Monday, January 07, 2008

In yesterday evening’s sermon an allusion was made to Augustine of Hippo’s “heresy”. Yes, it was heresy as Augustine fell into that well-worn trap which, starting with attempts to resolve the problem suffering and evil, leads to an attempt to disconnect from this world by an escape into the confused religious complex of dualism and gnosticism (specifically Manicheaism in this case). This often has ramifications for the views held on the nature of the Godhead. However, I write ‘heresy’ as “heresy” as I much prefer to be lenient about the foibles and blind allies that Christains often traverse – although, needless to say, leniency is seldom reciprocated by these highly religionised Christains who earnestly indentify satanic infiltration with contradiction of their opinions. They are all too ready to accuse fellow Christians of ‘letting in Satan’! (Yes we’ve had it at NCBC too!)

I was reminded of an article in Reachout’s 85th newsletter entitled “Heresies, Ancient and Modern”. The newsletter listed and described the following “heresies”: Aphthartodocetism Monophysitism, Apollinarainism, Alogi, Arianism, Docetism, Ebionite, Encratite, Eutychianism, Gnosticism (Proper), Marcionism, Monarchianism, Monophysitism, Monothelitism, Monotanism, Nestorianism, Origen’s ‘heresy’, Pelagianism, and Sabellianism. Nearly all of these ‘heresies’ fall over on one or more issues connected with legalism, gnosticism, and most often, the nature of the Godhead. Reachout are good at collecting, compiling and tabulating the facts (at least I hope they are), but are not so adept at evaluating the real meaning of what is in their hands; they make no mention of the common themes running through these 'heresies'

Attempts to define the nature of the Godhead are notoriously difficult and I personally have no issue with those who theorize, even wrongly about the Godhead on the proviso that these attempts are tempered by tentativeness, perspective humility and a studied detachment. After all, theorizing attempts to join the dots, and like all theorizing, theologies may not succeed in joining all the dots and the true nature of the Godhead may be a misrepresented. However, that’s no problem if humility of perspective, tentativeness and a studied detachment are the frame of mind in which the theorizing proceeds.

Perspective humility? Tentativeness? Studied detachment? One may as well run after the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow as expect such values to be held in fundamentalist circles. These are the very things that redneck religionists eschew and interpret as the antithesis of faith, revelation and commitment. But the irony is that this is where the real heresy starts, for those who arrive at, say, a Gnostic view of God, are likely to do so as a side effect of the search for an exclusive club of the spiritual elite and will claim other Christains to be all but beyond the pale of grace. They will then proceed with threats of Divine displeasure or even damnation toward those who don’t follow their line or fail to join them.

No comments: