Monday 16 May 2016

Making theology personal

I am not sure why; but it has become a fixed habit for intellectual Christians to think theologically using concepts drawn from physics - physics as the 'master metaphor' with divinity understood as light or a kind of abstract force like magnetism - love understood as a kind of attraction or force-field etc. Then people become 'captivated' by the metaphor - and the metaphor ends-up being in-charge; with Christianity being fitted-into-it. (I have been in this situation myself, several times!) This has been going since at least as long ago as the third century AD, and probably the second.

I try to break this habit of conceptualizing Christianity in a physics-y way, and to stick to the idea of ultimate reality as working along the lines of family relationships. God as our Father, Jesus as elder brother; men and women as God's children who inherit divinity from him and so forth.

And what holds it together is love. Given the extreme and central importance of love in Christianity, there are problems with abstract physics-type thinking making love into something like a gravitational force, or a pervasive gas, or whatever. Love is really an interpersonal kind of cohesion, the cohesion of living, sentient beings.

But for most modern people, this would restrict the operations of love to the world of Men and God (and Angels, perhaps) and leave-out most of the universe - which would still be explained, ultimately, in terms of physics. However, I personally try to regard everything that is, as in some way alive and conscious; and therefore regard everything in creation as part of this same network of loving relationships that binds Men, Angels, and God. So, love takes the place of physics - ultimately.

What is fascinating to contemplate is how modern man got the idea that the universe is not-alive - and that there is a division between the living (biological) and non-living (chemical and physical) universe; and a further division between the conscious (human) and non-conscious (everything else) world. To believe this requires an extreme, and in a sense suicidal, psychological move; whereby reality is made into grossly simplified models (e.g. scientific theories, philosophical descriptions) that exclude the role of humans, including the role of human thinking.

Then having creating this grossly simplified model - which we know for certain to be radically incomplete, hence untrue - we moderns come to believe (in public discourse, anyway) the model as necessarily true - despite that we know for certain it is not!

The sum total of 'evidence' for the truth of our simple and false model is that it is apparently useful, as a rule of thumb, in some situations, when dealing with the world - predicting and manipulating things (but only approximately)!

Most bizarre...

Anyway, if we can cure ourselves of this foolish and unjustifiable habit of making known-false models then believing them as true; and return to the the spontaneous human way of thinking of everything as more-or-less alive and conscious - then we can understand the whole of reality in a truly Christian way --- Instead of the mainstream Christian practice of regarding Christianity as no more than a tiny bubble of human and divine and loving relationships, utterly swamped by a vast, unbounded universe of deadness and meaninglessness; a purposeless mechanistic realm of clockwork causality mixed with chaos...


Anonymous said...

Indeed, God is love, and that is the foundation of all true theology.

The belief in a god of forces/energies/substances/ideas comes from the heathen and must be worked beyond despite its centuries long seduction of academics.
- Carter Craft

Josh said...

Here is an interesting article which argues that Newtonian physics is an application of Empedocles' presocratic metaphysics (possibly resulting from newtons relationship to the alchemical tradition)

I think the master metaphor concept is important. In the past few centuries, you've had the mechanical paradigm. The us constitution is the quintessence of the kind of thinking. You've had the evolutionist paradigm, the cult of progress and economics. You've had the germ theory paradigm, racial hygiene, mental hygiene, etc. you have the biological paradigm where the state or the universe is a single organism. Even ancient thinkers seemed to do this kind of thing explicitly. Is the soul a microcosm of the polis? I dunno.