A few quick thoughts on Universalism…

I have always run in circles where I encounter many ‘universalists’ – people who believe, as our consumer culture encourages, that all religions are basically the same and all a path to the same ‘divine’ or ‘ultimate’, and that all religious truth (or even truth in general) is relative. People often lean towards this view in an attempt to be somehow ‘humble’ regarding religious issues, and all ‘inclusive.’ It’s a tempting view at times, especially in a post-modern world, where such inclusiveness seems to be what it’s all about.

Strange that what seems the most humble, is actually the ultimate in hubris – pure arrogance. As Dick Keye’s pointed out years ago, instead of accepting all religions, as they are, we actually set up a meta-religion – a religion above all others – which gives context to, and explains the misunderstandings of all the other religions – as all the other religious practitioners climb the mountain, only this ‘meta-relgion’ of Universalism actually knows the truth – that all of these various trails leads to the same place. It’s as though THEY THEMSELVES sat atop the mountain that all geniune devout religious practicioners were climbing. It is as though they alone have the absolute mind of God, knowing where all other exclusivists (anyone practicing the basics of most any religion, fundamentally) are wrong, and being the sole absolutely, objectively true religious believers – all the while claiming that subjective truth is all anyone can grab hold of? But what is it to claim that objective truth doesn’t exist? It’s an objective truth claim. Does it make an ounce of sense to say “There is no objective, absolute truth” – it’s the same as saying “I objectively know, that it is absolutely true that there is not objective, absolute truth.” If that smelled unusually like a fart, it’s because it’s called “speaking out your butt.” It’s non-sense.
We can affirm that we don’t know (that we are ignorant, properly), or that we know (experiencially convinced) truth, and be wrong – but we can never claim that we cannot know – and that it is unknowable – without far overstepping the bounds of rational thought. Objective truth must be out there, whether we think anyone has a grasp on it or not – and if it’s true, it’s opposite is false, and those who believe in it’s opposite are wrong.
Anyway…just a thought.


~ by heatlight on October 29, 2007.

3 Responses to “A few quick thoughts on Universalism…”

  1. hey man, i saw you advertising your blog on my soon to be wife’s blog so i thought i might check it out.

    Just a few things:

    It’s difficult to keep up with all your ‘quoting’ in the opening paragraph. i know it’s about pluralism and postmodernity, but come on. well, no. i guess you do kind of have to do that.

    I hate being petty, but i disagree with this ‘postmodern world’ stuff. i think that we are incurably modern. we only use postmodernism as a tool, or some may say, weapon to break down lenses in modernity. a kind of refinement tool, if you will. I agree, the way that this tool is manifested is found in everyone using it whenever they think it is convenient to get their way. of course, religion is among the most collectively hated things in america today so it gets hit with the ‘pomo’ stick first. (read thomas kuhn’s ‘scientific revolutions,’ followed up by james k. a. smith’s ‘who’s afraid of postmodernism.’ if you have already, tell me your thoughts. my email address is rb2481@columbia.edu)

    and i see you using the ‘nifty logic’ trick. “‘There is no objective, absolute truth’ – it’s the same as saying ‘I objectively know, that it is absolutely true that there is not objective, absolute truth.'” Two things about this. The first is that postmodernity is not a metanarrative. like i said before, modernity is our metanarrative. we are incurably modern. the west is incurably modern. You are fighting the wrong fight. Postmodernism is only a tool and therefore, by its definition, does not have the same rules as modernity. you can’t use a syllogism (that is a property of modernity) to determine if something outside of modernity is correct. it’s like saying that you weigh the same on earth as you do on the moon. different laws are in effect.

    listen, i’m in a christian-muslim dialogue class right now. trust me, i hate it just as much as you do. it is disgusting, embarassing, and patronizing. i most definitely hate pluralism. you should look up this dude, his name is George Lindbeck. He was in many ways (excluding wittgenstein because he is a dinosaur) the father of narrative theology. it all came from yale in the sixties and seventies. it was called thie post-liberal school in philosophy. it is a way of fighting postmodernism with postmodernism, but not in your nifty logic trick kind of way (because that is fighting modernity with postmodernity). wait a second, email me something and we’ll talk. i don’t want to do all of this on your blog page.

  2. Man – I sure wish I knew what this was all in reference to. Sad to say, I’m lost! Fill me in some time as to what this all is in reference to. Thanks…

  3. I know I’m coming in late on this one, but I think the Clifton took your post as an assault on post-modernism. If I am correct in this, I do believe he missed the point. The “post-modern” quote was simply an aside. At least that’s how I took it…

    Great point on the ‘nifty logic’ trick, though. It seems to be a logical fallacy to even say there is absolutely no absolute truth.

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