Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Proper Confidence in a Pluralist Society

"I want to suggest the word 'confidence' as the one which designates the proper attitude. In a pluralist society, any confident affirmation of the truth is met by the response, 'Why should I believe this rather than that?' Every statement of ultimate belief is liable to be met by this criticism, and- of course- if it is indeed an ultimate belief then it cannot be validated by something more ultimate. Our ultimate commitments are (as I have argued in an earlier chapter) always circular in structure. Having been brought (not by our own action but by the action of God) to the point of believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior, we seek to understand and cope with every kind of experience and every evidence of truth in light of this faith. We are constantly called upon to rethink our faith in the light of these new experiences and evidences. We are prepared to recognize (as every human being has to recognize) that there are areas of mystery and that there are puzzles which are not solved for a long time. But we expect to find, and we do find, that the initial faith is confirmed, strengthened, and enlarged as we go on through life. And if, as always happens in a pluralist society, we are asked: 'But why start with Jesus? Why not start somewhere else?' we have to answer that no rational thought is possible except by starting with something which is already given in some human tradition of rational thought and discourse. Our immediate answer may well be, 'Why not?' For the ultimate answer we have to wait for the end of all things. That expectant waiting is part of what it is to live a full human life.

I therefore believe that a Christian must welcome some measure of plurality but reject pluralism. We can and must welcome a plural society because it provides us with a wider range of experience and a wider diversity of human responses to experience, and therefore richer opportunities for testing the sufficiency of our faith than are available in a monochrome society. As we confess Jesus as Lord in a plural society, and as the Church grows through the coming of people from many different cultural and religious traditions to faith in Christ, we are enable to learn more of the length and breadth and height and depth of the love of God (Eph. 3:14-19) than we can in a monochrome society. But we must reject the ideology of pluralism. We must reject the invitation to live in a society where everything is subjective and relative, a society which has abandoned the belief that truth can be known and has settled for a purely subjective view of truth- 'truth for you' but not truth for all.... Freedom to think and say what you like will not provide the resources for a resolute grappling with false beliefs. The demand for freedom of thought and expression must itself rest on some firmly held belief about the origin, nature, and destiny of human life. If it has no such foundation it will prove powerless..."

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