It is a hard-to-swallow truth to accept, but nevertheless it is the truth. No Muslim or Christian or Jew would deny that the teachings of their faiths do not even scratch the surface of God’s depth and what we know about infinite God is nothing compared to what we don’t know about the Creator of the Universe. Ok, maybe they would fidget around that statement to make it more palatable, but principally none would deny the incomprehensibility of God and the limitedness of human reason, including their own religion’s.
Why does it matter? Because when we argue, debate, or try to prove that our God is better than theirs, we ought to remember that the divine reality we speak about has much more — infinitely more — than what they or we know. When we, people of various faiths, try to find common points, we should remember that neither our commonalities nor our differences shadow God’s infinite depths. The sheer vastness of this contrast between what we know about Creator and don’t know about God may humble us, make us more attentive to each other, and slow our quick judgments.
Also, negative theology tends to be more uniform across faiths than the cataphatic theology (the field that describes God’s attributes). In other words, Muslims and Christians may disagree about the Trinity, but what they will agree on is that God cannot be fully imagined to be in some body, shape, or size or that God cannot be counted like a number as one among many; even the concept of God’s oneness has its own limits.
Well, so much for theory. I can go on and on, but I don’t see a justifiable reason to do so in a context of a practically-oriented blog. So instead I will share with you how you can take into account the fact that you and I don’t know much about God in your dialogue about God with people of other faiths.
First, do not assume they have nothing to offer you simply because you know the truth and they don’t. In fact, God may reveal to them something that he did not reveal to you in your faith. We may draw from different sides of God’s inscrutable wisdom.
Second, be humble. Approach what they say respectfully, and remember that they don’t know about God as much as you don’t know because neither their nor your knowledge is much of anything in the context of the infinite incomprehensibility of God.
Third, do not fall into potential traps. You will discover that some people are so sure of their distorted knowledge of God and pumped up with so much misguided zeal that they have no room for the mystery of the Creator. They only understand the discussion in terms of the win-or-lose paradigm, where winning means converting you, subtly disparaging your knowledge of God, and showing you no love before you agree. They may not even be aware of their own blindness, and it is your job as someone who recognizes God’s mystery and cherishes his love above all positive knowledge to avoid becoming angry, taking things personally, or debating to the degree of hurting the other person.
Fourth, find some common points not because you have some shared knowledge but because of how much you and they both don’t know. All faiths of all people put together can’t reveal God’s mystery. So see these commonalities as a guiding light into deeper commonalities and disagreements. Let these common points be bridges to explore together unknown depths of God as God draws us closer to the divine mystery of love.
Fifth, do not agree with everything immediately simply because of the limitedness of our knowledge of God. Instead recognize and explore your differences without erasing their implied contradictions. See how they can be incorporated into a common and deeper insight that would benefit both the other person and you for the sake of shared compassion towards one another and other humans.
I hope what I shared will help you understand inter-religious dialogue better. Do you have questions? Comment and let me know. Also, if you liked this article, then check another similar article linked below and share it on social media.