Postliberal Christianity

lunamoth

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I've been doing some pretty basic reading in theology lately and just came across the idea of Postliberal Christianity. I found it very interesting because it explains at least in part why I 'believe' the way I do. So, with some liberal (no pun intended) cutting out of sentences I'd like to share the basic concept with you all here, throw it against the wall and see what sticks. :D

start excerpt****
From Christian Theology an Introduction, by Alister McGrath:

One of the most significant developments in theology since about 1980 has been a growing skepticism over the plausibility of a liberal worldview. The emergence of postliberalism is widely regarded as one of the most important aspects of western theology since 1980. (OK, so it's not the best-written text I've ever read...)
...
Its central foundations are narrative approaches to theology, such as those developed by Hans Frei, and the schools of social interpretation which stress the importance of culture and language in the generation and interpretation of experience and thought.

Building upon the work of philosophers such as Alasdair MacIntyre, postliberalism rejects both the traditional Enlightenment appeal to a "universal rationality" and the liberal assumption of an immediate religious experience common to all humanity. Arguing that all thought and experience is historically and socially mediated, postliberalism bases its theological program upon a reutrn to religious traditions, whose values are inwardly appropriated. Postliberalism is thus anti-foundational (in that it rejects the notion of a universal foundation of knowledge), communitarian (in that it appeals to the values, experiences and language of a community, rather tha prioritizing the individual), and historicist (in that it insists upon the importance of traditions and their associated historical communities in the shaping of experience and thought).
...
In this respect (the emphasis on the relation between narrative, community, and the moral life), postliberalism reintroduced a strong emphasis on the particularity of the Christian faith, in reaction against the strongly homogenizing tendencies of liberalism, in its abortive attempt (called such because liberalism is deemed to be on the wane now) to make the theory (that all religions are saying the same thing) and observation (that all religions are different) coincide.
...
Such ideas can be seen in an ealier work of importance to the emergence of postliberalism - Paul Holmer's Grammar of Faith (1978). For Holmer, Christianity possesses a central grammar which regulates the structure and shape of Christian "language games." This language is not invented or imposed by theology; it is already inherent within the biblical paradigms upon which theology is ultimately dependent. The taks of theology is thus to discern these intrabiblical rules (such as the manner in which God is worshippped and spoken about), not to impose extrabiblical rules. For Holmer, one of liberalism's most fundamental flaws was it attempts to "reinterpret" or "restate" biblical concepts, which inevitably degenerated into the harmonization of Scripture with the spirit of the age. "Continuous redoing of the Scripture to fit the age is only a sophisticated and probably invisible bondage to the age rather than the desire to win the age for God." ...

****end excerpt

The text goes on to also give some criticisms of postliberalism which I will share in a future post. However, before I do I'd be interested to hear what you all have to say about this idea.


lunamoth
 
What is funny to me is I believe all Christians feel that they are following the real essence of Jesus's teachings. This includes the liberal. We've discussed previously all of us have issues with all the titles...whatever they may be. But I defined as a liberal christian feel also that I am attempting to live a life based on the teachings...again despite the fact that I differ from the literal interpretation of all the texts...

This postliberal definition seems to relate to how I feel...but I am truly awaiting a post-wegottalabeleverythingletsjustallgetalongtheology...
 
lunamoth said:
In this respect (the emphasis on the relation between narrative, community, and the moral life), postliberalism reintroduced a strong emphasis on the particularity of the Christian faith, in reaction against the strongly homogenizing tendencies of liberalism, in its abortive attempt (called such because liberalism is deemed to be on the wane now) to make the theory (that all religions are saying the same thing) and observation (that all religions are different) coincide.

The text goes on to also give some criticisms of postliberalism which I will share in a future post. However, before I do I'd be interested to hear what you all have to say about this idea.

Quite interesting Lunamoth, lets shake this forum!
I was wondering in what way post liberalism is different both from liberal and traditional/mainstream christianity, is this like a best of both approach, or is it a reactionary movement.

