Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Criteria for True Religion

The goal of the Enlightenment is to rid the world of suffering, misery, deceit and ignorance. By doing such, the world will be transformed into an utopia. If this is the case, that such transformation is the goal, we then need to ask, "How will it come about?" In this post, I will attempt to give an outline of some key Enlightenment thinkers program of transformation while highlighting what this does to theology and the Church.

The British philosopher John Locke held that one of the keys to this transformation was to foster tolerance. According to James C. Livingston, "the great enemy" of the Enlightenment writers "was not religion but dogmatism and intolerance." (Modern Christian Thought, James C. Livingston, pg. 10) According to Locke's argument, there is a multiplicity of religions, but there can only be one true religion. And our knowledge of the true religion will come from allowing people to investigate and examine all the religions. For "It is only false religion that has anything to fear from the tests of reason and experience." (pg. 10) If we follow this line of thought, we learn that tolerance of other religions does not foster truth. Instead, it fosters a search for the most Reasonable or Experiencable religion. These two criteria for religion than become the standard for religion. When looking at religion after the Enlightenment we still have two questions in our mind:
  1.  Is this Religion Reasonable? Can it stand up to the tests of Logic? Is it contradictory in any way? (Another way of saying this is: Does it violate the principle of non-contradiction?) 
  2. Does this Religion hold up to my Experience? Does it relate to my way of life? Does it have anything to say to me? Is the truth of this religion evident to my senses and what I have done\can do? 
From this we can gather that Religion has to be either Reasonable or Experiencable, or both. Both of these criterion are still in play today in the way the Church operates. Our apologetics either try to  construct logical arguments that any reasonable person would have to agree with, or we try to show how Christianity works itself out in the everyday and confirms our experiences.

In the next posts, we will examine how these two criteria gained traction in the Church and lead to disaster.

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