There was once an ancient ring

There was once an ancient ring which had the power to bestow upon its owner the gift of being loved by God and man. This was passed on down many generations until it came into the possession of a father who had three sons equally dear to him. To resolve the dilemma, he had two replicas made and gave a ring to each son. After his death all three claimed to possess the true ring. But as with religion, the original cannot be traced. Historical investigation is of no avail. But a wise judge counsels each son to behave as if he had the true ring and prove it by deeds of love. Thus in the end it will not matter who had the original. The three sons represent Judaism, Chrisianity and Islam. One day they will transcend themselves and become united in a uinversal religion of love.

in Colin Brown, Philosophy and the Christian Faith, p.89, from Lessing’s Theological Writings (trans. H. Chadwick, p.55) – parable from Nathan the Wise, Act 3, Scene 7

But Lessing makes the assumption that religions are all about the same thing (deeds of love) and that they all equally possess the power to reconcile man to God (or if not that doesn’t matter). Brown also points out that this parable avoids all historical questions as if they are of no importance. see Brown, ibid., p.90. Lessing ignores the real peril that all men face if they are wrong at about the person of Jesus:

“I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins,” Jesus, ( John 8.24)

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