Our blogger roundtable on the book God Is Not One, by Boston College professor Stephen Prothero, continues this week with a post by Progressive Christian theologian Bruce Epperly. Read an excerpt from his review below. Epperly joins a roundtable which has included Muslim, Hindu, Pagan and other Christian bloggers in responding to the central themes in Prothero’s best-selling book. I encourage you to visit the Take & Read Blog and read some of the responses; it’s been a rich conversation, and includes some compelling responses from Prothero to individual bloggers’ questions.
Find more resources on the book, including author interviews and Discussion Questions for your own group discussion, visit the new Patheos Book Club.
Bruce Epperly on God Is Not One:
Despite the hyperbole of its dustcover — “The Clash of the Gods” – Stephen Prothero’s God Is not One presents a simple truth: the world’s religions are really different. They have different origins, different analyses of the human condition, and different destinations. They point to different dimensions of reality and focus on different aspects of human experience. For Prothero, despite the potential for conflict among the world’s religions, this is good news and may be the basis for authentic religious dialogue and cooperation.
While Prothero deals with the phenomena of religious experience and ritual and doesn’t weigh in on issues of religious or metaphysical truth, he presents a picture of diverse, conflicting, and contrasting religious traditions, and suggests that humility is the only appropriate response to varieties of religious experience. If there is a god or goddess, “He or She or It must surely know more than we do about the things that matter most” (340).For Prothero, the solution is to be found in the apophatic spiritual tradition, the wisdom that the Holy is always more than we can imagine. Seeing in a mirror dimly, to quote the apostle Paul, is the antidote to “god-inspired” violence and intolerance.
I fundamentally agree with Prothero’s thesis that religions are manifold; but as a theologian, I take a slightly different path that embraces both the kataphatic and apophatic aspects of religious experience — the affirmation that God is revealed in all things and can be symbolized by many things, while being more than anything we can imagine. More than that, I believe God is the source of the world’s many religious traditions.