Do all Religions Have the Same Heavenly Father?
“WE ARE ALL BROTHERS AND SISTERS” Are we? First in Jerusalem (May 27, 2014), and more recently in Rome (June 8, 2014), Patriarch Bartholomew hammers the message of universal brotherhood with intra-Christian and interfaith prayer services (which according to the canons of the Orthodox Church are prohibited) and with statements and declarations to that effect.
Back on Nov. 2, 2009 in an interview Patriarch Bartholomew had given to Charlie Rose (view the video below) he had stated: “We are all created by God and as such we are all brothers and sisters. We have the same heavenly Father, whatever we call him.” Charlie interrupted the Patriarch: “All religions have the same heavenly Father?” “Of course,” was the Patriarch’s reply, adding: “God is but one, independently of the name we give him, Allah or Yahweh, and so on. God is one and we are his children.”
Although the two statements (everyone believes in the same God; and, we are all his children) appear to be self-proclaimed truths, for us Orthodox Christians (and to me, as I understand my faith), they are erroneous, outrageous and totally unacceptable. If the Patriarch is correct what meaning do the words, “Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no Savior” (Is. 43:10b-11)? What is he thinking of when he recites the following words in the divine Liturgy (our main worship service): “You are our God, beside You we know of no other [God]” and in the final benediction of the same service, “May Christ our true God… save us…”?
No. It’s not a matter of a name (God, Allah, Jehovah, Buddha, Supreme Being, the Power), so that it doesn’t matter what we call Him, as long as we call upon Him. No. Not so! Our God is Christ: “This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:20-21). Outside of Christ every other “god” is an idol.
As far as all of us being children of God, clearly we are all God’s creation, but not His offspring. Our heavenly Father has only one Child: Jesus Christ. However, we all have the potentiality to become His children (by adoption): “To all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12). Therefore, unless we belong to Christ’s family (cf. Heb. 3:6), the Church, we are not His children.
In the early Church the Lord’s Prayer was not revealed to the Catechumens until immediately before their baptism, because no one that was not baptized could presume to say, “our Father who art in heaven,” not having yet received the gift of adoption. The Lord’s Prayer is introduced in the Divine Liturgy with the words, “and make us worthy, Master, with boldness and without fear of condemnation, to dare call You, the heavenly God, Father, and to say, ‘Our Father…’” Only those who have been united with Christ, God’s only Son, can call God “Father.”
Sorry, your All Holiness: this is the faith of the Orthodox Christian people, and one would expect our Patriarch to be a leader “who rightly teaches the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15), not one who betrays it.
Article graphics and editing: Tony Hatzidakis