Sunday, November 09, 2008

Hick on Christianity and Other Religions

Professor John Hick will be giving a public lecture, entitled "Christianity and Other Religions," at the University of Birmingham at the beginning of next month. The event, which is part of the University's postgraduate open day on December 3rd, is hosted by the School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion.

I'm particularly interested in Hick's work on the philosophy of religion because it relates to the first philosophical strand that I am drawing from my research data. (For an overview of the two strands, see my post on my thesis structure - particularly chapters four and five). This first strand, whose chapter I am currently giving the title "Inaccessibility," acknowledge human finitude, revere subjectivity of experience, and therefore encourage humility in religious knowledge. An example of this strand's Hickean approach is the story of Indian origin in which blind men have access to different parts of an elephant, each believing they know what they have (a tree, a snake, a rope, etc.) without being able to access the entirety of the elephant to know it to be such, told to me by several participants. The story suggests that, while there is absolute truth (it is an elephant; God exists), that truth is inaccessible to us in its totality; we have, instead, subjective or relative truths.

Hick's work on pluralism, universalism, and interreligious dialogue is (or rather, will be, once I've read some more of it!!!) pertinant here. Hick describes God as 'transcategorial,' and argues that beliefs about God are shaped by available categories in our culture(s). There is therefore a plurality of ways of understanding and experiencing God, none of which (like our blind men) have a monopoly on religious truth.

Along with Hick, participants in this first strand conceptualise truth within a paradigm which one participant describes as 'inaccessible Absolutism,' wherein truth exists on 'a kind of universal level,' independently of our stumblings after it, but no 'one person or group can access it' fully.


Anonymous said...

Even though I find Hicks views personally attractive the Lindbeck postliberal critique of culture shaping experience is very persuasive and hard to arge against. The liberal emphasis on a common core experience behing all religions is redically undermined.


Katharine Moody said...

Maybe I'll find Hick isn't post- enough for my needs, eh?!?

Anonymous said...

Bad spelling day in above post...

Anonymous said...

In reading about mysticism early 20th century writers such as William James would have viewed noetic experiences if the infinite as proof of a common religious experience behind all religions but recent writers such as Turner and McGinn would emphasise the necessity of viewing mystics in particularity
of their cultural and historical situations in order to do justice to their their writings and not force them into a modern liberal agenda

i love William James ideas as a religious liberal but intellectual honesty for me has to acknowledge these critiques