And how current liberal, mainstream and post-liberal forms (so many labels:() would be seen from the long historical evolution of christianity? I mean, are we really more enlightened nowadays, or are we just adapting to cultural and social changes, just like previous generations of Christians have always done.

Alvaro
 
Caimanson said:
Quite interesting Lunamoth, lets shake this forum!
I was wondering in what way post liberalism is different both from liberal and traditional/mainstream christianity, is this like a best of both approach, or is it a reactionary movement.

And how current liberal, mainstream and post-liberal forms (so many labels:() would be seen from the long historical evolution of christianity? I mean, are we really more enlightened nowadays, or are we just adapting to cultural and social changes, just like previous generations of Christians have always done.

Alvaro
You and wil make a good point about labels here. I don't think of these as labels or boxes within which I must place myself. They are terms to express different movements in theology, in this case modern theology. Humans need to organize information if they are to process it and try to learn from it. I think these labels, liberalism, conservativism, evangelicalism, fundamentalism, orthdoxy, are not boxes on people, but frameworks for worldviews which we can choose to identify with in whole or part, or not.

added in edit: what actually intrigued me is that I was not aware of this movement in theology, yet some of it at least is close to my way of approaching Scripture. So, even though I did not consciously adopt this view, these ideas have entered into my way of thinking. We are influenced by these evolutions in theology even if we are not aware of it. Actually, being aware of it could also act as an inoculum against being swayed by social (what everybody else is) thinking, if we so choose.

I think these movements are 'reactions' to other movements. The pendulum swings one way, the resulting worldview is still inadequate in some way, so it swings back.

luna
 
I'm feeling stupid. I don't understand what this guy is saying. I understand the criticism of liberal theology, but I don't understand what post-liberal means except that it sounds like another variation of orthodoxy.

Luna, is there any possibility of you paraphrasing what this guy is saying for the benefit of the unlearned?

Chris
 
China Cat Sunflower said:
I'm feeling stupid. I don't understand what this guy is saying. I understand the criticism of liberal theology, but I don't understand what post-liberal means except that it sounds like another variation of orthodoxy.

Luna, is there any possibility of you paraphrasing what this guy is saying for the benefit of the unlearned?

Chris

Well, I can come back a bit later and tell you what I think it means, and how I think it relates to my approach to reading the Bible. However, the so-called boxes around these movements in theology are all somewhat fuzzy.

But, gotta wait till the kids are in bed. :D

added: BTW, you can certainly count me in with the 'unlearned.' ;-)

luna
 
China Cat Sunflower said:
don't understand what post-liberal means except that it sounds like another variation of orthodoxy.
Well, in a way, it is orthodoxy. Karl Barth's "neo-orthodoxy" is considered a postliberal theology. Closely related is "post-foundationalism."

I like what one site says:
Reinhold Niebuhr took a different tack toward a similar end, arguing that fundamentalism was hopelessly wrong because it took Christian myths literally, while liberal Christianity was hopelessly wrong because it failed to take Christian myths seriously.

The Emerging Church is somewhat of a postliberal, postfoundational movement.

:)
 
The Emerging Church is somewhat of a postliberal, postfoundational movement.

It is? I mean, I dunno, is it?

I want to kinda reserve comment until I hear back from Luna, but what this sounds like to my untrained ear is a return to the supremacy of the institution over the individual. The old "cradle to grave" style institutional religion. Is this going to sell? I dunno, doesn't sound too appealing to me, but I've come to the conclusion that I'm a lost cause. Organized religion doesn't appeal to me, doesn't do anything for me. I can't find a reason for it in my modern life. But I think maybe I can empathise with others and see the appeal of a neo-orthodox approach that removes the emphasis from a wholly deductive, individualistic approach to religion.

Luna...?

Chris
 
OK, I'm back. And, no, I was not using that time to research and prepare a lovely review of postliberal Christianity. :) I have a sick three-year-old who now seems settled in bed, plus things like dinner to attend to. But here I am again, the blind leading the probably less-blind in this discussion.

