A polite discourse on Syncretism


#1

In nomine Jesu I offer all peace,

I recently had a wonderful discussion with Ahimsa and Ahimsaman72 concerning Buddhists and Buddhism which I found enlightening and thought-provoking.

Since this discussion came about in a thread which wandered off topic and I felt the need to start-up this thread to further explore ecumenical dialog and deeper exploration of the deep truths shown to man throughout history.

Some are fearful of such dialog for they assume it leads to syncretism and often times it does. Religious syncretism, in its modern form, regards all paths as possessing “equal” truth simultaneously, and in so doing is forced to overlook certain basic distinctions, or to offer complicated explanations in order to rationalize these distinctions away. The ancient Christian teachers, on the other hand, took a more honest and discerning approach, which in the end proved to be more simple, natural, and organic. Rather than mixing all the religions together like the moderns do, these ancients understood that these was an unfolding of wisdom throughout the ages. They saw foreshadowing, glimpses and prophecies of Christ not only among the ancient Hebrews, but also among other peoples who lived before Him, and they saw the writings of pre-Christian sages as a preparation for Christ as the apogee of revelation. This is explained most clearly in the quote by St. Seraphim:

If we concede that the pre-Christian philosophers did seek the truth, and that they did catch glimpses of it, it only stands to reason that their teachings should bear some similarities, like a broken reflection of the moon in water, to the fullness of Truth in Jesus Christ. Therefore, these similarities need not appear as a threat to Christianity; instead, they offer one more proof of Christ as universal Truth.

We can further look into this not as syncretism of our modern era but rather in the ancient apologetic tradition. The latter began less than a century after Christ, with St. Justin Martyr (AD 110-165), St. Clement of Alexandria (AD 153-217), and Lactantius (AD 260-330).

In speaking to the Greek polytheists of his time, St. Justin called upon the testimony of the pre-Christian Greek philosophers and poets who, like Lao Tzu and many Hindus, taught that there are not many gods, but only one God: the Uncreated Cause and Creator of the universe, omnipotent, eternal, and infinite. Each of these writers, Justin affirmed, “spoke well in proportion to the share he had of the Logos disseminated among people, seeing what was related to it… For all the writers were able to see realities darkly through the sowing of the implanted Logos that was in them. Elsewhere Justin went so far as to call the pre-Christian sages by the name of Christians, even though they were called godless, such as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus and others like them…. So also those who lived before Christ and did not live by the Logos were ungracious and enemies of Christ, and murders of those who lived by the Logos. But those who lived by the Logos, and those who so live now, are Christians, fearless and unperturbed and share in the generous breadth of grace and mercy which extend from His Sacrifice.

Peace, Love and Blessings,


#2

[quote=chrisb]In nomine Jesu I offer all peace,

I recently had a wonderful discussion with Ahimsa and Ahimsaman72 concerning Buddhists and Buddhism which I found enlightening and thought-provoking.

Since this discussion came about in a thread which wandered off topic and I felt the need to start-up this thread to further explore ecumenical dialog and deeper exploration of the deep truths shown to man throughout history.

Some are fearful of such dialog for they assume it leads to syncretism and often times it does. Religious syncretism, in its modern form, regards all paths as possessing “equal” truth simultaneously, and in so doing is forced to overlook certain basic distinctions, or to offer complicated explanations in order to rationalize these distinctions away. The ancient Christian teachers, on the other hand, took a more honest and discerning approach, which in the end proved to be more simple, natural, and organic. Rather than mixing all the religions together like the moderns do, these ancients understood that these was an unfolding of wisdom throughout the ages. They saw foreshadowing, glimpses and prophecies of Christ not only among the ancient Hebrews, but also among other peoples who lived before Him, and they saw the writings of pre-Christian sages as a preparation for Christ as the apogee of revelation. This is explained most clearly in the quote by St. Seraphim:

If we concede that the pre-Christian philosophers did seek the truth, and that they did catch glimpses of it, it only stands to reason that their teachings should bear some similarities, like a broken reflection of the moon in water, to the fullness of Truth in Jesus Christ. Therefore, these similarities need not appear as a threat to Christianity; instead, they offer one more proof of Christ as universal Truth.

