Chapter 3 Mythic Rational Christian dialogical responsibility
It is usually helpful to begin at the beginning. The mythic rational level might be seen as offering the very first glimmerings of any meaningful Christian responsibility towards interfaith dialogue, even though it is still heavily influenced by the prepersonal, mythic level of Christian spiritnality/faith, theology, hermeneutical interpretation and social organization. The previous levels, of course, do not bother with the complexities of dialogue. They desire simply to demolish God’s enemies.
Emerging out of this dark nightmare of uncritical self-centredness are the mythic rational Christians, who are the first to deal seriously with the question of their dialogical responsibilities towards other faiths.
We begin by clarifying the socio-cultural context in which Christians on the mythic rational level emerge in our world today. This context is, of course the inescapable reality of religious pluralism that is inextricably part of (post)modem living.
Religious Pluralism and Mythic Rational Christianity
Pluralism produces its own particular patterns of painfulness. Painful precisely because religious persons are no longer encamped within the confines of their own, all encompassing, perspectives. The doctrine of extra ecclesiam nulla salus, that posited the belief that outside the confines of Christianity people are doomed to eternal damnation, has largely informed the mythic rational Christian appraisal of other faiths. It has also acted as a fundamentally important basis of the mythic rational « Atman project », which is, recall, the self’s attempt to arrest development at its current level by creating and maintaining means of immortality at that level.
Nonetheless, ever since the first half of the twentieth century, the negative attitudes of Christians towards the religions have increasingly been replaced by a more accurate assessment of their value for their own faith communities as well as Christian communities. Yet, Christian absolutism dies hard, and is as vigorous today as the absolutisms found in politics (Fascism, Communism or even Democracy) and religion (Christianity, Islam or even Buddhism). A convinced absolutist Christian believes in and propagates an exclusivist Christianity not because the content or the Christ of her or his religion demands exclusivism, but because she or he exists and operates primarily from within the mythic rational level of dialogical development. For Christians who remain convinced of the superiority and exclusivity of Christianity, perplexing questions will inevitably arise, provided they have the courage to face them. If God is One, why are there so many religions? Are all religions equally true? Equally false? Can one learn anything of value from other religions? Do they share commonalities? How should adherents of different faiths relate to one another? (Knitter 1985: I). Perhaps the urgent, overarching question, the one that forces Christians to look more closely at themselves and their religion, is this: how can people learn to live together productively and peacefully in today’s complexly interconnected world without the suspicions and tensions that may well erupt into a nuclear holocaust that would destroy everyone? (Kaufman in Hick & Knitter 1987:3}.
Addressing this issue is a mammoth undertaking, and we are compelled to focus our attention on the question of a Christian responsibility towards dialogue that counters rather than contributes to the threat of the eventual destruction of the world.
More directly, then, the issue for us is that of Christian responses to religious plurality. Why has the understanding of the responsibility for interfaith dialogue been so varied, and how (in what direction) has there been development in this understanding of the responsibility towards dialogue? The encounter between Christianity and other religions is as old as the faith itself. We can reasonably assume that there have always been individual theologians and mystics who have speculated on the possible revelational value of other faiths and ideologies. Even the conviction that other faiths owe their existence to far more than purely diabolical or human factors is not new. This position has generally, however, been somewhat restricted to individuals within schools of thought that have, at best, been considered marginal, usually heretical. What is new then, is the extent and growing diversity of Christian thinkers who are rapidly experiencing a growing realization of the untenability of the classic Christian claims about the absolutistic nature of its own divinely given revelation of ultimate truth.
Christians have usually taken for granted that the fundamental truths that are needed for an ethically, rationally and spiritually ordered life are available and known in Scripture and the church’s practices and traditions. When other religious or secular positions have been encountered, they have been seen as simply mistaken, and in need of reinterpretation in the light of accepted doctrine. This practice has served the church well, but now has come to be seen as not only faulty, but even dangerous.
Gordon Kaufman (in Hick & Knitter 1987:4) gives two reasons for this new position.
The first is that many of these other orientations have very impressive resources for orienting and interpreting human existence and giving a deep sense of meaning that suffices as well as Christianity for giving « significant formation to human life ».
Second, if communities continue to attempt to live largely inward looking, and so remain willing to destroy those we regard as enemies, we will only succeed in bringing to an end all human life on earth. « We must learn » he says, « instead to encounter these others on equal terms, seeking, as sympathetically as we can, to understand and appreciate both their insights into the human condition and the forms of belief and practice that they recommend and inculcate. »
However, is this position not, as Karl Barth would have it, merely a « howling with wolves » (in Cobb 1999:61 )? Is it not a « deluge of neo-Gnosticism that places Jesus reverently into a pantheon of spiritual heroes », and, as such, does it not need to be refuted and « struggled against » in the same way the church refuted the « apostasy of the Nazis’ Aryan doctrine » (Braaten 1992: 13)? It is our desire not so much to refute or affirm any one of these positions (some of which we are now going to investigate in some detail) but rather to place them into a context that sees each as contributing its own unique perspective to the debate on dialogue. Yet, we also want to show the limitations in each position in the light of its own Omega point, that deeper context that includes and retains its positive contribution, yet transcends the limitations of its perspective given the wider, deeper holonic space in which it exists.
