I recently had a very intriguing conversation with a facebook user called Barbara.
She reacted to my recent interview of progressive methodist minister Roger Wolsey.
Barbara: “I have to say that if I were still a Christian I’d probably be somewhere in the same ball park as this guy. But this interview begs a couple of questions for other Christians. For example, he seems to be saying that Christianity doesn’t necessarily have a patent on salvation — he is “willing to accept that God’s fully at work in all other world religions.” One of Christianity’s great flaws, IMO, is that its doctrines force it into exclusivity. Can Christianity be non-exclusive?”
” “All worldviews cannot be true at the same time.” I tend to agree with Joseph Campbell – all religions are true; they just aren’t literal. Or, all religions are true, but you need to notice what they are true *of.*
Buddhism mostly takes the view that doctrines are provisional. They are guides to truth, not truth in itself. The truth they point to is ineffable and beyond conception, but it can be experienced and understood on an intuitive level. Buddhism is a *means* to do that – not a belief system as much as a practice — but for the most part it doesn’t claim to have a copyright on enlightenment, which people may realize all kinds of ways. And one worldview may serve as well as another one, but of course Buddhists think Buddhist practices do the job most effectively.
There’s also an understanding in some schools that even a falsehood can, under some circumstances, serve as an expedient means (upaya) to realize enlightenment. In that case the falsehood is eventually realized to be false, of course. From that perspective it’s not a problem if non-Buddhists believe other things, such as in the divinity of Christ, because such beliefs might serve as upaya to realize enlightenment. Stranger things have happened.
So, from the perspective of this Zen student, the various worldviews of the great religions are all true and false at the same time. They contain truth, but only a kind of relative truth. And the “ultimate nature” is manifested freely by all phenomena; it’s not hoarded by a few special beings.”
“It could be argued that an infinite god (or universe) must necessarily contain conflicting truths/realities in order to be infinite.”
“Depends on what you call “truth.” From the perspective of Zen and several other traditions, anything we can think or conceptualize or explain with Powerpoint is only a limited, relative kind of truth. Likewise anything we experience as “reality.” The absolute truth/reality is beyond concepts. Conflict would not be possible. But if we’re talking about religious doctrines, we’re talking strictly relative truth.”
I’m really thankful to Barbara and Laurent for having given rise to a very deep conversation. It was also delightful for me to see that she has remained very kind and respectful after her leaving Christianity.
This stands in stark contrast to numerous American anti-theists who are former fundamentalists and who openly advocate the use of bullying and ridicule against ALL religious believers.
The problem of God allowing many people to remain in the dark about his true nature (divine hiddenness) could be partially solved by considering His leaving freedom to man AND salvation not being dependent on holding the right beliefs while dying. This is certainly related to the Buddhist concept that “even a falsehood can, under some circumstances, serve as an expedient means (upaya) to realize enlightenment.”
As I mentioned above, the apostle Paul (or at least the author of the Acts of the Apostle) did believe that Pagan Authors can understand profound truths about mankind. C.S. Lewis said the same thing about Socrates.
To my mind, the most troubling aspect of divine hiddenness may very well be the huge amount of suffering it involves. God’s intervention could certainly have hindered many (if not all) atrocities stemming from human ignorance, wickedness or a mixture of both.
Honestly should compel all Christians to recognize it hasn’t been solved yet. I can certainly understand atheists unable to even hope there might be a God owing to the pain they see around them.
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