EDITED FOR SPACE - SORRY!

Peace, Love and Blessings,
[/quote]

Great post here.

Yes, some fear that one has to change his faith in order to be open and discuss other faiths. It’s not true. We can share our different faiths and actually learn so much.

By looking at Islam, Buddhism, Paganism, etc you get glimpses of “truths” bound up in their cosmology. That doesn’t mean you believe they have the “absolute truth”, but it does mean they indeed catch glimpses of “absolute truth”.

I have found that once you see faith and religion through many other’s eyes - through the eyes of Muslims, Buddhists and Hindu’s etc. you tend to study your own faith much harder and in more detail. It can actually strengthen your own faith and trust in your faith. This has been my experience.

Opening to other views deepens your own views of your own faith.

The different religions are distinctly different paths up different slopes of the same mountain - with that mountain being the xperience of “absolute truth”.

As I stated in another post, a mango is not an orange (an expression by Thich Nhat Hanh). Buddhism is not Christianity and Christianity is not Buddhism. But TNH has said that he has known Christians who he was closer to in his faith than Buddhists who surrounded him. Some Christians have understood reality as he understands it, even though he is a Buddhist monk.

Thomas Merton, the famous Catholic mystic has said of TNH:
“Thich Nhat Hanh is more my brother than many who are nearer to me in race and nationality, because he and I see things the exact same way” (from TNH’s book: “Going home: Jesus and Buddha as brothers”)

Let us gave a great, insightful, polite and kind discussion.

Peace…


#3

Since we believe that all human beings are the product of God’s creation and “sons of Adam,” then it stands to reason that men, other than Judaeo-Christians, have stumbled onto various aspects of the truth: sometimes big chunks of it. Moreover, Catholics believe that all men share a common natural conscience concerning the moral law.

Syncretism and modernism may be risks of inter-faith dialogue, but they are not inevitable.


#4

In nomine Jesu I offer you peace,

Let me share with you a glimpse by a Hindu, Mahatma Gandhi:

What is Truth?

What is truth? A difficult question, but I have solved it for myself, by saying that it is what the voice within tells you. How then, you ask, do different people think of different and contraty truths?

It is because we have at the present moment everybody claiming the right of conscience without going through any discipline whatsoever; there is so much untruth being delivered in a bewildered world. All that I can, in true humanity, persent to you is that truth is not to be found by anybody who has not got an abundant sense of humility. If you would swim on the bosom of the ocean of truth, you must reduce yourself to zero.

Truth is within ourselves. There is an inmost center in us all, where truth abides in fullness. Every wringdoer knows within himself that he is doing wrong, for untruth cannot be mistaken for truth. Truth and righteousness must for ever remain the law in God’s world.

That law of truth is merely understood to mean the we must speak the truth. But we understand the word in a much wider sense. Ther should be truth in thought, truth in speech, and truth in action.

Truth is the Source of Character

Character is based on virtuous action, and virtuous action is grounded on truth. Truth, then, is the source and foundation of all things that are good and great. Hence fearless and unflinching pursuit of the ideal of truth and righteousness is the key of true healt, as of all else.

How to Realize Truth

But how is one to realize truth, which may be likened to the philosopher’s stone or the cow of plenty? By single-minded devotion, abhyasa, and indifference to every other interest, vairagya.

Silence is a great help to a seeker after truth like myself. In the attitude of silence, the soul finds the path in clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long arduous quest after truth, and the soul requires inward restfulness to attain its full height.

Experience has taught me that silence is a part of the spiritual discipline of a votary of truth. Proneness to exaggerate, to suppose or to modify truth, wittingly or unwittingly, is a natural weakness of man, and silence is necessary in order to surmount it. A man of few words will rarely be toughtless in his speech. He will measure every word.

Need of Fearless Vigilance

There is so much superstition and hypocrisy around, that one is afraid even to do the right thing. But if one gives way to fear, even truth will have to be suppressed. The golden rule is to act fearlessly upon what one believes to be right… The danger is that when we are surrounded by falsehood on all sides, we might be caught in it and begin to deceive ourselves. We should be careful not to make a mistake, out of our laziness and ignorance. Constant vigilance under all circumstances is essential.