First thing, based upon my handy dandy Intro to Theology text, is that Karl Barth's neo-othodoxy is presented as something somewhat different than the postliberalism I described above. It (neo-orthodoxy) was a response to Liberal Protestantism. If we really wanted to get into it I suppose we could go back and define that as well (and again, the text author stresses that most of these definitions are not precise and can mean different things *sheesh*).

Liberal Protestantism - a response to the growing realization that CHristian faith and theology alike required reconstruction in the light of modern knowledge. Required a significant degree of flexibility in relation traditional Christian theology. Solved this by either abandoning beliefs regarded as outdated or mistaken (ie, original sin) or reinterpreting beliefs to be more conducive to the spirit of the age. Most developed and influential presentation perhaps found in the writings of Paul Tillich.

Modernism, as far as I can tell, is a similar movement within the Roman Catholic Church.

Neo-orthodoxy - a reaction against liberalism, which was considered to 'reduce Christianity to little more than a religious experience, thus making it a human-centered rather than God-centered affair.' The backlash was fueled by the event of WWI, which undermined the idea that a human-centered approach: 'Liberal theology seemed to be about human values--and how could these be taken seriously, if they lead to global conflicts on such a massive scale?' "By stresing the otherness of God, writers such as Karl Barth believed that they could escape from the doomed human-centered theology of liberalism." As far as I can tell, this was very much like a return to orthodoxy, and does not seem to be the same thing as postliberal theology.

Postmodernism - 'a full definition is virtually impossible.' :( 'Nevertheless, it is possible to identify its leading general feature, which is the deliberate and systematic abandonment of centralizing narratives.'

The text gives a list of stylistic contrasts to illustrate 'Modernism' (apparently not meaning the RCC movement described above) and 'Postmodernism' :

modernism-postmod
purpose - play
design - chance
hierarchy - anarchy
centering - dispersal
selection - combination

Some more words about postmodernism: 'It must be clear that there is an inbuilt precommitment to relativism or pluralism within postmodernism in relation to questions of truth.'...'One aspect of postmodernism which illustrates this trend (that modern society is trapped in an endless network of artifical sign systems, which meant nothing, and merely perpetuated the belief systems of those who created them) particularly well, while also indicating its obsession with texts and language, is deconstruction -- the critical method which virtually declares that the identity and intentions of the autor of a text are an irrelevance to the interpretation of the text...no fixed meaning can be found.


OK, I put all of that out there just for background against which to (try to) distinguish postliberal theology.

Protestant liberalism was a reaction to the Enlightenment, the new knowledge created a need to reinterpret scripture to fit the new scientific worldview (I think).

Neo-orthodoxy was a reaction to this liberalism.

Postliberalism is something different, and it is much newer (1970's, 80's) than neo-orthodoxy. Initially associated with Yale Divinity School. Some names associated with Post-liberalism:

Hans Frei:
Frei certainly never thought of himself as a "great theologian, " but he did have a central passion, a central idea. That idea emerged through long study, in the 1950s and '60s, of l8th- and 19th-century ways of interpreting the Bible. He grew convinced that nearly the whole of modern Christian theology, from the radical to the fundamentalist, had taken a wrong turn.

For many centuries before the modern age, most Christian theologians had read the Bible primarily as a kind of realistic narrative. It told the overarching story of the world, from creation to last judgment. Moreover, the particular coherence of this story made "figural" interpretation possible: some events in the biblical stories, as well as some nonbiblical events, prefigured or reflected the central biblical events. Indeed, Christians made sense of their own lives by locating their stories within the context of that larger story.

But somewhere around the 18th century, people started reading the Bible differently. Their own daily experience seemed to define for them what was "real, " and so they consciously tried to understand the meaning of the Bible by locating it in their world.
...
A Christian theology that respects the meaning of the biblical narratives must begin simply by retelling those stories, without any systematic effort at apologetics, without any determined effort to begin with questions arising from our experience. The stories portray a person -- a God who acts in the history of Israel and engages in self-revelation in Jesus of Nazareth. They help us learn about that person in the way that a great novelist describes a character or that a telling anecdote captures someone's personality. They provide insights that we lose if we try to summarize the narrative in a nonnarrative form. No abstract account of God's faithfulness adequately summarizes Exodus. The Gospels surpass any abstract account of God's love.

