World Religions

The Interfaith Question…

I chose to make my second Response Poll subject about opinions on interfaith activity. I will now get into this topic and why it needs consideration.

Interfaithism – interfaith activity, is about working amongst or liaising with people of different faiths/religions. This is not a new concept at all. The 1893 Parliament of World Religions was regarded by many as “the birth of the interfaith movement”. It was the first organised, international gathering of religious leaders. Since its first meeting in 1893, there have been eight meetings including one in 2015. Other interfaith or interreligious movements have sprung up over time too.

The question is, whether in the form of dialogue to find common ground, social action or international conventions, can it bear fruit? Can different faiths/religious leaders truly find common ground? What difference could it make in this troubled world? Is it no more than a bunch of cosy community clubs? I put it to you that these ‘common grounds’ are merely superficial. Looking through the lens of the Bible – God’s word, interfaithism would not have a good end.

Let’s start with looking at the founder of that Parliament of World Religions movement. What was his influence and motivation?

Charles Carroll Bonney.

Charles Carroll Bonney
Charles Carroll Bonney

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the ‘discovery’ of the Americas by Christopher Columbus, a large exhibtion event – the Exposition – was planned to showcase arts, industry, etc. Charles C Bonney, a man with spiritual interests, decided that something ‘higher and nobler’ was needed, that there needed to be something more. He called for a bringing together of a group that would include scientists and theologians . Bonney had appointed a sixteen-member committee to plan the Religious Congresses – both the World’s Parliament of Religions and numerous denominational congresses. (

The Spiritual Motivation of Charles C Bonney.

Bonney was inspired by Swedenborg beliefs. Emanual Swedenborg was an eighteenth-century mystic and spiritualist, known to have had communications with ‘angels’. His concept of God and the human race was different to what the Bible says, but on the surface seemed a little similar. Whilst he believed that humans need ‘regeneration’ – a concept taught in the holy scriptures in relation to all having sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, and becoming ‘born again’ by the work of the Holy Spirit – Swedenborg actually taught that spiritual regeneration can be gained as a process of working to be good. Also that “if a person is good and loving in this world and strives to set their ego aside in order to help others, that person is bound for heaven regardless of their faith.” So this belief, which I will describe as self-attainment, goes against what our Lord Jesus taught. It is this misguided belief that we all can achieve some sort of high morality or become more spiritual without the need for the Crucifixion – without atonement for our sins against a holy Creator God. This is where ‘interfaithism’ faces it’s ultimate shortcoming.

If we believe that there is ultimately goodness in all people and therefore in all faith systems, but mankind just needs to get their egos in check and get together to do good, then there is no need for Jesus being the ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world’ (gospel of John 1:29). So if you go along to an interfaith event, and you have someone praying to Jesus, someone doing Buddhist chanting, someone whispering Hindu mantras etc, right there you have different concepts of what spirituality means…. and different concepts of who (or what) God is. To quote Swedenborgian beliefs, which inspired Bonney to attempt to bring various religions together for a congress:-

“…if you look at the functions of everything that has been created, you will see how they follow in sequence all the way to humanity and from us to our source, the Creator. You will see how the connectedness of everything depends on the Creator’s union with us…” (source: Divine Providence, a translated work).

So, this connectedness of everything also means that the lines are blurred between the Creator and His creation. This results in a false view of the Creator – and forming a god of man’s imagination – where atonement for sin and redemption are reinterpreted and therefore diminished. As stated by the President of the Swedenborg North American church in a newsletter (referring to responses to COVID19):-

“Our faith tradition holds many of the positive aspects they presented: fostering a sense of connectedness and encouraging a hopeful lens for the future. We do not promote the negative: punishment by God or higher being and putting everything in God’s hands.” (source: the Messenger, Letter from the President).

This means that God being a Judge of sinners who rebel against His righteous rule, and submitting ourselves to God as the One in charge, are seen as ‘negative’. Hence, whatever your beliefs, as long as you acknowledge ‘divine love’ as taught by Swedenborg, and strive to get along with your fellow men, that should do nicely to get you through the ‘pearly gates’. It is also of note that Swedenborg was getting information from ‘angels’ which were more likely to be deceiving spirits – demons. Any inspired writings claiming to be from the Creator, which actually reintepret the Bible, are to be rejected. So the founder of the Parliamant of World Religions, Bonney, was following an extremely faulty theology in the first place. However, the main focus here is not really about the Swedenborg version of spirituality, but to consider why various faith leaders getting together for the common good cannot really bear good fruit. If one’s view of God is based on something other than what has been revealed in the trustworthy Bible, it has no firm foundation to help us. There is an interesting article here which makes this point clearly.

Interfaith and Biblical prophecy.

Religious worship is one of the key ways of deception in these ‘last days’ since our Lord Jesus rose from the grave and returned to the Father. Jesus spoke warnings about ‘false christs and false prophets’ that would rise up. Consider this – if someone is a committed Christian, or even a committed Muslim or Hindu, who firmly believes in their religious way of life, what would make that person want to stray from their beliefs? The lie – if convincing enough – that there is actually truth and virtue in all religions/beliefs, and that if we can just see our connectedness as humans, we can make great change on the earth. There has already been a falling away from Biblical Christianity over the years, and still happening today. Progressive Christianity and liberal Anglican churches to name some. Anyone who leads the way in proclaiming truth in all religions is a false prophet. The answer to the injustices and troubles in this world are not solved if the root of the problem is not understood. The problems in our societies stem from sinful human hearts. Lust for control… selfish ambition… greed… materialism… these are all wrong desires in the human heart. So can a bunch of happy smiley interfaith gatherings change the human heart? Don’t misunderstand my point here. I’m all for positive community relations, loving my neighbour as Jesus taught, etc. But the interfaith movements actually undermine the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

1 Timothy 1:15

There will come a time, as stated in the holy scriptures, when satan will seek to force people to worship an anti-Christ figure. There are ways and means satan is seeking to do this… he is a deceiver. One of the ways this can more easily happen is through the deception that there is valid truth in all beliefs. The blurring of objective truth must not be entertained. Jesus paid a high price for human redemption – His own crucified body and blood for our ransom. The exclusivity of the message that Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life” may not sit well with some, or many, but because it is truth, when we stand on this truth and point others to Him, we are doing God’s will.

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