Dr. Wesley Ariarajah, a professor of Ecumenical Theology at Drew University School of Theology, asks “Can Christian theology be rethought in ways that help us to be at home in a religiously plural world?” (pg. 3). A Christian, Dr. Ariarajah grew up in Sri Lanka, a country that is predominantly Buddhist. As a member of a minority religion in his homeland, he knows the importance of building relationships with neighbors of another religion.
In his book Your God, My God, Our God, he devotes an entire chapter to the subject of World Mission. He proposes the following affirmations of mission as a guide to a theology of religions (pg. 178).
- God’s mission is to “mend the world” so that it becomes what God intends.
- “This mission is primarily about “healing, wholeness, reconciliation, peace, justice” and other ministries that establish “signs of God’s reign among us.”
- Christian missions are a continuation of the “teaching and healing mission of Christ.” They are “impelled, inspired, and directed by his life and teachings as much as by our search for meaning of his death and resurrection.”
- “As Christians we welcome anyone who wishes to embrace the discipleship with Christ and to be part” of the Christian faith community.
- We don’t have a “mandate” to “target other religious traditions as our mission field.” “Peoples of other religious traditions can be partners and co-workers with us in God’s mission in the world.”
- Therefore, “we do not see the Christian community as a “saved” community in an “unsaved” world.” Other religious traditions are not outside “God’s love and providence.”
You may find Dr. Ariarajah’s views exciting, interesting or disturbing. All of his propositions are examined in detail in his book and reflect biblical teachings. I highly recommend his book, especially if you enjoy exploring new theological ideas.
Dr. Ariarajah stresses that he is not advocating an end to mission. Rather, he is seeking a new beginning, a new way to be in mission in this century. He is convinced that “mission is not just needed but is urgent in our time” (pg. 161). Whether or not we agree with him, we still are called to spread the good news of God’s realm. We still are called to make disciples. We still are called to love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and our neighbors as ourselves. May it be so.
Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20 The Message Bible