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In this issue:
be true, but the intellectual evidence was still insufficient
INTERFAITH DIALOG - a prominent Roman Catholic contributor changes his mind RELIGION, GENERAL - Tricycle and Utne Reader laud one womans loss of questionable faith in favor of real spiritual life
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ATHEISM - I longed for the Bible to

ATHEISM The Atheists Dilemma by Jordan Monge My Christian friends in high school avoided talking to me about religion because they anticipated that I would tear down their poorly constructed arguments. And I did. Monge writes that as she began her freshman year in college, I met a Christian who could respond to my most basic philosophical questions. ... And he did something else: He prodded me on how inconsistent I was as an atheist who nonetheless believed in right and wrong as objective, universal categories. She resolved to study for a solution. As a result, Christianity began to look less strangely mythical and more cosmically beautiful. ... But beauty and need do not make something true. I longed for the Bible to be true, but the intellectual evidence was still insufficient. So I plunged headlong into apologetics, devouring debates and books from many perspectives. ... But nothing compared to the rich tradition of Christian intellect. Id argued with my peers, but Id never investigated the works of the masters: Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Descartes, Kant, Pascal, and Lewis. When I finally did, the only reasonable course of action was to believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But my head and my heart suddenly switched places. ... When reading through the Passion narrative on retreat on Cape Cod in the spring, I remained utterly unmoved. ... Id been waiting for my head and my heart to be in agreement. ... I couldnt let a malfunctioning heart delay the logical course of action, the obedience required by true faith. ... [N]ever once did I have to sacrifice my intellect for my faith, and he blessed me most keenly through my doubt. God revealed himself through Scripture, prayer, friendships, and the Christian tradition whenever I pursued him faithfully. Christianity Today, Mar 13, pp87-88. <www.ow.ly/kuqGU> INTERFAITH DIALOG Only Exclusivism Will Do: Gavin DCostas Change of Mind by Thomas A. Noble

for years DCosta has been a prominent interfaith dialog contributor and worked on the Church of England and Roman Catholic Committees on Other Faiths, advising these communities on theological issues. He also advises the Pontifical Council for Other Faiths, Vatican City. Noble begins: The threefold typology of exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism became standard in the discussion of a Christian theology of religions almost thirty years ago. ... Gavin DCosta, born in Kenya to an Indian family and Professor of Catholic Theology at the University of Bristol [UK] where he has taught since 1993, was among many who adopted the typology.... DCosta acknowledged that there were considerable differences between theologians belonging to the same camp, but still thought at the time that it was valuable to distinguish three broad approaches for pedagogic purposes. ... But DCosta changed his mind. In 1996 he published a paper <www.ow.ly/kCJiR> which he said could be described as an act of public self-humiliation in which he recognized the threefold typology as redundant. [Elsewhere], he argued that the threefold typology cannot be regarded as coherent. I intend here to examine the typology and its logical coherence, to take account of DCostas demolition of the pluralist position (at least from within the context of Christian faith and theology), and to see what we can learn from DCostas Trinitarian approach to a Christian theology of religions. ... The relevant question appears to be that of the definition of the term exclusivist. Does it refer to the teaching that all who are saved will be saved through Christ alone, or does it refer to the teaching that only those who explicitly put their faith in Christ in this life will be saved? ... By 1996, DCosta had come to the conclusion that inclusivism collapses into exclusivism in three ways. The first is that inclusivists believe that their tradition [i.e. the Christian tradition] contains the truth regarding ontological, epistemological, and ethical claims. ... DCostas second way in which inclusiv(continued on next page)

interfaith dialog (continued)

