I’m not a devotée of the “many paths, one God” philosophy because I know God cares how we live our lives. Part of discipleship is to discern how he wants us to live. The other part is deciding how much effort to make pleasing him. That being said, I do think God provides many tools for us to find it.
We all need something. Some people need glasses, some hearing aids, some a cane, some a prosthesis, some insulin, some anti-depressants, etc. In every case, the tool (or aid) is meant to return us to as optimal a level of health as possible. All tools have value if they improve your quality of life, but not all tools will speak to you. A pair of glasses would mean nothing to someone with 20/20 vision, and why take insulin if your pancreas is humming merrily along?
It’s unlikely that one tool will suffice your whole life. As we use a tool (or aid) to attain the path, we grow closer to God. Once we have traveled the path for a bit, we may find ourselves ready for a different tool, if only for a little while.
I think about this in the context of different faiths and different churches. It’s so easy to think you have the one true faith or the one true church. I admit I do, but I’m not so close minded as to think I have the one true tool.
The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all our mind and all our heart and all our strength; and the second is like unto it: love our neighbor as ourself. Any tool (faith, religion) that puts us on this path has to be pleasing to him, doesn’t it?
I’ll call faith + religion “church” for the purpose of this argument. I recently attended a church about as different from my own as you can get, yet I was struck by how many similarities exist between us, namely:
- People who want to be better and live better lives make the effort and sacrifice to attend a worship service weekly.
- They step outside of themselves and practice compassion for others, e.g., a prayer roll or collection of individual prayers (for others) to be shared with the congregation.
- They sing to elevate their spirits and open a part of themselves that can receive love and light.
- They work together as a congregation or group within a congregation to provide service to those in need.
- They feel joy when they are able to help someone, lift their spirits, ease their burdens.
- They seek spiritual guidance and strive to follow it.
- They grow and learn together as a faith community.
There is one path and one God, and I think he’s okay that we all use different tools to find it. I think that’s how he set it up.