It should be no surprise, if there be such thing as truth, that people all over the world would have some knowledge and understanding of the truth. Thus, we should not be surprised at all to find aspects of truth in all the world religions.
One expression of pluralism is the idea that all truth claims are equally valid. (Pluralism doesn’t necessarily require this.) So does that include the truth claim that all truth claims are not equally valid? Think about it. This expression of pluralism that is quite popular today is already in trouble right from the start.
Religious pluralism is “the acceptance of all religious paths as equally valid, promoting coexistence”.
Religious pluralism sounds nice, and the motives for wanting to believe in religious pluralism are largely nobles ones. The idea of religious pluralism is born out of a desire for unity, respect for others and harmony, but can we live by it?
That we want religious pluralism to be true doesn’t mean it is true. We would like for gravity not to be “true”, especially while climbing a ladder, but wishing it so does not make it so.
My thoughts today are spurred on by a presentation by Vince Vitale on religious pluralism. You might want to listen to what he has to say about it before or after considering my thoughts.[i] He addresses several bad assumptions and several good desires that lead to pluralism. I only address two of the three assumptions here.
I didn’t want to read the NY Times article, What Religion Would Jesus Belong To, by Nicholas Kristof. Just as I suspected, the article lacked a deep understanding of Christianity. It lumps Christianity together with other religions of the world in a pluralistic mush. I don’t know the depth of the author’s understanding of Christianity, but it didn’t show in the article (though he claims a conservative Christian background).
Still, the article makes a good point… and I shouldn’t be so reluctant to admit it.
American churches don’t reflect “the Jesus we meet in the Gospels”. Never mind that the author’s proof is another NY Times article complaining of the Christians of the Republican Party. The author seems to equate Jesus with the current political and moral landscape, as if Jesus would condone it, as if the modern American church is the exact representation of Jesus. If the modern American church doesn’t accurately reflect the Jesus we meet in the Gospels, it isn’t a reflection on Jesus; it’s a reflection on the modern American church. Continue reading “The Jesus We Meet in the Gospels”→
it is more intellectually honest to acknowledge the different worldviews and social practices, including the resulting necessity that there is a choice to be made to determine which is more truthful than the others
I began my college career with a World Religions class that exposed me to the major world religions. My professor boasted a Christian upbringing and background, but he was more of a universalist than a Christian in his theology and philosophy. The class focused more on the religions other than Christianity than Christianity, partly, I suppose, because most people sitting in a World Religion class in a small liberal arts college in Iowa already were acclimated to Christianity.
Western Civilization was another class I took. Western civilization, not surprisingly, dominates and colors most of the history of American thought since the United States is predominantly an extension of Greek, Roman and western European philosophy and ideology. My Jewish religion professor put that in context for me one day in a class on the Old Testament when he asserted that Judaism has roots in Eastern religion and civilization. (I was a thesis away from being a religion major.)
I will not repeat the context or expand on the details of that proposition. I have forgotten most of the details anyway. The take away I want to chew on with this piece is that we make assumptions about religion and the world based on how we have been acculturated and “indoctrinated” by our culture. Listening to the perspectives of “others” provides us valuable, different perpectives, even on the things with which we are familiar (like Christianity).
The reconciliation of science and religion may seem unlikely to some. Though the Renaissance period grew alongside the Reformation, and advancements in science during that time were largely pioneered by men of faith, science began to deviate from faith during the Enlightenment period. I suppose that the divergence of science and faith that began in the Enlightenment period is somewhat like the Protestant movement separating from the Catholic Church.
As one grew alongside the other, however, and both having roots in the same soil, it is inevitable that separation cannot be complete or total.
To the chagrin of modern materialists, the connection cannot and will not be severed.
Many atheists would of course embrace the idea that science can falsify religious claims. However, if this is the case, then religion may fall within the purview of science. The claim that religion and science may overlap is a claim that atheists have fought vigorously in the courts to reject. The reason for this is that if science can falsify religious claims, then it is also conceivable that it can give evidence for the truth of religious claims.
It is also maintained that science deals only with the physical world as its subject matter. While this is a methodological statement, many believe that science only deals with the physical world because that is all that exists. However, this is not a statement of science; instead, it is a philosophical statement that can neither be verified through the senses nor falsified through reason. Alvin Plantinga, J.P. Moreland, and several other philosophers of science have written extensively on this understanding of science. The problem with this materialistic criterion is that it fails its own test. That is, definitions are not physical, concepts are not physical, and meaning is not physical, and these things are what the materialist uses to define science. Therefore, if definitions, concepts, and meaning exist, then not everything that exists is physical.
Of course one could believe that non-physical reality exists, but claim that science merely deals with the physical attributes of the world. That is all well and good, but would merely suggest that religion and science do not talk to each other. Yet, as shown above, one could clearly use science to show certain religious beliefs to be false. And, as I also mentioned earlier, if one can used scientific fields to disprove religious claims, science may also be used to justify the beliefs of many religious claims.
Most people are not comfortable with atheism. They believe (know?) there is something greater than us, a cosmic Being or some Divine Truth. They intuitively know that the universe did not form itself out of nothing. But many people are also not comfortable with the exclusivity of religious propositions, especially in this post modern, pluralistic world.
In my opinion, the statement that all religions are true is just doesn’t hold up. I say this having studied world religions in college.
There are some similarities among religions at the surface, and there are some shared principles, but the ultimate, fundamental propositions of the various religions are mutually exclusive of each other. Each of them has principals that are exclusive of other principals of other religions.
Most people who are realistic and honest (in y opinion) don’t attempt to say that all religions are true, in this ultimate sense, because it simply isn’t a tenable position, but that tension creates a dilemma. It makes us uncomfortable. Continue reading “The Exclusivity of Truth”→
Certain biblical passages and phrases are difficult to decipher. We tend to gloss over them when we do not understand them, or we focus in on them with a skeptic’s eye, depending on our inclinations. Sometimes those passages are illuminated for us from unusual sources.
Most people in American grew up with some connection to “the church” and to Christianity. Many, many people had just enough of a taste to reject it. I think that, when most people reject Christianity, they are rejecting the institution of the church.
People reject the principles they believe the church stands for and the hypocrisy they saw in the church. Indeed, I believe this because I was one of those people.
I have come to put that reality in perspective, however: the church, as most people perceive and know it, is a human institution. It is far from perfect. Every human frailty and weakness and shortcoming exists in the church – because people make up the church. That is the reality.
Further, the message that informs the church, the root and heart of it, the reason the church exists – the Gospel – is not always readily apparent in the church. Some churches are closer to the expression of it than others, but churches, generally fall short of the ideals of the Gospel.
I do not mean to point fingers at anyone or judge anyone. I think it is sufficient for purposes of what I am trying to say to assume that this is true to some degree or another in every church, even the best of them. I am going to say some things next that may make churchgoers upset, but bear with me.