If you watch any coverage of the National Day of Prayer today you will likely hear a good deal of prayers directed towards God in the general sense – meaning the God of Judaism, the God of Christianity, the god of the Islam, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, perhaps even the gods of Hinduism, Buddhism, Wicca, Bahá’í, etc. All of these are included under the umbrella of the same word, “God”.
In my estimation, this represents a growing trend in our culture towards pluralism – the idea that the practice of any religion leads one to the same god. “Pluralism” in this sense refers to what D.A. Carson calls “Philosophical or Hermeneutical Pluralism”, which he defines as “any notion that a particular ideological or religious claim is intrinsically superior to another is necessarily wrong… No religion has the right to pronounce itself right or true, and the others false, or even (in the majority view) relatively inferior.”¹ In the last week alone I’ve had two separate conversations with individuals who espoused this view. Religious teachers such as Oprah, Elizabeth Lesser, Wayne Dyer, Eckhart Tolle and others have become increasingly popular in recent years. In my opinion, this philosophy remains on of the greatest threats to our national and religious stability.
Now, I think the National Day of Prayer has its benefits. It reminds people of faith to pray for our nation. It brings multiple faith groups together under one roof. It reminds us to trust in God. It reminds us of our rich Christian heritage. I certainly support intra-faith prayer meetings (even inter-denominational) any day of the year. Here, I am merely questioning in today’s society whether the risk of interfaith prayer meetings is worth the reward.
Some Questions to consider:
1. Does participation in interfaith prayer meetings unnecessarily promote philosophical pluralism?
2. Is it necessary to identify specifically to whom we are praying?
3. Is it acceptable to be publicly praying to the true God while others listening are praying to another god or vice versa?
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
¹Carson, D.A. Gagging of God. p. 19. In this section he identifies 3 different uses of the term “pluralism”. 1) empirical pluralism – the existence of diverse races, religions, ideologies, cultures, languages, etc, in the same culture. 2) cherished pluralism – the belief that empirical pluralism is something to be cherished and celebrated. 3) philosophical pluralism – defined above.