I recently began reading “The Changing Face of World Missions” by Michael Pocock, Gailyn Van Rheenen and Douglas McConnell. The book focuses on the dramatic changes that have taken place both in global society and in the church and the implications those changes have on how the church does missions. In chapter three, titled “Religionquake: From World Religions to Multiple Spiritualities” Van Rheenen writes the following about the church’s relationship with other world religions:
During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, theologians in the Western world sought to prove Christianity, to enshrine it as the queen of the sciences, or at least to give a rational foundation for believing God and the Christian way of life. In the new climate of the twenty-first century the most significant theological issue is the relationship between Christianity and the other world religions.
Later in the chapter he offers three very different ways Christians approach adherents of other world religions.
Reconciliation is based on the idea that truth is found equally in all world religions. Reconcilers employ inter-religious dialogue to arrive at common understandings of at least some truth.
Confrontation is based on the idea that non-Christian religions are demonic, estranged from God, contortions of ultimate reality as formed by God. Confrontational ministry is thus defined as a type of spiritual warfare. Confrontational methods may range from gentle admonishment and exhortation to prophetic denouncement.
Incarnation is based on the idea that God enables divinity to embody humanity. Christians, like Jesus, are God’s incarnation, God’s temples, tabernacling in human flesh (John 1:14; Phil. 2:3-8). Christians, spiritually transformed into the image of God, carry out God’s ministry in God’s way. Incarnationalists relate to seekers from other world religions personally and empathetically (as Jesus taught Nicodemus). Sometimes, however, they declare God’s social concerns by shaking up the status quo and “cleaning out the temple.” The end result of incarnation is a non-Christian world is always some form of crucifixion.
What do you believe are the advantages and disadvantages of each? Where do you find yourself when approaching other religions?