Monday 26 August 2019

The actuality of Mere Christianity: the age of Christian individuals in friendship

The end of institutions has brought-down the churches, such that very few Christians can find co-religionists for friendship. But the other side of the coin is that when each serious Christian is a one-off, then denomination is no barrier to friendship, alliance, learning, encouragement...

We discover by lived experience that there really is a Mere Christianity, and it turns out to be theologically much more extensive than CS Lewis supposed - although in practice, Lewis found such valuable interaction with his anthroposophist friends Barfield and Harwood that they were made his literary executors.

Likewise, in practice, it seems that even the strictest and most loyal members of the most rigorous and tightly-defined churches do have mutually valuable and Christian interactions across a considerable range of doctrines and theologies - in revealed-preference to co-religionists.

In other words, in this era, as institutions become corrupted by materialism and bureaucracy; it is the specific person that matters most. Or, only a few individuals hold-out against the spiritual corruption and seek better, and each values other such people.

So, as in so many ways The Inklings were pioneers, and calling them The Oxford Christians was prescient rather than an over simplification. The seriousness of personal Christian engagement was far more important than differences in institutional affiliations.

My own Christian alliances and friendships are likewise very varied in terms of institutional affiliations and indeed metaphysical assumptions. It turns out that there are as many ways to be a real Christian as there are ways of being a fake, pseudo-Christian.


Francis Berger said...

I appreciate this post and the one you posted yesterday. They offer hope and encouragement. They also draw attention to a vital fact - all churches are corrupt.

You are correct - serious Christianity now resides almost exclusively in the hearts, souls, and minds of individual Christians scattered across all denominations. As a result, individual Christians should not let partisanship or church affiliation interfere with the forming of useful and nurturing friendships with Christians from other denominations.

It is important to remember that friendships are relationships between subjects. They are rooted in the personal rather than the impersonal. I think this well reflects the core of Christianity, regardless of denomination. After all, Christianity is the most "personal" of all religions - that is, the religion in which the specific person, not the church or the institution they belong to, matters the most.

William Wildblood said...

Perhaps what is required in these times is just the recognition of Christ as the divine template and pattern for spiritual humanity coupled with a total rejection of the God-denying 'wisdom' of this world. The personal details of faith are not so important if that is in place. At least, those differences can be got over.

Bruce Charlton said...

Thanks for the comments F and W!

What provoked this was a recognition that theory needs to catch up with practice. I have noticed that in practice it is clear that (for example) several of the Protestants and Roman Catholics I interact with get a lot from each other. Yet both sides lack a theoretical basis for acknowledging the fact, and the theory seems to be trying to drive them apart. This is even more the case when Protestants and RCs voluntarily and repeatedly interact with Mormons, and certainly seem to be getting something positive from it; yet the theory sometimes makes mainstream Christians say very nasty things about Mormons, including that they aren't Christians.

My interpretation is that individuals are wiser than their theories; and my conclusion is that the theories need further consideration and development in order to explain what is actually happening.

My 'answer' is that Christianity is very simple indeed, understandable by children and the simple minded; and people only disagree about the explanations - these disagreements being based on different (usually unconscious) metaphysical assumptions about the nature of reality, and are thus usually cultural rather than fundamental.

I tend to rejoice, rather than otherwise, about the wide range of Christianities - so long as they are real and primary at the individual level. Ultimately there are as many as there are Christians.