Our Readers Ask . . .
How Do Jehovah’s Witnesses View Interfaith?
▪ According to the World Christian Encyclopedia, there are some “10,000 distinct religions worldwide.” Because conflicts between them have led to untold hurt, the concept of interfaith brings hope to many worshippers. They believe that it can engender peace and unity in a divided world.
The Bible encourages unity. The apostle Paul likened the Christian congregation to a human body, each member being “harmoniously joined together and being made to cooperate.” (Ephesians 4:16) Similarly, the apostle Peter urged his fellow believers: “All of you be like-minded.”
The early Christians lived in a multicultural and multireligious world. Yet, when writing about the mingling of different religions, Paul asked: “What portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever?” Then he warned Christians to “get out from among them.” (2 Corinthians 6:15, 17) Clearly, Paul was speaking against interfaith. Why did he do so?
The apostle explained that spiritual fellowship between one who is a true Christian and one who is not would be an uneven yoke, a misfit. (2 Corinthians 6:14) It could result only in harm to the Christian’s faith. Paul’s concerns were like those of a father who knows that some children in his neighborhood behave badly. As a concerned parent, he wisely sets limits on whom his child should play with. His restrictions may be unpopular. Under the circumstances, however, being separate would protect his child from bad influences. Similarly, Paul knew that being separate from other religions would protect Christians against their harmful practices.
In taking that stand, Paul was imitating Jesus. While Jesus set the greatest example in promoting peace among people, he did not practice interfaith. Many religious groups, such as the Pharisees and the Sadducees, were active during Jesus’ earthly ministry. In fact, these religious factions joined forces to challenge Jesus, going as far as to plot his death. Jesus, on the other hand, directed his followers to “watch out . . . for the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
What about today? Is the Bible’s warning against interfaith still valid? Yes, it is. This is because differing religious beliefs cannot bond through interfaith any more than oil and water can mix simply by putting them together in a pot. For instance, when people of different religions come together to pray for peace, which god is being petitioned? Christendom’s Trinitarian God? Hinduism’s Brahma? The Buddha? Or someone else?
The prophet Micah foretold that “in the final part of the days,” people from all nations would say: “Come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” (Micah 4:1-4) The result would be peace and unity on a worldwide scale, not because all faiths are somehow joined, but because all people accept the one true faith.
[Picture on page 27]
Members of the world’s major religions at an interfaith conference, 2008