Thursday, March 31, 2011

TEXAS FAITH 34: Why not worry about your theology?

Dallas Morning News,
Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.
Former Texas Faith moderator Rod Dreher recently wrote a probing review in our Sunday Points section looking at the findings social scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell present in American Grace, their in-depth look at American religion. Rod's piece mirrors the discussion we have had over the last year about Americans' depth of religious knowledge, how much religion shapes, or doesn't shape, our political views and how people of faith can have genuine interfaith discussions.
In summing up the findings of Putnam and Campbell, Rod reaches this two-fold conclusion:
"The good news is that we Americans of different faith traditions get along remarkably well, not by casting aside religion, but by learning how to be tolerant even as we remain religiously engaged.

"The bad news is that achieving religious comity has come at the price of religious particularity and theological competence. That is, we may still consider ourselves devoted to our faith, but increasingly, we don't know what our professed faith teaches, and we don't appreciate why that sort of thing is important in the first place."
Rod goes on to write:
"It seems the more we know about believers in other faiths, the better we feel about those faiths. Isn't that progress?

"The problem - and it's a big one - is theological. If you believe that religion is nothing more than a statement of what an individual or a community thinks or feels about God, this is not such a big deal. If, however, you believe that religion is primarily a statement about what God thinks of us - that is, if religion proclaims binding moral and metaphysical truths that are necessary to live by - then a great deal depends on maintaining theological continuity and integrity."
So, for this week, I'd like to hear your thoughts about this question:
Why shouldn't people of faith worry about maintaining theological continuity and integrity, if indeed religion proclaims binding moral and metaphysical truths that are necessary to live by?
NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas
Can anyone become a doctor or lawyer simply by studying the books of medicine or law? No. Medical school and law school is required. At such schools one studies under those who have become experts in the field. Similarly Bhagavad Gita maintains that integrity can only maintained by a disciplic succession. The guru principle.

"BG 4.2: This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.

BG 4.3: That very ancient science of the relationship with the Supreme is today told by Me to you because you are My devotee as well as My friend and can therefore understand the transcendental mystery of this science."

Krishna describes that if spiritual knowledge is not passed down in a disciplic chain the knowledge becomes lost. As a chain is strong as its weakest link. As Krishna states in the 10th canto of the Srimad Bhagavatam "When people in this world perform activities, sometimes they understand what they are doing and sometimes they don't. Those who know what they are doing achieve success in their work, whereas ignorant people do not."
To see all the responses from the Texas Faith Panel click here

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