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The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief
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Liberalism: Jesus and Religious Plurality
An investigative study of the words of Jesus in comparison with the Liberal worldview of religious diversity.
It has become a great controversy these days as to whether America is a "Christian" nation; the idea being that if it is then those citizens who do not ascribe to Christianity are not welcome here. Conversely, if it is not a "Christian" nation and not a religious nation at all then this will make the nation more inclusive to all peoples of the world who wish to take advantage of what it has to offer. It is interesting to note that this openly religious philosophical requirement seems only to be applicable to modern Western Societies where we can see the various stages of such a mindset when comparing European nations, which adopted an "open religion" policy much sooner than the United States has. As a result, in Europe, one has seen a dramatic decrease in Christianity upon the continent and British Isles, replaced by Humanistic ideals that are devoid of principle and have resulted in the influx of other religious influences, particularly Islam as Europe is seeing an increase in its Muslim populations due to a combination of immigration, birth rate differentials between those immigrants and the established European population, and the proselytizing of that established population. While Europeans are generally accepting of all religions, it is often only a one way consideration as Muslims do not reciprocate this ideal. The societal forms of Europe have often been a forerunner for the formational events of the United States.
W. Cleon Skousen, in his book, The 5000 Year Leap, makes a point when it comes to discussing the religious foundations of the United States that the Founders desired to implement a formation of government that was respected individual liberty and restriction on governmental power; the Founders found the template for these desires in two similarly minded forms of government: Anglo-Saxon Common Law and the People's Law of Ancient Israel.
I recently discovered a book called ChristoPaganism which discusses the phenomenon of people whose religious base originated from either Christianity or "modern" Paganism but have decided, in order to expand their spirituality, to adopt particular aspects of the other in their worship. The authors, Joyce and River Higginbotham, write "(m)any people are not content today to stay within only one religious belief structure...which holds that its mythic perspective is the only one and all others must be destroyed (which) is now seen...as toxic and unsustainable." In describing "modern" Paganism they state, "Paganism asserts that you have the right to examine any idea or belief you wish." This latter statement is certainly in line with the individual freedom to accept or reject God's salvation described in the Biblical text.
The Higginbothams view all societal structures, including "religions, governments...economic philosophies," etc. as "human constructions," which people become emotional believers in. By separating oneself from the emotional aspects of this construction, a person is "more readily to explore it and its consequences. (Being) more free to choose beliefs that work best for you and the world you want to create from them," (italics added mine) therefore "feel...free to examine your beliefs whenever you wish and, if they are not meeting your expectations, explore why that is so and what you want to do about it." As can be seen, spirituality is a smorgasbord.
Additionally, in regards to the issue of a fallen humanity resulting in a corrupted creation, Paganism has a differing view seeing life as a "beautiful and blessed thing, and that no part of reality is inherently flawed or damned if it is not saved by some means. While Pagans do recognize that people...make poor choices, they do not equate (it) with a flawed nature."
I found these insights and chose to include them here, not because all Liberals are Pagans (although a majority of Pagans consider themselves Liberal), but because these definitions fall very much within the parameters of Liberal philosophy for tolerance, especially regarding religious plurality.
On occasion I like to see what, if anything, C.S. Lewis, the British Philosopher and Christian apologist, had to say on a subject matter in his writings. Largely I do this because he arrived at his religious conviction as an adult, in the midst of his academic career, after struggling with the issue for years. In one of his apologetics for Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape (a senior demon) instructs his nephew (Wormwood) regarding his assignment, a young man whom Wormwood is trying to lead away from the Christian faith. Here Screwtape advises, "(o)nce you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing" (italics added mine).
While Lewis' insight is quite instructive, what matters here regarding this article is what Jesus thought regarding religious plurality. Coincidently, when the Higginbotham's address this issue in their text, they consult several Bible scholars and theologians; unfortunately, the bias of these scholars do not recognize the gospels as historically accurate, let alone divinely inspired. Therefore skewing the authors' argument for Jesus as just a "spirit person;" one among many who can be found throughout all religions.
Believing in the historical accuracy of the gospels, regardless of one's belief regarding their divinely inspired nature, one finds a rather intolerant perspective when it comes to Jesus' view on religious plurality. First, Jesus makes a call to his listeners, instructing them "(r)epent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near" (Matt. 4:17). In his demand for repentance and a return to righteousness, one has to know what qualifies as the righteous standard. In Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus answered this inquiry by pointing to Judaic law (including the Ten Commandments) and the prophets.
Jesus took this one step further, however, as he declares, "I am the way (not a way), and the truth (not a truth), and the life (not an alternative life). No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6 with parentheses added). But recognizing Jesus as "the way" etc. alone is not enough either for Jesus explains "(n)ot everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven" (Matt. 7:21), whereupon he further states to these non-performers, "I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers" (v 23). He further emphasizes this point in his "wedding feast" parable in Matthew 22, where at the conclusion, he describes how the unprepared are bound "hand and foot" (v13) and thrown into the "outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (v13).
Jesus, of course, showed tolerance throughout his ministry, with his disciples during their maturation process; with political and religious leaders who were often trying to discredit him; and ultimately on his final day, as he tolerated the mocking, beating, whipping and crucifixion which would take his mortal life. All things he did not have to endure, but he tolerated for the sake of all humanity; whether its individuals will tolerate him or not.
Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. Grand Rapids: World Publishing, 1989.
Higginbotham, Joyce and River. ChristoPaganism: An Inclusive Path. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Pub., 2020. pp 8;12-13; 20.
Lewis, C.S. The Screwtape Letters. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2001. p 34. Original Publication 1942.
Skousen, W. Cleon. The 5000 Year Leap: A Miracle that Changed the World. Washington, D.C: NCCS, 1981. p 15.