Engaging With Contemporary Non-Christian Faiths

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Engaging with Contemporary Non-Christian Faiths

Engaging with Contemporary Non-Christian Faiths

Critically analyse the role of the Christian Scriptures in the origins and development of two non-Christian world faiths.


If the Christian context of the word religion is left aside, then religion and also belief can be defined as the relationship of a human to a personal or impersonal transcendent, in whatever shape of “the Real”: a divine persona or impersona. The meaning of the Western terms religion or belief, influenced by Christian thoughts, changes in other European and non-European languages from “something that is owed to the transcendence” to “law/doctrine” and “eternal, never-ending structure.”

As a result, the term religion is more objective than the rather subjective term belief. Also, the concepts of belief-characterized as individual, personal belief, or conviction-and faith-characterized as universal belief-can be differentiated. Religion is in general the system of faith that people of the same conviction have in common. Belief is the personal activity, the “personal” faith, within the framework of religion. Belief system is very near to religion, but it emphasizes the personal religious activity more than universal faith.

Religion and belief in the modern ideology can carefully be defined as broad terms, or concepts, which slowly have grown in importance in our modern age. These concepts are very different from the ancient meaning of the word religion, which first described all imaginations, attitudes, and actions of a person concerning the ultimate reality. Humans accept the ultimate reality as powers or a power, spirits or demons, gods or God, the “Sacred” or the “Absolute,” or just “Transcendence.” In ancient times, religion not used as a collective name for each belief or as a common term, in which differing beliefs summed up. The term religion, representing the past view on religion or belief, used in a very narrow sense from antiquity up to the 16th century. At first, religion referred to the exercising of the rituals prescribed by law, but only later with regard to the Christian denomination.


Further Development of Non-Christian Faiths Religions and Beliefs: Historical Perspectives

After this etymological study, the paradigmatic development of the modern terms religion and belief will now be described in order to give a contemporary view on them. A religion that prescribes a belief in a deity of imaginable terms is marked as rational, according to the Lutheran theologian and historian of comparative religion Rudolf Otto. In his classic work, The Idea of the Holy (1917/1925), Otto also asked for the objectivity of religion or belief, and emphasized the “contrast between Rationalism and pro-founder religion.” One cannot do justice to religion or belief only by rational terms. The two opposite characterizations of religion are, as Otto pointed out, the tremendum, or the “awefulness,” and simultaneously the fascinans, or the “fascinating.” The tremendum shakes people in awe in sight of the mysterious, completely different being, God. This form of fear is by far different than the “natural,” or ordinary fear of a human, and applies more to the general “world-fear.” The tremendum derives from a “numinous dread” ...
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