There is a lot of borrowing between religions these days. A little bit of Christianity here, a little Buddhism there, a dash of Hinduism there, and a splash of Islam there. Such a paganistic pluralistic belief system is truly a state of confusion. All of these religions have fundamental differences. Christianity teaches that all men have only one life to live (Heb. 9:27), but Hinduism and Buddhism both teach that everyone is reincarnated. Christianity teaches that Jesus is both God and Son of God (Col. 2:9; Luke 1:35), but Islam teaches that He was merely a human prophet. These are fundamental differences! How people can get by believing in a mixture of all of these religions is beyond me. They have fundamental differences of belief about God and the afterlife. It is confusion to mix Christian faith with non-Christian religions. Not only is it confusion, but it is a sin. When God gave the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, the first commandment He gave was: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exod. 20:3). If a person calls himself a Christian, it is completely wrong for him to borrow beliefs from non-Christian religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc. The Word of God is clear: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exod. 20:3). And Jesus reiterated this when He said, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). In other words, Jesus is the only way to God and salvation and Heaven. Not Buddha, not Hindu gurus, not Muhammad, etc. It is only through Jesus that we come to God.
But I believe that in Jesus, all Christian traditions have something good to offer. Borrowing from religions outside of the Christian faith is definitely a sin, but I don’t see anything wrong with borrowing between Christian religions. The Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, the Protestant Evangelicals, the Anglicans, the Quakers, the Pentecostals, the Charismatics, etc–all have insight and spiritual advice worthy of learning, to help the individual grow in his relationship with the triune God through Jesus Christ. I came to this realization in the summer of 2007, when I read Richard Foster’s Streams of Living Water (1998). In that book, he examines various Christian traditions: Contemplative (Catholic and Eastern Orthodox mysticism), Evangelical, Holiness, Charismatic, Social Justice, and Incarnational. So, I believe that all Christian churches, denominations, sects, and groups are under the banner of Jesus Christ. All of them are going to the same Heaven when they die, because Jesus is the only way to God, and they put their faith in Him. So, essentially, I think it is good to borrow beliefs between Christian denominations, as well as disciplines, practices, and spiritual experiences endorsed by them all. But this doesn’t mean you throw personal discernment out the window. You just go through life with good faith in God through Jesus Christ, and let the Holy Spirit show you what is right and wrong in the theology and practice of the churches. No single Christian denomination has all the truth of God, but I believe that all of them have some of God’s truth (within the Christian churches only). As I have said, I don’t really believe in, nor am I comfortable with borrowing ideas from non-Christian religions.
Allow me to explain to you in a concrete way what I am trying to say here. I believe in what I have come to call “Evangelical Mysticism.” Does that mean I should go around calling myself an “Evangelical mystic?” No! It’s merely a theological system of thought and lifestyle of faith in Jesus. No–at the base of it all–I am a Christian. A follower of Christ. Yet, if I get into conversations with people, sometimes, I will tell them, “Yeah, I’m an Evangelical,” “I’m a Pentecostal,” “I’m a Charismatic,” or even “I’m a Christian mystic.” In this way, I’m kind of a spiritual freak–as far as religious categorization is concerned. People have a hard time pinning down what I am, belief-wise. Are you a Quaker? Are you an Anabaptist? Are you a Catholic? And when they see me borrowing beliefs from all of these different Christian religions–especially the experiential ones–the conservative Evangelicals react: “Oh, I know–you’re a New Ager!” But even so, I will tell them, “No. I am not a New Ager, occultist, or a psychic. I reject all non-Christian religions. I believe that Jesus is the only Way, Truth, and Life.” Then what am I, they ask? I tell them I am a Christian. But even this confuses them, and they scarcely restrain themselves from thinking of me as New Age or “in deception”!
So, to categorize my religious beliefs, I will explain now what I mean by “borrowing between different Christian religions.” All of them are right about something, but all of them are wrong about something. But it all comes down to relying on faith in Jesus (not in one particular church tradition), and the Holy Spirit, to guide you into what is true and away from what is false. “When He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). And, as far as my wife and I can see, we personally believe the Spirit of Truth has guided us to believe the following about various things from different Christian traditions:
- Evangelical Christianity – (1) The Bible is the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God. We agree with this, but we feel that Evangelicals often put too much of an emphasis on the Bible. They often have their noses so much in their Bibles, that they shun anything that smacks of spiritual experiences of God. Dreams, visions, and miracles are generally resisted by them. Bible knowledge is considered the end-all of the Christian life. We feel that this is a misuse of Scripture. (2) The Trinity of God. (3) The Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory. (4) For the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential. This is effected by faith in the substitutionary atonement of Christ on the cross; and by the subsequent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s heart. (5) The present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life. The Holy Spirit, dwelling in a born again Christian’s heart, upon his “conversion experience” is enabled to love God sincerely, and grow in morals and Biblical holiness. (6) The resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation. We believe in a literal Heaven above; and a literal Hell beneath–in the spirit world, and Hell in the center of the Earth. Each man will go to his destination upon death. Faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven. (7) The spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ. No matter what your church tradition or Christian religion, as long as you have faith in Jesus Christ (only Him), then you are saved–and are our brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s just that simple. Church affiliation has nothing to do with that.
- Anglicanism (Church of England) – I don’t know a lot about this Christian tradition, but we do believe that the Anglican theologian Richard Hooker, in his A Learned Discourse of Justification was right on point when he described the moral laws of the Bible as having a sanctifying effect on the heart–in addition to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And we view sanctification as a process of growing in holiness, reaching its completion only upon death.
- The Anabaptists – We agree with their belief that baptism should be performed by full immersion in water, as a sign of being buried and raised with Christ to a new life. We also agree with their house church orientation and practice of every-member functioning found in 1 Corinthians 14:26.
- The Quakers (17th century) – During the early days, the Quakers were Bible-believing mystics. The first group of solid Evangelical mystics. They practiced contemplation and moved in spiritual experiences and healing prayer. We agree with all of this.
- The Pentecostals/Charismatics – We believe in Acts 2:4 as exemplary of the baptism in the Holy Spirit: “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” But unlike many Pentecostals and Charismatics, we don’t feel the need to limit our experience of God to feeling God’s presence in worship, or to speaking in tongues. Nor do we feel that tongues are the only supernatural manifestation that can provide evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. We feel that dreams, visions, God’s voice, spiritual drunkenness, healing, casting out demons, working miracles, and zeal for God can also be evidences.
- Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Mysticism – This is in addition to the Quaker influence. We believe that many of the Catholic saints and Orthodox monks wrote helpful spiritual books about spiritual experience and contemplative prayer. They had very much insight into holiness, contemplation, spiritual gifts, healing, deliverance, and miracles. No–I don’t believe we should accept it when they speak of devotion to the Virgin Mary or prayer to dead saints–but I think those ancient monks (such as the Desert Fathers) were powerful men of God, and prophets no doubt, that left behind powerful books on how to experience God. Many of them make no mention of Mary or prayer to saints.