Copyright © 2011 by William Allan Kritsonis/All Rights Reserved                                                           ...
166             PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANING9.    When the symbols of faith are understood in their ordinary ...
RELIGION                                                         16733.   No major historical religion has been exclusivel...
168              PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANINGLike history, religion as a synoptic field integrates all the re...
RELIGION                                                              169izes the way to the infinite, but the infinite is...
170   PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANING
RELIGION   171Picture
172              PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANING                             THE SUPERNATURAL        The realm o...
RELIGION                                                             173                  NONDISCURSIVE SYMBOLIC FORMS AND...
174                  PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANINGtheological propositions and creedal formulas. These stateme...
RELIGION                                                             175       Ultimacy in the realm of personal knowledge...
176              PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANINGfrom personal freedom, which entails the power to act according ...
RELIGION                                        177                    Humans not                 only build palaces      ...
178       PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANINGPicture
RELIGION                                                            179The Problem of Evil       The problem of evil is pe...
180             PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANINGunified meanings obtainable. At the very least, faith refers to a...
RELIGION                                                         181                            WAYS OF KNOWING1.    In re...
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Chapter 19 Religion from WAYS OF KNOWING THROUGH THE REALMS OF MEANING by William Allan Kritsonis, PhD

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Chapter 19 Religion from WAYS OF KNOWING THROUGH THE REALMS OF MEANING by William Allan Kritsonis, PhD

  1. 1. Copyright © 2011 by William Allan Kritsonis/All Rights Reserved 19 RELIGION INSIGHTS1. In religion the common element uniting all the realms is ulti- macy.2. The content of religious meanings may be anything at all, pro- vided it is regarded from an ultimate perspective.3. The methods of gaining religious understanding are many and varied, including prayer, meditation, active commitment, and ritual practices.4. Faith is the illumination that comes in going to the limits.5. Faith is the light that shines from the Whole.6. The realm of ultimacy is frequently designated as the “super- natural,” which is another way of speaking of infinitude.7. The supernatural is what is beyond the limits of the finite or natural.8. The ultimate word is the link binding together finite and infinite, time and eternity. 165
  2. 2. 166 PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANING9. When the symbols of faith are understood in their ordinary language sense, the religious meaning is missed and religious ut- terances are regarded as meaningless.10. In addition to ordinary language used extraordinarily, religious symbols include many other nondiscursive forms.11. Silence is a mode of expression that symbolizes the boundary situation from which faith springs.12. In the silence one bears witness to the infinitude that cannot be contained in any finite act or utterance.13. The “Truth” in the religious sense means the one Source and Ground of all partial truths and the Light that shines within every particular illumination of intelligence.14. This Source, Ground, Light, Being, Reality, First Cause, is named by many names, and all are names of the divine or of God, the term most commonly applied to the ultimate Truth.15. The God of faith is actual fact and not a fiction of the imagi- nation.16. Theology is regarded as the supreme science, providing system- atic generalizations and theories about the ultimate Reality.17. The man of faith believes the God of the creative word and of ultimate truth is also the Source of all beauty.18. God is sometimes symbolized by the figure of the Master Crafts- man.19. Much of the greatest music, painting, and architecture has been inspired by religious faith and has served to inspire others to a similar devotion.20. Ultimacy in the realm of personal knowledge is expressed in the conviction that God is personal.21. God is the eternal Thou and He is known in every I-Thou en- counter.22. God is affirmed to be Love, and He is known wherever love is found.23. The traditional term for the person regarded from an ultimate perspective is the “soul,” by which is meant the real core of a person’s being.24. The soul is the mysterious depth in persons, in which are hidden the inexhaustible possibilities of being.25. In the inwardness of the soul reside the springs of freedom, whereby the person shares with the divine in creative activity.26. Above all, God, the ultimate Being, is believed to be disclosed in the innermost life of the soul.27. God is known in the Love made manifest in the inwardly accept- ed gift of personal existence.28. The divine is further known to the faithful as the Holy One.29. Sin is wrongdoing from the standpoint of relation to the divine.30. The goal of the religious life is salvation, which consists in fi- nal deliverance from sin and from the ultimate evil, death, and in the realization of union with God Himself in an eternity of love.31. It is regarded as the duty of the faithful to affirm the love and the power of God in spite of the mystery of evil.32. Religious meanings incorporate all the realms of meaning in a comprehensive orientation.
