Tag Archives: Phillip Cary

Are all religions just different expressions of the same truth?


Or so says Phillip Cary, who, in his recent lecture to the University of Georgia Christian Faculty Forum, questions our impulse “to say that all religions are in some deep sense the same.”

It’s an impulse we have about a lot of things, not just religion.  We like to talk about celebrating diversity and difference, but we often do it by trying to reassure people, “we’re really all the same underneath.”  I was struck by this in one educational programs meant to celebrate diversity.  Its message was: let’s celebrate our differences, because we’re really all the same.  I’m exaggerating a bit, but not much.  Without exaggeration, I think we could put the key idea here like this:  difference is great, so long as it doesn’t go all the way down.  So we try to protect difference by saying: we’re not all that different.  At some deep level we’re really the same.

Cary even makes such unseemly claims as “We have the right…to say [someone’s] beliefs aren’t true.” And “all truth is absolute.”

But Cary is no my-way-or-the-highway-fundamentalist. He just understands that the John Hick-style philosophy of religious pluralism, in which all religious beliefs are deemed equally true is not only illogical, but “profoundly disrespectful” to religious people.

To expect people to say that their religious beliefs are only “true for me” is to expect them not to take the truth of their own beliefs seriously.  I don’t think we ever have the right to expect that of anybody.  We have the right to disagree with people, to say their beliefs aren’t true, to give reasons trying to persuade them to change their beliefs.  But we don’t have a right to expect them simply not to believe what they believe.  And that’s what we’re expecting if we say: “you can’t really say it’s true.  It’s just true for you.”   For, on the contrary, people have a right to say “it’s true” precisely because they believe it.  For, to repeat, to believe something is precisely to believe it’s true.  So why can’t you say what you believe?  If you believe it’s true, then go ahead and say it’s true.

There’s a connection here between ethics and logic, because logic centers on the concept of truth, and ethics includes the requirement that we respect other people, which includes respect for them as truth seekers, as people who want to know the truth and believe it, rather than to be in error, and believe what’s false.

In its place Cary proposes a philosophy of religious pluralism that looks more like friendship.

If you and I don’t know each other very well, then we have to be very cautious about how we express our disagreement, very polite.  We don’t shout at each other or say things like “what a  stupid idea,” and so on.  But then think how the conversation might change if we become friends.  We might go at it hammer and tongs, gleefully shouting at each other, pulling out all the rhetorical stops, calling a stupid idea stupid when we see it that way, and none of us takes offense because we are enjoying each other’s company so much and learning so much, even though we have lots of misunderstandings of each other to work through.  We enjoy arguing with each other—that’s how it is with friends—because we can trust that our friends really do want what is good for us, really do want us to know the truth, which is also what we want for them.

You can read the entire lecture here.


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Christian Anxieties

Frequent readers will know that I am apt to post anything I can get my hands on by my teacher at Eastern University, Phillip Cary.  So, I was delighted to stumble across this interview on Homebrewed Christianity, in which Cary discusses how subtle shifts in theology drastically affect the everyday experiences of Christians, especially their anxieties. Par for the course, Cary uses this topic as a springboard into a primer on the entire history of Western theology from Augustine all the way to modern evangelicalism that will shock and delight you, and most of all inspire you to ask deep questions about your own theological commitments. I really do hope you will take the time to listen to this interview, you won’t regret it!

One suggestions: the interviewers record a few minutes of silliness before getting to the interview, so you may want to skip ahead to minute 7:50.


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The Doctrine of the Trinity

“When I was growing up in the faith, I heard a lot about the doctrine of the Trinity,” writes Phillip Cary, professor of philosophy at Eastern University.

trinity[But I] never learned quite what that doctrine was.  In high school and college I worshipped in faithful, Biblical churches, in which pastors often affirmed the importance of the Trinity, even preached whole sermons on how important it was, yet never told us what the doctrine actually said.

I think many of us have had this experience.  In his twin articles The Logic of Trinitarian Doctrine and Historical Perspectices on Trinitarian Doctrine, Prof. Cary explains what the doctrine of the Trinity actually says, in clear, easy to understand terms.

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Theological vs. Historical-Critical Approach to the Bible

Check out Phillip Cary and Kenton Sparks debate biblical hermenutics at Eastern University’s Theological Society.  It’s a little long so it’s in two parts, but it ‘s worth it!

Biblical Hermeneutics Debate – Part I
Biblical Hermeneutics Debate – Part II

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