Sunday, 19 June 2016

Unorthodox Christianity versus Liberal Christianity

Among Orthodox Christians of various churches and denominations, there is a tendency to conflate unorthodox Christians with Liberals - but (leaving-out the inevitable gray areas of overlap) these are in principle quite different - and the tendency to lump the two together has been a factor in driving some extremely creative, honest and vital individuals altogether out of Christianity and into an opposition which has sometimes been devastating.

The lineage of Christians who have perhaps most deeply recognized the importance of imagination as a form of knowledge are all unorthodox - William Blake, ST Coleridge, Rudolf Steiner, Owen Barfield, William Arkle. But they are not Liberal.

A 'liberal Christian', by contrast, is not really a Christian; but instead one who (in practice - even when this is denied in words) subordinates Christianity to the changing dominant secular ideology of the day. This is almost always achieved by dilution' - that is, by a reduction in the scope, status, power, strength, devoutness, centrality of Christianity in their own lives - and the proposal and policy that this should be the case for others.

Liberals can usually be identified at a large scale by evaluating their attitudes to the 'hot button' or 'litmus test' political issues of their day - when they always side with the secualr ideology; and at a small scale by evaluating their attitude towards those (orthodoxly defined) sins that they themselves are most inclined and prone to - do they fully acknowledge that these are sins, and the necessity for repentance?

It is interesting that almost all high level creative activity is necessarily unorthodox - even when the individual is highly orthodox in their religious observances - consider Tolkien and Lewis.

JRR Tolkien was 100% orthodox in his Roman Catholicism - but in his best creative writings on or about Christianity, he is extremely unorthodox: e.g. the theology of his Silmarillion legendarium - with its many gods, and reincarnating elves; and the allegories of Leaf by Niggle or of Smith of Wootton Major.

CS Lewis was very conventional in his Anglican worship, and advocacy for others - but his creative allegorial theologies of the Narnia Chronicles, and of his brilliant and underrated The Great Divorce - are unorthodox.

Both Tolkien and Lewis are often (by legalistic and literalistic Christians) regarded as unorthodox (and rejected, and labelled as evil) by the mere fact of writing fantasy, and including magic in their worlds. (Numerous YouTube videos attest to this orthodox attitude.)

In sum, I consider the unorthodoxy of individuals to be a vital and positive feature of Christianity; not least because all creative people are almost always unorthodox when they are being creative - and if Christainity expels and excludes all creativity, or treats it as too hazardous for wise men to risk; then Christianity will become dead obedience to external rules - and therefore not Christian at all.

Of course there are hazards to unorthodoxy. And people may be deceptive - may attack, and attempt to subvert Christianity under the guise of creativity. But there is no 'safe' path for Christians - hazards lie on both sides - orthodoxy is prone to apostasy just as is as unorthodoxy. On the other hand, all paths are 'safe' given the right attitudes of love and repentance. 

The orthodox ideal should not be that indvidual creativity be weakened, shackled or destroyed because it is too hazardous, but the opposite.

The ideal is that ultimately (further on in our theosis) all real and true Christians will quite spontaneously become unorthodox - simply by the spontaneous exercise of their natural, God-given, creativity which is an intrinsic part of their real, divine selves.