Thursday, 12 January 2006

Your church tradition

I have just added a new survey to the sidebar, because I thought it would be interesting to get an idea of the religious perspectives of some of my readers. If you’d like to participate, just choose one of the options and then click “Vote.”

Note: For some reason the survey is not displaying properly on Firefox. I’ll try to fix this tomorrow; but in the mean time, if you’re using Firefox you can view the survey properly by clicking here.

26 Comments:

steph said...

I like these surveys - although it would be interesting to have a few more non Christian alternatives before giving in to 'other'.

By the way, I hope Felicity is going to let you post her picture of the world when she has finished it.

T.B. Vick said...

Wow, very interesting results.

Johan said...

Hi there.

I don't know what Church you would consider me to be, but I've written down my convictions.
I was wandering if you might be willing to read and comment my site and/or tell me what category this is.

Thank you!

http://meaning-fromwithin-illusion.blogspot.com/

Ben Myers said...

Good point, Steph. Sorry about the generic category of "other" -- I created the survey in a rush, and "other" was just a quick way to finish it.

My apologies, though, to all those people who have had to categorise themselves rather dubiously as "other"!

Ben Myers said...

Hi John, thanks for stopping by. Your point of view is a thoughtful and interesting one, but I'm not sure which category it would belong to.

I guess this highlights the problem with all surveys: they can't really cope with genuine diversity and uniqueness, and the categories selected always determine the range of possible outcomes....

Johan said...

Thank you Ben.
I think you are right.
Always open for discussions, if you should take any further interest in my point of view.

You will have understood that I am clearly not the traditional Christian; but I would find it much more interesting to discuss with people that have another point of view, than with those that have the same (although in my situation, this is hard to find).

Ben Myers said...

"... although in my situation, this is hard to find".

One of my favourite religious thinkers, John Milton, was also described as a "church of one".

;-)

Johan said...

;-)
Indeed!

On the other hand, I was surprised to read today in my philosophy book, that I'm coming pretty close to Voltaire with his statement "if God didn't exist, he would need to be invented"...

A lot of my thoughts seem to be somewhat in line with Locke and Kant as well, I have found. But still different.

You are right to say that there is an infinite possibility in the diversity of people's thoughts about these matters.
Even if you'd ask 2 protestant people to explain really in detail how they understand the Faith, I'm sure there would be nuances there too.

So perhaps, deep within, and without knowing, we are all Churches of One?
;-)

kim fabricius said...

John,

As well as the profound "protest atheism" of folk like Marx and Camus, do you know the thought of Simone Weil? She observed that "There are two atheisms, one of which is a purification of the notion of God." Coversely, Karl Barth spoke of religion itself as unbelief.

In any case, the really interesting question is not whether or not one believes in God but what kind of God one believes in. And (with Wittgenstein) that is determined not so much by what we say as by what we do. Cf. Nicholas Lash: "I can only find out what you worship, what your gods are, by asking you and by observing your behaviour."

By the way, Ben, I would have thought that "other" is a pretty good postmodern category to be in!

Johan said...

Kim,

I did read Camus "l'étranger" when I was in high-school (in French), and very much liked the book.

I've never heard of Simone Weil.
I'm probably very open minded myself about what "faith" or "god" should mean.
What according to these people is the "purified notion of god" then?

I also think Hegel, Schopenhauer and Wittgenstein are completely nutty - but that's my opinion; probably a lot of people will find my philosophy pretty nuts too ;-)

Although somewhat high-to-grasp for me, yours and Ben's are about the first mature reactions I got after a week spent in the "blogosphere".

I have to admit that I have found understanding and sanity in the place I least expected it (in casu "Faith and Theology" blog).

I'm trying to talk about philosophy with what I would call "hard-core materialist atheists". I think I might just as fruitfully try with my neigbour's dog.

(would be really nice if we could carry on this conversation here or on my blog - http://atheistfaith.blogspot.com/ but I'm realistic in my expectations)

Johan said...

Hey, just wanted to add that your "is theology true" posting is probably the most open minded point of view I have ever read (or expected to read) from a theologician.
Referring back to my unconstructive encounter with the "hard-core materialist atheists", I really want to express my optimism about what I read here.

Ben Myers said...

It's also worth pointing out that many modern theologians have deep sympathies with atheism. This is partly because modern theology itself has protested against metaphysical "theism".

