Monday, July 21, 2008

Will you blend?



No, dear friends, this is not a post about iPhones. It is a post about comparative religion that may lead one to a blended spirituality.

Comparing two religions is a subjective exercise. I am not convinced too that there is a cut and dry method of comparing faiths. You can almost see what you are looking for if you want to, like a brute force fitting a round peg onto a square hole. Let me give a couple of examples...

1.) When I was studying religious claims as a young man (that was ages ago) at uni, I read that Confusius says -"It is good to honor your parents". That sounds familiar doesn't it? Now, let us see, I am sure we have heard that before, no? Might that not be the 4th Commandment? Ex 20:12. Hmm so would you come up with the Biblical basis of Confucianism?

2. What about the Budhist teaching of Karma? Simply put, this means that your action leads back to you. If you do good, good karma will come back, if you do evil, you will get bad karma one day. Would that not be similar to "what you sow is what you reap" - Gal 6:7. More over it sounds like the Golden Rule too doesn't it?


More sayings that are similar to the Bible can be found else where, I found one in the Baghabad Gita a long time ago.

Even some words or sayings of Jesus had some precedent with the words found in Rabbinic writings like that of the Mishna, so what do you make of it?

Well you can say this makes the claims of Christianity not exceptional, there is nothing unique about this even worst, perhaps Christianity might have copied them and imported them since it is not as ancient as the other religions. So what is the difference?

Well when Confusius says "you have to honor your parents", I come back and ask, "so what if I am not"? Confusius says "but this is bad, you are not being a good gentleman". So I retort - "who cares if I am not a gentleman"? "But this is being horrible", he replies. So I counter "why should I accept what you say, who are you anyway"? End of story.

Ah, but it makes a difference when it is God, the Supreme Being - Creator of the Universe who says "honor your fathers and mothers, so that you may live long in the lang your God is giving to you". All my wise ass remarks won't work. He just says "because I am God and because I say so, end of conversation".

What about karma? Well for the time being assume that we do not have a Jesus who said about the Golden Rule, then all of the sayings of all religions on the Golden Rule are just nice opinions and at best good observations that happens in life, and this can be gathered by observation and experience. Besides, if I were a skeptic, I can only say - well the good/bad thing that happened to you had nothing to do with karma - it was simply fate, a struck of good or bad luck. See what I mean, they carry no weight.

But wait. Jesus said "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Matthew 7:12.

What is the differenc? A lot. It is not what is being spoken, it is who that is speaking. If Jesus did not claim to be the Son of God, the Messiah promised by God - you can dismiss him, but that is why what he says makes a difference, because it is the voice of God who is saying it. It is true not because we can observe it, it is true because it is God who commands and speaks it.

All the rest are puny sayings, they are dismissible, but not so with those that are spoken by God.

For this reason, Christianity's claims can never be considered one of those claims, because its claims purports to have the authority of the Creator God behind it. Thus, there is no room for syncretism in Christianity.

One thing too I have observed, all of these religions have some truth but based on Scripture - it is Christianity that has the whole truth, not just some of it but the whole truth.

Psalm 119:160The sum of your word is truth,and every one of your righteous rules endures forever

And oh, by the way, the central teaching of Christianity is not just about doing good to parents and reaping and sowing or such things - the central teaching of Christianity is the Gospel which is ---God sending his Son to die for our sins (yes we owe God a penalty for our sins) at the Cross and that Son was raised from the dead signifying the receipt of that payment. God accepted the payment of Christ on our behalf.

No other religion has topped that claim.

30 comments:

Past Elder said...

Yes, I've seen "comparative religion" used that way -- that all religions express the same basic insights, just with their respective cultural and historical baggage.

And, that the dogmatic claims of the various religions -- for example, that Jesus was God become Man who died for our sins -- are later overlays by power structures seeking to preserve themselves, put into the mouths of their supposed founders.

Which makes all religions boil down to works righteousness -- here is what you have to do.

