Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What An Inclusivist Would Say: Some Remarks From Stanley Samartha, Pt. II

In my last post, I began to tackle Stanley Samartha’s remarks regarding inclusivism. Samartha, head of the Interreligious Dialogue division of the World Council of Churches, had this to say:
“we should probably look for existential rather than conceptual criteria...life 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).
I’ve already demonstrated that, biblically, life is not above logic (but rather manifested through logic); and I’ve also shown the love does not take precedence over truth but “rejoices in the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). Today, my task is to tackle Samartha’s last statement,
“the neighbor as a person may become more important than his belief.”
Does Scripture have anything to say about this? Yes it does! Read these words from the apostle John:
“If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (2 John 10-11, New King James Version).
My last post tackled the idea of life above logic and love over truth. As I showed, though, love is manifested in the truth. One who loves another rejoices in the truth (1 Cor. 13:6), that is, when someone does what is right, what is godly. One does not love another if he is willing to rejoice with him in wrong and ungodliness. If this is so, then beliefs do matter; for some beliefs are right and others are wrong. Some beliefs are true and some beliefs are false. In 2 John, John himself writes that those who receive one who preaches any other doctrine but what they have received and learned, that one is to be shunned: “do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (2 Jn. 10-11). John said (in contemporary language), “Yes, beliefs do matter; they matter to such an extent that if one accepts a neighbor into his home despite their beliefs, and does so knowing that he or she believes differently, that one holds to the same beliefs as that individual does.” In the eyes of the apostle, it was important to keep the right company. Paul thought so too, when he penned the words, “Do not be deceived; ‘evil company corrupts good habits.’ Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame” (1 Corinthians 15:33-34).
Neighbors matter. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8); however, at the same time, love is to rejoice in the truth (1 Cor. 13:6), and to rebuke is better than to love a person secretly (Proverbs 27:5). If this be the case, then beliefs matter...and by prioritizing beliefs, one is not setting aside one’s neighbor, but loving one’s neighbor as one ought. By prioritizing belief, one is also prioritizing neighbor...and God is glorified.
Stay tuned. There is more to come.

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