THE PROBLEM, THE OBJECTIVE, THE CRUCIAL QUESTIONS – Part 2

Now for the second of our three foci, “the crucial questions.”

Harold acknowledges the decline of religion.  One must remember that THE SHINING STRANGER was first published in 1967 when the free love/anti war/ hippie movement really began to take off and question everything concerning institutional authority, especially government and religion.  The situation is just as relevant today as ever, as numbers of “The Nones,” those who don’t affiliate themselves with any religion, continue to rise.  Here is a Gallop Poll chart:

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In October, 2012, the Pew Research Center released a study, ‘Nones on the Rise.’ According to Pew, one fifth (46 million) of American adults have no religious affiliation.

Harold says…

Whenever one searches the religious question he finds that among the educated element traditional faiths are declining and as yet there is no stated doctrine to take their place.

George Bernard Shaw wrote that civilizations invariably collapse when man’s power outruns his religion – as man’s power appears to be doing today.  It is not the decline of a particular religion, but of all religions that presages catastrophe – for despite the evil that has been done in the name of religion, so much that gives meaning and purpose to life rests upon it that sanity itself may rest upon it.

(J.B.) Priestly suggests the answer as to what life would be without religion – man is dehumanized.  When this happens, ethics follow suit.  The universal collapsing of religions poses this threat that is glacial and moves at glacial pace.  Who can stop this inching chill?  What ideology can lead man out of its grinding path?

Very important questions concerning a very real situation.  Anyone who has really thought about the state of the world and the challenges that confront humanity should be asking themselves these sort of monumental questions.  Economic instability, lack of clean water, energy crises, new strains of super-viruses, natural disasters, hunger, cyber-espionage, terrorism, GMOs, climate issues, human trafficking; the list goes on and on.  So where do we begin?  Harold continues…

(Russell) Davenport sees that the question goes far beyond any particular religion: ‘it is a question of our concept of man.’ Western man cannot answer the question – who and what am I? – without first answering another – who and what was Jesus? – for upon this man the whole culture leans so heavily one merely begs the question if he will not face it.

The crucial question to be settled is the nature and meaning of Jesus’ Messianic role – upon this all else depends.  His own words settle this question, and from them may be enunciated a concept of man that restores meaning and purpose in life whatever the path he treads.  But Jesus’ revelation is by no means unprecedented.  As Radhakrishnan points out:

“There is no development in religious truth, though there is a development in the expression of truth.”

This study approaches the works and words of Jesus in this light: they are a development in the expression of truth, and insofar as men with a Western background are concerned, His message, held apart from the theologies clustering around it, offers still the greatest hope of true religion.  Why?  Because Jesus’ message can be grasped more readily – His words are familiar.  He is familiar as a symbol representing more of paradoxal truth than man can as yet express, and when men appear to be losing their humanity, his image appears out of the darkness to begin again to lead them onward toward light…

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Just as we always joke in church that the answer to every question is “Jesus,” so it is with Preston Harold.  But this Jesus will take us far beyond the walls and theologies of our churches, and attempt to answer the Psalmists question, “What are humans that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than the angels, and crowned them with glory and honor.” We will head into this territory in my next post as we explore the objective of THE SHINING STRANGER.  Until then, peace…

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