It is odd, when you think about it, that for centuries belief in Christ was used to obscure the work of God in other religions rather than to expand appreciation of it. An imperialist framework for christology made it appear that since the Word is incarnate in Jesus, then God is not present elsewhere, or at least not so truly and lovingly. A hierarchal pattern of thinking led to the conclusion that since Christ is number one, no other religion at all is worthy of attention. Not only was divine presence denied elsewhere, but Christ the Way, the Truth, and the Life was brandished triumphally like a stick to render others inferior. The God of Jesus Christ became a figure of closedness rather than openness.
Understanding Jesus Christ as the sacrament of God’s saving will enfleshed in history under the sign of kenosis and interpreting his universal significance in the light of his preaching the reign of God make possible a more generous view. Christians need not, indeed must not, abandon the faith that Jesus is in person Wisdom made flesh, whose advent holds saving significance for the whole of humankind, nor stop explaining to others the beauty of the gospel and its effect on our lives. This is the treasure entrusted to our hands in the living tradition of Christian faith. But in the midst of earth’s history, which limits every divine manifestation and human insight, this proclamation should be done in the spirit of the same humble self-emptying that we are talking about. As Joseph Hough put it, “It is essential for Christian faith that we know we have seen the face of God in the face of Jesus. It is not essential to believe that no one else has seen God and experienced redemption in another time and place.”…
Interreligious encounter leads to the praxis of sincere respect, careful dialogue, mutual learning, appreciation, and cooperation on a local and global scale to further the coming of God’s reign. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks proposes some arresting analogies to show the enrichment this praxis can bring. What would faith be like if we acknowledged the image of God in another, whose truth is not our truth? It is like feeling secure in one’s own home, yet moved by the beauty of foreign places, knowing they are someone else’s home, not mine, but still part of the glory of the world that is ours. It is like being fluent in Englsih, yet thrilled by the rhythms of an Italian sonnet. It is like realizing that your life is a sentence written in the story of your own faith, yet pleased to know that there are other stories of faith written in other lives, all part of the great narrative of God’s call and humanity’s response. Those who are confident in their faith are not threatened but elarged by the different ways of others. As we discover deeper truth than what we thought we possessed as a monopoly, the dignity of difference becomes a source of blessing.
Elizabeth A. Johnson, Quest for the Living God: Mapping the Frontiers in the Theology of God (New York/London: Continuum, 2007), pp. 176-79.