Do all Religions Have the Same Heavenly Father?

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“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.

Read John Sanidopoulos’ review of Fr. Emmanuel’s book, Jesus: Fallen: The Human Nature of Christ Examined from an Eastern Orthodox Perspective HERE.

Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis

Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis

Fr. Emmanuel is founder of Orthodox Witness and is the author of "The Heavenly Banquet: Understanding the Divine Liturgy" and "Jesus: Fallen? The Human Nature of Christ Examined from an Eastern Orthodox Perspective."
Article graphics by Anthony Hatzidakis, Over the Rooftops editor.
Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis

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Discussion — 9 Responses

  • Oksana Ensslen November 11, 2014 on 2:38 pm

    I cannot agree with this statement. God is God, is the Holy Sprit ( which is everywhere and of whom all things are made), and is the Son, our lord Jesus Christ. The name we use is completely secondary to our understanding and worship. We are all as children of this awesome, unknowable, immeasurable being. Our earthly understanding is only of value to us. We are blessed in having a connection to the divine. Our reliance on books, ritual and all other things are of no immeasurable significance to the divine and we need to accept our limited state. To deny that other traditions are not also attempts to gain grace and understanding is to my thinking presumptuous. Let us praise the Lord,our God, with our hearts, our souls and our lives. Let us not prevent the little children from coming to him

    • Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis Oksana Ensslen December 27, 2014 on 9:40 am

      Dear Oksana, in disagreeing it would be nice to put forth your reasons and state your arguments. But you put forward none, other than sweeping the Christian faith to the side. It’s your choice to follow or not to follow Christ. We Christians trust in Him.

      God has only one Son, one Child. This Son became a human being. By doing so He gave the opportunity to all those who share His humanity to be united in Him, and in becoming one with Him become God’s children.

      All of us are called to become God’s children. His children, however, become only those who accept Him, are baptized in Him, believe in Him, and live His life.

      Being born as a human does not make you a child of God; it makes you a creation of God. In order to become His child you must be reborn, i.e. receive the baptism of water and the Spirit (see John 3:5). “For all who are led by the Spirit of God [the Spirit of Christ] are sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). Still, one more thing is required: “…we are children of God…provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him” (Rom. 8:17).

      Yes, we are all children of God, but through faith in Jesus Christ: “In Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:26-21).

      You, dear Oksana, choose to directly oppose these words when you say that relying on books (like the holy scripture) and ritual (like baptism) and other things (like faith and tradition) are insignificant. They may be to you. But to me, and to all Christians, are not.

      We become children of God through adoption (see Gal. 4:5), only through faith in Jesus Christ, not through birth. In this life “we wait for adoption as sons” (Rom. 8:23).

    • Justina Oksana Ensslen April 26, 2015 on 3:58 am

      ” the Holy Sprit ( which is everywhere and of whom all things are made),” aside from anything else this right off the bat is serious error. you are saying “of whom all things are made” as if any creature is of same substance as God. This is wrong. This is pantheism. This is not what is said in the prayer, it says “Who is everywhere present and fillest [or sustainest, maintains] all things.”
      There is nothing in Orthodoxy that promotes the idea that anything was made out of God, God made all out of nothing by His Word, by His divine fiat ‘let it be so” let there be light, let the dry land arise out of the water, let the earth bring forth plants, etc. etc.

      that another tradition might be an ATTEMPT to gain grace is not the issue. The point is, do they succeed at all?

    • Justina Oksana Ensslen June 9, 2015 on 2:22 am

      “To deny that other traditions are not also attempts to gain grace and understanding ” the operative word there is ATTEMPTS. you
      can attempt to do something and not accomplish it. especially if you
      use the wrong approach or wrong tools, or think that the road you
      are on leads to the top of Mt. Everest when it is a dead end and it is
      another trail that leads to the top (I think there is something like this.)

  • Nikola November 30, 2014 on 7:58 pm

    Oksana, I respectfully disagree with your views. Firstly Nicene Creed states ” And in One Lord Jesus Christ…through Whom all things are made”. Secondly the name of God is absolutely of PRIME importance, as God, our Heavenly Father has revealed certain things to us. God has revealed (Himself) to us, Jesus Christ, the Son of God “Who is one with the Father” and “Who is full of Grace and Holy Spirit” He is our God Incarnate in Whom ONLY we Orthodox Christians believe. I wholeheartedly, for what is worth, agree with Fr. Emmanuel and his assessment on Patriarch Bartholomew’s interview.