For many theologians, the God of Christian faith who reveals himself in the death of Jesus can only be contrasted sharply with the "supreme being" of theism. So that, in a sense, Christians can also (and especially) be atheists -- albeit rather peculiar atheists, since we believe that God (not the God of "theism", but the one whom Jesus called "Father") has become an event in our history, in the death and resurrection of one particular Jewish man.

Johan said...

Ben,
I left you my thoughts about this topic under "what does the word "God" mean"

kim fabricius said...

I know what you mean, John, about those "hard-core materialist atheists", folk like the self-appointed "Devil's Chaplain" Richard Dawkins. He's got a 2nd grade understanding of theology, and no intelligent Christians would recognise the god he says they believe in - or the faith with which he says they believe ("blind trust, in the absence of evidence"). This is one kind of Weil's atheism.

But there is a more serious-minded atheism, Weil's "purifying" kind, which doesn't shoot fish in a barrel but struggles with the great white whale of faith. It doesn't caricature belief from a distance but (if you like) actually enters the sanctuary, respectfully, and tries to understand what it finds there, even if, in the end, it is unable to bend the knee.

And indeed in its probing conversations with a faith-that-seeks-understanding, it may help to expose the gods that human beings are prone to project for the false gods they are - gods that find their way into the church too - and often by the vestry door! This kind of atheism, in other words, can actually perofrm a prophetic task. It can unmask idols. It can create space in which to wait for the revelation of the real thing - not a god we objectify but the God who reveals himself to us, who encounters, whose hand we cannot force but whose arms reach out to us and embrace us.

But of this God, the true God, we can only talk when we talk of grace, i.e. when we talk of Jesus Christ.

Johan said...

Kim,
I think you mean what I mean, or it's going somewhere in the same direction.
If you want to read some more specific comments I had on that subject : I posted them under "popular posts - What does the word “God” mean?"

Johan said...

When we would talk about "Jesus Christ", from my side that would be more talking about a way of life; a philosophy if you will.

Personally, revelation-wise, I can only acknowledge that Compassion, Respect and Balance have grown in my heart with age and with struggle through life.

I don't think we should be "waiting for the real thing" any longer than this realisation.
Perhaps, this softness that grows in people's harts with maturity is the very nature of the "Messiah" and we should not seek much further, and be each other's Savior in this life.
;-)

Johan said...

Do I make you uncomfortable with my posts here, or those under "What does the word “God” mean?"
I do not mean to...

I would feel more comfortable myself if I could see some response to this from your side.

Ben Myers said...

Hi again John. No, you're certainly not making anyone uncomfortable here. I welcome this kind of open dialogue, and I have appreciated all your comments (even if I don't always have time to reply directly).

Just one point of clarification: for you, the name of Jesus Christ signifies "a philosophy" and "a way of life"; for me, Jesus Christ signifies an event, something utterly singular and unrepeatable that has taken place in human history. While for you Jesus Christ represents something universal, from my perspective the event of Jesus Christ is the most singular and most particular thing in history. It is not the representation of any broader, general truth, but it is itself the one concrete historical moment in which truth has been actualised.

And I would also want to say that this one event is nothing less than the basis of all history and all reality: we exist because of Jesus Christ.

Johan said...

Ben, I don't understand the last part ("we exist becouse of JC").
Surely, we existed before, and would have existed after?

There is written history from before JC, so there was existence of mankind.
In China or Japan, the vast majority of people are not Christian, and I doubt if the event JC had not happened in Israel some 2000 years ago, Chinese or Japanse history would not have been much altered - at least not until the 1500's when the first Europeans arrived there.

I will certainly not doubt the significance of a figure like JC for our Western civilisation and our history - as from the 2nd century AD (because Christianity didn't have that big an influence for a couple of centuries after JC).

But then again, the massive movement of Germanic Tribes across Europe around 500 AD also had a major impact on hsitory : the West Roman Empire crumbled, and because of that, Europe was in the dark ages for nearly 1000 years, where not a lot happened. Talking about impact!

So exactly how literally do you mean that you think we exist because of JC?

And if you do mean it literally, then why?

That reality today would have been very different without JC, I fully agree.

Indeed, there is in my opinion indeed something universal about the concept of "God", since all cultures in the world, not only Judeo-Christianity, have Religions, even those that never witnessed Christ.
And I'll come along with you even further, in admitting that there are probably few people in history that have been able to realise what kind of human mindset it would take to make this a better world, and then articulate and communicate this to others, in a very persuasive manner.

