Thursday, March 15, 2007

What makes Christianity Different...

I was reading a paper that Dr Elaine Storkey presented at the Theologians Task Group at Amsterdam 2000. It was on the topic of the need for dialogue with people of other faiths in the pluralistic reality of today, and how it can be so important for the mission of the church.

Towards the end of the paper she tells a personal story that really illustrates why we as Christians need to be in dialogue with others...
I was recently involved in an inter-faith broadcast with the BBC World Service. The Jewish Rabbi and Islamic Professor and I were all answering questions sent in by listeners from all over the world. The discussion was courteous, good-humoured and pleasant until one question came up. It was about how we can identify the real believer from the counterfeit. We all agreed that it was by their fruits that we could know them. Then the Rabbi told us about the enormous weight of the Law which had been given to the people of Israel, and how we would need to see some evidence of seriousness about living in accordance with God's norms and standards. The Muslim went through all the obligations to worship, the great holiness of God, the need to counter all forms of evil and infidelity, the importance of the moral law, and on and on. When it came to me, the presented changed the question. "What do Christians have to do, Dr Storkey?" I took a deep breath and explained that Christians did not have to do anything. We had to simply hold our empty hands to receive all that Christ had done for us. For we could not reach these standards of God's on our own. It was only through the grace of God in the work of Christ that we were acceptable.

The Islamic professor was horrified, and lectured me for many minutes on the way this would open the door for young people to do anything they wished. I had two attempts to reply, when the Rabbi finally came to my aid. Putting a hand on the Muslim's shoulder he said, "My dear friend, you will have to accept what she says. You and I will never understand this. We are a Jew and a Muslim. But this grace is what Christians are all about. It is what makes Christianity different from every other religion." 

Evangelical Review of Theology 25:1 (2001) pp.45-52

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