The Christian MythAnja van Kralingen
In my last post The Story of Truth I made reference to the:
- Christian Myth, and my belief that,
- Meaning is not always Truthful, nor Truth always Meaningful.
This post is an attempt to amplify and illuminate these two thoughts.
Fundamentalism in any form is anti evolutionary, even if it is Darwinian Fundamentalism as in the case of someone like Richard Dawkins. Fundamentalism closes the loop, it does not allow for the continual expansion of the imagination.
Fundamentalism seeks to trap us in a predefined and prescribed way of being. It is, by its very nature, backward looking and anti the growth of knowledge. All new knowledge threatens the fundamentalist at it contains the seeds of potential to crack the metaphorical egg shell.
Fundamentalism robs, if only temporarily, our divine birth right. It displaces our transcendence and transfers it to an external system.
In this sense there is truly something noble and sublime about the philosophical basis of science. Science only proposes a hypothesis never an absolute truth, and is ready to have this overturned the moment new evidence refuting the existing hypothesis is presented.
Regrettably we live in a world of fundamentalists and fundamentalism. The growth of the human spirit away from fundamentalism, if it is happening at all, is painstakingly slow. At least in human terms, possibly in cosmic terms it is moving along nicely.
We have had the benefit of many great spiritual teachers; however their teaching has been greatly undermined by its reduction to and practice as dogma.
Science has the advantage of the scientific method which is inherently un-dogmatic. And possibly this is one of the reasons that science has advanced as much as it has, whilst spirituality has remained, or appears to have remained, largely stagnant.
We live today in a time where secularism and material reductionism, have become fundamentally entrenched as the preeminent ideologies of our day. And although theses originate to some degree out of physical science and technology they are far from synonymous with it.
Material reductionism and secularism are the philosophical shadow cast by physical science.
The Antipathy between Faith and Reason
There is an embrace by Christian Fundamentalists of Material Science (and materialism generally), which I want to take issue with.
Faith is not based on reason, nor need it be. This position- faith supported by rationalism or science, is spiritually impoverished. It is no longer faith.
When I know something rationally, it is knowledge not faith. There is a distinct and obvious difference between rational knowledge and faith.
This kind of faith, faith supported by and in service of reason, is akin to bad science. It is committed to a clearly defined and closed belief system and uses whatever evidence it can to support this position and refutes what does not.
The resurgence of Creationism and the drive to have this taught in schools is a good example of this kind of thinking. And in this regard I empathise with Richard Dawkins and his confrontational approach to those suffering with as he calls it the ‘God Delusion’.
Darwinism and Evolutionary Theory are arguably amongst the most successful and significant discoveries in the history of science. And the evidence supporting them theory is overwhelming.
If religious fundamentalists chose to argue against it that is their God given right (no pun intended). But to then to use science in support of, and in agreement with, their theological position in other regards smacks of hypocrisy.
Another good example of this incommensurate, between science and faith, in Christianity, is Christ’s miracles.
If we accept the laws of physics as governing the known universe, as science does, then we surely have to infer that Christ’s miracles should be interpreted metaphorically. Miracles such as raising the dead, walking on water and so on.
If these miracles are accepted as being literally true than they refute physics as an absolute reality. To assume this position, that the miracles are literally true, whist irrational, is still philosophically defensible. But it must be done at the expense of physical science as an overarching reality.
Otherwise this is a flawed and inauthentic position. It is not only irrational, which in principal I have no problem with, but it is internally inconsistent. It is a position which attempts to serve two masters and does justice to neither.
This is I think fundamentalism of the worst kind. It lacks the reason of science and the beauty of faith.
An Argument for Faith
Faith at its most sublime must have an absurdity at its centre. It is an irrationality symbolised, to represent that which is greatest, most meaningful and most noble in the human person.
This is another way of saying it that which is True, Beautiful and Good.
However the ‘True’ here is not the truth of science. Like its two companion’s Beauty and Goodness it is not possible to prove this Truth through reason. It is inherently irrational.
This Truth is a Transcendent Truth and can only be reduced by its displacement to the realm of the rational.
The theological argument I favour with respect to Christianity goes as follows:
In the Book of Job God becomes a blasphemer. It is the first indication we get that possibly God is not quite as good as we might have thought. And this story prefigures the story of Christ.
A further blow is dealt to our belief in God’s goodness or hope in his power to offer us redemption with Christ’s death on the cross.
Nevertheless Christ offers man something greater than the God of the Old Testament, Yahweh. He becomes God or at least He becomes that which is God in man.
In Christ man realises the possibility of becoming his own redeemer.
Note: this argument is really a vastly scaled down version of the theological argument presented by Slavoj Zizek. There is a link at the bottom of this post where Zizek present s the argument in a lot more detail. Also I think as the theologian Adam Kotsko points out this is really a form of radical atheism, to which view I concur.
The Symbol of Christ
Christ symbolises all that is best about Christianity.
He offers us another way of being in the world a way based on love, compassion and truth- spiritual truth. But this spiritual truth can only be realised by one who experiences the presence of Christ in his own soul.
In order to experience Christ in this way our Transcendence needs to be reclaimed. It cannot be experienced whilst this transcendence is displaced. And any form of fundamentalism is the displacement of this Transcendence.
The symbol of Christ is the symbol of man becoming conscious and also developing a conscience. But, by definition, we cannot be conscious in this way until we assume personal responsibility for our own redemption and the redemption of the world, as Christ did.
In Christ we are asked to grow up, to be brothers in Christ rather than children of God.
Our possibility of redemption comes as a result of our fundamentally understanding the nature of truth, beauty and goodness and in so doing redeeming ourselves and the world.
Only in the realisation of this personal responsibility for our redemption do even approach the possibility of entering the Divine Kingdom of Heaven.
How after all can we be fit to live in heaven when we have not yet learnt to live on earth?
Recommended Links for Further Reading
Until next time,
Go in Peace,