  3. 3. RELIGION 16733. No major historical religion has been exclusively of one type; each contains a mixture of elements.34. At the very least, faith refers to an ideal and a hope for max- imum completeness, depth, and integrity of vision. ____________________
  4. 4. 168 PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANINGLike history, religion as a synoptic field integrates all the realms ofmeaning. Integration in history is achieved by the consideration ofevents in time. The reenactment of these events requires meaningsfrom all the realms. In religion the common element uniting all therealms is ultimacy. The term “ultimacy” is a general designation forsuch ideas as infinitude, absoluteness, the unlimited, transcendence,perfection, completeness, all-inclusiveness, the supreme, and manyothers. It stands in contrast to concepts of finitude, the relative, limi-tation, partiality, and the like. THE CONTENT OF RELIGIOUS MEANINGS The content of religious meanings may be anything at all, pro-vided it is regarded from an ultimate perspective. Or it might better besaid that religious meanings comprehend or include all things, andthat a religious attitude with respect to any given thing is to considerit in the light of all that is, i.e., from the standpoint of the Whole. THE METHODS OF GAINING RELIGIOUS UNDERSTANDING The methods of gaining religious understanding are many andvaried, including prayer, meditation, active commitment, and ritualpractices. One element is essential in all methods of pursuing religiousmeanings, and this may be described as “going to the limits.” Thismeans proceeding to the point where ordinary finite experience is ex-hausted and where the significance of proximate and limited meaningsis called into question. DISAGREEMENT ABOUT “GOING TO THE LIMITS” Not everyone agrees this “going to the limits” is a meaningfulprocess. Those who do not agree think that finite experience is allthat people can have and that concepts of ultimacy are thereforeempty and their objects illusory. Generally they hold that no ques-tion ever need arise beyond the pursuit of finite meanings. They believethat human life consists simply in the sum total of particular happen-ings, and that while various coordinations and interrelations can beestablished, the concept of understanding anything in the light of theWhole is meaningless. AFFIRMATION IN “GOING TO THE LIMITS” Those who affirm the meaningfulness of religion believe that in“going to the limits” in prayer and other religious practices a newand essential perspective is gained on everything particular. They be-lieve essential perspective is gained on everything particular. Theybelieve that in some sense this new perspective is an illumination fromthe Whole, constituting what is generally referred to as revelation.Moreover, people who accept the religious view usually hold thatthose who deny any ultimacy implicitly affirm it in the vigor of theirdenial and that their clinging to finitude is an effort to escape theoverwhelmingness of an ultimate that can neither be encompassed norcontrolled. FAITH The idea of “the limits” may be somewhat misleading, since in theapproach to ultimacy there is no question of reaching a dividing linebetween two domains of experience. The “limits of the finite” symbol-
  5. 5. RELIGION 169izes the way to the infinite, but the infinite is not simply another kindof finitude on the other side of the limits. That is why in the religioussphere the basis of understanding is said to be faith and not the formsof understanding that characterize the finite realms. Faith is the illu-mination that comes in going to the limits. Faith is the light that shinesfrom the Whole, where the Whole is not simply the sum of everythingwithin the finite realms, but the Comprehensive that comprehends orholds together all things in a transcendent unity, and it itself notcomprehensible within any finite entity. Humans, whatever their religious denomination love and praise their God with music, literature, craftsmanship, and any other means available. People build places of beauty open to whomever wants to come and worship. Much has been debated about religion in schools. How many religious activists would object to the use of all religions in school? Would it be acceptable to include the Bible, the Torah, the Koran, and the doctrine of every religion, in order to have God present?
