A friend and colleague sent me an article today. He has for two decades worked among muslims, both in training others and church planting. Together with his the article; this is what he writes. I believe this is worth considering:
I think one of the biggest barriers I see to evangelicals getting involved in mission, dialogue, inter-religious relationships is the common “default” theology of religions which is basically Barthian: “all religions are the strivings and works of man (or worse) and therefore unbelief”. ie there is only evil and flesh to be found and nothing really to be salvaged. True faith can only be initiated by a work of God (in Christ).
I think a key moment in my journey thus far happened a few years ago when pondering Rom 1:20 “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” and that “God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him” (Acts 17).
It struck me that every religion is a faith response (at least in its initial steps) to communication initiated by God via general revelation (Barths exact definition of faith) . This “reaching out” is not just human striving, it is something God wanted and initiated. Sure “works of the flesh” , deception, demonic activity, and other stuff may get mixed in later, but there is true faith at the very foundations. That should change my attitude. No matter the barnacles of time, there is a sense that I am walking on holy ground.
That was the beginning of my realisation that I need a theology of religions. Most people I meet on DTS SOFM at Church etc..have not really thought much about it or heard any sermon, or even heard of the expression “theology of religions” and so almost always the “default” theology above is assumed.
Anyway just thinking out loud here.