Defender of Faith?
A Bit to Read
Defender of Faith?
Queen Elizabeth turned 80 earlier this year. Quite understandably, Prince Charles, heir to the throne, is doing some forward planning for the day he may become king. Last Monday’s National Post published Prince Charles’ plan: his coronation ceremony “will be a ‘multi-faith’ event, with prayers and readings from several religions, including Islam, Sikhism and Judaism.” Of course, when Elisabeth became queen more than 50 years ago, there was nothing ‘multi-faith’ in the ceremony at all; the only faith represented was Christianity. In fact, it’s been that way for centuries, with the English monarch even receiving the title of Defender of the Faith – and that’s, of course, the Christian faith.
But Charles doesn’t want that. He wants a multi-faith ceremony, and he wants to be known not as Defender of the Faith, but as Defender of Faith – whether it be Christianity or Islam or Sikhism or any other faith you care to mention.
To be honest, the prince’s wish is no surprise. I mean, Prince Charles is a child of his times, and is very aware of the enormous change that has washed over western society in the last 50 years. England, like Canada, used to be a distinctly Christian nation, founded upon and governed by Biblical principles. It was officially understood that in heaven was the living God who revealed Himself through His Word, and gave His only Son to pay for sin. Other faiths around the world were seen as false religions, man-made teachings about a god (or gods) people assumed lived in the heavens. That’s why over the centuries the western world did much mission work; those who lived in the darkness of false religion had to come to know the only true God – for their own salvation’s sake and the greater glory of the Living God.
All of that has changed dramatically in the last few decades. All religions are now seen as equally true, and no one religion is more correct than another. Indeed, every religion is now considered a variation on the same theme, wherein one acknowledges that there is a God (or Gods) and you worship him (or her) in your manner while I do it in my manner. So a Christian ought not to fault a Hindu for his beliefs, not ought a Hindu to fault a Christian, for who’s to say that the one is right or better than the other…. It all results in an Inter-Faith dialogue – like the Pope is doing with the Muslims. Perhaps through dialogue we can understand each other better, respect each other more, and maybe even see our respective faiths evolve to a better hybrid that we all can embrace….
That Prince Charles, then, wants to be known as the “Defender of Faith” when he becomes king (and not as Defender of the Faith) is perfectly predictable. To be “Defender of the Faith” (and that’s the Christian faith) sounds so haughty, so arrogant, so self-righteous. No, it’s not so surprising.
But it’s not right. To say that all religions are equal is to assume a couple of things. The first is that heaven in actual fact is empty; there is no living God who created the world and governs it today, nor who gave His Word to tell us about Himself and how we are to live before Him. This is a position that everyone who embraces evolution must ultimately take. The second assumption is that everyone who thinks there is a God (or gods) in heaven has embraced a man-made religion; his God (or Gods) only really exist in his own imagination (and that of his co-religionists). With these assumptions (and they’re widely accepted in the western world) it indeed follows that all religions are equal, and none ought to insist on being more correct than another.
But the assumptions are wrong. Heaven is not empty. In heaven is the living God, high and exalted, the Creator of heaven and earth. This God is too awesome, too majestic for a finite human mind to comprehend, but that takes nothing away from His reality. This God has revealed Himself in His Word, and has shown us what is right and what is wrong. He has told us of human depravity, told us too of the devil and his demons who ceaselessly try to deceive people and make them believe a lie. The living God has revealed that over the years many who knew of God have twisted God’s revelation so that they dare to serve Him in their own self-chosen manner, and eventually change their understanding of who God is so much that He receives another name: Baal, or Allah, or the Great Spirit.
Then people can proclaim loudly that heaven is empty, and that gods don’t exist except in the minds of their worshipers. But proclaiming it (loudly or not) doesn’t make it true – no more than my insistence that there’s green cheese on the far side of Mars makes it true. God Himself, though, has spoken, and told us about Himself and what He has done and continues to do. By speaking and acting He shows He is real, is the living God. His reality does not depend on whether I admit He exists.
Are all religions equal? Definitely not. Only the religion that takes seriously the existence of God, and strives to serve Him according to His Word, is true. That religion needs to be defended! No, I do not say that other religions are to be oppressed, their adherents forcibly converted to the truth. The law of the land –and therefore the king– needs to ensure equal protection for all faiths. But that’s a different matter than putting all faiths on a level.
Would that Prince Charles, king-in-waiting as he is, would acknowledge his place under the King. Then he would, with boldness and humility, use his throne to defend the Faith. For then he’d take God for real.
29 September 2006