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BEYOND EXISTENTIALISM AND ZEN: Religion in a Pluralistic World by George Rupp

BEYOND EXISTENTIALISM AND ZEN: Religion in a Pluralistic World


Pub Date: March 1st, 1979
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press

A carefully wrought, densely written, generally plausible essay on the philosophical crisis of contemporary Christianity. Rupp is a dean at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, a liberal Protestant, and a Hegelian. He begins by arguing for ""critical relativism"" in theology, as opposed to both total relativism and unbending dogmatism. This position admits that all religions are rooted in particular cultural and personal environments, but sees them as ""incomplete perspectives"" on ""the one reality there is."" Rupp then proceeds to outline a scheme which treats Zen and existentialism less as specific modes than as generic types of thought. By Zen he means any system which affirms the universe, and human existence as part of it, without qualification; by existentialism, any view of the universe as neutral or indifferent, and humanity's hopes as radically limited. Roughly speaking, Zen is oral, existentialism anal. Zen is monistic, existentialism dualistic. Rupp doesn't want to reject either of them, since each in its way is illuminating and fruitful, but to transcend them in a pluralistic synthesis which offers an ""ultimately positive"" vision of the cosmos by affirming the potential, not-yet-realized value of human life. Putting it another way, Rupp is searching for an alternative to the one world of primitive religions and the two worlds (e.g., nature/supernature) of historic religions, and he thinks he finds it in Christian pluralism. But can the believer partake wholeheartedly in a faith and rituals he knows to be the product of culture, and hence quite ""relative?"" Rupp can't answer this question, but at least he faces it honestly. A probing, thought-provoking, difficult book.