TBC...
 
I'm kind of researching and posting as I go, but I do intend to get to your question Chris. :) Sorry I don't have time to put this altogether in a better presentation.

*Note: I am putting quotes and paraphrases together here from several sources, strung together based upon the text I've been referring to by Alister MacGrath.

Some more names associated with Postliberalism:

Alasdair MacIntyre, a philosopher, who placed emphasis on the relation between narrative, community, and the moral life.
Academic philosophers, students and non-academic observers, who have made MacIntyre one of the most widely read contemporary philosophers, absorb his work primarily because he excels at presenting complicated and historically controversial philosophical challenges in simple to understand narratives where adversaries are compared by their philosophical assumptions, questions and intellectual histories. Whereas many contemporary philosophers advance philosophical positions by focusing on the logical, analytical or so called scientific underpinnings, MacIntyre often appeals to the plain light of ordinary story telling (through insightful historical reconstruction) to resolve complicated issues in the areas of moral philosophy, intellectual history, ethics, practical reason, Aristotle, Collingwood and Thomas Aquinas. It's fair to say MacIntyre is one of many thinkers whose work benefited greatly from the influence of the study of historical thinking on the practice of philosophy in the Western Tradition. Croce, Hegel, Heidegger, Collingwood and others should be credited for contributing to this phenomenon.

George Lindbeck (important work: Nature of Doctrine): Lindbeck develops what he terms a "cultural-linguistic" approach which embodies the leading features of post-liberalism. The cultural-linguistic approach denies that there is some universal unmediated human experience which exists apart from human language and culture. Rather, it stresses that the heart of religion lies in living within a specific historical religious tradition, and interiorizing its ideas and values. This tradition rests upon a historically mediated set of ideas, for which the narrative is an especially suitable means of transmission.

Paul Holmer:
Holmer has been suspicious of contemporary models of theology which seem to depend heavily upon distinctions between theory and practice and between intellect and emotion. Too often Christianity has been treated as a theory which theologians refine and which some of them choose to practice. One of the hallmarks of his teaching career has been his ability to plot the connections between "understanding" and "practice." Christianity should not be "understood" apart from the believer's capacity for "repentance," "'hope" and "despair."

Emotions, therefore, play an important part in the process of understanding Christianity. Sometimes, Holmer reminds us, the exercise of an emotion is the best display of understanding possible. A child who doesn't fear the flame has failed to understand fire. The person who knows joy and awe in God's presence is beginning to grasp the concept of "God," whereas the person who talks glibly about God without awe, fear or joy has failed to grasp something basic. Theology thus makes demands upon those who practice it. It is an imposing body of teachings and practices which shapes the pattern of our emotions, our actions, our desires and our thoughts. This vision of theology flies in the face of contemporary views which encourage each and every believer to "develop a theology" and which applauds the constant emergence of new theologies. According to Holmer it is not so much new words that we need in order to know God, but hearts and minds devoted and obedient to God's will. Theology, in Holmer's understanding, has a therapeutic task. It helps us clean up and rid ourselves of obstacles to understanding and belief. More often than not these obstacles are to be found in the individual rather than out in the world. The problem is not that the world is unsuited to Christian belief, but that we are unprepared to receive the word being offered.

too many words...sorry...next I'll try to relate this to my views...
 
O.K., I'm following... you're doin' good, and I'm waiting to hear your personal perspective Luna. This has really got my mind going but I don't want to comment until I hear your take.

Chris
 
OK, I'll try to make this post more readable and interesting. Just wanted to put that background up for those who might be interested (in correcting me :) ). Also, let me stress that I have only just begun to look a this, so I COULD BE WAY OFF. :)

Here are my first thoughts on postliberal Christianity: Orthodox Christianity came from the place of 'We're right, we know we are right, we've always been right and everyone else is wrong.' The Enlightenment came along, challenged Christian theology and after a few swings of the pendulum we eventually arrived at extreme Liberalism in theology: "Everyone is right, truth is relative, Truth is One." This felt empty, or nebulous, and as stated in one of the posts above, rests too much on faith in the individual, an idea that is hard to feel good about when we look around the world at all the rotten stuff we do to each other. So, a reaction to this is Postliberalism, which is a return to the tradition and uniqueness of Christianity, but as it exists in a pluralistic and scientifically literate society. Its worldview is best understood when the historical context of culture and language of the traditional narratives are taken into consideration. These are the ideas that I thought have perhaps influenced me.

