Thursday, September 29, 2011

Are all of us narrow and exclusive? (The Reason for God part 9)

(I'm reading through Tim Keller's book "The Reason for God" and taking my small group through a DVD study based on the book. Over the next few weeks, I'll be blogging about the book, the study, and the discussions occurring in my group.).

In my last post, I wrote about the three ways our culture attempts to deal with the problem of the divisiveness of religion:
  1. outlaw it
  2. condemn it
  3. or privatize it.
Of these three, I mostly encounter the second approach:  condemn it.  This approach takes the form of statements that are peppered throughout our culture. These statements are so common and so supposedly self-evident that to question them, one is automatically thought to be bigoted or narrow-minded. 

Over the years, I've heard statements like these:
  • "All major religions are equally valid and basicalhy teach the same thing."
  • "Each religion sees only a part of the whole. None can see the whole truth"
  • "It is arrogant to insist that your religion is right and to convert others to it."
The interesting thing about these statements is the assumptions that all of them make.  Assumptions that prove to be quite problematic.

The first two statements all assume that the one making the claim has exclusive access to all knowledge of spiritual reality.  The third statement is actually self-refuting, for the one stating it is trying to persuade or convert the listener. 

If we are honest, we have to acknowledge that all of us hold to beliefs about the nature of ultimate reality that are exclusive.  Keller rightly notes that, "It is no more narrow to claim that one religion is right than to claim that one way to think about all religions (namely that all are equal) is right.  We are all exclusive in our beliefs about religion, but in different ways." 

Keller argues that our approch should not be to get rid of religion to get rid of divisiveness:

"It is common to say that 'fundamentalism' leads to violence, yet...all of us have fundamental, unprovable faith-commitments that we think are superior to those of others.  The real question, then, is which fundamentals will lead their believers to be the most loving and receptive to those with whom they differ?  Which set of unavoidably exclusive beliefs will lead us to humble, peace-loving behavior?"

Christianity contains fundamentals that produce people of peace, love, and justice. At the heart of Christianity is a one who forgave his enemies and died for them.  Those who follow him and learn from his example cannot help but be compassionate, empathetic, and tolerant with those outsde of their faith community. 

Tragically, many who claim to follow Jesus look nothing like him. Their divisive, self-righteous, violent behavior is not derived from actually following the example of Jesus, but from ignoring it.

Do you think that all of us have "fundamental, unprovable faith-commitments that we think are superior to other" or is Keller overstating his case?


J at said...

I'm not sure I believe that we all have unprovable faith commitments that we believe are superior to others, but maybe...maybe...we all do think we're right, and that others are wrong when they disagree with us, so maybe that's what he means.

Brian said...

I think that's what he's getting at "J." All of us have faith assumptions that we believe are right.