tag : bright yellow-green apples: I choose you

"I see little point in persisting in a discussion with one so obstinate as you" Martin White

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

I choose you

Amended from a post here, this is a comment on the modern idea of choosing to invite Jesus into your life, as per standard evangelism in much current Christian practice with wider society:

Conscious rational considered philosophical choice doesn't strike me as the most realistic, nor the most humane [1], way to go about drawing people into a life in all its fullness through renewal. For this is the ontological way of being in the orbit of Jesus through being in some way his body to others. There are too many oversights, loopholes, awkward cases that don't fit the requirements given by Alpha and its many ilk. People with some mental condition is the standard example, but in general the vgeries and complexities of emotions & hormones show how people just don’t fit the enlightenment ideal of humanity as the raised pedestal. Thus I doubt [2] the divine comes down heavily on this as the exclusive watertight means of going about interacting with people as some would project.

So I ask, as an alter call to all you concerned with evangelism, this question. Is the mission of God really about getting people to come out and consciously say "yes" or "no" at a single point in time?

[1] and yes I use that word in judgement of theology; if God is less than human in terms of grace and forgiveness and love, then something is very amiss and we have the worst of projection [2] and yes I use that word very posatively, not by loss


Blogger Andy said...

There is another problem with what you call the 'rational considered philosophical choice'. If someone comes to Jesus because of this 'rational considered philosophical choice' then they sometimes assume that all of Christian discipleship can be lived through the mind. They tend to see their faith resting on a bunch of facts, and hence when Geza Vermes or Marcus Borg or whoever comes along and offers a different view of Jesus they tend to crumble. Their one-legged faith looks dangerously unsteady, so they bail out before it topples. I know, because this has happened to me time and time again. In fact, I only felt safe when I was in India - there faith is lived and breathed, not just thought about and read about.

Suppose I came to Jesus not via a historical book, but during Mass or in a Taize service, or even at a delirious? concert if you really want - I reckon that my faith would have been more experiential. Or if I had simply prayed about it, perhaps then I would seek refuge in prayer rather than in books when unbelief assailed me. Who knows?

The average secularist will dismiss these less 'intellectual' approaches. However, if we think about faith as we do life, surely it makes sense. When we are born, we don't think about life - we experience it, we live it. By overloading our faith with the importance of facts we are in danger of betraying the instructions of spiritual teachers the world over. God cannot be reasoned out - he is not known this way. Yet even for us religious folk, that is a tough teaching to accept. Everything else that is awe-inspiring, even sacred, can be analysed down to the last atom and then further. But God doesn't work like that - indeed, to be God he *cannot* work like that, as access to him cannot depend on our mental ability, but rather our faith.

So, going back to evangelism - the rational approach isn't always the best one. As St Francis of Assisi said; 'Preach the gospel - if necessary, use words'.

9:08 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

That’s well put indeed – probably better than I could, so there's little to add other than "aye".

But I’ll still be awkward and add a few caveats, ah 'tis my site so why not? I think what bothers me most is the intellectualisation of religion, where it is become a mental exercise and a conscious assertion. But. This is not to say there should be any loss of critical faculties. To think and dialectic is much a part of life as music and emotions. Some seem to have forgotten the thinking is but part, and made it the whole.

Your push on Christian mystics is a necessary counterbalance.

4:07 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

Perhaps I overdid the anti-intellectualism in that last post. Not my intention! I'm still quite fond of old M Scott Peck's stages of faith. He emphasises the need for us to embrace reason in order to remove ourselves from the unthinking stages of religious thought. However, the highest stage in Peck's ladder is the 'mystical' stage, in which we must embrace the unknown and unknowable.

As you say, we cannot afford to lose our critical faculties. Give me over-intellectualised religion before a brainless cult any day of the week! However, hopefully we can come to the union of the rational side of the mind, with the more intuitive side. Again, I would recommend this book by Bede Griffiths. He suggests the Western world is dominated by the 'rational' mind, and the Eastern by the 'intuitive' mind. As his book's title suggests, only a happy union of these faculties can benefit us fully.

(The site is an American one but you can obtain the UK catalogue from the World Community for Christian Meditation by emailing them at mediomedia@wccm.org with your name and address)

6:48 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Stages of faith, ah! a perfect rationalised intellectualisation of the intuitive organic human development. Sorry that was a bit facetious, yeah I can see value in what that demonstrates in at least communicating the importance of mystical faith to those who speak the rational language.

I suppose I would go along with the general consensus of many commentators - particularly the great John Drane - who talk of much of western society moving towards a reacquaintence with imagination and sub-conscious in the broadest sense, and yet still having the surface show of rational dominance. People still talk as if science were the only way of looking at truth, for example, even as they go looking for story, community, and other ethereal things. And I shall check out those links as part of my own ongoing search ;)

12:02 AM  

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