Recently, I was reading “Stubborn Theological Questions”, by John Macquarrie. An interesting book which I found myself thoroughly disagreeing with. The problem, for me, was the current thrust to “De-Mythologise” Christianity. Denial of things like the Incarnation, and of explaining away Miracles as happenstance, or with other logical answers seems to be the way of the times. This is the process where people seem to be hunting for the true facts behind the Bible stories; that is, those that can be explained only by scientific, archaeological, or historic means. This to me seems to be a little.. odd. Essentially, what these Christian Theologians seem to what to turn Christianity into Christophosofy. A Philosophy that’s based around an eccentric Rabbi from distant Palestine. Okay, so when looked at like that, it’s not a bad philosophy. Love one another, and share the wealth around. Not at all a bad way of living your life. However, the thrust of Christianity also adds the idea of a “God”.
In the modern world, many people feel that it is necessary to prove the existence of God in a scientific way. This is not a new argument (though some people act as though it is), and some of the greatest (and not so great) minds have tried to come up with a suitable answer to the problem. As of yet, we (Christians) have not found one. Though more and more people keep finding that there is something… other in the world that doesn’t fit the rational scientific post-enlightenment mind set. For some, this way of thinking is destructive, and for others it’s liberating. The Post-Modern Philosophy that currently drives our society puts the emphasis on the personal experience. Some theologians would sneer at that as the sin of Subjectivism, but is a world-view where Miracles happened, where God does have a part to play in guiding the world a bad thing?
As with many things, it’s a double-edged sword. There are Christians who would want to hold onto the Bible with both hands and scream “if it’s not in here, it’s not true”, which does the book itself a disservice. The Bible is full of people thinking, and re-envisaging their interactions with God. Becoming or Being a Christian does not mean checking your brains it at the moment the Bible is opened, and never turning them on again. Indeed, the Old Testament is a struggle to do just that, to record the history of a people, and to see how they observed God moving and supporting their small country.
If we are going to believe in a story based on the Miraculous, it seems to me to make more sense that on some level that we must also accept the Miracles, and the idea that Christ, in some way, is the Son of God. To look for miracles in our own lives, and to be willing for the Other to have an impact, and to change the way we view life. To look around us, and to not see nature, but to see Creation. This doesn’t meant to deny the process of nature (such as evolution, the Big Bang and so on, God gave us the ability to think for a reason), but rather to look at the world and to think that, in some way, God had a hand in bringing it about.
If we are to avoid the turning Christianity in to yet another Philosophy, then we need to find a way to deal with the miracles, and with the other super-natural events that are part of the heritage of Christianity (say, perhaps, the miracles of saints), and wrap them into our world view. I can understand that some people might find the concept of the super natural difficult, especially when such events have not managed to produce themselves like dancing dogs for the scientists. Our fear of trying to justify what some people see as “insane thoughts” has meant that we would rather remove anything we can’t justify under the scrutiny of science. Of course, if we spend all our time trying to justify it to the level of science, we will go mad (though, of course, some people think that to believe things that cannot be proved to be true is a form of madness). If we do remove all these things that we cannot prove all we end up with is a Christosophy. A noble way of life, indeed, but it makes the ritual, and the gathering connected with it a little pointless.
The strange things is that as Christianity is busy trying to stand up against science, the selves of the “mind, body and spirit” section are growing. The local Waterstones has gone from one shelf to nearly three. It’s not that people don’t want to believe, from all walks of life, but they want to believe in something that is where they are. That walks with them, and connects to their sense of the other, that explores their own life of Spirituality, where there is an explanation for the way that they find their world.
So, really, what is it we’re afraid of? Being laughed at by scientists? Is that really enough for us to run and hide our belief?
To my mind we must face up to the challenge, and ensure that what we believe is moral, sensible, and well thought out. As an Anglican, the three pillars popularised by Richard Hooker or Reason, Scripture, and Tradition serve as constraints, but also as guidance. We are not to suddenly ignore the world, and to claim (like some fundamental Christians would have us do), that Evolution is an unsubstantiated Myth, and that Dionsaur bones are either faked, left there in the flood, or put there by God to test our faith. I’m suggesting, however, that we walk a fine line between what Science tells us, and what we ourselves discover about the God and the world through our own interaction with it. It is a difficult task. With every line I write, I can hear the voices of scientific disapproval. Of those that say “But you can’t prove any of it, why believe it?”. It’s a difficult place to be. To have science demanding answers that you just can give it, and every bone in your body believing despite yourself. Knowing, almost beyond doubt, that there is something other, that out there, somewhere, there is a God, and that He sent his Son to show us the way back to Him. It’s a lot of big ideas, a lot of ancient thinking that has, on occasion, been a weight that has held down further thinking. We are simple thinkers, trying to find a way forward in a world where Belief of any kind is marginalised, and where believing in God is the path of ridicule. In this world, we must find a new way of thinking, a new way of approaching God that doesn’t leave us thinking that some form of mental trick has been pulled.
The great thinkers of antiquity were all writing in a time where God was almost a Fact. Now we are writing in a time where God seems almost distant, and the Mysteries and Miracles spoken about in the Bible and in the writings about the Celtic saints are considered to be fiction. To keep these elements as part of a theology, then, seems a little insane, but it seems to me that there’s no smoke without fire. All these wonderous things, then, must find a place in theology. All the things that people point at an scream “myth” like it’s a bad thing need to be re-investigated. There is no smoke without fire, and indeed, a lot of the records were written by people who had a lot less knowledge about the world than we do, and yes, perhaps some (or, a lot) can be explained with what we know about modern medicine, but somewhere in those stories, somewhere in all these ideas there is something deeper, something that fires our soul.
AS you can see the entire idea is not exactly a re-envisaging of theology. Perhaps a re-romanticising of Theology, but definitely a Re-Mythologising of Christianity. Anything to avoid it becoming a Christosophy.