PURPOSE OF WORLD SCRIPTURE
World Scripture gathers passages from the scriptures of the various religious traditions around certain topics. Often these scriptural passages support a common theme; sometimes they illuminate several contrasting positions on the topic. This method of organization allows each topic to be addressed with the resources of many different traditions, often providing a broader and deeper understanding of the topic than would be possible from the resources of a single tradition. Each religion has much value to contribute to humankind's understanding of truth, which transcends any particular expression.
All religions do not teach the same message. The contributors have provided passages which fairly represent the main thrust of each religion's teachings. However, since the tenets of each religion are taken out of their ordinary frame of reference, there is always the danger that they might be misinterpreted. Therefore, it would be a mistake to read World Scripture as though it were proclaiming a monolithic, universal teaching of all religions. Rather, the similarities and common themes highlighted in this anthology should be viewed against each religion's distinctive message. The reader is cautioned: until one takes the first step of understanding each religion in its own distinctiveness, its contribution to the unity of religions is likely to be misinterpreted. Many would also suggest that to truly understand another religion, one should first be deeply committed to one's own faith and its traditions.
Granting the integrity of each religion, it is significant for the believer of one faith to find in other faiths common teachings and common attitudes towards life, death, and ultimate ends. First, there is the discovery that the transcendent Reality that is the ground of life in one's own faith is also grounding the spiritual life of people whose faith stems from different revelations, different revealers. This confirms and testifies to the oneness of God, the Ultimate Reality, who appears in different guises from age to age and culture to culture. Second, the discovery that people of other faiths are leading spiritual lives similar to one's own can promote tolerance of, and respect for, other faiths. By understanding one another's religions in depth and with empathy, people can find peaceful solutions to disputes which might otherwise degenerate into dangerous conflict. Third, the teachings of another tradition may spark new insights into similar issues in one's own life of faith. Indeed, if each religion is but a witness to the Truth that transcends its particular expression, then all of them should contribute valuable insights to our understanding of any question. Fourth, humankind needs to rediscover the spiritual foundations of values in order to overcome the sterile, materialist outlooks and philosophies of our day. Despite both the common moral values and the traditional spiritual wisdom found in all religions, persistent squabbles among religions have served to discredit them, making universal values appear to be relative and sectarian. The foundation of a pluralistic society--its cultural expressions, legal system, and public schools--requires values that are grounded in the universal experience of humankind, not just in the doctrines of one faith. Necessary to this foundation is testimony to the universality of religious values such as found herein. Finally, a World Scripture can support a world theology and guide us toward a unity of the world's peoples that is grounded in God.