Monday, January 18, 2010

Newbigin on the one world faith

"We face here, surely, an ultimate decision, which is, in the last resort, a decision of faith:  whether we regard the multiplicity and change which characterize human life as a mere veil which has to be torn away in order that we may have access to ultimate reality, or whether we regard them as the place where we are to meet with and know and serve the divine purpose; whether salvation is by absorption into the Supreme Being, conceived as undifferentiated and unchanging spirit abstracted from all contact with phenomena, or whether it is by reconciliation to the Supreme Being, conceived as personal will active in and through phenomena.  Here is the dividing line between all religions; and the main tradition of Hinduism stands fair and square on one side of it.  The claim that Vedanta is the truth transcending all religions is necessarily a flat denial of the central truth of biblical religion. . . .
"[Hinduism's] claim to be the truth transcending all religions is necessarily at the same time a negation of the truth of those religions as their adherents understand them.  So far from providing the basis for a permanent truce between the religions, it is--when properly understood--a declaration of war upon all religion which claims to be based upon a historic revelation."

J. E. Lesslie Newbigin, A faith for this one world? (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1961), 39, 41. I've read only this one lecture ("Where shall we look for a world faith?"), which begins as follows:  "in a unified world, such as ours has become, only a world faith has any future. . . . No faith can command a man's final and absolute allegiance, that is to say no faith can be a man's real religion, if he knows that it is only true for certain places and certain people.  In a world which knows that there is only one physics and one mathematics, religion cannot do less than claim for its affirmations a like universal validity" (30).

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