Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Doing and Being

"But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves." (James 1:22)
"Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith without works is barren?" (James 2:20)

ਕਰਿ ਕਰਿ ਕਰਣਾ ਲਿਖਿ ਲੈ ਜਾਹੁ ॥
Actions repeated, over and over again, are engraved on the soul (4:13).

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Creationism and Evolution

Jeannie, a close friend of mine and fellow seminarian, passed along a link to the following article that recounts a group of evolutionists trip to the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky:

But here in the Creation Museum in northern Kentucky, Earth and the universe are just over 6,000 years old, created in six days by God. The museum preaches, “Same facts, different conclusions” and is unequivocal in viewing paleontological and geological data in light of a literal reading of the Bible.

I, too, had the opportunity to peruse the exhibits at the creationist theme-park not too long ago. In many ways, I enjoyed the experience: interactive showcases, neat multimedia, a live petting zoo! And yet, I too shared the general reaction of Derek E.G. Briggs, director of the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale: “It’s rather scary" - though for slightly different reasons. Aside from the blatant intellectual dishonesty (the proverbial 'let me poke a hole in the Titanic and tell you it sunk' approach to contemporary scientific consensus), I worried about the role of religion within this pseudo-scientific hubbub. What ever happened to allegorism in the interpretation of Scripture?

Not only can we trace the allegorical hermeneutic back to the Apostolic Fathers (e.g. Barnabas) and Origen, among others, we find this non-literalist approach within the scriptures themselves: Hosea, Solomon, even Paul. Whether understood as symbolic, typologic, philosophic or mystical, such striving for the other (ἀλλος), more authentic (i.e. closer to God's intent) meaning appears completely absent from the mission or content of the Creation Museum.

In the process, scripture loses its vitality, its playfulness, its ingenuity, its creativity - its life. When flattened into a static ancient document of minimalist proportions, I wonder whether it deserves a museum in the first place.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Religious Truth

What is truth? More specifically, what is religious truth?

In the post-Enlightenment Western tradition, truth amounts to a set of beliefs or assertions that correspond to objects in the world (Bertrand Russell). Hence, religious truth exists at a propositional level - it all revolves around what you espouse.

Yet, another option exists. For Plato, (religious) truth was better conceived as a way of life, a mode of existence, paideia – a maturation of the soul. This notion exists in many Eastern traditions as well. In Sikhism, for example, truth is a wine to be consumed and incorporated, a scented oil to be applied to one's bodily existence. The Sri Guru Granth Sahib reads: "My mind is imbued with the Lord's Love; it is dyed a deep crimson. Truth and charity are my white clothes" (16.14).

At the end of the nineteenth century, Rev. Edgar Buckingham writes in the Unitarian Review and Religious Magazine: "It may be too much to say that [truth] is never used in Scripture in the singular number, as expressive of intellectual conceptions or statement of external facts or conditions; but, in its more common and important uses, it seems to have much the same meaning as holiness or purity, which also can be spoken in the plural as holinesses or purities."

In this way, religious truth speaks to the multiple ways to live truth-fully. It's about cultivating a disposition, habituating a Dasein. Thus, we must ask ourselves: What are the ways in which I can sustain my quest for truth? On which channels, paths, inputs and journeys do I lean?

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