  6. 6. 170 PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANING
  7. 7. RELIGION 171Picture
  8. 8. 172 PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANING THE SUPERNATURAL The realm of ultimacy is frequently designated as the “super-natural,” which is another way of speaking of infinitude. The super-natural is what is beyond the limits of the finite or natural. This modeof speech is likely to be misleading too, for the supernatural, theKingdom of God, Heaven, and other such terms are not meant to be in-terpreted geographically, as separate realms. Religion means noth-ing apart from a relation of natural and supernatural, finite and in-finite. The relation is that of creature to Creator, of beings to Being-Itself, and of the temporal to the Eternal. The disclosure of this re-lation is revelation, and its mode of apprehension is faith. MANY DIFFERENT RELIGIOUS SYMBOLIC FORMS ARE USED AS VEHICLES OF FAITH (SYMBOLICS) Each of the realms of meaning hitherto described is necessaryto the Comprehensive that is apprehended by faith. From the symbolicrealm religious symbols are required. In ultimate perspective, lan-guage is seen as the primordial creative Word, that was in the begin-ning, and from which all things were made. The ultimate word is thelink binding together finite and infinite, time and eternity. It is the or-dering principle in all things, the bond of community among disparateentities. Many different symbolic forms are used as the vehicles of faith.Some of these are based on ordinary language, including commonwords like love, anger, and power. In these cases the meanings aregenerally to be understood figuratively and not literally, experi-ences from finite existence being used to point to faith analogues.When the symbols of faith are understood in their ordinary languagesense, the religious meaning is missed and religious utterances are re-garded as meaningless or at most as anthropomorphic projections.Actually, a degree of anthropomorphism I inherent in symbolic usageand is the basis on which the infinite becomes intelligible within finiteexistence.
  9. 9. RELIGION 173 NONDISCURSIVE SYMBOLIC FORMS AND RELIGIOUS SYMBOLS: RITUALS AND SILENCERituals In addition to ordinary language used extraordinarily, religioussymbols include many other nondiscursive forms. Especially importantare rituals, by which relations to the ultimate are regulated. forthese purposes the religious community may designate special times andplaces (holy days, shrines, temples) and special persons (priests) andmay consecrate certain objects as sacramental. Even more impor-tant in ritual are the symbolic acts, including postures, gestures, andother bodily movements regarded as symbolizing the approach to thedivine. The various symbolic patterns employed belong to the lan-guage of religion.Silence One more especially significant aspect of religious expression isthe use of silence. Silence is a mode of expression that symbolizes theboundary situation from which faith springs. In the silence one bearswitness to the infinitude that cannot be contained in any finite act orutterance. Silence is the expression of the ineffability of the ultimate,that religious mystics have always acknowledged. From the stand-point of faith the atheist is in a sense correct: the divine is literallynothing, that is, not a thing which can be set alongside other things,put into categories, and named. The Comprehensive cannot be compre-hended; it is nameless. For these reasons the symbolism of silence is anessential one in religion. IN SCIENTIFIC MEANINGS THE ULTIMATE APPEARS AS THE TRUTH (EMPIRICS) In the realm of scientific meanings, the ultimate appears as theTruth. The “Truth” in the religious sense does not mean simply the sumof all the true propositions known and yet to be known. It means theone Source and Ground of all partial