Thursday, 6 June 2019

Christians dealing with questions

My experience of being a Christian is that questions arise and won't be squashed - or, if they are squashed, they fester.

I don't think this was a problem so much in the past, because the typical Christian lived in an environment - a social environment - which contained large elements of practice, such as ritual; and this could become the focus of the Christian life - such that unresolved questions were of rather trivial significance.

(In the past, individual consciousness was immersed-in group consciousness in a way that is impossible for most modern people. We have changed (evolutionary-development of consciousness), and consequently the world has changed; because our thinking is a necessary part of the world (The world is Our world) - there would be no knowledge of the world if thinking was subtracted from it; i.e. there is no objective world knowable in the absence of thinking.)

In other words, Christianity of the past was much more of a practice than a faith; and the practice was strongly - sometimes monolithically - prevalent and enforced in the immediate social environment; which we were each much more dominated-by. This is no longer the case, except maybe there is a lag among groups that are self-exiled from mainstream (such as the Amish), and probably less-and-less so even there.

At any rate, when I became a Christian my strong intention was (following the advice of CS Lewis) Not to get concerned about questions concerning theological minutiae and differences in church practice. But this was not possible. I was compelled, almost immediately, to make choices - within the Church of England I encountered the big differences in practice and belief of liberal mainstream and conservative traditionalism - e.g. did I attend or avoid Holy Communion administered by Priestesses? Protestant Evangelicals and Anglo Catholics - did I pray for the dead, make a sign of the cross, attend Eucharist as much as possible or a few times a year? One or the other, not both. Did I read the Authorised Version of the Bible, and if not then which of the hundreds of alternatives did I regard as correct?

When I looked beyond the Church of England I found similar divisions and compelled choices. There was no refuge without choosing one side, and rejecting the other - and then the question of what grounds am I making this decision.

So much of being a modern-day Christian sooner-or-later reduces to this matter of how to answer questions. And the dawning realisation that there is now way to avoid it - those that think they are avoiding it are merely self-deceiving, by hiding their own assumptions.

To say that one is indifferent is, of course, itself a choice; it is to say that such and such a matter is of trivial significance - which is to take a theological and church-order position. 

The situation is that honesty compels us to acknowledge that - in the end - everybody makes at least one decision that is an assumption, a personal decision made on grounds that cannot be justified except by further personal assumptions.

The Big Question, then, is whether this insight erodes faith, or becomes the acknowledged basis of faith; and that depends on how we regard the nature or reality.

Do we really-believe that reality is such that an individual really can know a thing directly and without evidence -- or do we instead believe that the fact of everything reducing to unsupported assumption means that nothing is knowable, and life is just a sequence of flexible, expedient, arbitrary assumptions.   

At a deep level, here is the bright-line-sharp distinction between being a Christian and being a secular mainstream leftist.

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