Friday, May 16, 2014

An Evolving Unitive Pluralism

Violence can result from different religions making different competing claims. Religious pluralists are therefore seeking a new way – a common unifying language or Esperanto - drawing from the common truths of the other religions. They insist that we can no longer thrive with an “us vs. them” mentality. Instead, we must find common ground upon which to build unity and sharing.

For the pluralist, there can be no exclusive truth. The fact of the existence of a multitude of world-class religions means that all are merely grasping after the truth. In No Other Name: A Critical Study of Christian Attitudes toward the World Religions, Paul F. Knitter wrote:

  • The new perception of religious pluralism is pushing our cultural consciousness toward the simple but profound insight that there is no one and only way.

Why not? Disagreement, even if widespread, does not mean that there isn’t a single truth. Knitter has made an insupportable claim. Certainly, he wouldn’t tell scientists or historians that “there is no one and only way,” simply because they might entertain a number of different theories and solutions.

The same is true regarding the resurrection, for example. Either it happened or it didn’t. Simply because historians disagree, we shouldn’t conclude that “there is no one and only way” or truth!

Interestingly, even Knitter doesn’t proceed as if “there is no one and only way.” Instead, he suggests that there is a way – a “unitive pluralism”:

  • And yet our new awareness of pluralism also makes us recognize that even though there can be no one way, even though there will always be many, nevertheless the "many" cannot simply exist as many. We feel that the many cannot exist in splendid isolation, yawning at each other in a kind of lazy, indifferent tolerance. Nor can they exist in angry opposition, confronting each other down the barrels of their guns or from behind the launch pads of their missiles. Somehow, they must meet each other and relate to each other, not in order to obliterate or absorb each other but to learn from and help each other.

Although Knitter sets forth the noble goal of the different faiths working together, he too violates his own principle: “there is no one and only way.” Evidently, he believes that he is right and every other religion is wrong for insisting that their way is the correct way. However, Knitter doesn’t seem to realize that he is doing the same thing by adding a new religion to the mix. However, his is an evolutionary religion:

  • The world and everything in it is evolutionary or in process. The catch phrase is that we are not in a state of being but in a state, or better a process, of becoming. Nothing in the world is simply given, or prefabricated, merely to be assembled according to a predetermined plan.

Even though Knitter’s solution is vague and uncertain, it is still another solution squeezing its way into an already crowded market.

However, it seems that he has introduced an additional problem. If everything is in process, and therefore the dawning of the truth has not yet arrived, how then should we live? Should we love? Who knows! The truth has not yet arrived to inform us of what to do.

And why even place any hope in this “truth” if it is not the product of a higher “predetermined plan” – if its origin is simply mindless evolution and not the product a greater wisdom and plan? However, such a “hope” is highly acceptable in educated circles.

Ironically, it is because I believe that there is one way – the way of Christ – that I endeavor to love others and to put their needs above my own, even as I falter terribly in this. However, it is my confidence in Christ that keeps me focused.

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