Tuesday, May 18, 2010

World Religions Final

this paper was written this year but explores two old posts on the blog. the first being 

Can there be one way to God? and the second To Clarify the Mountain here is my updated take on it, posted over three days. please check back!

World Religions Final

 I am writing this paper on how I will use what I learned in the world religions class in my future ministry. I will have to get creative here as I have always planned on using world religions in my future ministry, specifically Buddhism. The purpose of this paper is to explore how my views of world religions have changed. This paper will be a conversation with my past-self, based on two blog posts I wrote at the beginning of seminary.

The blog post was written on 12/11/07 after reading about how Christianity is the best religion and how ONLY Christianity has the truth. It was written by the pastor of a mega-church my sister was attending. My sister asked me for my thoughts and I responded. It is a rather long post, so I will just hit the highlights in this paper and then see how I relate to it today, after taking my world religion’s class. I will then conclude by how I intend to use world religions in my future ministry.

The Mountain Metaphor 
The mega-church attacked the “mountain metaphor.” The metaphor states that 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 (Judaism) 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 as they may think they are making the ascent alone. 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. I added the caveat to the metaphor that each path adds its own boundaries which define the path, thus taking a deontological ethical view of the groups and stating that all unethical routes cannot reach the top.
The mega-church claimed that this was religious relativism and that not all paths were seeking the top nor defining the top in any way that could be widely agreed upon so, they concluded, it obviously meant that there are different mountains. It is the Christian mountain that is of the most importance as the other mountains were false or didn’t reach as high. I argued back on the basis of relativism is a scientific fact, but now I see the metaphor differently. I still view relativism as an important factor but that was not the basis I should have argued on. I should have argued on the basis of what the mountain represents. In my understanding, the mountain symbolizes earth. All of the different faiths are all on the same mountain and they must learn to get along or the mountain will quickly become an unhappy place. There is an assumption that there is only one mountain since if things were not going well, people could simply find another mountain to be on; one free of the group that troubles them. I would love to find a mountain free of religious fundamentalists; however, this is not the case. Seeing as all the hikers are on the same mountain it presupposes that there is only one context in that the metaphor can operate. We can’t go to another planet; we are forced to figure out how to peacefully coexist with other faiths.

The mega-church countered that the roads are on different mountains as they lead in fundamentally different directions and end on completely different summits. They went so far as to state the summits are different (false) gods. I found it ironic that a Christian church would try this route as this argument by its very nature is polytheistic. There is no accounting for anthropological and theological evolution and history. The argument doesn't take into effect agnostic or “atheistic” faiths like Buddhism or Taoism which do indeed have many deities, but no overarching “creator” of the ultimate. The church also didn’t take into account the gods that came before the Jewish God was ever thought of. By that 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 which somehow equal one.

I asked in the post as to whether God would allow for different routes, each with its own integrity. A Buddhist may find a way to the top through withdrawal 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? The church stated no, there can be only one right way, and that way is the “narrow way” of Jesus. I countered that the routes up the mountain engage different terrain, with different obstacles and challenges, different vistas, and different places of rest. This fact illustrates 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.

My view then and now accounts that God would only speak to people in a language that they would understand, using images pulled from their natural context. In that sense, God is relative. It would make no sense if Jesus came and talked about germ theory or the placebo effect while he was healing people as it would make no sense to them. He, taking the view that Jesus is indeed divine somehow, would have to talk about disease-as-demonic-possession as that is how people in the context understood disease. Maybe he did talk about germ theory and such but because the eye-witnesses had no idea what he was talking about and so it didn’t make it to the Gospels but that is my speculation.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Anybody beat the dog snot out of you lately??????? HA . HA . HA.

Luke said...

my mom's ex-boyfriend Al used to say that all the time. you don't happen to be him?

Anonymous said...

Luke , Iam so sorry if i upset you or anybody else. It was just a joke.I just wanted to see if you would remember how i joked with you and Val. So sorry!!!!!!!. Do you remember the stories i told you and Val when you were growing up? I would love to talk with you on phone your mom has #. If she ever talks to me agin.Sorry

Luke said...

