My own eirenic and ecumenical leanings are tempered, always, by one thing – the knowledge that there is only one way to salvation – through Our Lord Jesus Christ and belief in Him. We have discussed here, many times, how that might map on to confessional allegiance, and whilst there will be some who will say that if you are not of x denomination/church then you are damned to hell, it is not a view I share. God makes these decisions, but as Geoffrey’s interesting pieces (and as I have just formatted tomorrow’s one for him, I can tell you it is a treat) on salvation show, belief in Christ as the sole means of salvation is common to us all.
This came to the fore in my mind because I attended a meeting in the lunch hour at work where we had an ‘interfaith practitioner’ visit the chaplaincy to tell us all about the work he does. He was, he told us, once an Anglican priest, but has now, in his own words, ‘passed beyond that’ to a ‘recognition’ of the ‘oneness’ of ‘all believers’. Whether ‘Buddha, Jesus, Mohammed or Wotan, or the Hindu pantheon, they are all manifestations of our desire to be one with Mother Nature and all creation’. We were all, ‘Brother Ben’ told us, bound in obedience ‘only to the voice of our own conscience, which is the voice of god within.’ He quoted liberally from Scripture, but also from the Koran, Buddha and other ‘ holy writs’. In the q&a after, someone asked him how he would describe himself, and smiling broadly he told us: ‘a human being who sees the Tau in Christ and the Buddha in Wotan and Gaia.’
I am afraid that I wanted to be rather ill, and rather violently so at that moment.
The friend who had invited me asked me what I thought, and although I am usually a dreadful coward and say something which is non-committal, I had to say something of what I felt. I told Wendy that it seemed to me that ‘Brother Ben’ was like a man in a restaurant who decides to concoct his own version of a nourishing meal and ends up with everything from the dessert course; even that didn’t quite get what I really felt, but it seemed better to leave it there as Wendy is not a Christian ‘but is spiritual’.
There was, with him, a desire to concoct something which had in it a bit of everything. At one level it seemed very ‘open’, but I suspect that at another it was actually quite controlling in that if one did not accept his concoction he seemed to get quite cross. One student asked whether there was not a ‘truth’ for which we should be looking, and ‘Brother Ben’ was not too happy with that: ‘there are many truths, and we should never let anyone tell us otherwise.’ Strip away the liberal tone and that is quite authoritarian; why should one not let others persuade one otherwise.
For some reason I did not get, he was dressed in a religious habit, but like his beliefs, it was syncretistic – there was a Jewish scarf, a rainbow stole and a cross. Was this simply confusion? I told Wendy I thought not, it seemed to be a deliberate attempt to find a lowest common denominator – when one ought to find the highest common factor – Christ.