But surely, there would have been a (different) history and reality even if there had never been a JC around.

kim fabricius said...

Hi again, John.

Ben can certainly speak for himself, but I'm pretty sure he is not just thinking about the historical impact of Jesus of Nazareth, and that to answer your question he might well simply refer you to the beginning of John's gospel, especially vv. 1-5 - and v. 14.

Johan said...

Hi Kim,

The question of course is, whether by the mere feat of quoting "the gospel", you can have a meaningful discussion with a secular person like myself. For me, a text is not convincing because it is "John's gospel", but because if what is said in it, is convincing.

We must also try to "tune in to each other's wavelength" here. The meaning of words can be differently interpreted by different persons.

For example, Ben's words "it is itself the one concrete historical moment in which truth has been actualised... this one event is nothing less than the basis of ... all reality: we exist because of Jesus Christ."

What do the both of us mean with "truth" or with "reality"?
Perhaps we mean something else.
The reason that we may understand different things with different words, is probably our different education and background, in which we were brought up and in which these words obtained their meaning for us.

For me, "reality" is the tangible universe around us.
I hate to be rude, but I would have to question people's mental sanity if they were to actually mean that the birth and life of a physical human, would have somehow "caused us and the tangible universe around us to exist". It would be an absurd statement.
I'm sure you mean it in some way that I would define as "non-literal", but maybe we need to understand in which.

I would like to point out the crucial importance of being "reasonable" about statements like these, and that "Belief" cannot be the right answer for this discussion.
Someone else with a different "Belief" as the Christian one (e.g. Muslims, Brahman's, Buddhists, etc) cannot be convinced with non-rational arguments. This, I think, is one of the virtues of being rational : that it allows for peaceful discussion and alignment of opinions, based on the reasonable evidence at hand, and the dialogue people have around it.

Therefore, for the sake of world peace, brotherhood amongst mankind and the end of religion-based bloodshed, I must ask religious people to be reasonable in the interpretation of their religion.

kim fabricius said...

Sorry, John, I certainly didn't mean to bash the Bible at you, I was only trying to suggest what Ben meant.

On the other hand, I would certainly reject your antithesis between reason and faith. Theology is not an irrational enterprise. Faith uses reason and seeks understanding. It's just that it's point of departure is God's gracious encounter with humanty in the life, death and resurrection of Christ.

All thought proceeds from some point of departure that itself has to be taken on some kind of faith. (See my points about post-criticism.)

Johan said...

Kim,

The odd thing is that scientific thinking doesn't have faith in own even the points of departure of scientific knowledge of the truth!
Rather than faith as a starting point, science uses Assumptions.
Assumtions are true only until a better Assumption is found.
This strategy has proven very succesful in the development of an understanding of the universe.

Funny, how this relates to the discussion on Critique and Kant. Indeed, I do believe that everything must be open to Critique, even the very basis of my own understanding of the universe.
:-)

Johan said...

Kim,
In fact, we have now come to the very heart of my life's philosophy.

I feel I want to understand the universe.
And yet my philosophy, based on reason and critique, tells me I have no certainty that I will ever reach this understanding.
There may be fundamental but yet unknown reasons why I would be unable to fully understand.

Through reason, I deduct that the best chance I have for ever reaching this understanding, is to have faith that in the end I will.

But the same reason prohibits me to genuinely have this faith - in an absolute way.

Quite dramatic, isn't it?

In the end, the best things I can possibly have, are Optimism and Hope.

Johan said...

Kim,
In fact, we have now come to the very heart of my life's philosophy.

I feel I want to understand the universe.
And yet my philosophy, based on reason and critique, tells me I have no certainty that I will ever reach this understanding.
There may be fundamental but yet unknown reasons why I would be unable to fully understand.

Through reason, I deduct that the best chance I have for ever reaching this understanding, is to have faith that in the end I will.

But the same reason prohibits me to genuinely have this faith - in an absolute way.

Quite dramatic, isn't it?

In the end, the best things I can possibly have, are Optimism and Hope.

Johan said...

Kim,

The odd thing is that scientific thinking doesn't have faith in own even the points of departure of scientific knowledge of the truth!
Rather than faith as a starting point, science uses Assumptions.
Assumtions are true only until a better Assumption is found.
This strategy has proven very succesful in the development of an understanding of the universe.

Funny, how this relates to the discussion on Critique and Kant. Indeed, I do believe that everything must be open to Critique, even the very basis of my own understanding of the universe.
:-)

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