However, since doing the above research I've come to understand better that it rejects the idea of a common human experience, and replaces it with the concept of religion as living out a set of characteristic ideas and values. In a way it is isolationist (this is my term): Christianity is lived and measured only within itself; there are no external measures for Truth; 'Truth is related to the distinctive doctrines of the Christian faith.' I don't agree with this (today). I tend to think that there is a common Truth that can be found in most religions, and that it is there in spades in Christianity.

Hehe, or I simply am not getting it.

luna
 
China Cat Sunflower said:
It is? I mean, I dunno, is it?
It depends on the person. It varies greatly from leader to leader. But overall, in my experience, many EC thinkers are post-foundational (if not postliberal).
 
Oh yeah, there was one more thing that struck me, and that was Scripture and Tradition as the voice of a community. This is something that strongly resonates with my approach to reading scripture (eh, after all the above I lost sight of this thing that first caught my interest!).

We make the choice to enter into that community and understand Christianity from there. This is kind of like what I concluded becomes isolationist in postliberalism, so I guess I am just saying that I view this as a valid approach for me, but think that there are other valid approaches and other valid 'spiritual refuges' that can be related to Christianity. Blah, this is not making sense. The difference rests on making that choice and recognizing that there are other legitimate choices.

Sooooo, when I read the narratives of the Gospels, for example, I don't worry about whether these things literally happened. I'm content to just take it 'on faith' that they did, but what is more important to me is that the early Christian community from which my tradition is descended (how is that for being politically correct!) found significance in these events. The NT is a record of their experience, and whether things literally happened or not is not the right question to ask. They conveyed the Resurrection as a literal physical one. They must have meant something by that. Tradition is our main tool for understanding what this meant. If we focus on whether it could scientifically happen we are going to miss the message.

And, community understanding of Scripture is important (to me anyway) today. Not that I don't mine the meanings of the Bible for myself and apply it to my life, but it is also important in how it connects me to other people. Christianity/religion is very much about relationship to me and so I want to have some basis of shared understanding of scripture to help me communicate with my community, and share the experience of Christ. This, in my view, is the role that doctrine plays. I was particularly interested in something the theology text I'm reading said about the study of historical theology (ala Alasdair MacIntyre). It is subversive. This excites me! There is a conditional element to Christian theology. Historical theology seeks to undercover this: doctrine can be wrong, it can be changed, and we are likely to get it wrong again. I love this! Doctrine is not static, which is a view I also hold. However, that does not mean it is useless, and we also don't just throw it all out as relative. We've got the scriptural narrative to hold it together. Doctrine is our accumulated and constantly tweaked best thinking about the meaning of the Christ experience.

blah, too many words again. :)
 
'Truth is related to the distinctive doctrines of the Christian faith.' I don't agree with this (today). I tend to think that there is a common Truth that can be found in most religions, and that it is there in spades in Christianity.

Hehe, or I simply am not getting it.

One of the charges leveled against postliberalism by some is that it is "pluralistic." :rolleyes: Heh. Can't please everybody eh?

