Thursday, March 17, 2011

What An Inclusivist Would Say: Some Remarks From Stanley Samartha

In my last post, I began to tackle the idea that the gospel has a universal intention, as revealed by Christ. I will go into more of the universal intention in posts to come. Today’s task, however, will involve tackling Yong’s words on Stanley Samartha.
Amos Yong introduces us to Stanley Samartha and Samartha’s work:
“ an exploratory essay presented at the Fifth Oxford Institute on Methodist Theological Studies in the summer of 1973 by Stanley Samartha, the first director of the Dialogue Program of the WCC” (Amos Yong, “Beyond the Impasse: Toward A Pneumatological Theology of Religions.” Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003, page 93).
As director of the Dialogue Program, Samartha’s job is to get the religions into good interreligious dialogue. The “WCC” which owns the dialogue program stands for the World Council of Churches. Yong’s quote of Stanley Samartha concerns all world religions as symbols of divine presence:
“We should probably look for existential rather than conceptual may be recognized to be larger than logic; love may take precedence over truth; the neighbor as a person may become more important than his belief. Reflection on the work of the Spirit may be subordinated to a readiness to be led by the Spirit together with the partners into the depths of God’s mystery” (quoted by Amos Yong, “Beyond the Impasse,” page 94; Stanley Samartha, “The Holy Spirit and People of Various Faiths, Cultures, and Ideologies,” in “The Holy Spirit” by Dow Kirkpatrick, ed. Nashville: Tidings, 1974).
First, note that Samartha seems to just assume that “existential” criteria for the world religions are best. And this belief is more developed with each new sentence: “life may be recognized to be larger than logic.” In other words, life and its events are above logic. Scripture does not support such an inclusivist view. A good case in point concerns Jesus’ healing a demon-possessed man.
“Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, ‘This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.’ But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: ‘Every kingdom divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges’” (Matthew 12:24-27, New King James Version).
Here Jesus uses logic regarding the Pharisaic response to His miracle. If Satan casted out demons, was he not working against his own plan? After all, was not Satan supposed to use the demons to advance his cause...not tear down the very thing that would accomplish his evil plans? Jesus’ question demonstrates that for Satan to cast out his own demons would be counterproductive. Samartha’s claim that life is superior to logic goes against Scripture. Rather, life is lived with logic. Logic gives structure and meaning to life. Without logic, we’d live in nothing short of utter chaos.
A good example of this is a car commercial I saw last night. The car commercial ended with the statement, “It is what it isn’t.” What does this mean, exactly? How can something be that which it is not? To assert such a statement is to say, “The car is ‘A’ but is ‘not A’.” This is merely a contradiction.
Samartha’s next statement is, “love may take precedence over truth.” This, too, is counter-biblical. What about the idea that love and truth are linked, as demonstrated in 1 Corinthians 13?
Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth...” (1 Corinthians 13:6, NKJV)
Love is all about truth. And this can also be seen through a thorough study of the Old Testament:
“Therefore you shall love the Lord your God, and keep His charge, His statutes, His judgments, and His commandments always” (Deuteronomy 11:1).
To love the Lord is to keep His commandments and obey Him. To do anything else but that is to fail to love the Lord.
In Zechariah 8, the Lord Himself speaks, connecting love and truth:
“‘Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; and do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate,’ says the Lord” (Zechariah 8:17).
For the person who lives godly, there is no love for the false. There is only love for that which is true.
In Zechariah 8:19, the Lord says, “therefore love truth and peace.” Once again, “truth” is the object towards which the godly individual’s love should be directed.
Samartha’s last statement is, “the neighbor as a person may become more important than his belief.” To tackle this last point, however, will require another stay tuned.

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