This morning Miroslav Volf continued his discussion of world religions (see the first Payton Lecture below), this time with a focus on how globalization is impacting all of the major faiths. He contends that living in an ever-expanding global community is shaping Christianity, as well as other religions, in both positive and negative ways. On the upside, we all have access to each other in unprecedented ways, providing opportunities for dialogue, interfaith exchanges and proselytization. However, there is a tradeoff. Globalization is also causing a major shift in all religions, including Christianity, and, in general, causing a shift away from the central tenants.
Here is a summary of a selection of comments from Volf’s presentation. (Many of these I tweeted. Follow me at @TimothyNeufeld.)
With regard to the tension between science and religion, it’s important to remember that sciences work to explain and manipulate the world; religion works to offer meaning and help through life. Nonetheless, they are often competing for the same territory.
Secularists define humanity in terms of genetics and biology, and religion is viewed as an ancient technology that is no longer needed. Religions assume a spiritual journey at the core and each religion includes this quest in the definition of humanity.
The challenge is not to gain a competitive advantage over science and technology; world religions work to connect people to the transcendent so that we can experience the fullness of human life. Faith and science do not negate one another. The Christian faith is not about the explanation of life but the meaning of life.
Globalization is transforming world religions in three ways. 1. Relation of religions with the state. 2. Relation of religions with economy 3. Relation of religions with environment. (Only the first two were addressed in this lecture.)
Religion and state.
No single faith can claim a divine political expression or integrate society as a whole.
An aspiration for power ends up using faith as a tool for coercive conquest. When world religions align themselves with political powers they are always distorted.
Argument: when it comes to religion's relation to politics globalization is a friend.
Decoupling religion from the state does not privatize faith.
We must give up the notion of religious control of society. Globalization is opening up the world for pluralized expressions of faith. Globalization provides the opportunity for religions to move back toward their original visions.
For Job, respect of God meant more than all else including health and wealth.
For the Puritans: Godliness as gain, wealth as a sign. We invert this today: Wealth as gain, godliness as a means.
We now worry more about the means of faith to transform economy than the means of faith to direct us to the transcendent.
Globalization proceeds under the goal of happier more pleasurable life. Market driven globalization pressures faiths to give up the transcendent and focus on the mundane, also providing the means to a more pleasurable life. (i.e. If most of the people in my neighborhood have a swimming pool, the goal is to help all people have swimming pools.)
The mother of all temptations is to live and act as if we can live by bread alone. The danger is that world religions are always tempted to use faith for the procurement of more and more "bread."
Globalization to the nonwestern world looks like "Americanization" of the globe. (Comment from respondent.)
Do we simply evangelize the other of the world to become like us? (Comment from respondent.)
Gender, skin color and ability to speak English are all false indicators of intelligence in a globalized world. (Comment from respondent.)
Waiting was a significant stance of early church that we have lost. Waiting involves recognizing we're not in control.
"Progress" is always built on the lives of those enduring destructive forces. Can that be considered progress?
The "city on a hill" view of a Christian America can only be maintained by a heavy-handed enforcement of power. The project to "retrieve a Christian America" is problematic. Nations cannot be Christian. Only communities of believers can be Christian.