Its Supreme Value

How beautiful it would be if all of us, young and old, men and women, devoted ourselves wholly to truth in all that we might do - in our waking hours, whether working, eating, drinking or playing, till pure dreamless sleep claimed us for her own. God as truth has been for me a treasure beyond price. May be so to every one of us!

Therefore, the pursuit of truth is the true bhakti. It is the path that leads to God. There is no place in it for cowardice, no place for defeat. It is the talisman by which death itself becomes the portal to life eternal.

Peace, Love and Blessings,


#5

[quote=chrisb]In nomine Jesu I offer you peace,

Let me share with you a glimpse by a Hindu, Mahatma Gandhi:

What is Truth?

What is truth? A difficult question, but I have solved it for myself, by saying that it is what the voice within tells you.
[/quote]

Oy. I guess this is why Catholics are so chary of inter-faith dialogue. Page one, and already we’re in deep philosophical/theological doo-doo.


#6

[quote=mercygate]Oy. I guess this is why Catholics are so chary of inter-faith dialogue. Page one, and already we’re in deep philosophical/theological doo-doo.
[/quote]

In nomine Jesu I offer you peace mercygate,

he he he! I don’t know about your interpretation of Mahatma Gandhi’s writing here but I would dare say that nothing he has posited here opposes our teaching of the Church. If this is so, why would suggest we are in “deep philosophic/theological doo-doo”? Just curious.

Reading the truths of Aristatol or Socrates, whould it also force us into “deep philosophic/theological doo-doo” as well? Just curious.

Because it didn’t seem to concern St. Justin, St. Clement and others. When did this concern arise in the Church in your opinion?

Peace, Love and Blessings,


#7

[quote=chrisb]In nomine Jesu I offer you peace mercygate,

he he he! I don’t know about your interpretation of Mahatma Gandhi’s writing here but I would dare say that nothing he has posited here opposes our teaching of the Church. If this is so, why would suggest we are in “deep philosophic/theological doo-doo”? Just curious.

[/quote]

The idea that we are alone the arbiters of truth because of our own personal sense of what is right is the problem. Christians believe in revealed and objective standards.


#8

[quote=mercygate]The idea that we are alone the arbiters of truth because of our own personal sense of what is right is the problem. Christians believe in revealed and objective standards.
[/quote]

In nomine Jesu I offer you peace Mercygate,

Perhaps you mistake his reference here, it is my understanding that he is not referencing ourselves but the Holy Spirit within us whom serve to inform us to our proper guidance. What guides the Church through history?

Peace, Love and Blessings,


#9

[quote=chrisb]In nomine Jesu I offer you peace Mercygate,

Perhaps you mistake his reference here, it is my understanding that he is not referencing ourselves but the Holy Spirit within us whom serve to inform us to our proper guidance. What guides the Church through history?

Peace, Love and Blessings,
[/quote]

Did he say that? If so, it wasn’t in this piece. I am NOT competent to discuss the thought of Ghandi. I was responding to what was said in this piece.


#10

[quote=mercygate]Did he say that? If so, it wasn’t in this piece. I am NOT competent to discuss the thought of Ghandi. I was responding to what was said in this piece.
[/quote]

In nomine Jesu I offer you peace mercygate,

I think you can see it most distinctly here:

Truth is within ourselves. There is an inmost center in us all, where truth abides in fullness. Every wrongdoer knows within himself that he is doing wrong, for untruth cannot be mistaken for truth. Truth and righteousness must for ever remain the law in God’s world.

You will fine this same assertion made by C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity” as well which I found very interesting also. Have you ever read any works of Mahatma Gandhi? Do you know his biography?