truths and the Light that shineswithin every particular illumination of intelligence. These capitalizedterms are symbols of ultimacy in relation to the enterprise of empiri-cal inquiry.Laws and Theories The religious consciousness seeks to affirm a Reality from whichthe phenomenal world is derived, a Being whose intelligence is re-vealed in the laws and theories of empirical science. The man of faithaffirms an explanation in which all particular explanations are com-prehended, and a First Cause (not in order of time, but of being) inwhich all proximate causes are grounded.First Cause This Source, Ground, Light, Being, Reality, First Cause, isnamed by many names, and all are names of the divine or of God, theterm most commonly applied to the ultimate Truth. By faith this God isheld to be the primal Fact, whose being and nature are expressed in
  10. 10. 174 PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANINGtheological propositions and creedal formulas. These statements offaith are not regarded as empirical propositions in the same class asother such propositions referring to the finite realm. Yet they arestated in empirical form to express the conviction that the God offaith is actual fact and not a fiction of the imagination. Theology isregarded as the supreme science, providing systematic generalizationsand theories about the ultimate Reality. THE MAN OF FAITH BELIEVES GOD IS THE SOURCE OF ALL BEAUTY (ESTHETICS) With respect to the esthetic realm, the man of faith believesthe God of the creative word and of ultimate truth is also the Sourceof all beauty. Whatever excellence a work of art has he believes tobe due to its participation in the divine excellence. he regards every fi-nite perfection as a reflection of the infinite perfection of God. In theperception of a work of art, or of any other object esthetically re-garded, the eye of faith also perceives pure, unalloyed Beauty. This isnot a sense perception, but a faith perception that is believed inkthough not actualized in experience. Through this perception the finiteinstances of beauty serve as symbols of the divine.The Activity of the Artist From an ultimate perspective, the activity of the artist may beregarded as an analogue of the divine creative activity. God is some-times symbolized by the figure of the Master Craftsman. In his dia-logue Timaeus Plat represents the creation of the world as the workof the divine Demiurge shaping formless substance according to thepattern of the ideal forms. Similarly, the God of one of the versionsof the creation in the Book of Genesis is portrayed as a plastic artist.Dorothy Sayers, in The Mind of the Maker1 beautifully developsthe analogy between the work of the creative writer and the divinelife, using as her basis the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. She seesthe Father as the creative Idea, the Son as the material Incarnationof the idea, and the Holy Ghost as the communicative Power of the in-carnate idea, and she shows how the doctrine of the Trinity and theknowledge of good literary craftsmanship mutually reinforce one an-other.Religious Significance The religious significance of the esthetic realm is especially evi-dent in the abundant use made of all the arts in providing religioussymbols. Much of the greatest music, painting, and architecture hasbeen inspired by religious faith and has served to inspire others to asimilar devotion. From the earliest times the dance has been intimatelyconnected with sacred rites, and as Francis Fergusson shows,2 theclassic drama, that had its roots in the festivals connected with themystery religions, came to its most complete fulfillment in the cosmicvision of Dante’s Divine Comedy. GOD IS PERSONAL (SYNNOETICS)1 Meridian Books, Inc., New York, 1956.2 The Idea of a Theater, Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., 1949.
