Queen's counsel XXIII

July 2003

During Easter residential week this year at Queen's, we had the opportunity of exploring other faiths; we visited Buddhist, Moslem and Sikh places of worship and invited speakers to come and share their beliefs and experience. In one particularly intriguing session we explored the uniqueness of Christ with a Buddhist devotee and a Moslem, homing in particularly on the record in St.John's Gospel where Jesus says: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me" [John 14:6]. In order to have good dialogue with our neighbours of other faith traditions, we need to be clear for ourselves on the meaning of statements like this in our own scriptures. Then, in truth, we can share and learn from each other.

Our Buddhist friend talked of Jesus as a bodhisattva, an apprentice Buddha working tirelessly for the sake of other living beings and seeking enlightenment to know the eternal absolute through abandoning self. Their teaching enables devotees to progress towards truth through the 4 noble truths by means of an 8-fold path and they have a saying similar to St.John dating back to 500BC. Enlightenment leads Buddhists to see truth in the same way as the disciples were encouraged to see the Father through Jesus.

Our Moslem friend talked of Jesus as one of their revered line of prophets stretching from Abraham to Muhammad, who received the revelation they know as the Qur'an and as the last testament. They would say that God's grace comes through their prophets and they recognise Jesus as an example to the whole of humanity. They serve God through worship and earn salvation through acting out their faith as the letter of James encourages us to do.

Alone of the traditions is the Christian recognition of the mystery that Jesus combines being truly human with being truly divine through the cross and resurrection. This atonement between the Father and the Son is captured well by a French Jewess, Simone Weil, when she says: "the unity of God, wherein all plurality disappears, and the abandonment, wherein Christ believes he is left while never ceasing to love his Father perfectly, these are two forms expressing the divine virtue of the same Love, the Love which is God himself". That's not at all easy, is it perhaps our dip into the work of the Holy Spirit next time will help us out a bit.

In the meantime, let us in thankfulness return to the Easter acclamation:

Christ is risen
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

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