Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Can there be one way to God?

Sorry y'all.. you're getting two angry long posts right in a row. my last one was pretty firey and this one i fear is even worse. i never said that i would be happy ALL the time now did i? and seminary is hard and it makes my brain explode with ideas. i have trouble getting to sleep with all the thoughts my three brain cells are volley'n back and forth like some sad three way tennis match. but here it is in all it's glory! with lots of help in phrasing from a great book called The Phoenix Affirmations by Eric Elnes. it's a GREAT book and i've used most of what i remember about it here to help phrase the argument and terms...

I'm tired of being a "Christian But". Notice there is only one T in BUT. A "Christian But" is someone who says "I'm a Christian, BUT i belive homosexuals aren't evil, women are equal to men, i'm concerned with social justiceand global issues, (and the big one for me) i don't think that people who believe different from me are going to hell."

My idea is that there HAS to be more than one way to God. If God was so simple to have only one path to God, then this is a simple, black and white, and ultimately small god. This type of god is not one i'm willing to follow. To me, God is BIG! God made the earth and heavens and everything in it. God made every cell in my body as well as the stuff on Saturn or Pluto. God is universal. My belief in this is simple... it's commonly refered to as the MOUNTAIN VIEW of God. Here's the metaphor:

The major world religions are like hikers climbing up different sides of a mountain. Each tradition has discovered a unique route for reaching the top. In the case of Christianity and others, they have found a new route off of another established way up the mountain. Now while these hikers are climbing, they cannot necessarily see one another. individuals within the climbing parties may not even be aware that others are ascending the mountain. They think they alone are making the ascent. Yet when they reach the top, the climbers are surprised to find one another. Each party has reached the same goal by a different route. Here is where my deontology kicks in and says that all ethical routes reach the same moral end! the top of the mountain! all unethical routes cannot then reach the top (teleogy).

now people will try to accuse me of religious relativism. as stated in an article by a conservative columbus mega-church,
"Religious relativism is the belief that all religions are simply different perceptions of the same ultimate reality, or 'Many faiths are but different paths leading to one reality, God.' (DIFFERENT MOUNTAIN ROADS WHICH ALL LEAD TO SUMMIT)." this is found at www.xenos.org/teachings/topical/objections/oneway.htm

i really can't stand this. sure i have a bit of relativism in me... Einstein's theory of relativity generalises Galileo's principle of relativity — that all uniform motion was relative, and that there is no absolute and well-defined state of rest (no privileged reference frames) — from mechanics to all the laws of physics, including electrodynamics. To stress this point, Einstein not only widened the postulate of relativity, but added the second postulate that all observers will always measure the speed of light to be the same no matter what their state of uniform linear motion.

Okay.. even if you didn't get any of that, what it states is that where you are affects how you see things, HOWEVER, there is a truth or a constant by which to measure by. So i guess i could say that i'm a Religious Relativist through the school of Einstein. my constant then would be God.

the xenos website states: "The former (and biblical) definition of 'tolerance' made a distinction between people and their religious beliefs. It meant that people should have the legal freedom to practice the religion of their choice, and that you should personally respect and love them, even if you conclude that their beliefs are false. Today's 'tolerance' has removed the distinction between persons and their beliefs. It means that you must never call others' beliefs false or untrue, or you are an arrogant, intolerant bigot...No engineer says '8 + 32 = 40 or 8 + 32 = 53. Both answers are fine with me.' Would you want to trust a bridge this engineer built?"

I love this because it's a complete logical fallacy. they talk about what relativism is but then use strawmen and red herring tactics to defeat relativism without dealing directly, but that is another topic i could spend most of my life destroying. but let's keep to task here! A bigot, by its very definition, is a prejudiced person who is intolerant of opinions, lifestyles, or identities differing from his or her own. So yes, if you think someone else is untrue or wrong, then you are a bigot. Now you may see the double-speak here of "bigots are wrong because they call others wrong." Let me then add if one does not prove it logically invalid, then yes, a person is a bigot.

