Controversial Topics

Religious Pluralism

The following was written by Phil Cary, Prof of Philosophy, Eastern University; Editor, Pro Ecclesia: A Journal of Catholic and Evangelical Theology. Used with permission 3/14/2023

Pluralism is one of the most common ways for institutions and churches to go post-Christian these days. It’s one thing to recognize the reality of different religions and respect people who are unlike you. It’s another thing altogether to talk as if every religion is equally true. To take that second track is to abandon Christian faith, which has a very specific message to give to the world, centered on the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.

The irony is that to give up on the uniqueness of your own religion is to reduce the diversity in the world. Pluralism does not in fact honor difference but makes everybody look the same (they’re all equally true, etc.). No real religion believes that. So pluralism turns out to be a way of denying that different religions are unique and different. It is really a form of modern Western intellectual imperialism.

the LGBTQ question by Marcia A. Murphy:

It is my opinion that LGBTQ lifestyles and identities may, in some cases, lead to mental illness and religious idolatry.
Marriage is only between one biological male and one biological female; however, all people of any choice should be welcomed into the Christian church. I believe in full social inclusion of all people, as all are loved by God.

Some secular and religious organizations may try to impose a censorship of these stated views. In some parts of the country there may not be freedom of speech, including in some religious organizations. Any organization, whether of the Left or Right, which imposes restriction of expression of thoughts and opinions on these issues is fascist and dictatorial.
The United States of America is a great country, and I trust that righteousness will prevail.

on Tradition by Marcia A. Murphy:

When people criticize the idea of religious tradition or the practice of following religious tradition, they are just putting another tradition in its place be it atheistic or agnostic, so everyone is basically following some kind of tradition but they won’t admit it. No one was raised in a vacuum, empty nothingness. We all are influenced by our social environment. The psychological literature clearly describes how things are not what they seem. We hope to be independent thinkers; however, influences abound which we cannot escape. We are all products of the great influencers around us, be it atheist or religious. True, we attempt to make choices and at times, succeed. This is why God clearly says that we will be judged for the good or evil we do. And the freedom we experience will allow a loving, creative response to the Creator of the world which is our purpose in life.

It’s just like the idea of dogma. People love to say dogma is horrible, but they are soaked in their own dogmatic believes anyway. We all are living out one kind of dogma whether of scientific/materialistic, or theological, or political/ideological.

It is the same thing when we use the word tradition. Dogma and tradition can be used interchangeably. The worldviews we hold, the beliefs we adhere to, this is our own dogma or choice in what kind of thought tradition we accept. Tradition and dogma are concepts that extend far beyond theology; they just are words to describe our own personal choices in lifestyles and values which, by the way, did not pop up out of nothingness, but, instead, are derived from many influential sources experienced within our personal and social histories.

Concerning this topic of tradition, Phil Cary remarked, (used with permission): Everybody lives, acts, thinks and feels within some tradition or other—and in the modern world, it’s often many traditions, like scientists who go to church. Each of the sciences has its own tradition, as do the churches. The traditions can be rational, self-critical, and learn new things, as well as be faithful to old, well-established truth. And they can also be subject to conflict and revision.

Why Jesus Christ was baptised

By Phil Cary, Prof of Philosophy, Eastern University; Editor, Pro Ecclesia: A Journal of Catholic and Evangelical Theology. Used with permission 1/19/2024

Jesus was certainly human but he was not sinful.  This is precisely why John the Baptist hesitated to baptise him.  “I need to be baptized by you,” he said, ” and you come to me??” (Matt. 3:14). Far from being a sinner, he is, John says, the one who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).  So Jesus has to persuade him to go ahead and baptise him.

In the Gospels Jesus doesn’t say exactly why he wants John to do this, but I think we can see what’s up.  The meaning of baptism is a kind of re-inauguration.  When we get baptized today, we are born again. Earlier, when John was baptizing at the Jordan, it was a kind of re-inauguration of Israel’s identity, retracing their entry into the Promised Land as they crossed Jordan River.  John wants to renew Israel, and in Christ all things have become new, and Jesus is in fact leading the way into the ultimate Promised Land. For us sinners, that requires repentance. For him, it required the humility of taking on flesh so that he may die for us. But the Father testifies from heaven that he is well-pleased with this incarnate Son of his.

Jesus as both God and as man who as a human learns obedience

The Bible:
Hebrews 5: 7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Phil Cary teaches 1/29/2024:

“Perfect” is a word that has subtly changed meaning since the early days of Bible translation in English.  It comes from the Latin word perfectus, which means “completed” or “full-grown” – – the completion of a process of building or growth.  A perfect house, in this sense, is one that you have finished building.  And a perfect man is one who is a full grown adult.  That’s how it’s used in the King James translation of Eph. 4:13 , where “perfect man” does not mean morally perfect (there are other words for that) but full-grown.

So any time you’re puzzled by talk about perfection in older translations of the Bible or in theology, try substituting “completed” or “perfected.”   (Or if you know classical music, remember that “opus imperfectum” means “unfinished work.”  It’s used in the designation of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony, for example).
In the Hebrews passage, Christ was perfected in his human obedience by what he suffered.  As God, he is always already perfect, but as a human being (“in the days of his flesh,” as the passage says) he must grow into his full stature as a man before God.  He is born a baby, which is by definition imperfect (not fully grown).  And he learns obedience, the passage says — and all learning is a process that is incomplete (imperfect) as long as it’s still going on. (As long as you’re still building the house, you don’t have a complete house–it’s not perfected yet.  And as long as you’re still learning, the process of learning has not reached its final goal yet, which means it’s imperfect.)   So Christ was imperfect precisely because, like all humans, obedience to God was something he learned.  It does not mean he was ever flawed.  It does mean he grew in knowledge and maturity, like any child learning to talk and to obey his parents.
As God, Christ always deserved to sit at the right hand of the Father.  But as man, he earned the right to be a human being on the throne of God.  The letter to Hebrews affirms both these truths in chapter 1.

God’s identity and the gender question: Phil Cary teaches 2/21/2024:

We are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  This 3-part name cannot be replaced; without it, we don’t know who we’re talking to.   Baptism in another name, such as “Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer,” is not Christian baptism.
On the other hand, if we want to speak of the maternal qualities of God, that’s fine. Scripture allows us to use all sorts of poetic language about God:  Rock, Water, Light, King, etc.  So why not Mother also?  God is more tender than any human mother (Isa. 49:15) just as he is a better provider than any human father (Matt. 7:9).  But the poetry has to be used with discretion, because the true God is not some kind of Earth Mother Goddess.