Your Q & A


What response can we give to the claim that religions are so diverse that most of them, if not all of them, are probably misguided? Can we avoid being considered arrogant in claiming the superiority of Christian truth above all other religions?

1 Response

  1. /March 2, 2017/

    A short answer could be to use the analogy with Political Parties. The cynics say they are all the same and there is no point voting for any of them. How many of us smiled at that last comment? Yet the majority of us still vote come election-day as we know this is too important an issue not to engage with, at least to some extent. We may not be experts but many of us know that there are different “platforms” and “policies” involved and political parties themselves have particular, sometimes peculiar histories and traditions. Acknowledging that, we try our best to make an informed choice when we vote. Likewise religions are not all the same. They have dramatically different and competing claims so we have a range of choices. Given the subject matter involved i.e. ultimate concerns, values, goals, destinies; is this not also too important an issue to ignore?
    For most of human history religion has existed in a tribal or national form.  The three exceptions are Buddhism, Christianity and Islam which claim a universal significance and are missionary in outlook. Yet, even these great religions have tended to exist for most of their history in isolation from each other and be confined to certain geographical areas. In the 20th Century this changed dramatically and because of immigration and population shifts we now live in a great global melting pot in the 21st Century. The issue of religious pluralism cannot, therefore, be avoided. Inhabiting the same space, breathing the same air, facing the same problems, struggling with the same challenges and addressing the same questions, means that religious communities have an obligation to consider and relate to the “others.” In this context, differences between the faiths are hard, even impossible to ignore, thereby raising the legitimate issue of truth-claims. It is here that we need a measure of humility and respect.
    To begin with, faiths tend to know themselves from within. The truth claims and credentials of each belief system are coherent and convincing to the adherent but may be baffling and strange to the outsider.  Each religious faith has its own field of discourse and universe of meaning within which belief is generated, appropriated and expressed. But this same factor makes each faith alien territory to those outside. Given the complexities of the situation, it is rare to find someone who can sensitively inhabit more than one faith at a time. It is therefore not surprising that judgments are often made based on misunderstanding and ignorance. How then do we make our way in this context?
    I find the attitude of the late Leslie Newbigin himself a missionary in India, helpful on this issue. We are called to be “witnesses” of Christ (Acts 1:8). In a court setting a witness testifies to what he/she knows, heard, saw, experienced. However, the final verdict lies in the hands of the Judge and that decision is not arrived at until the conclusion of the proceedings. We as Christians bear witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and we are story-tellers of the great epic of which we are a part. However, in a world of competing claims and counter-claims both religious and secular, and in a situation where certainty cannot be demonstrated, we await the “Verdict” at the end of time and do so with quiet faith and confidence. Let God be God! We can do no more and certainly no less than this.

    Rev Dr Russel Moffat
    [Rev Dr Russel Moffat is minister of Balquidder linked with Killin and Ardeonaig Parish Church.  He has a well developed interest -  and expertise -  in the relationship between science and theology and has devoted considerable time and energy to issues arising from Darwinism.  He has been pro-active in holding constructive dialogue with members of the Humanist Society. Dr Moffat is a member of the Grasping the Nettle Council of Advisers.]