I do think there are some insights that are universal and fundamental to human religious experience -- and it is on these that evangelism is based, as St Paul did with the Greeks: walking around your city I see you take religion seriously ...

Now if we can get you to see the same about "comparative Lutheranism" so to speak!

Past Elder said...

PS we used to call that universal core "natural religion" -- what it is possible to know of the full Truth apart from revelation.

Though Aquinas points out what is true in natural religion is also revealed in revealed religion so there may be no doubt about it.

My candidate for the best work of natural religion -- Lao Tsu.

L P Cruz said...

P.E.

Right on re: natural religion - we also call this General Revelation.

Take the case of the Budha, he saw that suffering is produced by selfishness.

So indeed men of ages have observed things in life. But none of their claims carry weight until God comes along and state things, some coinciding with what has been observed, only special revelation - Scriptura is reliable.

Modesty aside my wise a## remarks have no kinks that these wise a##es can cut at. It is a hit or miss afair. Take the case of Taoism - being good may not be so good at times, it may be quite bad. Being bad may not be quite bad, it might be quite good.

Lao Tzu spoke about Ultimate Reality (mysticism to me), I just want to know how I can touch that and would it matter if I do. They have the recipe to be wacky.

Yes, it would be a fun discussion doing comparative Lutheranism one day. I think we will learn a few points -


LPC

Augustinian Successor said...

Amen, Big Brother Lito. There is no room for syncretism in Christianity. This is where the Roman Church has gone awfully wrong. The philosophical insights and common ethics of religions is not as Rome and other Protestants assume, the diffusion of the same divine truth through the prism of religions but natural law (to use our Lutheran term), on this world(!) It's the light of nature (to borrow the Reformed phrase). It's not an eternal ethereal truth but solely natural "common sense".

Augustinian Successor said...

Funny how this also undercuts the claims of the Roman Church. To stave that off, perhaps we'll be soon seeing the Roman Church proclaiming herself as the final apex, the goal of all the world's religions, the perfect embodiment, etc. etc. - a form of theological and ecclesial panentheism. As they say, all roads lead to Rome.

Augustinian Successor said...

"And oh, by the way, the central teaching of Christianity is not just about doing good to parents and reaping and sowing or such things - the central teaching of Christianity is the Gospel which is ---God sending his Son to die for our sins (yes we owe God a penalty for our sins) at the Cross and that Son was raised from the dead signifying the receipt of that payment. God accepted the payment of Christ on our behalf.

No other religion has topped that claim."

Dear Big Brother, yes indeed, which is precisely why it is wholly inappropriate to say that the other religions contained a grain of truth, or manifest truth in different form, or anything linked to the truth in one or the other ... come to think of it, the distinction of the two kingdoms and righteousnesses come to fore ... Rome and ecumenical Protestantism (inter-faith) have confused the two concepts. Yes, there is good (human) in the religions, but there is no truth (spiritual) in them. *Only* JESUS is Truth, Way and the Life. Amen.

L P Cruz said...

A.S.

Wise and very perspective you brought out the subject of syncretism and Romana.

Rome has a way of absorbing you into herself no matter what beliefs you have and still call yourself Roman without contradiction. My post got prompted by one of the commenter in the blog we both visit from time to time.

Without impunity you can still claim to be a devoted child of Mother Church even if you espouse shaministic ideals.

In fact you can be "Lutheran" all you want and be a faithful devotee of Mother Church, just so long as you do not buck the Pope or else all hell will break loose.

In Rome, what one teach does not have to correspond to practice. What can we say except one is darkly misguided if what she teaches (on paper) is all you are after.

No wonder when the Reformers talked about JBFA, they had to talk about the Mass, indulgences, monastic vows, purgatory etc. These all point to JBFA, i.e. if that is being taken seriously, then the rest have to go.


LPC

Teresita said...

Past Elder: My candidate for the best work of natural religion -- Lao Tsu.

Taoism is not a religion, it has nothing to do with an afterlife or spirits. It is a philosophy that actually has much in common with Ayn Rand's objectivism in terms of its opposition to the state planning and interfering with our lives for the collective good, which are tenets of Confucianism.

