When the apostle
Paul went to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ in the Greek city of Athens, and he was invited by Epicurian and Stoic philosophers
to present his teaching in a speech in the marketplace, he started with an element that was already known to his audience:
an altar they had dedicated to an unknown god. Further, when he went on to explain the nature of this unknown
god to his Greek audience and especially that people were a reflection of God's image, Paul cited from scholars that were
known to his listeners, the Cretan philosopher Epimenides and the Cilician
Stoic philosopher Aratus: "‘For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said,
‘We are his offspring’" (Acts 17:18). Thus, Paul sets an example that we should follow. We
can find glimpses of God's revelation in the writings of other religions. We can rejoice in our common
ground and build on it a foundation of mutual respect and understanding, which we then can use to lead people to what is missing
from their wealth of spirituality: Jesus Christ.
On the other hand,
we will be pleasantly surprised to actually discover how close to God people of other religions may be. Buddhism,
for example, promotes an altruistic love, humbleness, and non-violence, which seem to come straight out of Christ's sermon
on the mountain. Muslims have a rigorous lifestyle of prayer which Paul recommends in 1 Thessalonians 5:17
where he urges us to "pray continually," something many Christians overlook. Paul also encouraged
us in Philippians 4:8 to be broad-minded and to feed on healthy spiritual food that may come from other sources and which
does not contradict but reinforces our Christian beliefs and our obedience to God: "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever
is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything
is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
Preview Foundation encourages interfaith dialogue as a way of not only practicing Christian love to all people and
of sharing the good news that Christ died for our sins and that the Holy Spirit is available to help us attain the holiness
other religions also strive for, but also as a way to strengthen our own Christian faith through fellowship with believers
in similar teachings. At the same time, we uphold the certainty that awareness of Christ's sacrifice and
of His grace manifested through the Holy Spirit is necessary for salvation and for living a holy life in perfect communion
with God. The Roman centurion Claudius "and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously
to those in need and prayed to God regularly" (Acts 10:2). Such good deeds and meditation and prayer
are common practice in most religions. It is obvious that God honors such a heart-felt desire to serve
Him and such conduct; the angel who appears to Cornelius confirms it: “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come
up as a memorial offering before God" (Acts 10:2). But it is also God's desire that such people will
be given the ultimate key to eternal life, which is acceptance of Christ's sacrifice as redemption for our sins.
This is why Peter had to come talk to Cornelius about Christ and baptize him and his family (Acts 10:5-48). Cornelius's
good deeds, prayers, and reverence for God were not sufficient for salvation.