Thursday, June 09, 2005

Truth, Religion and Pluralism

With all this talk about democracy and pluralism, it's necessary to say a few words about religion, especially Christianity, and the truth claims it makes, as well as the pluralism (or relativism, take your pick) that it has taken to so often denouncing.

Christians tend to sling around the word "truth" rather haphazardly, as if there was one truth that everybody was obligated to uphold or that Christian truth has only one dimension.

In actuality, Christian truth really exists in two dimensions. The first dimension of truth is what I would call "inner truth". This inner truth is truth in the sense that the verses and books of the Bible agree with one another and that the Bible's many passages can be linked into a form of consistent doctrine.

For example, the ten commandments stipulate that the seventh day of the week is to be the holy day, the day in which all work ceases and humanity is to worship god. The seventh day of the week is, according to our calendars, saturday. Yet most Christians do not worship on this day. They worship on sunday. There are a variety of explanations for this change from the biblical statute. The most common is that because christ arose on sunday, the church changed the holy day to sunday. Other than a few new testament references to the christian church breaking bread together on that day, there is very little in the way substantion for this new claim, but because worship on sunday soon gained the blessing of the state and the church during the Roman era, sunday has continued to be the day that most christians honor by going to church.

So what is the biblical truth here? Well, needless to say, there is not a universal consensus in the christian world about what the truth is on this matter, or even to what degree any day should be honored and if so, how. In any event, this is one example of "truth" in the bible and in church. And again, needless to say, issues like these continue to be of considerable debate and because many christians have not come to a consensus on them, various denominations and creeds based on the bible have proliferated.

The second dimension of religious truth is what I would call "universal truth". Universal truth is that truth that is held to apply to matters beyond the church walls and be applicable for all communities, all societies, everywhere in time. Now, while this is a common assumption among christians, or at least those christians that appear on TV, it is seldomly challenged openly. However, universal truth as it is based on the bible is extremely difficult to verify. In fact, I don't know of any portion or teaching of the bible that is verifiable, except that of bible prophesy. And the proof claims of bible prophesy are themselves matters of dispute within the christian world (see Daniel 7-9; Mark 13; Matthew 24). All of this makes christian attempts to regulate society on the basis of biblical truth or at least the truth expounded by their church or creed highly suspect.

So christian calls for absolutism, demands to adhere to their "truth", and attempts to coerce others into following their own beliefs and behavior should be openly challenged and opposed.

So if truth isn't verifiable from the bible, than what is truth, and how can it be used to establish norms and procedures for society?

Fortunately for the pluralist, this impreciseness regarding any universal "truth" is recognized as the problem that it is, and because of that, allowance is made for the development of society and the interest to accommodate different points of view and rights of others that have been the hallmark of the modern era. For many christians, this view is intolerable, a condition that is made the worse by the chorus of words heard from the pulpit urging its followers to reject the changing conditions of society on the basis of biblical "truth", although most members in the pews are not often admonished to search the bible for the truth themselves and are urged only to conform to those "truths" that their church or pastor has deemed meaningful.

1 comment:

Flingabout said...

what exactly is your view on this? or is this one of those 'neutral' posts? just wondering, b/c at first it seems like you're leaning towards Christianity, and then at the end, you kinda pretty much condemn it...

--captain fling