AL! it is you! no need to apologize, i was just surprised because i do remember you saying that and i do remember the stories you told us... like freckles are caused by standing too close to a cow's butt while poop'n.

it's great you've found my site, and i'll give you a call in the near future. until then, you're more than welcomed here on the site and comment away! take care!

Sabio Lantz said...

(1) You modified mountain metaphor would imply that doctrines are not important. Yet you argued with Beowulf in the previous post a little like AB boy use to argue with you.

(2) In your metaphor, can someone create their own valid path or does one always have to go on paths worn by others?

Feeding the two questions above is my personal belief that what matters is deeper than doctrine or religious beliefs. Your mountain metaphor seems like it is going that way, but your other writings don't.

Luke said...

Doctrines are very important as they help articulate a community's approach to the divine. it describes the indescribable. where we err often times is taking a literal approach or saying that It is THIS DOCTRINE that is essential, and nothing else.

as for beowulf, it is outside of my knowledge and every source i've read from Origen to Ehrman stated "Marcion had it right with making up a canon, but that's about it." i can only speak to my experience, so i explained where i was coming from, he made his case, and i have to say i gotta go back and study some more. esp. from the POV of Marcionites.

"In your metaphor, can someone create their own valid path or does one always have to go on paths worn by others?"

i am weary of "backyard religion" as i do not see a whole lot of room for transformation, just bias reinforcement. Reinhold Neihbur talks about this in his book "Moral Man, Immoral Society" but i'm not sure where i stand. there are cases that new insights can be sprung out of old doctrines and texts of the various world religions. a mash up of taoism and Christianity and Buddhism would be cool, but i like those religions. i think Mormonism and 7th Day Adventists and Marcionites are weird; i can't get my head around them, but there are also some theologies that are considered "orthodox" that i don't get either, like transubstantiation and baptism that washes away original sin.

this writing seems to go one way and my other writing another? i dunno man, you seem open to a lot of ppl too, yet desire them to be an atheist like you in other parts. speck in an eye, log in your own. maybe we're all guilty of this. i know i am. i am in tension of my own beliefs and my neighbors. what i hope to do is be open enough to stay in the conversation and educated enough to articulate where i stand and why. that's all i can do and all i can ask of others.

Sabio Lantz said...

Your God is Weird

(1) There is no "community approach" to the divine, only the individual and there is huge variety there. Being a religious professional now, you will perhaps try to convince others that they share a community approach -- good luck with that.

(2) So why are you "weary of backyard religion"? Probably a huge percent of modern Christians would consider your religion is backyard religion created on the fly. ALL religions started as someone's backyard religion. It is so, so, so, so funny to hear you call Marcionites and Mormons and 7DA as "weird" when you can imagine how weird I think the god of orthodox Christianity is (yeah, not your panentheistic universalist god). See my post on "Your god is Weird!".

(3) Luke, you misunderstand me if you think I desire people to be Atheists. I need to finish to finish my series on "How to Cure a Christian" to make it clear perhaps. You may wish to re-read, "Atheism: An Epiphenomena"

Anglican Boy said...

So putting that comment in bold makes it more viable? All religions have an element of local adaptation, some are closer than others. The global span of the Anglican Church is a good example of both "backyard religion" as well as a communal approach to the divine. You're plain wrong on that point. As for having a weird view of God, I see your no-god as weird. Hell, maybe Christians are right and there is something "weird" about humanity, but we call it original sin.

Luke said...

Sabio: i gotta say, AB is right, the bold letters only serve as irritant.i thought i wrote "but i'm not sure where i stand. there are cases that new insights can be sprung out of old doctrines and texts of the various world religions."

in my mind, weird does not equal wrong, just beyond my scope. i totally acknowledge i'm weird and i'm in a weird tradition and an especially a weird denomination. we put the German Reformed peeps with Congregationalists?! do you know how crazy that actually is?!?! maybe not... but it is.

Sabio Lantz said...

Some blogs allow a title of a comment. I was trying to give it form. Not trying to irritate.

It is so classic for "orthodox" Christian groups to call other Christian groups "weird", "sects" or "cults". The post I wrote on that illustrates my aversion to this common habit of the majority.