There has been in the last thirty years a plethora of excellent works on the issue o Christianity and religious pluralism61 • Of the various attempts to categorize the Christian theological responses to the challenge of dialogue, possibly the neatest thus far has been that classification introduced by Alan Race (1983); exclusivism, inclusivism and pluralism. Paul Knitter’s ( 1985) classification of Christian responses will also accompany us; the conservative evangelical, the mainline Protestant, the Catholic and the theocentric views. These show reasonably close correlations with Race’s model in that they share a developmental scheme for the responses of Christians to the assertions that theirs is not the only valid religion.
Ironically, the very Christianity that gave birth to the naming of the first and second millennium as such finds itself in a massive crisis at the dawning of the third. Just as the tomb of Jesus was found empty on that fateful third morning, Christianity too, has to find the courage to empty itself of the smothering tomb of past forms and outdated paradigms in order to emulate its Master’s resurrection to deeper, transpersonal levels.
A critique of Christianity is only possible because of an unshakable faith in the person and cause of Jesus Christ, and a desire to see the church still there at the dawn of the fourth millennium. Does the church stand any chance of this? Has Christianity not become both incredible and incomprehensible? The trend among many intellectuals is away from Christianity towards Eastern religions, towards groups concerned with religious, narcotic, political or material experiences. Their preference is a world of individual privacy without the inconvenience of communal responsibility. All too often with complete justification is Christ associated with the institutional church, authoritarianism, doctrinaire dictatorship, guilt and anxiety about sexuality, discrimination against women, discrimination against homosexuals, and condemnation of people of other faiths.
More to the point, what about those Christians whose structures of faith remain firmly entrenched within the mythic structures of belief, yet who themselves have cognitively evolved into the rational? For these people, many thousands in South Africa, millions around the world, modernity has created much anxiety, uncertainty and confusion. Tension has been created by a world in which modem science and philosophy are in direct opposition to their biblical understanding of the world. But far worse than mere science and philosophy has been the near « apostasy » of modem biblical scholarship with its historico-critical methodology. So called « Christian » exegesis surely threatens to be the very destruction of the foundation of Christianity itself, questioning as it does some of the non-negotiable elements of mythic rational Christianity. These include its attack on the verbal inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, its disputing of Biblical authorship, along with its incessant attack on the doctrine of creation in six days and incredibly misled support for the Darwinian evolutionary idea of Man descending not directly from God, but via the apes.
An integral approach to Christian dialogue means an all quadrant, all levels examination of the people and institutions that are defined by the term « Christian ».
Beginning with the mythic rational level, we might ask what is their perception of their responsibility to interfaith dialogue, defined as we have done in terms of theological methodology (UR), intersubjective interpretation of the other fuiths (LL), social structures (LR) and interior spirituality (UL)?
Mythic rational theology of religions (UR Quadrant)
In this section, we wish to discover the root issues that inform the mythic rational response to, or theology of, interfaith dialogue.
The meaning of the word « rationality » is difficult to pin down62 • Rationality according to Wilber (1995: 173) means formal operational cognition, the capacity to not only think, but also think about one’s thinking. That is, to operate and reflect on one’s own thought processes and in so doing, transcend them by taking perspectives different to one’s own. This ability to reflect on one’s own thinking gives one the freedom to justify one’s own thoughts and actions based not only on what society says is right (conformist and sociocentric thought) but on reasons and evidence that may be contrary to popular or traditional thought. The rational realm is thus the beginning of amazing possibilities opening up new vistas and visions previously denied to the person through convention. For this reason (!)all true mysticism, according to Wilber (1995:174), has to be transrational, and is never prerational or antirational; « Right thought » always precedes « right meditation. »
Summary and key words
Declaration and acknowledgements
Chapter 1: Introduction
1.1 The Central research problem
1.2 Orientation: Who am l?
1.3 Review of Existing Literature
1.4 Jesus and the other names
1.5 Overview of thesis structure
Chapter 2: Understanding Ken Wilber
2.1 The Integral Vision
2.2 Acknowledging Frameworks
2.3 The Spectrum of Consciousness (UL)
2.4 The Emergence of Meaning (LL)
Chapter 3: Mythic Rational Christian dialogical responsibility
3.1 Religious Pluralism and Mythic Rational Christianity
3.2 Mythic rational theology of religions (UR Quadrant)
3 .3 Mythic Rational intersubjective cultural patterns of dialogue (Lower Left Quadrant)
3.4 Social structures of mythic rational Christianity (Lower Right Quadrant)
3.6 The Mythic Rational Stage ofinteriority (Upper Left Quadrant)
Chapter 4: Rational level Christian dialogical responsibility
4.2 Rational theology of interfaith dialogue (UR)
4 .3 The shift from the mythic rational to the rational level in the sociological Quadrant (LR)
4.4 Rational response-ability (Upper Left Quadrant)
Chapter 5: Centauric level of dialogical responsibility
5.1 A world of pluralism
5.2 Christian responsibility at the centauric level (Lower Left Quadrant)
5.3 Christian response/theology of dialogue (Upper Right) at the vision logic/centaur level
5.4 Centauric Level Interiority – Faith/Spirituality (Upper Left)
5.5 Centauric level social patterns (LR)
Chapter 6: Conclusion
6.1 What has gone before?
6.2 Between the lines: what has not been said?
GET THE COMPLETE PROJECT
EXPLORING THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSIBILITY TOWARDS INTERFAITH DIALOGUE FROM WITHIN KEN WILBER’S INTEGRAL HERMENEUTICS