Saturday, 30 July 2022

Me-Here-Now versus History - what kind of Christian are you?

Christians will find themselves - sometimes again and again - at a point where there is a stark awareness and apprehension of Me-Here-Now - a situation of direct and 'intuitive' knowing; rooted in a personal and first-hand experience, and a person to person relationship - typically in relationship to Jesus Christ. 

 

This contrasts with traditional church-based knowing; which is rooted in historical discourse and 'scholarship' of various types; and is therefore second-hand (or third-/ fourth-/ fifth-hand...). 

Church-knowing is indirect knowledge-about... rather than experience-of. It is something we learn and strive to remember... rather than apprehend with instantaneous clarity and conviction. 

Because modern Men are self-aware, because we are conscious of our own consciousness; we distinguish these two 'ways of knowing' whereas at times in history these would have been regarded as aspects of a unity...  

Indeed they were not distinguished, because the individual was then immersed in the group's thinking; and often had experienced none-other; his beliefs were spontaneously and unconsciously those of the social group, and these beliefs were apparently stable, apparently 'eternal'. 

Man in the past did not distinguish even the possibility of himself having direct and personal knowledge that diverged from knowledge he absorbed insensibly and by training and education from his society. 

Therefore in the past - when Men's consciousness was different; the basis of Christianity rooted in a church was natural, inevitable, and right


But Now we experience self-validating truth for-ourselves, intermittently; in flashes, or 'epiphanies'; yet brief because we are then in a state of self-awareness that of-itself interrupts that which is being-observed

As soon as we know we are knowing - that consciousness slips-away into mere knowing that we know...

But anyone who has known by this kind of directly-apprehended, wordless intuition; is aware of its utter distinction from those vast masses of external and historical 'knowledge' which constitute 'a religion' or 'a science' or 'literature'...

The question then arises; why should we believe secondhand church-knowledge? 

Such a 'why' question would not have occurred in the past - but now it has; and it demands an answer; that is, assuming we are to give some version of church-knowledge absolute primacy* over all other contesting knowledge-claims... 


For a Christian, we see on the one hand an enormous, heavy, complex system of historical claims which constitutions a denomination or church; all of which includes the claim that this is (in some essential fashion) the unchanging truth, and our job is to worship and obey. 

Or job as a church-Christian is primarily to learn-about this body of historical material - and submit-to it. 

Therefore, Me-Here-Now and (what feels like) direct knowing; must be fitted-into - and submit-to - this mass of external stuff. 

 

For a church-Christian; Nothing we might ever possibly experience, think, say or do - past, present or future - can ever affect the directionality of that relationship

The Church - and therefore History - is absolute and primary; we our-selves are contingent and secondary. 

(And the same applies if, for instance, The Church is replaced by Scripture, or Tradition - it's all History, ultimately; all external - all given-us by a particular body of Men, all based-on historical claims.)


So, this is the crux. We have our own most intense, most real, most true and most important convictions - rooted in (what feels like) a direct-knowing of reality...

Or we have (what feels like) a secondary, second-hand, submission to (what purports to be) a vast bulk of mixed historical claims - cross-referencing the validity of authority, scriptures, traditions and practices, beliefs etc. 

These two possibilities (for many perhaps almost all) people have separated, their combination was a consequence of unconsciousness - and now we are conscious - and they have been split apart by this consciousness.

Thus Romantic Christianity became a possibility, and the decision concerning ultimate authority became a necessity. 

We can either acknowledge or deny the crux - but denial is dishonest. 


What to do we do; where place our primary loyalty, where look for salvation? By submission and obedience to History (i.e. Our Church)?

Or; do we instead start the process of re-knowing, re-learning, re-making Christianity from the basis of the primacy of intuition, direct-knowing, heart-thinking (whatever we call it)...

(Which is (for Christians) intuition of the divine within us (as we are children of God), and our apprehension of the Holy Ghost without?)

 

The crux is: Do we trust our-selves and personal-knowing primarily; or we we trust... whatever we have been told by our favoured historians concerning church-history, and organize everything else around that?   

Is Christian faith to be rooted in the Here-and-Now experience - or in curated historical claims? 

Romantic of Traditional? 


*Note: 'Primary' and Primacy' are used here to indicates which comes first and is foundational. It is not a matter of either/ or Romantic versus Historical Christianity - but which is primary and foundational; about which judges and discerns the other. Thus a Romantic Christian may be a full church member and believer - but at root he will have intuitively-discerned and evaluated the truth of the church's claims (at least; those which are of core importance to him), and consciously chosen to accept them. The Historical-Church Christian may experience intuitive direct knowing, but will accept or reject such insights in accordance with his primary obedience to the church - therefore no personal knowledge could ever (as a matter of principle) challenge or overturn the church's instruction and teaching. What a church-Christian experiences and knows here-and-now, will only be allowed validity when it supports the church's 'historically-based' understanding; and any other insights will be rejected as erroneous or evil. 

2 comments:

johnson j said...

There has to be both and they have to temper each other. Giving one or the other absolute primacy leads out of the bounds of Christianity. To follow the institution too much leads to worshipping Cybelle, and to follow only one's own thinkso leads to rejecting Christ as a mere man. One then becomes either a worshipper of the Idol of Fatima or Packaderm-mamma by following the Vatican, to to Unitarian Universalism and fellowshipping Witches by not giving any deference to tradition.

Bruce Charlton said...

@jj - While I agree that an individual person will very likely have some mixture of both - both cannot be foundational; especially when (for so many people) the churches are leading away from affiliation to God, and into affiliation against God: away from a focus on the resurrected life to come and towards a focus on this mortal life and world. To discern and resist this false leading, surely requires a foundation outside of church teaching and the disputed territory of history.