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Diving in to Faith Conversations

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“What do you do for a living?” she asked. Eight of us were waiting on shore for the dive boat to pick us up for a two-tank dive during my visit to Grand Cayman. The boat was late.

“I’m a pastor back in the States,” I replied.

“I’m an agnostic myself. But I find value in all faiths.”

“It sounds like you’ve had several friendships with people of various faiths?”

And we were off. Delayed in diving into the Caribbean Sea, we dove into conversation about religion. I talked about what Christians have in common with other faiths, and a few important ways the Christian message is unique.

The experience reinforced some long-held convictions about faith conversations.

First: You don’t have to invent ways to talk about faith. Just be ready to engage with the interest people show in the topic.

Second: When having a conversation on faith, don’t forget to actually make it a “conversation.” Christians sometimes perceive evangelism as a sales pitch you make in duty to God. But there’s no “evangel” in that kind of “evangelism.” The word “evangel” means “good news.” How has your faith been “good” for your life? Answer that, with the give and take that’s natural to any good conversation, and you’ll be doing it right.

Third: Show the beauty of your faith and then the logic, in that order. Don’t think of evangelism as gearing up for an apologetics argument. Instead, start with why you personally find it so beautiful. As I talked with my dive partner on that sandy beach, that’s what I did. I mentioned that while all religions have certain things in common, the unique Christian claim is that God entered our world in Jesus. I told her that such a claim told me the lengths God was willing to go to make himself know to us. “Make it attractive,” Pascal wrote about the faith. He was a 17th century mathematician and physicist, so he certainly had enough intellectual firepower demolish intellectual arguments against Christianity. But he advised, “Make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.”

 

(The Anchor Course can be a useful tool in ongoing conversations about faith. Click through the menu items at the top of this page to find out more about The Anchor Course)




“Why Am I Here” Interfaith Discussion

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Here’s the video from the Interfaith Panel discussion. Each panelist had 6 minutes to explain their faith perspective, followed by 15 minutes of Q&A from the moderators and other panelists. There were about 15 minutes of audience questions at the end of the program. Our thanks to Deily for making this recording. Once again, thanks to Huston-Tillotson University for hosting, and for Dr. James Kraft and Eileen Flynn for serving as moderators.

Here’s a Table of Contents of sorts:

Rabbi Amy Cohen explains Judaism at :03,

My explanation of Christianity at 19:27

Imam Mohamed-Umer Esmail explains Islam at 44:20

Rev. Dr. David Zuniga explains Buddhism at 1:02:37

Audience questions at 1:28:34




Agents for Peace in a Diverse World

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“COEXIST”

That’s one of Austin’s favorite bumper stickers, using the symbols of the world’s major religions to spell the word. The Muslim crescent moon, for example, becomes the “C,” the Star of David serves as the “X,” and the cross stands in for the “T.”

The decal preaches the conviction that no one religion can corner the market on truth. “You have your way of perceiving God, and I have my way,” the sticker seems to say. “We’re all just taking different paths up the same mountain, so I’ll see you at the top.”

Because of that, many in our culture object to the Christian belief in Jesus as the only way to God. They see it as impolite at best or disruptive at worst. But the gospel message, even with its exclusive claims about Jesus, has the resources to make believers agents for peace. I can think of three resources.

Common Grace. Christianity teaches that there are basic values self-evident to everyone, not just Bible readers. So, we can work together with people of other faiths — and no faith — to build decent communities.

Saving Grace. The gospel teaches that our salvation comes by grace alone. God drew us to himself not because of our nationality or our ethnicity or our moral self-discipline. It wasn’t that we were smarter or had a greater moral sensitivity. It’s all of grace. So we can relate to others who don’t get it, because there was a time when we didn’t get it.

The Example of Jesus. At the very heart of the Christian story is a man who died for his enemies, praying for their forgiveness. Reflection on this can only lead to a radically different way of dealing with those who are different from us.

Sadly, Christians don’t always put these resources into practice in their relationships in the world. But the more we understand the gospel, the more we can communicate the exclusive claims of Jesus in a manner that builds relationships, even with those who don’t accept our claims.

To that end, this Thursday I will be joining a panel to discuss the differences and similarities between Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Buddhism. The event takes place February 19 from 7:00 — 9:00 PM in the King-Seabrook Chapel of Huston-Tillotson University. There’s more information at www.anchorcourse.org/interfaithdiscussion.




About Tom

ANCHOR COURSE LOGO Tom Goodman is a graduate of Baylor University and Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, and he holds a doctorate from New Orleans Seminary. He has served as pastor in Louisiana, north Texas, and overseas in Grand Cayman before becoming the pastor of Hillcrest Church in Austin, Texas. Diane and Tom have been married since their days at Baylor University, and they have two sons, Michael and Stephen. Tom enjoys scuba diving, watching the latest Netflix DVD with Diane, and chasing mis-hit golf balls.
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