ism collapses into exclusivism is in agreeing that ontology, epistemology and ethics are inseparable in such a way that truth cannot be separated from the mediator, Christ and his church. ... DCostas third way in which inclusivism collapses into exclusivism is that both inclusivists and exclusivists recognize the tradition-specific nature of their inquiry. ... I do not find this point particularly clear, but it appears that DCosta is saying that, in contrast to the pluralists, both inclusivists and exclusivists are committed to the truth claims of Christianity. ... Having concluded that all inclusivists are really exclusivists, DCosta proceeds to argue that all pluralists are really exclusivists too. Any questions? Wesleyan Theological Journal, 48:1 - 2013, pp62-72.1 Also consider <www.ow.ly/kCJqT> RELIGION, GENERAL Doesnt experience alone authenticate religious belief for most people? Yet, typically those who self-identify as believers in one system or another quickly object when someone who claims to enjoy religious parity goes on to contradict received knowledge. Wouldnt many agree that those who reject their faith never had an authentic experience in the first place? Certainly this is true of evangelicals who brave the foul language to read Marie Myung-Ok Lees essay Losing My Religion (Tricycle, Spr 13, pp42-45, 99, 100). She writes: Becoming a writer was a good-enough cover for bouts of nihilism, depression, and black apparel. But when I had a child, J, who turned out to have serious health problems and autism, I had to look straight into the darkness, with no place to hide, no pose to hold, and really figure out how I believed the universe worked and how I was going to continue to live in it. ... (Autism carries with it a 90 percent divorce rate, and the latest awful trend is parents including a former Bush administration official killing their children, sometimes in murder-suicides.) ... The secular take of many of my friends Sorry, youre [flat out of luck] did have the virtue of providing a straightforward cosmological universe to navigate. What I understood less was the Christian universe. On the one hand, we were told to pray that poor J would get better. On the other hand, we were instructed to accept Gods divine plan, as difficult as it was, that

it was a test of our faith to not be angry at God. But I wasnt angry at God; I just didnt even know anymore who God was. ... Why did I attend church? Because I am a Christian. Why am I a Christian? Because my parents are. Is that it? I had always enjoyed church, knowing there was something bigger than myself out there. But mostly I enjoyed the people. For someone growing up in rural Minnesota, the church (ours, Presbyterian) was a major social organizing principle. While at a Korean church, Lee observed peoples conversion seemed to be less about being born again than signing up for, say, a different political party. Some of them, much to the frustration of the ministers, seemed to regard Yesu Christo as just another in the pantheon of numerous Korean gods. I understood this completely, though, as much of Korean spirituality is less what you are (as in Are you Jewish? Catholic? Protestant?) than it is a pastiche of folk rituals and spirituality interwoven into the fabric of daily life. At the Buddhist temple, no one minds if you throw in a little Daoism or ancestor worship or if you call the shaman for an exorcism when you have a headache or if you trot off to church on Sundays. Lowering the fixed orthodoxy and exclusivity of the Christian religion onto the more nuanced and intermixed and changing character of Korean spirituality was like trying to lasso water. ... My first jerky steps away from my lifelong religious beliefs occurred thanks to Herman Melville [author of Moby Dick]. ... Ever since I was 9, Id felt a strong pull toward something Id later recognize as Buddhism. Even as a kid I did my own version of

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meditation, sitting very still, closing my eyes, and trying to empty my mind of thoughts.... Images of the Buddha were and continue to be familiar and comforting to me. Since Id stopped going to church, Id given myself permission to end my nightly prayers, but I still meditated. ... My father had willed me his diaries, which hed kept since the 1940s. Reading them, I realized that this New Age religion I was assembling for myself actually hewed closely to the traditional Korean animism that believes in the oneness of all things. ... I am finally comfortable with my mixedbreed spirituality. Pantheist. Buddhist. Korean animist. Nature worshiper. And Christian as Thomas Merton suggested, Jesus and Buddha have a lot in common. ... I see that mouthing someone elses words doesnt make them true, and being open to all things adds to the riches of ones spiritual life. I am confident I can know my own truth without someone else approving it. Because of my son, my writing, and the divine spirit of the universe, I am no longer sitting at a distance from my own life scared, angry, wondering why I am being punished. I can live into life. That is grace and that is God, once lost and now found. <www.ow.ly/kuj5w> (Utne Reader liked Lees essay so much that they reprinted it in the Mindful Living section their May-June 2013 issue: <www.ow.ly/kulG3>)
SOURCES: Periodicals

1 - Wesleyan Theological Journal, <www. ow.ly/kunZM>

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