God of Many Names:

An Introduction to Dialogue with Other Religions

Robert C. Brow  - 1993

Kingston Ont. Canada   (JLP Digital Publications)
web site (www.brow.on.ca)


Misunderstandings between people of different religions are not primarily based on matters of fact. Even if they have the same mother tongue, what divides them is the different way in which they use the metaphors of their language. And since metaphors tend to organise themselves into logical structures, it is these unnoticed pathways of the mind that give us the feeling that the other is irrational. I assume that most conflicts could be defused by a careful understanding of each others' metaphors.

 In some cases quarrels might turn out to be purely verbal. But between the major religions of the world, where the metaphors have been clarified over many centuries, we will find fundamentally different ways of looking at life and how to live it. The claim that all religions are basically the same is a fallacy.

 The human animal has the ability to explore, evaluate, and choose among religious alternatives. If we believe in God as creator we have to believe that this freedom is given to us. Fundamentalism in any religion or irreligion denies that freedom to others. The assumption is that others must be forced for their own good to submit to one's own choice of system. Man must therefore be denied the freedom that God has given.

 Does the rejection of fundamentalism force us into relativism? Do we conclude that all forms of religion are equally acceptable? Before that can be answered we should note the key importance of metaphor, especially if we want to say anything significant about God (Chapter 1). But however many metaphors we use, they do not yield an explanation without a logic to connect them. We therefore need a method to analyse the logical form of religious and ideological explanations. With a bit of practice we can learn to analyse the explanatory models offered, by a believer in any religion or ideology (Chapter 2). We can then attempt to classify a sampling of faith explanations from various religions and ideologies (Chapter 3). So far the method is strictly descriptive, and it seems to land us in total relativism. Is there any way to attain certainty that our faith commitment is properly founded?

 As we go deeper we find that the explanatory models we identified tend to group themselves into families. And typical families of explanation connect themselves with a particular set of scriptures and the denominations that use them. Here we use the word denomination not only for a grouping among Christians but for similar groupings in every major religion and ideology (Chapter 4).

 From this point onwards we will be narrowing our focus to illustrate our method from the grouping of Christian denominations around the Bible And the next step is to see how our own very personal spiritual experience, and the explanation we give of the way of salvation, new birth, and baptism relates to that of others who use the same scriptures (Chapter 5). We are then ready to evaluate the moral implications of the model we use to explain our own Christian commitment and our experience of it in practice. When it comes to moral implications we will see that relativism has no place. That should not surprise us if God has designed us to be moral beings (Chapter 6).

 By then readers will be asking the author to get off his academic fence and declare his own commitment. That gives an opportunity to test out our conclusions (Chapter 7). And that finally suggests a method of creative dialogue with others with a view to sharing our own good news (Chapter 8).

 The four appendices on Ideology, Models, Certainty, and Panentheism locate this introduction within the wider disciplines of the Philosophy of Religion, Model Theology, Philosophy, and Comparative Religion.

 This is however not a book of comparative religion, though some of the examples that I give will be from other religions. I refer mainly to differences that I know well among Christians. And most of the footnotes will give references to the Bible which I read every day. I hope that those of other religions will forgive this limitation, and perhaps find use for this little book by translating it into an evaluation of their own faith.


This book is an exploration of the method of model theology proposed in Clark H. Pinnock and Robert C. Brow, Unbounded Love: A Good News Theology for the 21st Century, Downers Grove, Illinois 60515: InterVarsity Press & Carlisle, Cumbria, UK CA3 0QS.

Chapter 1...