Religion: Can We Know?-Day Three Experience

   If we agree to use religion as a matter of world-view rather than localized, specialized information that can be tested and retested for anecdotal reliability (the scientific standard of experience), then we can as easily use the word "history" to describe 'experience." We can do this without straining the meaning of the world(s) because we intend to look at the sum total of human experience, which is our history.

   When we look at the overview of human history, the presence of the Religious is undeniable. Reinhold Niebuhr cannot be faulted for calling man "Homo Religiosus." Man is religious simultaneous with the evolution of man as artist, politician or merchant. Man matures throughout the ages but never "outgrows" his religious bent.

   History (experience) favors religion. Moreover, history favors monotheistic religion. Why? Man evolves as pantheistic, anthropomorphist, panentheist, polytheist, but monotheistic religions dominate the world scene. Some unsympathetic wags say, "The monotheists got rid of all gods but one. They stopped one god short of enough." This is sarcasm, but even in the rude laughter there is a chance to teach. The fellow who thinks the monotheists choose to rid the world of all but one God, their God, presuppose the elimination of various (un)gods is a matter of choice, instead of evolutionary spiritual experience. 

   History favors religion. History favors monotheistic religion. History is the sum total of human experience.

   If one doubts these facts stated above, it is necessary first to set common understanding of religious history and place it outside the realm of knowledge. Some religious people who suffer under the intimidation of muscular unbelief willingly relegate even their experience of clear, historical teaching to an intellectual outhouse.

   Intellectual laziness among religious persons allows Secularism to displace the history (experience) of the eons. Religious thinking is complex thinking, not simple thinking, for religious belief asks us to accommodate heaven to earth, as in the Model Prayer taught by Jesus. Complex thinking is hard enough. Real religion further asks us for consistency in living. The living religion expects of us is unusual living of heavenly ethics and morality. 

   The Secularist, having done away with God, must also do something else with ethics/morality, so he personalizes ethics/morality. He makes it a matter of personal desire or taste. In fact, today, in Western culture, to want to do something is often the only necessary explanation for individual behavior, as Dallas Willard notes in his seminal work, Knowing Christ Today.

   To compare Dr. Willard's argument for ethics/morality based on Christian knowledge/reality with other fine minds of our day is a striking exercise. I have read and reread Harvard Law Professor Michael J. Sandel's published lectures with the striking title, Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do? repeatedly, from cover to cover, trying to glean from his erudite speeches what justice has to say about what is right and what is wrong. It seems enlightened self-interest resting beneath a gossamer thin cloth of (modern, secular, socialist) philosophy passes for right. What is right, it seems, is whatever brings community together, so long as it is recognizably past-ward leaning.

   Or, consider Thomas L. Friedman's common sense apocalyptic thunder in Hot, Flat and Crowded. In this (helpful) book, Mr. Friedman finds fifty reasons to green up America (and I think the church should lead the way). His final resting place, though, is enlightened self-interest. In the end, the pragmatic approach (enlightened self-interest) is just self-interest, pursuant to all the little quirks and queer forks in the road to the dark center of the human soul.

   Christianity (see my preference, now I argue for my monotheism, not just religion, most of which has some value) argues for a change in the world from the inside  to the outside, from wrong to dark, from darkness to light, one person at a time. 

   Enlightened self-interest, experientially, is a valuable driver. Inevitably, it is empty and leaves the soul dissatisfied. Enlightened self-interest is the mother of the saying, "He came to do good and stayed to do well."

   Our culture is in the Valley of the Shadow if we push aside the reality of God in Jesus Christ. Worse, and more lasting, is this fact; souls hang in the balance.

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