  11. 11. RELIGION 175 Ultimacy in the realm of personal knowledge is expressed in theconviction that God is personal. The creative Word, the supremeTruth, and the divine Harmony are understood by faith as not onlyobjective abstractions, not merely impersonal cosmic principles andpowers, but as One with Whom each person may be in direct personalrelation. As Buber says, God is the eternal Thou and He is known inevery I-Thou encounter. Wherever a person meets another in aware-ness, acceptance, and acknowledgment of his unique being, the eternalThou is present. God is affirmed to be Love, and He is known whereverlove is found. Every act of devotion in the finite realm is regarded bythe faithful as a partial manifestation of that primal divine loveshown forth in the creation of all things and in God’s abiding solici-tude for their redemption and fulfillment.The Soul The personal God is believed to be the source and ground of cre-ated persons. The traditional term for the person regarded from anultimate perspective is the “soul,” by which is meant the real core ofa person’s being, as contrasted with the empirical self whose charac-teristics can be described in the categories of finitude. The soul is themysterious depth in persons, in which are hidden the inexhaustible pos-sibilities of being. In the inwardness of the soul reside the springs offreedom, whereby the person shares with the divine in creative activi-ty. There reside the powers of limitless self-transcendence, the groundfor self-awareness, imagination, self-determination, and participa-tion real time, including the ability to remember and to anticipate. Inthe light of faith these latter capacities betoken the union in the soulof the temporal and the eternal, and from this joining spring intima-tions, hopes, and expectations of a destiny of the soul beyond the mor-tal span, as symbolized in doctrines of preexistence, reincarnation,immortality, and resurrection—the various beliefs differing in the mat-ter of the relation between the body and the soul in the person.God, the Ultimate Being Above all, God, the ultimate Being, is believed to be disclosed inthe innermost life of the soul. He is not a Person to be sought in thefar reaches of the cosmos. This is, again, why the faithful agree withthe atheist, that God who is merely an object of empirical inquiry—does not exist. He is known in the Love made manifest in the inwardlyaccepted gift of personal existence.The Holy One The divine is further known to the faithful as the Holy One. Heis supremely righteous, the ultimate source of all good. He is theJudge of all, and in Him the final justification of moral principles re-sides. These concepts are, however, to be understood metaphorically.God as the righteous judge is not to be conceived as an objective su-pernatural sovereign issuing commands and rendering judgments. Theimages used are intended to point to the ultimate Rightness in whichall finite principles and achievements of right participate. The divineGoodness, likewise, is a symbol for the ultimate perfection discernedby faith in every particular good. THE RIGHT AND THE GOOD (ETHICS) From a religious standpoint the right and the good are not con-ceived as impersonal principles and qualities, but as rooted in the per-sonal divine Ground. Right and good have no moral quality apart
  12. 12. 176 PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANINGfrom personal freedom, which entails the power to act according tothe right or contrary to it. Because of freedom persons may chooseevil instead of good and thus may become guilty of sin. Sin is wrongdo-ing from the standpoint of relation to the divine.The Demonic Category But since not all evil can reasonably be traced to deliberatedisobedience to the moral law, the category of the demonic plays arole in religious thought. Various symbols of the anti-sacred havebeen developed, including devils as personifications of evil powers, andhells as destinations for unredeemed souls and for the demonic agen-cies. The goal of the religious life is salvation, which consists in fi-nal deliverance from sin and from the ultimate evil, death, and in therealization of union with God Himself in an eternity of love.
  13. 13. RELIGION 177 Humans not only build palaces to their God for the enjoyment of all members of the church, he is evangelical. Humans believe that God is good, that God is meant for everyone, that people who do not love God have not experienced god. Humans, in their benevolence, want all people to love and enjoy their Almighty Father, and actively spreads His word. What frustrations must be encountered by the deeply religious teacher who must pay special attention not to introduce a doctrine that may not be agreed upon by all students, and more importantly, all parents?