I would consider myself to hold to narrative theology. I also think that scripture purports some propositional truths. I believe that the two go together quite well. :)
 
Interesting... I'll have to read further. I'm pretty much on the same wavelength as you are, Luna (as is usual! :)). I am very concerned with the cultural and linguistic background of scripture and I do not think it is (all) meant to be taken literally. However, while I do agree that it is a symbolic text, I do not think that means everything is only symbolic, and I rebel against the tendency to strip Christianity of its Judaic roots and its historical context. I do not believe we should simply reinterpret scripture to fit with our contemporary society and needs, but rather carefully study what the text originally meant and then take it up with God in prayer to find how it is applicable today, given the changes in what we know about the universe and our society. I do view doctrine as a work in progress.Myth is basically the sacred narrative (in Christianity, the Bible), while doctrine is our theories about the myth. The trinity is a lovely example that has been discussed a lot on this forum. The Bible never says the word “trinity” or defines specifically how God operates. People infer the doctrine of the trinity from various scriptural passages. This means that doctrine, just like scientific theories, are based on our best current information- historical, linguistic, cultural, and spiritual.However, the isolationist idea doesn't appeal to me either. I believe there is Truth, but we cannot fully perceive it because we are limited by our cultural and linguistic backgrounds. I believe everyone who sincerely seeks after God, finds Him/Her/It, but that doesn't mean anyone really understands God, or can describe God, or anything of the sort. All our communication and theorizing is filtered through our linguistic categories (which shape our thought) and our history, culture, mythology.Finally, I agree that there isn’t one “right” way for everyone to approach religion. For some, institutions work very well. They feel comfort and satisfaction in the communal and historical traditions. For others, their very personality doesn’t work well with this sort of organization. I appreciate religion and churches, but that is not how I connect to God. I am individualistic and syncretic, and very experiential, and I have always been this way. It would not work for me to base my beliefs primarily on tradition or communal institutions because my faith is fundamentally tied to personal experience, study, and interpretation. Much more than people gathering together to do stuff (communion, pray, sing) and I feel stifled, as if I am being told the sky is green when to me it has always been blue, but somehow I should agree with the communal consensus anyway. I do not think everyone need go down the path of individualism and syncretism, but it is what works for me. Personally, I think it is odd to teach people to trust history and institutions (which are constantly changing anyway) rather than to trust their own feelings, experiences, and critical thinking skills. There are dangers in individualistic approaches to spirituality, but these can be tempered by careful study and so forth.I guess I just don’t buy into one-size-fits-all religion of any sort. There are too many different people out there.
Edited to add... I am sorry for the run-on paragraph with no breaks. I wrote it with breaks, but the forum is stripping them for some reason. Please bear with me... :)
 
I'm getting lost in the labels so I'll just try to shoot something out and see if it makes any sense.

It seems like what we're talking about here is how to put the genie back in the bottle so that Christianity becomes a mystery again. How to get back to that orthodox ideal where the faith isn't to be understood but rather lived. The problem with that is that it smacks so heavily of institutionalized social control mechanisms of the past, and the objectification, idolatry basically, of worshipping something blindly and without understanding.

The problem with liberal Christianity, as has been pointed out, is that it universalizes, and individualizes theology to the point where it loses any concrete relationship of currency between the signs, symbols, rituals and their original context. The signs become self-referential, they refer only to themselves in a chase-your-tail manner that leaves the entire theology flacid and devoid of deeper meaning. This is what happens when mythology is removed from its original, arcane context and adapted for use in an entirely different sphere.

So I guess what the post-liberalists are saying is that the Bible story needs to be put back in its original context so that the mystery it evokes naturally will be revitalized. That sounds good, but...

The first problem is how do we deal with the compartmentalization of our thought process and world view that inevitably arises from being of two minds: one spiritual, arcane and unreasoning, and incompatible with modern thought, and the other deductive, logical, and completely incompatible with the first? How do we divide up our mental processes into two completely incompatible spheres?

The second problem is that to place the Bible back into it's original context requires figuring out what that context actually is. To get to the original context we have to understand the writing process and that leads ultimately to a de-mystification of the material. So by putting the material back into it's original context we've shot ourselves in the foot because we've peeked behind the curtain and peeled apart the layers. I suppose one could stop at the point where the Bible in it's present cannonized version emerged, accept the supremacy of the institutions of orthodoxy, and never question beyond that. Maybe that's the point: the re-establishment of the blind belief in the supremacy of the institution.

