OCCA – World Religions Day

I recently had the privilege of travelling back to Oxford to participate in the “World Religions Day” at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (The OCCA), which was a day-long conference about how Christians can relate-to and engage-with people from different faith traditions. Between the online audience and those in the room, there were about 7-80 people booked in, – a good sized, and engaged audience.

As people who follow Solas would expect, I had been asked to deliver the sessions on Islam – about which I have been thinking and writing for many years. We looked at how to understand Islam and Muslims; especially focussing on the questions that many Muslims have about the Christian faith and how to answer them helpfully.

I also shared a lot of material from my book, “Do Christians and Muslims Worship The Same God?” I address that topic quite regularly because it a subject around which there seems to be some confusion; especially when Christians chat to Muslim neighbours, friends and colleagues. The problem is that similarities of language can sometimes mask differences of substance. The most obvious example is that Christians and Muslims will both happily affirm that “We believe in only one God”. That sounds like the basis for widespread agreement; until you ask the question; “What do mean by the word, “God”?” The natural assumption is that we all mean the same thing when we employ the same word

A left-wing Marxist and a right wing capitalist might both say, “I am passionate about politics” – but if you were to probe beneath those sentences and find out what they are passionate about; they would be very different things! They believe different things behind the same form of words. So it is with theology, our Muslim friends understand quite different things about the word “god” than we do. So it can be quite helpful in these conversations with these friends to (at least in the back of our minds) be aware that there are differences, and to be aware of them.

There was also a session from another friend of Solas, Rahil Patel, who was on our podcast recently. Rahil is a former Hindu priest – not just a Hindu believer but one who ascended to their priesthood for over twenty years. Then a little over over fifteen- years ago Rahil had quite a dramatic conversion to Christian faith. So he shared about how to understand and communicate with our Hindu friends and colleagues which was tremendously insightful.

Tom Price from The OCCA then talked to everyone about The New Age – and other contemporary spiritualities and how we engage with those. They are, of course, everywhere – and Christians are not always aware of them in the way they are say with traditional religions. Yet – we are surrounded by spiritualities which are sometimes devoid of definite or coherent content. Tom did a really good job at looking at how we engage or connect, challenge and build bridges with people, beginning where they are and offering them the true spirituality that is found in Christ.

I love, as part of Solas, to work in partnership with other organisations. We’ve known lots of the people at the OCCA for a long time, and they are going through something of a re-launch at the moment, so it was good to be working alongside them at an important time.

The OCCA – The Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics, hold regular events like this, and details of future events are posted here.