the website goes on to prove relativism is ignorant of logic by stating this funny math problem... i certainly would say that an answer is right and one is wrong due to the logic of mathematics.. now if we were talking about another situation, then i would have to look at the findings. what's the difference? well, in mathematics 1+1 is always 2. In other situations, say having a family, 1+1=3. or sometimes 1+1=2 or 3, and even 6! Depends on how many babies those two people produce, this is a question of genetics and fitness. and in Jesus' birth, these same people that shoot down relativism state that 0+1=2! seems like these people are selectively relative themselves.

now let's get on to the main bigoted statement against other faiths other than Christian from the website: "Therefore, the 'DIFFERENT MOUNTAIN ROADS WHICH ALL LEAD TO SUMMIT' analogy is simply untrue. The roads are on different mountains, they lead in fundamentally different directions and they end on completely different summits!"

last time i checked, Christianity was a monotheistic religion. meaning there is ONE God. Some people would state that there is just ONE TRUE GOD, the others are just idols. i would argue no, this argument by its very nature is polytheistic. it doesn't take into effect the gods that came before the Jewish god was ever thought of. so are those ideas of God wrong? No, our idea of God has evolved over time, due to our location and technology at hand. By this same argument, we then would still be on the losing side of the argument as our Christian God is actually the Jewish God in three parts. So who's right here? The Jewish one god of Yahweh, or the Chrisitian three-in-one God revealed through Jesus?

Could it be that God may allow for different routes, each with its own integrity? A Hindu may find a way to the top through withdrawl from the world, while a Christian may find it through immersion into the world on behalf of justice. Wouldn't God be in both places, if God is everywhere and created everything? Now a pure relativist will state "they're all just saying the same things. they're really no different." well no, they are REALLY different! The routes up the mountain engage different terrain, with different obstacles and challenges, different vistas, and different places of rest.

This illustates the fact that God's plan for the world is larger than our human minds can comprehend. Despite significant differences of approach to God, we are all included in God's love, which exceeds beyond our wildest imagination. Jesus states this in the bible as well.

JOHN 10:4-16 "I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd."

Some believe this is for the conversion of other faiths to Christianity... but let's look at what Jesus is and is not saying. He refers to other adherents of other faiths (other sheep...) who ALREADY belong to him (I have...) and therefore when he calls them they will listen. Jesus isn't calling for these sheep to change shepherds, he is trying to get us to recognize that the human family is one flock, with one shepherd. What he is NOT saying is "different strokes for different folks" nor is he saying "anyone can worship the god of one's choice, it's all good, no matter what." Which faiths? They aren't identified. We may surmise that faiths that truly follow the ONE Shephred actively promote the love of God, neighbor, and self as Jesus did. Jesus also states that people shouldn't worry about what path others are on. He demonstrates time and time again throughout the Gospels for his disciples to concentrate on walking their own path and offering hospitality to those they meet on along the way... the Good Samaritan parable is the core here. Who is my neighbor? EVERYONE!

So given this, it is naive for a practitioner of any faith to claim that theirs is the only "true" path. Religions do this to garner power over those too fearful to think in this way. Now there is a difference between BEST path for a person to take, so long as this claim is on an individual level. i would hope that these travelers up the mountain investigated other paths before choosing to climb.. there's no shame in this.

Can we claim which paths are rabbit trails or authentic? A quick test is to look at the measure of love of God, neighbor or self. But how could we really with any integrity? It would be like a climber speaking with authority about paths on the other side of the mountain that he has never been on. The climber may read about these paths in books... or have talked to another climber on the other side. This then, would prove to the climber that all paths seem to be heading to the same place. But any serious climber knows that only those who have climbed the path can speak with authority about where it leads and how it gets there. once again, to say that there are "other mountains" is a poly-mountain idea.. i'm only talking in a mono-mountain context.

If people of other faiths want to swap faithful stories of their path and journey up the mountain, then great! In fact, i get a better handle on my faith when i hear these stories. If people of other faiths with whom we are in dialogue decide to convert to our path as a result of this sharing, fine! However, conversion is not the ultimate purpose here of interfaith dialogue. Sharing the joy and wisdom gleaned from our climbing experience is.

Happy Climbing!

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