Here's what I think the real question is, at least for me: How do you have your Jesus and eat him too? On the one hand a watered down, post-modern, politically correct, universally appealing, fuzzy wuzzy, chicken soup version of Christian theology is at the core level unsatisfying and essentially unreal, but on the other hand a return to a mystical, authority driven, institutionlized theology which relies on the blind faith of the adherents is even less attractive. And since any compromise tends toward the liberalization of the theology, there can never be a happy medium.

Chris
 
China Cat Sunflower said:
The first problem is how do we deal with the compartmentalization of our thought process and world view that inevitably arises from being of two minds: one spiritual, arcane and unreasoning, and incompatible with modern thought, and the other deductive, logical, and completely incompatible with the first? How do we divide up our mental processes into two completely incompatible spheres?

The second problem is that to place the Bible back into it's original context requires figuring out what that context actually is. To get to the original context we have to understand the writing process and that leads ultimately to a de-mystification of the material. So by putting the material back into it's original context we've shot ourselves in the foot because we've peeked behind the curtain and peeled apart the layers. I suppose one could stop at the point where the Bible in it's present cannonized version emerged, accept the supremacy of the institutions of orthodoxy, and never question beyond that. Maybe that's the point: the re-establishment of the blind belief in the supremacy of the institution.

Here's what I think the real question is, at least for me: How do you have your Jesus and eat him too? On the one hand a watered down, post-modern, politically correct, universally appealing, fuzzy wuzzy, chicken soup version of Christian theology is at the core level unsatisfying and essentially unreal, but on the other hand a return to a mystical, authority driven, institutionlized theology which relies on the blind faith of the adherents is even less attractive. And since any compromise tends toward the liberalization of the theology, there can never be a happy medium.

Chris
Interesting...I have no problem flipping back and forth between a mystical mode and a scientific one, but I'm naturally like that and so I deal well with compartmentalization. Really, I operate naturally in a mystical mode, but I'm good at logic and deductive reasoning, so I can "switch off" mysticism and "switch on" the logic. Personally, I don't find the two incompatible, but rather complementary. I have a lot of ideas that would seem entirely illogical to most people, based on contemporary ideas about "what we know," that are very logical if you lived my life's experiences. Furthermore, we have to drag in what logic and modern thought mean. Most everyday folks believe, logically, that they exist as an individual only in one universe and life (this one they experience). However, lots of wonderful scientists now think that the evidence points toward many universes, many of which have a "me" in them, but a "me" that I can't currently experience or access. Where the public at large draws the line between reality and fantasy, logic and crazy ideas, is very different from where specialists draw it. So what does that mean for mysticism? Is there a nugget of hope there that some shamans react to string theory with a shrug and a "been there, done that"?-----As to the second problem, I think this depends on how someone approaches the scriptures and mystery. I study the scriptures more or less methodically and scientifically. I pick them apart, I read what I can find on linguistic and cultural context to find the original author's intent. Yet the mystery of all this is that the text is also a medium of communication between God and me. Beyond the study is the Spirit. On the one hand, I am applying the brain God gave me. On the other, I am applying the soul. The former seeks to understand how these other people, embedded in history and culture and language, described their experience with God and the theories that experience generated. The latter seeks to use the scripture as a vehicle to my own experience with God. The interaction of the two renders my belief system. I am very much about the Mystery, and yet I do not filter it through an institution, nor do I ignore my intellectual capacity which I feel is also a gift from God to help us know Him/Her/It. Perhaps society at large is being too dualistic in their thinking- too eager to embrace one or the other, and turn away their other abilities. I believe God made humanity both deductive and intuitive for a reason- both for our survival as a species, and for our capacity to experience Him/Her/It.-----As to Christ, I do perceive Him/Her/It as universal. I don't perceive Jesus as universal. In my own experience, I have experienced Christ as any number of visions and events; Christ is universal and exists outside of time and space (as does God). Jesus was the physical manifestation of Christ and is embedded, like all humans, in time and space, thus unifying divinity and humanity. Neither is the vague sort of thing you get in some of the modern movements. One is an eternal aspect of God, the other an historical manifestation of this apsect. I don't know if this puts me in the fuzzy-wuzzy Jesus category or not. ;)
 
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