W. Royce Clark observes that humanity appears to be jeopardizing our own future in a chaos of mutual antagonism and hypocrisy. Religions have traditionally provided ethical guidance, but because their absolutized metaphysics are incompatible with each other, we cannot rely on any one of them in a religiously pluralistic culture. The ethics of various religions are also built on theocratic or authoritarian foundations which are incompatible with any democratic society. Finally, many of their premises are very ancient, so not relevant or appropriate in our modern scientific world.
The Western Enlightenment brought challenges against religion’s singularity, exclusivity, heteronomy, and anti-scientific assumptions, all of which disrupted their ethics and the Absolute metaphysical grounds upon which those ethics rested, raising the question of whether a “freestanding” ethic was possible. Inasmuch as the primary claim of most religions was regarded as beyond challenge, but was a conflation of history and myth, modern historical method created more doubt than certainty about such allegedly certain doctrines as “Jesus is the Son of God.” By the end of the 20th century, the impossibility of validating suchprimary Christological claims from a historical approach became evident, despite the articulate attempts at credibility in the brilliant works of John Dominic Crossan and Wolfhart Pannenberg, which remained unconvincing in important ways.
Between 1832 and 2014, innovative Christian theologians such as Schleiermacher, Hegel, Tillich, and Scharlemann took a detour from the futility of historical verification. This study examines their remarkable attempts at a form of “corroboration” of the basic Christological claim, even if their primary interests were more in Christology than ethics. The question Clark takes up here is whether or not these figures have thereby provided a base for a universal ethic, or the only answer is for principles “freestanding” from any religion?
W. Royce Clark is professor emeritus of Pepperdine University.
Chapter 1 – The Problem: Religions’ “Corroboration” or “Freestanding” Principles
Chapter 2 – The Christ of Faith as Awakened Consciousness?
Chapter 3 – Corroboration by Mystical Union with Christ (God)?
Chapter 4 – The Absolute as Depth of Being: The Priority of Accepting Oneself
Chapter 5 – The Absolute as Relational Truth: The Instantiating Words of Unity
Chapter 6 – Conclusion: A Redefining of the Absolute as a Universal Embracing Differences
W. Royce Clark dares to ask whether, even today in an age of religious pluralism, a universal ethic is still possible, and if so, how? Written from a Western philosophical approach, he provides detailed surveys and critical assessments with a new focus to guide future scholarly studies. This text will prove to be especially rewarding for those working in the fields of religious ethics, the philosophy of religion, and all those who feel a new approach is needed to truly secure a shared culture of mutual trust.
Can religion supply a universal ethic that unites rather than divides people from one another? To this point in the history of the human race, the answer to that question has been negative, since each religion has insisted on its own Absolute universality, thereby alienating the rest of the species. We have seen the lethal fruit of religious Absolutism across the globe time and time again. But ours is a global community in which isolation is hardly a luxury. Is it possible, then, to imagine a universal religious sentiment that might, in turn, inspire a universal ethic? This is the most urgent question for our time, the most urgent question, in fact, that one might imagine, and the question that Clark explores in this remarkable book.