Author: LAI Pan-chiu, Professor, Department of Cultural and Religious Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35) and its related verses (Luke 10:25-37) are usually interpreted as a unit from a religious perspective. In recent years, due to the rise of the inter-disciplinary studies of altruism, there have also been some “secular” and “post-secular” (mainly biological and psychological) interpretations of the story, where the focus of discussion has been whether and in what sense the Good Samaritan is altruistic. This essay attempts to offer a post-secular reading of the story, one which differs from both religious interpretations and from a secularism devoted to negating transcendent values and truths. The article begins with a review of Martin Luther’s Christocentric interpretation and introduces an alternative religious interpretation which takes seriously the original context of first century Judaism and focuses on the compassion of the Good Samaritan as an ordinary human being. The essay then explores the Confucian tradition that affirms the value of mundane ethical life without appealing to any special divine revelation, arguing that it is also “post-secular” in the sense that it assumes the existence of an ultimate reality called Heaven which is the transcendental basis of human nature. Dialogues between Christian theology and some “secular” disciplines, including biology, psychology, and philosophy are also representations of this “post-secular” reading of the story, which affirms that Good Samaritans are possible because of God, but they are not restricted to Christians. This proves that the dividing lines among religious, secular, and post-secular interpretations are fluid and blurred.
Good Samaritan, religious interpretation, post-secular, interdisciplinary dialogue, transcendental
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