Posted by: smstrouse | June 21, 2014

Pluralism Summer II

bible-quranA question appeared on our Facebook page recently: “Is your church seriously having readings from the Qur’an there?”

I didn’t know how to respond, since it was all by itself on the fb page,not as a comment to any post. Plus it seemed to be a loaded question. I’m guessing that the questioner wasn’t saying, “Gee, how cool that an unapologetically Christian church includes readings from other religious traditions, and that you actually meet with people of other faiths and dialogue together about what you have in common!”

Rather, I’d put my money on, “You do what?! How can you call yourself a Christian church?!”  I say this, knowing that a few years ago, when we had an interfaith event, I started getting emails accusing us of being a Chrislam church. That term was new to me at the time, but since then I’ve discovered that any pastor that even mentions Christianity and Islam in the same breath (or sermon) is likely to be called out for trying to syncretize the two religions. Oy veh, I say.

As we get ready to embark on our second pluralism summer next week, I’m preparing for the deluge. Since our first guest speaker will be a rabbi, I suppose we’ll be accused of being Judeo-Christian – whoops, we are!

And since I’ll be preaching tomorrow from the Hebrew scriptures (Genesis) part of the story of Hagar and Ishmael, I imagine we’ll be called Judeo-Chris-lam.

But the fact is that we are a Christian church in the Lutheran tradition. Yes, we invite and welcome people of all faiths and no faith to meet and talk with us. Most even like to pray with us. They learn things about us that they didn’t know before, and we learn things about them that we didn’t know. Friendships are made.  Stereotypes are broken down.  What in the world could be so threatening about that?

This summer’s series will be asking our interfaith guests – as well as our own Christian selves – to reflect on the question: how does my tradition or practice inform how I think about caring for the earth? Hey, maybe if we all talk together about this, we can actually do something together to heal this world of ours!

What a thought. Actually, what a prayer. May it be so.



  1. Yes!


  2. Insightful and provacative! All I can say is to ask you to watch this you tube-it is most stunning in it’s unity as well as breaking “norms” enjoy!


  3. If you are interested in some new ideas on religious pluralism and the Trinity, please check out my website at It previews my book, which has not been published yet and is still a “work-in-progress.” Your constructive criticism would be very much appreciated.

    My thesis is that an abstract version of the Trinity could be Christianity’s answer to the world need for a framework of pluralistic theology.

    In a constructive worldview: east, west, and far-east religions present a threefold understanding of One God manifest primarily in Muslim and Hebrew intuition of the Deity Absolute, Christian and Krishnan Hindu conception of the Universe Absolute Supreme Being; and Shaivite Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist apprehension of the Destroyer (meaning also Consummator), Unconditioned Absolute, or Spirit of All That Is and is not. Together with their variations and combinations in other major religions, these religious ideas reflect and express our collective understanding of God, in an expanded concept of the Holy Trinity.

    The Trinity Absolute is portrayed in the logic of world religions, as follows:

    1. Muslims and Jews may be said to worship only the first person of the Trinity, i.e. the existential Deity Absolute Creator, known as Allah or Yhwh, Abba or Father (as Jesus called him), Brahma, and other names; represented by Gabriel (Executive Archangel), Muhammad and Moses (mighty messenger prophets), and others.

    2. Christians and Krishnan Hindus may be said to worship the first person through a second person, i.e. the experiential Universe or “Universal” Absolute Supreme Being (Allsoul or Supersoul), called Son/Christ or Vishnu/Krishna; represented by Michael (Supreme Archangel), Jesus (teacher and savior of souls), and others. The Allsoul is that gestalt of personal human consciousness, which we expect will be the “body of Christ” (Mahdi, Messiah, Kalki or Maitreya) in the second coming – personified in history by Muhammad, Jesus Christ, Buddha (9th incarnation of Vishnu), and others.

    3. Shaivite Hindus, Buddhists, and Confucian-Taoists seem to venerate the synthesis of the first and second persons in a third person or appearance, ie. the Destiny Consummator of ultimate reality – unqualified Nirvana consciousness – associative Tao of All That Is – the absonite* Unconditioned Absolute Spirit “Synthesis of Source and Synthesis,”** who/which is logically expected to be Allah/Abba/Brahma glorified in and by union with the Supreme Being – represented in religions by Gabriel, Michael, and other Archangels, Mahadevas, Spiritpersons, etc., who may be included within the mysterious Holy Ghost.

    Other strains of religion seem to be psychological variations on the third person, or possibly combinations and permutations of the members of the Trinity – all just different personality perspectives on the Same God. Taken together, the world’s major religions give us at least two insights into the first person of this thrice-personal One God, two perceptions of the second person, and at least three glimpses of the third.

    * The ever-mysterious Holy Ghost or Unconditioned Spirit is neither absolutely infinite, nor absolutely finite, but absonite; meaning neither existential nor experiential, but their ultimate consummation; neither fully ideal nor totally real, but a middle path and grand synthesis of the superconscious and the conscious, in consciousness of the unconscious.

    ** This conception is so strong because somewhat as the Absonite Spirit is a synthesis of the spirit of the Absolute and the spirit of the Supreme, so it would seem that the evolving Supreme Being may himself also be a synthesis or “gestalt” of humanity with itself, in an Almighty Universe Allperson or Supersoul. Thus ultimately, the Absonite is their Unconditioned Absolute Coordinate Identity – the Spirit Synthesis of Source and Synthesis – the metaphysical Destiny Consummator of All That Is.

    After the Hindu and Buddhist conceptions, perhaps the most subtle expression and comprehensive symbol of the 3rd person of the Trinity is the Tao; involving the harmonization of “yin and yang” (great opposing ideas identified in positive and negative, or otherwise contrasting terms). In the Taoist icon of yin and yang, the s-shaped line separating the black and white spaces may be interpreted as the Unconditioned “Middle Path” between condition and conditioned opposites, while the circle that encompasses them both suggests their synthesis in the Spirit of the “Great Way” or Tao of All That Is.

    If the small black and white circles or “eyes” are taken to represent a nucleus of truth in both yin and yang, then the metaphysics of this symbolism fits nicely with the paradoxical mystery of the Christian Holy Ghost; who is neither the spirit of the one nor the spirit of the other, but the Glorified Spirit proceeding from both, taken altogether – as one entity – personally distinct from his co-equal, co-eternal and fully coordinate co-sponsors, who differentiate from him, as well as mingle and meld in him.

    For more details, please see:

    Samuel Stuart Maynes


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