Peace, Love and Blessings,


#11

[quote=chrisb]What is Truth?
What is truth? A difficult question, but I have solved it for myself, by saying that it is what the voice within tells you. How then, you ask, do different people think of different and contraty truths?
It is because we have at the present moment everybody claiming the right of conscience without going through any discipline whatsoever; there is so much untruth being delivered in a bewildered world. All that I can, in true humanity, persent to you is that truth is not to be found by anybody who has not got an abundant sense of humility. If you would swim on the bosom of the ocean of truth, you must reduce yourself to zero.
Truth is within ourselves. There is an inmost center in us all, where truth abides in fullness. Every wringdoer knows within himself that he is doing wrong, for untruth cannot be mistaken for truth. Truth and righteousness must for ever remain the law in God’s world.
That law of truth is merely understood to mean the we must speak the truth. But we understand the word in a much wider sense. Ther should be truth in thought, truth in speech, and truth in action.
[/quote]

I must contest the Eastern view of Truth, as related here by Ghandi. Truth is not within ourselves - Truth exists external to Man, an objective reality which Man must accept, not create.

Truth is that which does not change.

Shalom!

Gil


#12

[quote=mercygate]Since we believe that all human beings are the product of God’s creation and “sons of Adam,” then it stands to reason that men, other than Judaeo-Christians, have stumbled onto various aspects of the truth: sometimes big chunks of it. Moreover, Catholics believe that all men share a common natural conscience concerning the moral law.

Syncretism and modernism may be risks of inter-faith dialogue, but they are not inevitable.
[/quote]

Great post. Thanks for sharing that! True, they are not inevitable.


#13

[quote=GilKobrin]I must contest the Eastern view of Truth, as related here by Ghandi. Truth is not within ourselves - Truth exists external to Man, an objective reality which Man must accept, not create.

Truth is that which does not change.
[/quote]

In nomine Jesu I offer you peace GilKobrin,

First, let me ask you, what do you mean by “Eastern view of Truth” and why are you assuming that Gandhi is suggesting that Truth is Change here?

I have always been taught that our conscience is informed by the Holy Spirit, at least as much as we are open to it. Clearly, what we are taught in life that is true to it will that much more incline us to it’s instruction.

I would suggest that Gandhi is pointing to the Holy Spirit which is the Wisdom or Sophia which devout followers draw into themselves for guidance. Is the gifts of Sophia (Wisdom) not enternal? If they are, are they not direct gifts from God? I would dare say that they are and that it is the Holy Spirit within us that guides us to truth. The spark of life given us by the divine creator is yet another sign of this and through it we connection to God.

Peace, Love and Blessings,


#14

[quote=chrisb]First, let me ask you, what do you mean by “Eastern view of Truth” and why are you assuming that Gandhi is suggesting that Truth is Change here?
[/quote]

By “Eastern view of Truth,” I am referring to the outcome of the Eastern analytical approach to the matter, which - as is all Eastern analysis - different from that of the West.

When Ghandi wrote that “truth is within ourselves,” I can only take that to mean that Truth can undergo change - just as we ourselves undergo change. Humans are evolving, changing creatures, and nothing within us is static or entropic. Were we to be the arbiters of Truth, or even to have it internalized within us, than Truth would change just as we would. I can not accept this view of Truth.

[quote=chrisb]I have always been taught that our conscience is informed by the Holy Spirit, at least as much as we are open to it. Clearly, what we are taught in life that is true to it will that much more incline us to it’s instruction.
[/quote]

I respectfully disagree with this view of the formation of our conscience; I believe it is imprinted upon us during the formative years of our childhood.

[quote=chrisb]I would suggest that Gandhi is pointing to the Holy Spirit which is the Wisdom or Sophia which devout followers draw into themselves for guidance. Is the gifts of Sophia (Wisdom) not enternal? If they are, are they not direct gifts from God? I would dare say that they are and that it is the Holy Spirit within us that guides us to truth. The spark of life given us by the divine creator is yet another sign of this and through it we connection to God.
[/quote]

I would agree that wisdom is something derived from the world around us, but that is not what I understand Ghandi to be saying. His belief that Truth is internal conflicts with the idea that Truth comes from God, in my eyes.

Shalom!

Gil


#15

[quote=GilKobrin]By “Eastern view of Truth,” I am referring to the outcome of the Eastern analytical approach to the matter, which - as is all Eastern analysis - different from that of the West.

