Monday, 16 November 2015

A sense of incompleteness about truth

It has been fairly common in my life to suppose I had grasped a truth, but for it later to seem incomplete. This can, of course, simply be a consequence of the finite capacity of the mind, in a finite time-span (and a context of distractability among many distractions). But it can be a clue to an inbuilt bias, a one-sidedness of understanding.

This one-sidedness may be necessary, at times - in the sense of there being priorities. For example, life in a context of war tends to be one-sided - and (as long as the situation does not go on too long) this may well be necessary and correct.

And in religion, similarly, there can be crises during which the main priority is to do some specific thing, now and wholeheartedly. For example, there are times when following a particular rule becomes the dominant need.

But there are also times when the pressure is off, and the one-sidedness and radical incompleteness of our religious understanding can become rather painfully apparent - those times when our faith and hopes (even at their best, at the best we can possible imagine) seem like - or are revealed as - incomplete in some basic fashion, radically unsatisfying hence ultimately unsatisfactory... The dry times.

This may be a problem in the self - an inability to appreciate on the part of the person - but it may also be a defect in that person's, or that denomination's, or that church's conceptualization of reality. And there is a tendency among persons, denominations and churches to cry heresy whenever this situation emerges - and most of the time they would be right!

But not always. The compromises necessary in the necessity of a church - the so called institutional aspects of Christianity - create deep problems (as well as been necessary to the survival and thriving of the Faith). In public discourse, it may happen (and it may be best) that the institution will 'double down' on doctrines and dogmas, when these are genuinely inadequate.

And when the inadequacy is genuine, and genuinely felt - then someone may be forced out from the church. And both parties may be correct, in their own way.

Anyway, the answer is that what is theologically wholesome, beneficial, necessary for one individual may be impossible for an institution. I am not talking about sins! but about the way that individuals conceptualize their faith - the focus, the understanding, the priorities, the 'flavour'.

Individuals cannot and should not advocate change on the basis of what they personally need; institutions should not be too rigid about what individuals believe in their personal context, and practice in their private devotions.

The socio-political arena and public discourse are crude and simple and fundamentally unsatisfying - however necessary; the private arena, the individual consciousness, has its idiosyncratic, sometimes unique, needs which can only be denied at the cost of a mutilating deprivation - but which are absolutely unsuitability for generalization as rules and rituals. Ideally, both sides need to be mature enough to know what is their own business, and what is not.