Teresita said...

LP Cruz: Take the case of the Budha, he saw that suffering is produced by selfishness.

Buddha's soteriology consists of indifference to the evils of the world. Nirvana is achieved when you attain complete detachment. This is not compatible with Catholicism, because we are called by the Great Commission to teach the gospel of repentance unto eternal life, and heal the whole world of the consequences of sin (through the power of the Holy Spirit), just like Jesus did in Palestine for three years. However, I do see Protestantism as being somewhat closer to Buddhism in this respect. Many are content to "get saved" and then spend the rest of their time on the front porch detached from life, whittling in their rocking chair until the rapture, which itself is the ultimate detachment. They don't dare get engaged in the world trying to reverse evil, because that's "works".

L P Cruz said...

Teresita,

Nice of you to drop by.

No Budhism opts for self salvation which is really compatible with Roman Catholicism.

If you ask Budha, he will tell you that to reach Nirvana, you do his 8 fold path and you sit in the corner and meditate, i.e. save your self. Meditation is a form of works so it is more closer to Romanism.

BTW, what you view as Protestantism there in the States is not the original Protestant movement of the 16th Century which recovered the Gospel.

To understand what the original Protestants believe - read the Book of Concord, or Luther's Small Catechism.

re:Taoism, when I was an RC kid, I heard your argument before, you can engage in Hindu Philosophy for example, TM or Yoga, and still be a Roman Catholic. Why? Because it reasons that because Taoism is a philosophy like Budhism, it does not run rough shod against Catholicism.

Well from a Protestant Christian point of view, Christianity does not only give a theology but a philosophy - in fact it is the Ultimate Philosophy.

So no, if one adopts a philosophy that is not sourced from Christian Theology - it is not compatible with Christianity.

Taoism and Budhism in Classic Protestant parlance is nothing but emanations of what we call - Theology of Glory. No offense, I am sure you have not heard that before! You won't unless you hang around the original Protestants or what we call the original Evangelicals.

LPC

L P Cruz said...

A.S.

Yes, there is good (human) in the religions, but there is no truth (spiritual) in them. *Only* JESUS is Truth, Way and the Life. Amen.

I have been thinking about what you said - you are correct, I should not even say they have a grain of truth, because truth mixed with error is still false doctrine. It will lead one astray from The Truth.

It is just like having a small drop of cyanide in your milk. I still would not drink it.

Your Big Bro ( your "kuya")

Lito

Teresita said...

L P Cruz: Taoism is a philosophy like Budhism, it does not run rough shod against Catholicism. Well from a Protestant Christian point of view, Christianity does not only give a theology but a philosophy - in fact it is the Ultimate Philosophy. So no, if one adopts a philosophy that is not sourced from Christian Theology - it is not compatible with Christianity.

There were numerous Christian philosophers who injected Hellenistic ideas wholesale into Christianity. Turtullian, for example, introduced the philosophy of traducianism (the doctrine that the soul is generated by our parents along with our body, rather than created by God anew at conception). This was not sourced from the scriptures, and in fact it goes against the scriptures because it implies that God creates souls with the stain of original sin built in, rather than having them inherit original sin from Adam through one's parents. Turtullian did this singlehandedly, against the combined opinion of all the other Church Fathers. The Eastern Orthodox Church and the Lutheran Church accepted it, but the Roman Catholic Church and the churches derived from Calvin reject it. If you stand by your statement that traducianism is not compatible with Christianity because it is not sourced from the scriptures, then so is the other Hellenistic (indeed, Platonic) idea of a conscious psyche existing apart from the body, which does not appear at all in the Old Testament and only very vaguely (if at all) in the New Testament.

L P Cruz said...

Teresita,

As far as I know, the BoC (the Lutheran confession) has no official stance on the origin of the soul. My first point will be if you can show me from our official confession where traducianism is taught there, then I would have something to look into.

