Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Against Indifferentism

"It is misleading — and dangerous — to think that religions are different paths to the same wisdom," argues Stephen Prothero — Separate truths. Taking on "the pretend pluralism of the perennial philosophy sort," he writes:
    Christians see sin as the human problem, and salvation from sin as the religious goal. Buddhists see suffering (which, in their tradition, is not ennobling) as the problem, and liberation from suffering as the goal. Confucians see social disorder as the problem, and social harmony as the goal. And so it goes from tradition to tradition, with Hindus seeking release from the cycle of life, death, and rebirth, Muslims seeking paradise via submission to Allah, and practitioners of the Yoruba religion seeking sacred connections — among humans, between humans and the persons of power they call the orishas, and between humans and the natural environment....

    It might seem to be an admirable act of empathy to assert that Confucians and Buddhists can be saved. But this statement is confused to the core, since salvation is not something that either Confucians or Buddhists seek. Salvation is a Christian goal, and when Christians speak of it, they are speaking of being saved from sin. But Confucians and Buddhists do not believe in sin, so it makes no sense for them to try to be saved from it. And while Muslims and Jews do speak of sin of a sort, neither Islam nor Judaism describes salvation from sin as its aim. When a jailer asks the apostle Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30), he is asking not a generic human question but a specifically Christian one. So while it may seem to be an act of generosity to state that Confucians and Buddhists and Muslims and Jews can also be saved, this statement is actually an act of obfuscation.
"If you see sin as the human predicament and salvation as the solution, then it makes sense to come to Christ," he writes.

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Anonymous Walt said...

Fr. Augustine Di noia had a similar thesis years ago in a book he wrote, The Diversity of Religions: A Christian Perspective. He also wrote a article about this in First Things sometime in the 1990's that I can no longer find in their archives.

3:43 AM  

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Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.