* (of 5)
The bottom line: Heretical doctrine that not only departs from the basic tenets of Christianity, but also blatantly promotes syncretism.
In this book, the author aims “to make and illustrate a central point: Christians can and should learn from other religions.”
After an introduction to lay the foundation, the book proceeds to dedicate one chapter to a particular religion (e.g., Primal religions, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism). Each chapter first describes a common theme or belief of the other faiths, highlights the similarities to Christianity, and then describes what Christians can uniquely learn about how they practice and interpret their own faith from these common threads.
In my opinion, the only useful purpose for this book is to provide the fuel for engagement of divergent religions and for leaders who wish to engage in interfaith dialogue. The book supplies many common links that can facilitate civil communication amongst clergy of many different faiths.
The reason why this books fails is threefold: (1) It misrepresents itself. (2) The author injects his own ideology and understanding, which is often antithetical to the Bible, into the text and then posits the conclusions as the desired end for an insightful, knowledgeable, open-minded individual. (3) Christianity is built upon the Word of God (the Bible), which represents divine truth, and that Christ is God personified. Wogaman rejects the latter idea outright, and the former selectively. At a certain point, one must realize that the truth is inherently exclusive, and cannot be inclusive of fabrications.
Formulating and writing about your own opinion is just fine, but when you write a book of divergent and heretical ideas, and then claim this is what Christianity is, and further how these heretical ideas are better understood by looking outside Christianity, you are purposely trying to delude readers who are otherwise ignorant of what the scriptures really say.
For example, Wogaman views several components of the Biblical text as myth, and not fact, and embraces the heavy use of myth in primal religions as a way for Christians to better understand and better appreciate the story of Adam and Eve, for instance. He says (pg. 16) that “[w]e repeat the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, not as fact, but as a story that conveys realities about human sin and the hugely important emergence of conscience in evolutionary development.” In the chapter titled “Learning from Judaism” the idea of myth is extended to the traditions of Abraham, Isaac and Moses. The author rests by suggesting that whether or not the stories are true is irrelevant because we “are free to experience the mythical effect” that conveys the intended truth.
The author also rejects the doctrine of the trinity, a basic foundation of Christianity. Particularly he rejects the idea of Christ as God, and uses the Muslim understanding of the relationship between Muhammad and Allah to elucidate how we should view the relationship between Christ and God. I find this particularly puzzling after the author introduces chapter 1 with the verse from John 14:6 when Christ says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also.”
He goes on to say (pg. 35): “[T]he point to be gained is that while God was expressed in and through Christ, Christ was not, himself, God.” Nothing could be farther from the truth and to reject the idea of Christ as God incarnate rejects one of the fundamental pillars of Christianity. To say Christ is not God is to throw the Bible in the trashcan. In the entire New Testament, Christ=God=Life. Christ is the only way to salvation, and to reject that formula is to reject God.
The author goes even further by taking his postulations and misleading unknowing readers by summarizing (on pg. 126): “The Christian view of Christ as the way to God can be interpreted through the love of Christ as a manifestation of the love of God, so that love—not exclusive adherence to Christianity—is the way to God. That love can also be found in other religions.” Again, this is just wrong and attempts to harmonize what the Bible really says with an all-loving universal worldview. Biblically, love is a wonderful thing, but love less Christ will not lead to God.
One final example appears on page 112. Wogaman says: “Perhaps the first point is that we can accept a moral and intellectual responsibility to be honest about our faith. We must be devoted to truth, wherever it leads us, as we have also learned from the Zoroastrians … the Bible contains a good deal of mythological material, and not all of the myths point in directions we can any longer support.” While I do agree that we must accept moral and intellectual responsibility, to devote oneself to truth “wherever it leads” validates many folks, directed by their own inclinations, walking down some very treacherous paths.
In conclusion, this is not a book about what Christians can learn from other religions. What this book really amounts to is a veiled attempt to discredit, water down, cut apart, and pick and choose favorites from the Biblical text, while using cues from other faiths as validation. If you disagree with certain parts of the Bible, you are certainly entitled to your opinion, but this book falsely claims to represent what the Christian faith is about. This is truly unfortunate, because anyone who reads this deceptive manuscript who is not familiar with the Bible, will be led down a vile and malicious path of purposeful misdirection and lies. It is unfair and irresponsible to misrepresent any faith, and this same polemic would apply if the author were to make false claims about Allah or Buddha.
What Christians Can Learn From Other Religions posits that the reader should expand their theological horizons. This process is not a vile thing in and of itself, but when you follow this book’s blueprint for action, what you’re left with is an incomplete, misrepresented Christian faith that has been irrevocably scarred, blackened, and mixed up with personal ideology. What remains isn’t Christianity at all.
Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal