Sunday 30 July 2023

Christianity: complexity versus simplicity

Traditional and orthodox church-based Christianity is extremely complex; and so are many of the 'occult' forms of Christianity involving graded initiations, rituals, symbolic systems, and training of the mind. Indeed, in a generic sense; traditional churches and occult Christianity can be seen as variations on the same theme: aiming-at the same endlessly-complex way-of-living as a Christian.

There are many advantages in making Christianity endlessly complex! 

For instance, such Christianity is inexhaustible, there is always something else to do - indeed always many possible things to do; so that the complex-Christian can always find something to do to suit every mood and circumstance. 

So what the complex Christian 'needs to do' is always far greater than what he has-done or could-do. There is scripture to study, and liturgy and other rituals in which to participate. There are many forms of prayer to be learned and practiced - some of these very difficult, some very tough. There are ascetic practices, and celebrations. There is a vast world of scholarship - learning Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Aramaic; individually and comparatively with historical context... There is history, archaeology - and these stretch over many places and times going back thousands of years. And there is a massive world of socio-politics in relation to the church - from the international and geopolitical to local congregational matters and everything in between. There are intellectual and abstract matters of theology and philosophy; and there are matters of personality and relationships...

The above only sketches out the limitless complexity of "Christian living" as it is conceived by many of its major representative institutions; and traditionally through most of history. 

What all these share in common is an emphasis on the external location of Christian life. The complexity creates an external world which the Christian inhabits. Much of the power lies externally, and therefore 'happens-to' the individual Christian. 

In a sense, the Christian invests himself (potentially without limit, because there is always more-to-do) into this external and complex world, in order to be able to draw-upon it: in order to be positively affected by-it. 

Furthermore; Christians can share in this external world - it forms a tangible and material link between Christians; and via this physical instantiation of Christianity, individual Christians and group-Christianity both relate to all the activities of society and culture generally. 

There is no aspect of culture that cannot, in this way, be linked with Christianity: politics, the military, law, the arts, science, education... In principle, there are (or can be) Christian aspects and relations of all these. 

When Christianity is thus complex and external, everything in the world is a part of it; and can be seen to be a part of it by all participants. 

But this conceptualizing of Christianity as external and complex carries several disadvantages - both innately and in current/ modern practice. 

The current/ modern practice is that - because this kind of Christianity is external and complex; it has been infiltrated, subverted, and then destroyed or inverted in multiple ways and from multiple directions simultaneously - such that the major churches have all been enlisted in the mainstream, secular, leftists and totalitarian agenda. 

This was evident during early 2020, when church leadership willingly (avidly) suspended the core activities of their churches - without time limitations. 

But even if the churches had not been corrupted and conscripted; there are still innate problems with the idea of Christian living as ultra-complex and externally located. 

There is a price to pay for the many advantages listed above; and that price is the habitual subordination of our self to external influences and causes, to external powers

Whenever there is an intermediate between our-selves and God, or the divine in any manifestation, then that intermediate has power over us: whether than intermediate be symbol, ritual, hierarchy, scholarship, intellectual discipline, learned abilities, or whatever. 

Although complex-external Christianity does not exclude direct, personal and experiential aspects; these are subordinated-to (embedded-in) the complex forms. Thus the experiential aspects are intermittent (because there is So Much else that must be done); and therefore the Christian often lives from memory, rather than in the here and now.

And vast complexity ties each Christian to the mundane

...The experienced consciousness is held in the mundane stance, for all of the time that a Christian is participating in that huge range and intricacies of the "Christian world". 

In a nutshell; the problem with complex-external Christianity is that it is mostly (indeed, nearly-all) discourse about-God, about-Jesus, and about-... everything else that it includes. It is largely secondhand. It leaves the central 'problem' of Life untouched. 

What Christians most need (and often crave) is not mundane discourse about God but experience-of God; and we desire that this be continuous not intermittent; here-and-now and not mere memories that we once-upon-a-time had such experience.  

What we need and want is somewhat like a young child's relationship with his living and loving parents. 

The child ideally (and sometime in practice) experiences that parental love as a continuous factor in his life; ever-present; confident and trusting; a background, a safety-net, an enfolding medium through-which the child moves. 

So, this represents a simple and inner-derived, experiential Christian path through life, to contrast with the complex and external. 

Such a simple path is rooted in knowing the nature and motivations of God - who is creator of this world and strands towards us as a loving parent. 

The inner Christian path is based in having a loving relationship with this God; primarily individual, but also as member of a family of Christians.

And the relevant Christian spiritual activity is directed towards recovering this primal simplicity; discovering, clarifying, and choosing, this loving and personal relationship: recovering it when we go astray.  

Complex external Christianity aims to steer us through life by means of multitudinous sources of guidance - some exact, other generic and with rules of extrapolation/ interpolation. 

Simple and inner Christianity works instead from a strong sense of God's nature, motivations, purposes, and love - and that which is divine with each-of-us -- and it is prayerful meditation directed towards such personal "sources" which provides needful guidance... When that is not already obvious. 


william arthurs said...

A few years ago I met a lady who had used her spare time by attending various colleges of London University and acquiring seven masters' degrees in: Christian spirituality, liturgy, Biblical studies, pastoral studies, theology, and two others that I forget. She was just about to start another one.

Bruce Charlton said...

@william a - Great story!