  • Nicholas Pantelopoulos December 4, 2014 on 11:21 am

    To be precise, from an Orthodox perspective, we must agree that all beings have the same origin or cause or Creator. Ultimately, this is what is meant. The Patriarch is certainly not ignorant of the fact that each religion has its own human definition or view of God. These individual views of course are sometimes contradictory and even entirely opposed. Also, some of this understanding is based on a low level “Divine revelation”, which early apologists referred to as seminal cause (σπερματικός λόγος), some is purely based on philosophical speculation, some is culturally and linguistically influenced, and some finally is purely imaginary. There is always some overlap and influence. The Orthodox view is based on the experience (revelation) of the prophets and the Saints, and of above all the spoken word of the Son and Logos of God, Jesus Christ. I think that the Patriarch’s statement on religions have the same Heavenly Father is clearly what he means. When the Church encounters the faiths of other people, the first is to establish rapport, by saying that we Christians believe that all human beings have the same Heavenly Father or Creator. We can then become more specific depending on the level of receptiveness. We can only speak in a manner that we are understood. If we are called or challenged to witness our faith, only then things are different. We have to make the distinction between giving witness (martyria), and kerygma. They are not the same. As Christ said the apostles, do not disperse the pearls so that they can be trampled upon by human senselessness. This was the practice of early Christians, in a hostile world.

  • Caj Ilotuuli July 7, 2015 on 5:03 pm

    Thank You Fr Emmanuel !
    What are the other Patriarch’s saying ?
    So far I understand this words from Patriarch Bartholomew is an heresy .

  • TED PERANTINIDES December 9, 2015 on 1:39 pm


    • Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis TED PERANTINIDES March 29, 2016 on 8:43 pm

      Dear Ted,

      Yours is a version of viewing Christ and the religion He founded as one of the ways to reach God. What you say is that Christians have an advantage over the followers of other religions, who will also reach the same destiny—only with some delay and after a greater effort.

      We are not at liberty to change His words: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by Me.” (John 14:6) He didn’t say, I am one of the ways, or even, I am the fastest and easiest way. He speaks in an exclusive way, namely that He is the only One through whom we can reach God. This is how He was preached by one of His followers: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

      We should not miss the weight of Christ’s words, “I am the way.” He didn’t say I will teach you or I will show you the way, or, I will show you the best way; or even the only way. It could be argued that other religions basically teach “the same thing.” That’s not the point. Even if this were factual, it is not the content of Christ’s teachings that allow us to reach God, or even practicing what Christ taught, to the fullest possible. If that were the case, Christ would only be viewed as a great teacher, even the greatest—but that’s not good enough.

      The weight of Christ’s incredible words is: I, as a Person, as the incarnate Son of God, constitute the Bridge that unites humanity with divinity, since only I am both human and divine. Therefore only those who are united with Me can reach theosis, union with God. That’s why He also said, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters. (Mt. 12:30)

      We need to understand something else. I have used the expression “to reach God,” as the Lord Himself used the expression “to come to the Father.” What do we understand by these expressions? In the previous paragraph I used the words “unite” and “union.” Christ unites us with God. What does it mean to unite with God? How do we achieve this union?

      By all these expressions we mean the same thing with what we call “salvation” or what we mean when we say that we are “saved.” Says prophet Hosea (13:14, LXX): “I will deliver them out of the hand of Hades, and I will redeem them from death.” This is what salvation is: deliverance from death. And the Apostle Paul, following Hosea declares: “O death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” (see 1 Cor. 15:55) We also hear this last verse in the Catechetical Homily of St. John Chrysostom. Death was vanquished with Christ’s resurrection from the dead, thus “granting us life,” as we chant in the Dismissal hymn of Pascha: “Christ has risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and granting life to those in the tombs.”

      Without Christ we are dust, and to dust we shall return (see Gen. 3:19). With Him we have life, because He is also Life (see John 14:6), our very life (cf. Col. 3:4), and whoever is united with Him has His Abundant (eternal) Life (cf. John 10:10). Of course, with our faith in Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity, our love for God and for our fellow human being is also needed. But our love alone together with all the good works, will not secure immortality for us—without Christ. With Christ our love and our works count. Not only they count, they are necessary. That’s how we show that we are like our heavenly Father Who is Love (see 1 John 4:8), and become His children by grace and participants of His glory (cf. Rom. 8:17, 1 Pet. 4:13, 2 Cor. 3:18).