people of one faith absorbing into their spiritual life practices from another faith.
- In my view, the interfaith vision is in tune with the character of the emerging post-modern global society. Indeed it offers the hope of a world civilization based on spiritual values, whereas the fundamentalist approach is likely only to lead to confrontation and conflict…
- The new age is one in which lines of demarcation are blurred.
- …Fundamentalists reject the de-absolutizing of truth which… is a characteristic of the emerging post-modern and global age.
- Such a view allows for no alternative approaches to the truth. Truth is single. The political danger is that if fundamentalists gain power, they allow no place in society to those with other beliefs. This is why those who have a pluralist view of society are bound to find themselves in opposition to fundamentalists.
Mr. Braybrooke isn’t the only one to hold this position. On November 13, 1999, the largest pro-world government organization in the United States—the World Federalist Association—held an interfaith meeting with the United Religions Initiative. Towards the end of the meeting, Greg Stanton, an influential member of the WFA, commented in a Q&A session,
- I think the common enemy here really is fundamentalism. That is, the preaching of texts as though they were personally penned by God is the problem…. And I believe that really is one of the problems that divides religious traditions. And I just want to say that that’s true of a lot of religious traditions, it’s not just characteristic, of course, to fundamentalist Christians, it’s also true of Islam, Judaism….
Not surprisingly, this is the view of many within the interfaith movement. At meetings this author has personally attended, fundamental Christians have been referred to as “fundies,” openly ridiculed for their positions, and described as the chief adversaries of global pluralism. But why should this catch us off-guard? Jesus Christ warned us that as world hated Him, so too it will hate His followers. Although this is not a positive view, it is a sober reminder as to the Christian’s position within the global community—and the fact that our citizenship is eternal in nature and not based on an earthly kingdom.
Yes, Christianity takes a bad rap from the global interfaith community. Unfortunately, Mr. Braybrooke and others within the pluralist camp seemingly don’t know or acknowledge the vital role that Christianity—fundamental Christianity—has played in establishing principles of liberty and justice. Alvin J. Schmidt, author of Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization, writes,
- The liberty and justice that are enjoyed by humans in Western societies and in some non-Western countries are increasingly seen as the products of a benevolent, secular government that is the provider of all things. There seems to be no awareness that the liberties and rights that are currently operative in free societies of the West are to a great degree the result of Christianity’s influence.
Christianity has also been a major force in the shaping of “community compassion” through hospitals, orphanages, disaster aid, and charity work. Moreover, because of the compassion of Christians, public education and “higher learning” has been greatly advanced. Unknown to most, Princeton, Yale, Columbia, Harvard, Berkeley and many other major universities were originally founded as Christian institutions.
The fact that we are now living in a post-Christian global order is beyond argument. Understanding this reality, the question becomes; will we let our light so shine that men will see it? In contemplating this question, it would be wise to remember the words of Jesus Christ,
- You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)
(Carl Teichrib is a freelance researcher and writer on issues pertaining to globalization. He resides in Canada and can be reached by emailing; firstname.lastname@example.org.)
- Erwin W. Lutzer, Christ Among Other gods: A Defense of Christ in an Age of Tolerance (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1994), p.11.
- Hans Küng, preface to Willard G. Oxtoby’s book The Meaning of Other Faiths (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1983—the preface is dated 1982), p.10.
- Marcus Braybrooke, Faith and Interfaith in a Global Age (Grand Rapids, MI: CoNexus Press, 1998), pp.16,120.
- See Carl Teichrib, “An Inside Look at the Global Interfaith Agenda,” Hope For The World Update, Spring 2001, p.4-6.
- CPWR sponsorship information website, http://www.cpwr.org/what/events/barcelona/sponsors.htm (accessed February 19, 2003).
- The first Parliament took place in 1893 during the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. One hundred years later the second parliament occurred, also in Chicago. In 1999, the second parliament was convened in South Africa.
- Public documents which have emerged from the various parliaments include; Richard Hughes Seager (editor), The Dawn of Religious Pluralism: Voices from the World’s Parliament of Religions, 1893 (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1993); Joel Beversluis (editor), A SourceBook for Earth’s Community of Religions (Grand Rapids, MI: CoNexusPress, 1995); Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, A Call to Our Guiding Institutions (CPWR, 1999). See also, Peggy Morgan and Marcus Braybrooke (editors), Testing the Global Ethic: Voices from the Religions on Moral Values (CoNexus, 1998).
- Joseph Fort Newton, The Builders: A Story and Study of Masonry (Cedar Rapids, IA: The Torch Press/Grand Lodge of Iowa, 1914), pp.263-264.
- Statements by the editor in the Foreword. Melvin Maynard Johnson, Universality of Freemasonry (Washington, DC: The Masonic Service Association, March 15, 1957).
- Albert G. Mackey, A Text Book on Masonic Jurisprudence (New York, NY: Redding and Company, n.d), p.95.
- Albert Pike, Morals and Dogma of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry (Charleston, SC: Supreme Council of the Thirty-Third Degree for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States, 1871), p.525.
- Henry C. Clausen, Emergence of the Mystical (Washington, DC: Supreme Council of the Thirty-Third Degree, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Mother Supreme Council of the World, 1981), p.88.
- Joseph Fort Newton, The Religion of Masonry: An Interpretation (Masonic Service Association, 1927), p.11.
- H.P. Blavatsky, The Key To Theosophy (Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press, 1995—originally published in 1889), p.13.
- See Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled (2 volumes) and The Secret Doctrine (2 volumes).
- H.P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, Volume 1 (Pasadena, CA: Theosophical University Press, 1988— originally published in 1888), p.58.
- Annie Besant, The Universal Text Book of Religions and Morals (London, UK: Theosophical Publishing Society, 1921), p.1.
- Annie Besant, Esoteric Christianity (Wheaton, IL: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1901/1953), p.220
- See, Carl Teichrib, “An Inside Look at the Global Interfaith Agenda,” Hope For The World Update, Spring 2001, p.4-6. This conference was co-sponsored and organized by the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions, the World Congress of Faiths, and the International Association of Religious Freedom (the oldest interfaith body in the world).
- Charles Carroll Bonney, “Words of Welcome,” The Dawn of Religious Pluralism (edited by Richard Hughes Seager, Open Court Publishing), p.22.
- Marcus Braybrooke, Faith and Interfaith in a Global Age (Grand Rapids, MI: CoNexus Press, 1998), p.98.
- Ibid., pp.50-51, 60.
- Audio tape of event, including Mr. Stanton’s speech, is in the author’s possession.
- Alvin J.Schmidt, Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2001), p.248. See all of chapter 10.
- Ibid., p.190.