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Against Dogmatism

Against Dogmatism: Dwelling in Faith and Doubt

Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Against Dogmatism
    Book Description:

    Many contemporary discussions of religion take an absolute, intractable approach to belief and non-belief, which privileges faith and dogmatism while treating doubt as a threat to religious values. As Madhuri M. Yadlapati demonstrates, however, there is another way: a faith (or non-faith) that embraces doubt and its potential for exploring both the depths and heights of spiritual reflection and speculation. Through three distinct discussions of faith, doubt, and hope, Yadlapati explores what it means to live creatively and responsibly in the everyday world as limited, imaginative, and questioning creatures. She begins with a perceptive survey of diverse faith experiences in Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism, and Protestant Christianity, then narrows her focus to Protestant Christianity and Hinduism to explore how the great thinkers of those faiths have embraced doubt in the service of spiritual transcendence. Defending the rich tapestry of faith and doubt against polarization, Against Dogmatism reveals a spiritual middle way, an approach native to the long-standing traditions in which faith and doubt are interwoven in constructive and dynamic ways.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09520-7
    Subjects: Religion, Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. INTRODUCTION: Beyond Fundamentalism and Atheism
    (pp. 1-12)

    As a student of the world’s religious traditions, I have always been intrigued with the intricate ways in which doubt functions to enrich faith. And yet, while the close interplay of doubt and faith is so manifestly found in the writings of the most enlightening religious thinkers and in different traditions around the world, far too many of today’s most vocal discussions of religion rely on flat portrayals of faith that seem threatened by any significant account of doubt or skepticism. Faith is often restricted to simple belief statements or creeds. Many consider the strength and merits of faith to...


    • CHAPTER ONE Postures of Trust
      (pp. 15-34)

      Medieval Christian theologians drew a telling distinction betweenfides qua, the act of faith or trust in God, andfides quae, the specific content of belief statements. The former refers to the experience of having faith, of trusting in God, of recognizing the world as God’s world. The latter refers to what one believes about that world, themselves, and God. At first glance, this distinction may look like one between a vague sort of feeling and a clearly articulated faith, but the way the medievals responded to these two forms of faith is interesting. They referred to the former as...

    • CHAPTER TWO What Is Our Sacred Responsibility in the World?
      (pp. 35-64)

      This second chapter examines four particular ways in which faith has been expressed as a commitment to one’s responsibilities vis-à-vis one’s community and God. It extends the discussion of the first chapter, as the commitment to a certain path or a sense of religious responsibility emerges from the experience of trust in the sacred, dependence on God, or belonging to a world of meaning and value. Here as elsewhere in this book, my choice is guided not by an intention to be comprehensive or even equitable in the attention given to each tradition, but rather, by what I find to...


    • CHAPTER THREE Christian Faith and the Protestant Principle
      (pp. 67-96)

      This chapter takes a closer look at three figures whose discussions of faith are among the most influential in twentieth-century Christian theology. Two, Paul Tillich and Karl Barth, are twentieth-century Christian theologians and one, Søren Kierkegaard, is a nineteenth-century philosopher, but all three determine directions taken by existentialist Christian theology in the late twentieth century. All three figures happen to be Protestant, not simply by denominational identification, but more importantly, each is guided by the Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone to emphasize the priority of God’s saving grace over any human works and human understanding. All three adhere...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Faith and Transcendence in Hindu Traditions
      (pp. 97-120)

      Virtually every text on Hinduism begins with a disclaimer that what we call “Hinduism” is not one uniform tradition, but an extremely loose yet cohesive set of widely varying beliefs and practices of the peoples traditionally of the Indian subcontinent.¹ Hinduism can be immensely challenging for a religious outsider to begin to study because it resists the comforting sense of definition that can be provided by recognized creed, institutional organization, historical founder, or theological uniformity. Numerous scholars have noted its simultaneous capacity for diversity and assimilation of many different beliefs, practices, and philosophies.²

      Hindu traditions demonstrate a tension between affirmation...


    • CHAPTER FIVE Resisting the Reification of Religion
      (pp. 123-146)

      InThe Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky presents a provocative situation in a section titled “The Grand Inquisitor.” Christ returns and faces questioning by the Grand Inquisitor, who demands to know why he has returned. The church had been set up in Christ’s absence, and now this return appearance threatens its stability. Christ explains that he came to bring freedom to humanity—in the incarnation and in his return. Dostoyevsky’s criticism is leveled against the oppressive ways in which the church shuts down freedom of spiritual development, and freezes and stultifies it with its insistence on the dogmatic nature of doctrine....

    • CHAPTER SIX Faith and Hope for the Twenty-First Century
      (pp. 147-170)

      The preceding chapters of this book have drawn out more complicated models with which to think about religious faith and doubt. The weight of focus has been on fairly orthodox elements of Christian and Hindu theological traditions. Theological tradition can be understood as an ongoing conversation across the generations about how to think about and relate to what is deemed sacred. This chapter presents a fragmentary vignette of contemporary conversation in American Christian theological culture. The figures discussed in this chapter represent three rather different contemporary possibilities of how a twenty-first-century postmodern Christian faith might look.¹ What unites all three...

  7. CONCLUSION: Dwelling in Uncertainty
    (pp. 171-174)

    The focus throughout this book has been the many dynamic ways in which faith has been described in different traditions. My concern has been to call attention to the resources within our world’s abiding religious traditions for a conception of faith that counters a blind acceptance of something that is not understood clearly, that instead acknowledges and embraces doubt in an active process of trust, commitment, transcendence, and self-correction that characterizes a vibrant and honest spiritual questioning.

    The components of faith traced here constitute paths that tread deeper into spiritual life than either the fundamentalist religious communities or their staunch...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 175-196)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 197-204)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 205-206)