The Gods Of This World Are On The Move
God is the Creator/Redeemer, the beginning and goal of the scriptures and ultimately of all reality. Both creation and eschatology have disappeared in the postmodern arena. The incarnation is the middle between creation and eschatological goal. The four things that separate Christianity from all the religious belief systems in the world are: (1) Creation, (2) Incarnation, (3) Crucifixion, and (4) Resurrection. “No other name” is offensive to all Postmoderns. It is judged to be both coercive and manipulative. (In the 17th century it was truth; in the 18th century it was nature; in the 19th century it was history; in the 20th century it was language, and in the 21st century it is tolerance and pluralism.)
Luke T. Johnson expresses our Postmodern context with respect to both Creator and Lord of all reality.
Robert Funk is nothing if not candid about the “problem” that Jesus poses for those whose belief in creation or eschatology has disappeared: ‘To put the matter bluntly, we are having as much trouble with the middle, the Messiah, as we are with the terminal points. What we need is a new fiction that takes as its starting point the central event of the Judaeo-Christian drama and reconciles that middle with a new story that reaches beyond old beginnings and endings.’ (Luke T. Johnson, The Real Jesus (Harper, 1996)
In John G. Saxe’s well-known poem, “The Blind Men and The Elephant,” the six blind men of Indostan all wanted to learn what an elephant was like. Each approached the beast from a different direction; each explored part of the elephant—its side, its tusk, its trunk, its leg, its ear and its tail. Relating their experiences, the six compared the elephant to a wall, a spear, a snake, a tree, a fan, and a rope.
And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeded still and strong
Though each was partly in the right
And all were in the wrong!
The poem was written in the context of the radical philosophical, scientific/technological revolution that only nouns (name of particulars) exist, i.e., the dubious position of “Nominalism” in British intellectual maze. This represents the culmination of “radical empiricism.
Most Americans reject the notion of absolute truth; one-third of the people do not believe in the God described in the Bible, but have other notions of who (or what) God is or means; most adults do not believe that Satan is a real being; most people believe that it does not mater what god you pray to because every deity is ultimately the same deity; nearly two out of three adults contend that the choice of one religious faith over another is irrelevant because all faiths teach the same basic lessons about life; almost half of the public believe that Jesus made mistakes while He was on earth.(George Barna, Absolute Confusion (Regal, 1993, p. 15).
Here we note the atmosphere of resurgent, universalistic “Openness Theology” and postmodern description of Tolerance/Diversity as the only possible approach to the Global Village (see especially Veli-Karkkainess, An Introduction the Theology of Religions (InterVarsity Press, 2004); and my essays: “From Syncretism to Relativism to Pluralism”; “The Quest for Truth in Postmodern Interreligious Pluralism”; and “The Demise of Truth in Postmodern Interreligious Pluralism” at: http://www.worldvieweyes.org/struass-docs-html.
The premises that were either directly stated or implied in every session have already taken root in our culture. Listen to our talk shows, read the newspapers, see the media of ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, or attend the local school board meeting and you will find these views widely accepted and seldom challenged.
Scholars of world religions state the following premises: The doctrines of the different faiths should not be held as truths but as shells that contain kernels that are found in all religions. Since the claim for truth is a stumbling block to unity, it is best to speak of religious traditions rather than religious truths.
No religion should be thought of as superior to another. Indeed this belief in superiority is the major roadblock to religious unity. At the Parliament, seminars were held to overcome “this crucial obstacle.”
We can retain our own particular religion but must move beyond it to levels of experience. As we move away from religion to this true spirituality, we are united.
Proselytizing (Christians call it evangelism) is bigotry, pure and simple. The idea of winning converts is based on the antiquated notion that one religion has more to offer than another. Our task is to help others discover the hidden inner meaning of their religions, rather than convert them to our own.
At the Parliament, the delegates were often led to shout, “I AM!” as an affirmation of their own godhood. People who still believed in prayer were told that they should pray to their own “god of choice.” We were told that the better we understand ourselves and our global village, the more readily we will be mature enough to realize that no religion has a right to exclusivity. Some gods may work best for you; whereas the rich traditions of the goddesses are more appealing to your friends. (E. Lutzer, notes from “Foundation for Unity,” pp. 14,15)
The challenges of the Church’s mission in the 21st century are enormous. Dr. James Strauss