So if traducianism is a greek philosophical construct, could you give the traces? I might suspect you will do comparative religion on this and so we are back again to the point which is question begging... but feel free to straighten me up.

Traducianism may be accepted by some Lutherans as an explanation but for myself I would plead ignorance as to how except that original sin as such is there. This is similar to our attitude towards how bread is the Lord's body and the wine his blood.

For example, we do not accept transubstantiation as an explanation of the how the Supper becomes mechanically the body and blood of Jesus, but Romans do which is Platonic etc.

Even original sin as a concept and construct you will not find the exact term - it is the concept that is more important and what it teaches.

The Roman Church does not accept traducianism but accept creationism but the former has more passages that seems to allude to its truth.

It is what Scripture supports and if a pagan philosophy aligns with Scripture then so be it. It is the Scripture that is the one that authenticates.

So let me come also at another point -- Christianity says there is One God. Judaism and Christianity and Islam are not the only ones unique in claiming this.

Zoroasterism also claims there is one God too. So are we to say we junk the truth of one God because it has similarities with Zoroasterism? Or this - we can be Zorasterian and Christian at the same time because of what is common.

You answer based on Taoism is yes.

I say no.

No because over all as a world view Taoism says the Force is out there and all you need to do is align yourself or harness the Force to your advantage (eg Feng Shui) like rearranging your table to apease the table-god or whatever concept-god there is.

We say NO because Chrisian Scripture says that God is the one in control of the universe and he promises to take care of you - you do not need to fuss around with your table. That is shamanism or sorcery.


Lito

Teresita said...

As far as I know, the BoC (the Lutheran confession) has no official stance on the origin of the soul. My first point will be if you can show me from our official confession where traducianism is taught there, then I would have something to look into.

An official confession is a boiled down summary of the most critical beliefs, while traducianism is a peripheral doctrine I brought up as an example of Hellenistic philosophy infiltrating Christianity. Further down in your post you mention transubstantiation. I could not show that doctrine in the Nicean Creed, which is the Catholic version of a "confession". If you are curious and research the word, you will find that most Lutheran branches hold to a form of traducianism, but I'm not attacking that doctrine at all. In fact, I myself hold that the body and soul are one and united, quite in opposition to Catholic doctrine.

For example, we do not accept transubstantiation as an explanation of the how the Supper becomes mechanically the body and blood of Jesus, but Romans do which is Platonic etc.

It seems to me the most important thing is simply to believe the Supper does become the body and blood of Jesus somehow, and not to get uptight over how.

Zoroasterism also claims there is one God too. So are we to say we junk the truth of one God because it has similarities with Zoroasterism? Or this - we can be Zorasterian and Christian at the same time because of what is common. You answer based on Taoism is yes.

Why do you proceed based on answers you think I will give, rather than ones I actually give? Zorasterianism is a religion, so it is not compatible with Christianity. Same with Buddhism, or daojiao. But daojia is an outlook which embraces humility over self-aggrandizement. It says take the lowest chair in the wedding party, because it is better to be asked to step up rather than to step down. There are many places in the gospels where Taoist principlies are shown forth.

No because over all as a world view Taoism says the Force is out there and all you need to do is align yourself or harness the Force to your advantage (eg Feng Shui) like rearranging your table to apease the table-god or whatever concept-god there is.

Daojia has no gods and particularly has nothing to do with force or a force. It has to do with the utility of emptiness. It says a wheel has 30 spokes, well and good, but its the hole in the center that allows it to turn. It says there's a lot of nice cars on the freeway, but its the hole that opens between you and the car in front of you that allows you to move forward.

Augustinian Successor said...

Teresita,

There are some Reformed theologians who accept Traducianism, including Luther and many confessional Lutherans. Creationism is not considered de fide in the Roman Church. And the Eastern Church do not accept Traducianism for the reason that it and Original Sin/Guilt go hand in hand, in accounting for the unity of the human race in Adam (not some abstract concept called humanity) and by extension, inherited corruption. It is a thoroughly Augustinian understanding.

