I started Paul F. Knitter's No Other Name? A Critical Survey of Christian Attitudes Toward the World Religions. In my latest reading, Knitter discussed the thought of Ernst Troeltsch, a theologian who highlighted the dynamic nature of history.
guess my question is this: Is there truth, even though there are a lot
of religions and cultures out there, and even though we are all part of
an in-flux historical process in which people and ideas change? I'd say that, on a certain level, the answer is yes. Or let me rephrase that: I
don't think that the existence of different religions and cultures and
the dynamic nature of history necessarily mean that there is no truth.
There can be one right religion, while others make incorrect claims.
Other cultures may do things that we in twenty-first century America
judge to be wrong: I think of widows in India immolating themselves.
And there are things that were done in history that many of us in
twenty-first century America deem to be immoral, such as the Holocaust,
the unjust treatment of Native Americans, etc. Do we seriously
want to rob ourselves of the right to make those kinds of moral
judgments? If not, then we have to admit that there is a truth that
transcends religions, cultures, and historical contexts.
Troeltsch agree with me on this? To be honest, after reading Knitter,
I'm not entirely sure. On the one hand, Troeltsch was somewhat of a
relativist, who thought that Hinduism was right for Hindus and
Christianity was right for Christians. At first, he tried to argue that
Christianity was superior to a number of other religions----because it
had a personal God, for example----but he backed away from that. On
the other hand, Troeltsch believed that there was some divine
revelation to humanity, and that God was somehow "immanent...within our
very being" (Knitter's words on page 25). That's why we see in most
cultures a desire to search for more, to need, and to love.
say there's a truth. But do I equate that truth with the Bible or
Christianity? I have issues with taking that step because the Bible
itself appears to reflect its culture, in a number of cases, and in
doing so it sometimes offends our moral sensibilities. We see in the
Bible that slavery is condoned (Leviticus 25), and that women in the
Torah are regarded as second-class citizens (Numbers 30). Even a number
of conservative Christians would say that these ideas are not normative
for today but reflect the times when they were written down. In making
that claim, they move somewhat in the direction of Troeltsch, who
highlighted that people and cultures change throughout history.
is truth, then? I'd say that it includes our twenty-first century
moral sensibilities----at least those in the U.S., and perhaps
elsewhere. Does that sound rather imperialist? And why should I assume
that my culture is superior? Well, maybe there are areas in which my
culture is wrong----our individualism and materialism arguably go too
far, for example. But do we really want to get to the point where we
can't say that widows immolating themselves in India is wrong?
I can say that history is in flux, and yet God is somehow involved in
it, leading people to what is right. Yes, there is morality throughout
the world, and throughout history. Yes, people desire something more,
and they want to love. I guess my question then would be this:
Why hasn't God revealed more in the past? Why could people treat others
as second-class citizens, without even a second thought? Or maybe,
deep within some elements of humanity, there were second thoughts about
the bad things that were going on, and that was a reflection of the
image of God.
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