  14. 14. 178 PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANINGPicture
  15. 15. RELIGION 179The Problem of Evil The problem of evil is perhaps the greatest of all difficultiesto religious faith. No satisfactory rational solution to the apparentcontradiction between the reality of a loving creator and the actu-ality of evil (whether as sin or otherwise) has been offered. It is re-garded as the duty of the faithful to affirm the love and the power ofGod in spite of the mystery of evil, and to make good their faith bytaking an active part in the conquest of evil. RELIGIOUS REALMS INCORPORATE ALL THE REALMS OF MEANING Religious meanings incorporate all the realms of meaning in acomprehensive orientation. Religious understanding presupposes a com-mon ground of all meanings. The Word, the Truth, Perfection, Loveand the Holy—all refer to one and the same Being. They are the facesof God, in Whom the faithful see things united. Within the finite spherethings are separate and distinct. From the perspective of the infiniteall things spring from a single source. In faith realms that are dif-ferent and distinct are seen as aspects of one whole THE PURSUIT OF ULTIMACY IN RELIGION The foregoing treatment of meanings in the field of religion hasnecessarily been general and has done little justice to the great va-riety of actual religious forms in the traditions of humankind. Thepursuit of ultimacy may occur through many different symbols, be-liefs, rites, codes and institutions. Some groups emphasize the sacredword, and have a religion of the Book. Some groups seek the divine pri-marily through ritual practices. Other religions are intellectual,centering in creeds and theologies, or esthetic, offering fulfillment inthe heavenly vision, while still others stress the way of love and de-votion, expressed in the life of prayer and worship. Finally, someshow their concern mainly through the deed, believing that salvationcomes through obedience to the absolute moral command and throughworking for the creation of a community conceived in righteousness.No major historical religion has been exclusively of one type; eachcontains a mixture of elements. DIVERSITY OF RELIGIOUS FORMS Despite this multiplicity, certain common concerns can be dis-cerned within the religious life of man, and these have been indicatedin the foregoing analysis of the fundamental religious ideas. To thosewho reject religion as an illusion, the diversity of religious forms ap-pears as evidence of the relativity and subjectivity of religion and ofthe objective meaninglessness of religious symbols. On the other hand,the proponents of religion may claim the plurality of forms is a con-sequence of the insufficiency of any finite formulation to do justice tothe infinite and the literal inadequacy of religious symbols, whichleads to the search for better ones and hence to multiplicity, is not adefect in relation to the ultimate, but a necessary virtue. RELIGIOUS INQUIRY IS DIRECTED TOWARD ULTIMACY Whether or not the claim of the religious believer is affirmed,the type of meaning intended by the faithful should be clear. Regard-less of the results of the search, religious inquiry is directed towardultimacy, in the sense of the most comprehensive, most profound, most
  16. 16. 180 PART TWO: FUNDAMENTAL PATTERNS OF MEANINGunified meanings obtainable. At the very least, faith refers to an ide-al and a hope for maximum completeness, depth, and integrity of vi-sion. On these minimal terms, in which no transcendent realities areposited, everyone should be able to acknowledge some religious mean-ings. Others do not find that such modest meanings do justice to theirmost compelling insights, and they bear witness to a faith, mediatedby any of a great variety of symbols, in a divine reality they believeis at once the ground of their own being, the law of their life, thefoundation of their hopes, and the creative source of all things.
  17. 17. RELIGION 181 WAYS OF KNOWING1. In religion the term “ultimacy” is a general designation that means what?2. What is the content of religious meanings?3. What are the methods of gaining religious understanding?4. What element is essential in all methods of pursuing religious meanings?5. In pursuing religious meanings, what is meant by “going to the limits”? Do all people agree or disagree with this description?6. Why is it said that in the religious sphere the basis of under- standing is said to be faith?7. What does it mean to have faith?8. What is the “supernatural”?9. Why are religious symbols required in religion?10. What are some nondiscursive symbolic forms of religion?11. What is the purpose of silence from the religious perspective?12. What does the “Truth” mean in the religious sense?13. What is meant by “First Cause”?14. Why is theology regarded as the supreme science?15. Why does the person of faith believe God is the ultimate truth and the source of all beauty?16. Why is the religious significance of the esthetic realm impor- tant?17. How is God personal?18. Why is the “soul” of a person meant to be the real core of a person’s being?19. What resides in the mysterious depth of the “soul”?20. In what respect do the faithful agree with the atheist?21. How does God make himself known?22. How is God as the righteous judge expected to be conceived as an objective supernatural sovereign?23. What is divine goodness?24. From the religious standpoint, how are the right and the good conceived? What is sin?25. How does the category of the demonic play in the role of reli- gious thought?26. What is the goal of religious life?27. How does religious meaning incorporate all the realms of meaning?28. How does one become actively engaged in the pursuit of ultima- cy?29. Why is there a diversity of religious forms?30. Religious inquiry is directed toward what?

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