When Ghandi wrote that “truth is within ourselves,” I can only take that to mean that Truth can undergo change - just as we ourselves undergo change. Humans are evolving, changing creatures, and nothing within us is static or entropic. Were we to be the arbiters of Truth, or even to have it internalized within us, than Truth would change just as we would. I can not accept this view of Truth.
[/quote]

In nomine Jesu I offer you peace GilKobrin,

You do understand that you are “assuming” a great deal that is unstated. Do you know that Gandhi was raised and educated in the West? How does one determine if one has a “Eastern” or “Western” analytical approach? Is one superior than the other or is one simply your preference over another?

I respectfully disagree with this view of the formation of our conscience; I believe it is imprinted upon us during the formative years of our childhood.

I would agree that wisdom is something derived from the world around us, but that is not what I understand Ghandi to be saying. His belief that Truth is internal conflicts with the idea that Truth comes from God, in my eyes.

Although I agree to a certain extent with this assertion that our conscience is learned, my own experience and that of my tradition has informed me otherwise. God speaks to us by many means, not the least among these means, is found deep within our own hearts.

In al-Qur’an it is written that: wheresoever ye look “there” is the face of God. It is also said that:* God is closer to you than your jugular vein. *I think that Gandhi and I would wholeheartedly agree.

Peace, Love and Blessings,


#16

[quote=chrisb]You do understand that you are “assuming” a great deal that is unstated. Do you know that Gandhi was raised and educated in the West? How does one determine if one has a “Eastern” or “Western” analytical approach? Is one superior than the other or is one simply your preference over another?
[/quote]

Ghandi’s method of analysis was entirely Eastern, if you compare his statements to those of the Vedas or the Tao Teh Ching. The difference between the Western and Eastern approaches is simple: The East focused more on concepts, with a heavy reliance on inductive logic, while the West focuses more on particulars, with a heavy reliance on deductive logic. I personally favor the Eastern approach in most cases, and believe that it is actually the natural evolution of the Western approach. After all, the Eastern civilization has been around for a bit longer than the West.:wink:

[quote=chrisb]Although I agree to a certain extent with this assertion that our conscience is learned, my own experience and that of my tradition has informed me otherwise. God speaks to us by many means, not the least among these means, is found deep within our own hearts.
In al-Qur’an it is written that: wheresoever ye look “there” is the face of God. It is also said that:* God is closer to you than your jugular vein. *I think that Gandhi and I would wholeheartedly agree.
[/quote]

I would disagree with the literal interpretation of the Quran’s statement; I believe it to mean that wherever you look, there is the glory of God - evidence of His existence and power. I do not view it to mean that we have such a connection with God as you would understand it. :slight_smile:

Shalom!

Gil


#17

[quote=GilKobrin]Ghandi’s method of analysis was entirely Eastern, if you compare his statements to those of the Vedas or the Tao Teh Ching. The difference between the Western and Eastern approaches is simple: The East focused more on concepts, with a heavy reliance on inductive logic, while the West focuses more on particulars, with a heavy reliance on deductive logic. I personally favor the Eastern approach in most cases, and believe that it is actually the natural evolution of the Western approach. After all, the Eastern civilization has been around for a bit longer than the West.:wink:
[/quote]

In nomine Jesu I offer you peace,

How does one determine if one makes a statement informed by inductive or deductive logic? Does it matter? It would appear that you suggest you favor the Eastern approach yet it is your own assumption of it’s use by Gandhi which causes you to refute his assertions. I find this difficult to understand. Please elaborate.

I would disagree with the literal interpretation of the Quran’s statement; I believe it to mean that wherever you look, there is the glory of God - evidence of His existence and power. I do not view it to mean that we have such a connection with God as you would understand it. :slight_smile:

Again you are assuming an assertion which no one has made. How have you determined that I meant this “literally”? Did you think that Gandhi meant that if you did exploratory surgery on him that you would find some node which holds all truth? I dare say that he did not mean such literal assertions and neither did I.

I’m curious about your assertions here because they sound a bit like assertions I’ve heard from Muslims whom I’ve dialoged with in the past which operates on the premise that God is very distant for his creations and that there is no connection between them but overt praise and submission in the hope of his acceptance.

