Monday 4 June 2018

OK, I'm a Christian - Now what? Lifestyle, politics or consciousness

Christianity has at least two steps - the first is becoming a Christian, which happens in a moment. This is a wonderful experience; but after some time the overwhelming feeling fades - as it is meant to. Then the question arises - what now?

Traditionally, the convert spends the rest of his mortal days learning and practising the Christian 'lifestyle' as it is understood by the denomination of his church in a particular time and place. That is one possibility.

Modern liberal Christians - a many evangelicals - reject a highly detailed prescribed lifestyle as being unscriptural; and there is a tendency for such to put their efforts into 'politics' of one sort or another: into trying to achieve Social Change. This usually ends, sooner or later, by leading out of Christianity; at least it does nowadays, when politics is so corrupting and evil.

If we reject (or cannot live by) a detailed-prescribed lifestyle; and if we also reject the mainstream 'social activism' of the mainstream churches - what then?

Another way forward is the spiritual - to cultivate and strengthen the spiritual side of of Christianity. In other words, to work on the form as well as the content of our faith.  

Another way to put this is to try and change our consciousness. That is the very texture of the way we think and feel - and to make it more Christian. Because the spiritual is not restricted to believing in Jesus in the same way we believe in the factual validity of an Encyclopedia; Christian belief is supposed to be a different, deeper, wider, personally-involved way of believing. 

Because mainstream modern consciousness, the way that most people including Christians think and feel, is in conflict with Christianity. We are materialists, prone to positivism, scientism - we live in a world of dead (un-alive) 'things'. We experience being cut-off from the world.

So long as people experience and think this way, they are falling far short of the way that we ought to be experiencing and thinking.

So, this is something that a newly-minted Christian could do; something to work-on that would enrich and strengthen their faith; a life's work, indeed.


Chiu ChunLing said...

It might be useful to specify that literature (particularly the scriptures, but the extensive work of faithful but not authoritative Christian believers) is an important method of developing consciousness.

Music can also be crucial, though I don't believe that the beliefs of the composers are as crucial as their aesthetic sense of the universe as a deeply orderly entity (it should be noted that one need not subscribe to formal beliefs about the nature and structure of the universe to have and communicate such an aesthetic). But music alone is insufficient to guide contemplation, it can help us feel the meaningfulness of life but cannot fill in any details of that meaning.

Of course, hymns often combine literature and music, but one runs out of them faster than one runs out of Christian literature or beautiful music.

lgude said...

Aquinas looked back a what was arguably one of a handful of great intellectual achievements in human history and saw all his work as 'straw' compared to the direct experience of God. A change of consciousness is exactly the task of a Christian life well lived. When forced down to the last and simplest things, 'the peace that passeth all understanding' is not a bon mot or a religious abstraction but a lived experience that can only be the product of Christian practice. Thank you for a great evening reflection.

Ben Pratt said...

This spiritual/consciousness work is also necessary for those who are seeking to live a denomination-prescribed lifestyle. Otherwise it becomes merely a Pharisaical going-through-the-motions and poisons the spiritual well for the next generation and for future converts.

FSL said...
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Bruce Charlton said...

@mistaben - Yes, agreed. I am unhappy with the way that so many eminent and influential Christians have (in th epast as well as now) blithely asserted that they have a spiritual 'blind spot' and lack any experience with what they might term 'mystical experiences' - and do so in a way that implies that this does not matter, and needs no work or striving to correct.

They are correct in implying that this deficit does not bar them from salvation - any more than any repented sin bars any Christian from salvation; but this attitude fails to recognise the unnatural perversion of life that is mainstream modern materialism.

We ALL *ought to* be striving to escape from this state of perverted alienation, which underpins the mass apostasy and enfeebles the faith of so many.

Chiu ChunLing said...

I think it is becoming to remain modest about one's spiritual experiences (not least because the more profound they are, the more sacred and private we should keep them, except what we are commanded to preach as revelation to the world), but there is a destructive spirit of false humility which arises from the cultural Marxism of our time.

It is bad enough if they merely claim sympathy for their own lack, but more often what they claim is that Christianity as a whole has nothing to offer those seeking spiritual improvement.