Augustinian Successor said...

Dear Kuya,

Teresita says that Taoism is not a religion. But as far as I know, here in Malaysia, it is considered a Chinese folk religion with deities.

L P Cruz said...

Teresita,

and not to get uptight over how.

But it was you who brought up the topic of how.... in your entry on traducianism and that explanation is pagan in origin. Frankly it is an explanation and as to what constructs it uses be it pagan or not, I do not think it is established.

As I said, Zorasterianism speaks about one God too but you make a special pleading on this regard.

Budhism is also not considered a religion, but is considered a philosophy too infact it is non-theistic philosophy. So the blurring of a philosophy and a religion is not that clear cut.

There are moralisms and wise sayings in philosophies based on natural law and will find some intersesction with Christianity, but when taken to the two worlds will collide.

I'd say it is best to drop the term Taoism in your language. There other things that Tao Te Ching speaks of that is not just about humility and overall this is my point. i.e. Take Tao Te Ching overall and Christianity over all and see if they do not collide. You must look at the things not common and not limit yourself to that which belongs to both, that is not the issue.

LPC

L P Cruz said...

Dear Bro. A.S.

It is a thoroughly Augustinian understanding.

Absolutely true and a good point.

The Hows in Lutheranism are always considered open questions, and philosophically Lutherans will parrot the scripture, they would rather say what scripture says than explain or establish theories.

Yes too bro, when I was studying Taoism many many years ago after coming out of atheism, I can remember it speaking about equilibrium, hence Yin/Yang. What we need, I read, is to get into that balance. How this is done, and what formulas are needed or techniques to do, Taoism also teaches such things, eventually from a Christian standpoint it becomes shamanism.

Take the case of Martial Arts, there is an aspect of it that is purely self defense, but when you go to the deep side of things you get in to rituals (I know if you go down deep into our style of Kali or Arnis de Mano) of how to draw courage or draw power, you will get into rituals and incantations. This is true in Kung Fu and Karate - the concept of Qi.

So there is no such thing as Christian Martial Arts or Christian Karate.

It is US Evangelicalism which wants to baptize everything to Christianity, you get Christian this and Christian that and the way it is progressing like Christian Babes etc. But this is remarkably similar to Roman openess, you can be folk practitioner practicing faith healing and have the local Roman priest bless your paraphernalias so we have Catholic Spiritistas.

Your kuya,

LPC

Past Elder said...

It would be well not to forget that words like Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism and the like each refer both to specific brands, so to speak, which their respective adherents consider the true one, as well as to the clusters of brands at some points quite different from each other but travelling under the same names.

Taoism in one version is quite different than Taoism in another yet each would claim to be Taoism and both are referred to in general usage. Likewise Christianity.

Comparative religion takes another direction entirely when practiced by one who accepts one of the "brands" of a religion as the true on of that religion, then looks at other religions.

Doorman-Priest said...

Still in shock over the video clip!

I do accept that the issue with religious teaching lies in the authority. Nevertheless the fact that there seems to be a huge body of common thought and ethics is immensely ecouraging and a good way into dialogue.

Teresita said...

Augustinian successor: Teresita says that Taoism is not a religion. But as far as I know, here in Malaysia, it is considered a Chinese folk religion with deities.

I'm not making this stuff up.

Daojia and Daojiao refer to the philosophical and religious aspects of Taoism. Daojia includes the mystical and philosophical reflections of the Taoist sages found in Taoist scriptures. Daojiao includes the institutional religious activities of Taoist Temples, including rituals and ceremonies performed by ordained Taoist Priests.

Teresita said...

L P Cruz: Budhism is also not considered a religion, but is considered a philosophy too infact it is non-theistic philosophy

Buddhism is an atheistic religion which is concerned with escaping the Big Wheel of reincarnation by the human agency of meditation, which ends in a total detachment from the evils of the world. Tao Chia is not concerned with gods or the afterlife or even long life. It does warn that the stress of seeking to extend one's life can actually shorten it.