Although I don’t know you well enough to suggest that you share this assertion, you appear to lack conviction in any personal knowledge or experience of God which might suggest to you that such things are non-existant or simply not possible. Please offer me any elaboration which would illuminate my inquiry here.

PS: I noticed you failed to comment regarding that God speaks to us by many means, not the least among these means, is found deep within our own hearts.

Peace, Love and Blessings,


#18

[quote=GilKobrin]I must contest the Eastern view of Truth, as related here by Ghandi. Truth is not within ourselves - Truth exists external to Man, an objective reality which Man must accept, not create.

Truth is that which does not change.

Shalom!

Gil
[/quote]

Amen and Amen!

.


#19

[quote=chrisb]How does one determine if one makes a statement informed by inductive or deductive logic? Does it matter?
[/quote]

Deductive logic determines fact by means of the application of a hypothesis (of previous existence) and inductive logic determines the hypothesis through assessment of the facts. The two work hand in hand, and it is often hard to distinguish where one ends and another beings in a given argument - but it is important to do so.

Which is emphasized - deductive logic, which utilizes a closed system, or inductive logic, which utilizes an open system - is indicative of the overall approach; does one look for the concepts behind the particulars, or does one limit one’s self to only the particular manifestations of the concepts. It is similar to the difference between a mathematician and a scientist; a mathematician will limit himself to application of rules and axioms, while a scientist will seek out the reasoning behind those rules and axioms and even create his own.

[quote=chrisb]It would appear that you suggest you favor the Eastern approach yet it is your own assumption of it’s use by Gandhi which causes you to refute his assertions. I find this difficult to understand. Please elaborate.
[/quote]

When it comes to phenomena which relate directly to God’s existence, such as Truth, one can not utilize inductive logic - as there exists an objective reality; there are no rules to create or room for hypothesis. Within our own, physical existence, we can certainly do well with inductive logic, for most of it is determined by our own selves. However, when dealing with Truth - which does not change, and exists external to Man - one can only use the process of deduction. As the sky will be blue even if no one were to see it, it is useless to hypothesize that it might be green.

[quote=chrisb]Again you are assuming an assertion which no one has made. How have you determined that I meant this “literally”? Did you think that Gandhi meant that if you did exploratory surgery on him that you would find some node which holds all truth? I dare say that he did not mean such literal assertions and neither did I.
[/quote]

As I approached it from an Aristotelian view, it wasn’t so much an assumption but the conclusion of your thought process. All that exists “within” Man - be it physical or non-physical - undergoes change. Therefore, were Truth something ingrained within us - in our soul or our psyche - than it too would change along with that part of us. I did not mean to put words in your mouth, but rather to analyze the continuance of your idea.

[quote=chrisb]I’m curious about your assertions here because they sound a bit like assertions I’ve heard from Muslims whom I’ve dialoged with in the past which operates on the premise that God is very distant for his creations and that there is no connection between them but overt praise and submission in the hope of his acceptance.
Although I don’t know you well enough to suggest that you share this assertion, you appear to lack conviction in any personal knowledge or experience of God which might suggest to you that such things are non-existant or simply not possible. Please offer me any elaboration which would illuminate my inquiry here.
[/quote]

I do not believe that God has a relationship with Man, but rather that He (for whatever reason) interacts with the Universe and transmits knowledge to us via prophecy.

[quote=chrisb]PS: I noticed you failed to comment regarding that God speaks to us by many means, not the least among these means, is found deep within our own hearts.
[/quote]

I apologize. I believe the above statement should clarify my belief on the matter for you.

I am enjoying this discussion!

Shalom!

Gil


#20

[quote=RBushlow]Amen and Amen!

.
[/quote]

In nomine Jesu I offer you peace RBushlow,

Let me say that Gil asserts something that Gandhi never stated. Although I agree that truth is objective and external, I assert that it is never-the-less accessable through the human heart.

How did the Prophets speak the Words of God? I dare say through the work of the Holy Spirit. How does one come to recognize truth? Again I dare say through the work of the Holy Spirit. Wisdom is the gift of God to whom seeks it and it is given freely without concern of labels or memberships. It’s only concern is one’s openness to recieve her.

Peace, Love and Blessings,


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