What Are You Reading and Why?

Toward a True Kinship of Faiths

The Dalai Lama, Three Rivers Press, 2010

reviewed by Vern Ratzlaff

This is a moving examination of inter-faith sharing, with the Dalai Lama reflecting on the implications of our world’s spiritual dimensions.  His paradigm for spiritual sharing is not the identification of religious elements that are the lowest common denominators.  ‘The move to the pluralist position of interchange with other religions by no means involve abandoning one’s central commitment to one’s own faith; it hugely enriches the understanding and practice of one’s own religion.  It allows one to see convergences with other religions; it broadens one’s respect for the extraordinary range and diversity of spiritual approaches developed entirely outside one’s faith tradition’ (pp 17,18).  He draws a distinction between what can be seen as three key aspects of a religion:  ethical teachings, doctrines (metaphysics), cultural specifics (p 150).  He points out that there is a ‘great convergence of the world’s religions:  the central message of all these religions is love and compassion; the purpose of all religions remains the same:  to contribute to the betterment of humanity.  There are fundamental doctrinal differences among the religions.  The challenge is to find a way in which the followers of these traditions can remain true to their doctrinal standpoints and see them as representing legitimate paths to G-d.

For me as a Christian, the question is not what I believe as I meet others, but how Jesus would interact.  A powerful book that struggles with the possibilities of religious pluralism from the perspective of Jesus.

Vern Ratzlaff is a pastor and professor of historical theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.