Most of us have heard the story about the blind men and the elephant. I heard it in a world religion class in 1978, my first year of college. The story is most often told in the context of the world religions. And, the story is most often told as an allegory suggesting that all religions are really getting at the same thing (the elephant).
If you haven’t heard the story, I will re-tell it. If you have heard the story, please bear with me because telling the story with its original conclusion is an important exercise in understanding the message.
If your antennae are up, you might have caught the hint that this story, with the original conclusion, has a twist. The story usually isn’t told with the original conclusion, so the point of the original conclusion is often “lost in the translation”. And, the original conclusion leads to a very different point than the commonly asserted message.
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.
Some of the great breakthrough realizations in human history are that the earth is not flat, that the earth is round and rotating, that the Sun does not revolve around the earth, that the Earth revolves around the Sun, and the earth along with other round bodies in space rotate around each other kept in correlation with each other by gravitational pull. These realities are different than the appearances.
We appear to be standing on a stationary earth that, for all we can see, is flat. The Sun appears to rise, cross the sky and set every day. It is no great leap to understand that the sun might move around the earth, though the perception of a flat earth persisted into modern times. The moon seems to move around the earth in the same way the sun seems to move around the earth, but one does move around the earth and the other doesn’t.
Although we have known the realities for centuries, we still talk in terms of the appearances. We talk about the Sun rising and setting. We describe the phenomena as sunrise and sunset. Someone unfamiliar with our colloquialisms might hear us speak and think that we are ignorant of the truth.
The appearances have a strong hold on us. So strong that they persist in our language and how we describe things on a day to day basis. Those appearances stubbornly refuse to leave our everyday speaking patterns.
This headline reads, Fiorina Was right. The article, then, goes into details regarding how Carly Fiorina, the rising GOP star, was right about the Planned Parenthood videos. The sanguine point is not that Carly Fiorina is right about those videos, but that so many people can be so wrong.
Yes, I said it, wrong! I know it is not poplar to believe in right and wrong, but morality never won a popularity contest. Morality often goes against the popular culture.
I heard some pundit say that the Planned Parenthood videos are “heavily edited” and that Planned Parenthood does none of the things they are accused of doing in those videos. Seriously?
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”→
“Truth ain’t something you can just out run.” (A line from the song, Truth, by Steven Moakler) I was mulling over the title to this piece when the song, Truth, came on Spotify as I was listening to a playlist. Sometimes “life” happens like that, so I am running with it.
It certainly seems trite to speak of truth, especially when we speak of Truth with a capital “T”. How often do we think of Truth? Does Truth matter?
Truth (small “t”) is certainly something that we want to depend on in our everyday lives. Courts of law are designed to get at it. We seem to have a hard time finding it. “He said, she said” is the story we often hear, and it is hard to know what the truth really is, even in our everyday lives. Continue reading “Does Truth Matter?”→
Believers and unbelievers alike make mistakes in reading the Bible. People rely on certain passages and certain viewpoints to the exclusion of others. People miss the forest for the trees, as they say.
Within the “Church”, the number of denominations is partially a result of different emphases on different aspects of God, the Bible and other things. When this proclivity tends to the extreme, it results in things like witch hunts and cults. Many of the dark periods of church history are, in part, examples of an inflexible adherence to specific certain truths, doctrinal, political or other views of Christianity to the exclusion of others.