L P Cruz said...

Teresita,

By your own quote the two are inter-related and so both are not mutually exclusive. Does Daojia rebutt Daojiao? If it does you may safely claim Daojia is harmless to your Catholicism of which I gather you are one of its avid defenders.

TM was sold as a philosophy, or not even that but a way of calming the mind, a relaxation technique; wait until you get to be initiated and given the mantra and you will realize it has a religious connection.

Isn't Taoism's goal to get to Tao which when you do, get you immortality. Might not humility be one of those that will get you there?

Philosophies are never neutral, for example you can not be a Kantian and think it does not rebutt orthodox Christianity. The same is true if you happen to be a positivist etc.

It is the practice of the philosophy, that is the one that will be of concern.

LPC

L P Cruz said...

D.P.

Yes indeed the common points are no problems and can be the starting point of dialog.

But the message of Christianity is not humility or morality about us. Other religions are moral already. The uniqueness of Christianity is that it gives the answer to our sin - payment by Christ - reconciliation with God.

If Christianity borrowed, well all I can say is that the disciples of Jesus were geniuses - they gave the world the greatest hoax of all.

No else has topped the hope Christinity - i.e. Christ brings and offers to the world.


LPC

Past Elder said...

On the other hand, it's kind of nice not to need a flashlight.

Not a lot of seeing without looking in Law and Gospel.

L P Cruz said...

P.E.

True without L/G we will see Paul contradicting Jesus' words and that of James.

LPC

joel in ga said...

LPC,

while Lutherans tend to favor Anselm's view of the Gospel, viz., that Christ's paid a debt of torture to God in our place, I find the Scriptures usually explain the Gospel as Christ's dying and rising to free us from the power of sin and bring us to new life and fellowship with God. Anselm's view portrays God as refusing to forgive unless He gets his 'pound of flesh', but that rather casts Him in an un-Scriptural, un-fatherlike light, doesn't it?

L P Cruz said...

Joel,

When one looks first at the OT's treatment of atonement i.e. its nature, Anselm's logic is very sound. My reading of the OT is that at the Cross - mercy and truth has joined together, mercy and truth has kissed each other.

Jesus does free us, but the first question is how does what Jesus did outside us, gets inside us?

So we rely on the outside objective work of Christ and the means of grace, so that the subjective is always governed by the objective.

In our own struggle with our sins, we can notice that we are strengthened if we diligently use the means of grace Word and Sacrament.

That objective work of Christ is the reconciliation. The HS now by Word and Sacrament brings that reconciliation, and when believed by the sinner is justified and receives the new life. I add too that justification is also something that happens in the heart of God and not inside us. It is the presence of faith in the Gospel the forgiveness of sins is actually the one that changes us and our attitude towards God and man.

It is father like because it is the same God whom we spurned yet provides the forgiveness to his enemies. That is fatherlike to us, Jesus said to call him Father too and Jesus was full aware of his mission - that he would die as a ransom for many.

LPC

joel in ga said...

LPC,

you have skillfully summarized the differences between objective and subjective justification and the application of Christ's sacrificial benefits. I agree that Anselm's logic is sound, but is logic necessarily truth?

I take issue with the underlying assumption of Anselm's theory, that there is a debt of torture to be paid off, if not by the guilty party, then by an innocent one. It is this particular point that I do not find taught in the Scriptures. Early patristic support for a view like Anselm's is likewise a bit sparse.

L P Cruz said...

Joel,

I have to look again at Anselm's Cur Deus Homo, I have a copy at home.

Anselm answers how and why God has to become man and the premise is in the nature of God being holy and righteous and just at the same time loving and kind.

Sound logic does not mean truth, at least not if the premises are not true. But if the premises are true, i.e. matches reality then what it derives is true too.

In the nature of OT atonement, the animal sacrifice are indeed innocent. The OT folk were forgiven on its place.

I know it is bizarre but I am **glad** the Lord died for my (yours too) sins.