Restoring the Great Tradition

I just started reading The Soul of Christianity, Restoring the Great Tradition by Huston Smith.  The author was  born to Methodist missionaries in China, and went on to become internationally known and revered as the premier teacher of world religions.  I’m not very far into the book yet, but I have found it very interesting so far.

In the Preface, Mr. Smith states that he feels like a voice crying in the wilderness, the wilderness of secular modernity.  He goes on to say “And yet a voice that can pull us out of the wilderness is on our very doorstep.  That voice is the voice of first-millenium Christianity, the Great Tradition, which all Christians can accept because it is the solid trunk of the tree from which its branches have sprung.  It is the voice of peace, justice, and beauty that emanates from the Christian soul …”

Later, in the Introduction section, he states that “today religion is hamstrung between liberals and conservatives who cancel each other out.  Conservative Christians, commonly tagged as fundamentalists, incline toward a biblical literalism that is unworkable because it ignores the contexts that give words their meaning … and they are in constant danger of slipping into disastrous political agendas.”  On the other side, he says “Liberal churches, for their part, are digging their own graves, for without a robust, emphatically  theistic worldview to work within, they have nothing to offer their members except rallying cries to be good.”

There are two main sections to the book:  The Christian Worldview, and The Christian Story.  I have read just far enough to discern a main thread.  The author maintains that God is coming back into the picture in our cultures because we now understand where secularism has gone wrong.  Secularism has equated two things, absence-of-evidence and evidence-of-absence.  However, it is clear that these are really two very different concepts.   I think that Mr. Smith is on to something pretty profound here.

I am looking forward to reading the rest of this book to see how this thread is developed.  I am also anxious to see how Mr. Smith believes we should navigate the middle ground of Christianity between the flawed approaches of those who are too liberal and those who are too conservative.  I’ll be sure to share my findings with you.

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