CHRISTIAN TRACTATUS - SECTION 16

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16. A worthwhile reconstruction of Christianity, in conformity with the modern worldview, has not been demonstrated to be possible.

16.1 If it becomes apparent that a religious system is no longer congruent with a dispassionate view of the world, it does not make sense to attempt to save it at all costs, eg. by warping its basic principles to make it fit into the modern world view.

16.1.1 Such a system, especially if it has held the attention of a significant number of people for a long time, has no doubt got much to say, if only in a literary way as a quarry for figures of speech or as a place where the great moral or philosophical questions are illuminated, if not adequately answered.

16.1.2 We must not be deceived into thinking, however, that treating a religious system in this way is the same as believing in it on its own terms.

16.2 It may be possible to modify the interpretation of some or all of the perceived statements of a religion to make them congruent with the modern world view.

16.2.1 However, modifying our interpretation in a forced manner only leads to self deception. We have to be clear what it is we are trying to achieve.

16.2.1.1 If our hope is that certain statements of the religion have always been misinterpreted, our re-interpretation must be done in such a way that a case can reasonably be made that the initial message of the religious system has been seriously misunderstood in previous epochs due to misinterpretation under alien categories, and that the proposed reconstruction was the most reasonable from the beginning.

16.2.1.2 If we think that the original intention of the religious statements was wrong or deficient, we must clearly say so, and make clear that our intention is to use these old (but inadequate) ideas as a springboard for our own new (and, hopefully, more accurate) ideas.

16.2.2 Such attempts at deconstruction and reconstruction are to be treated with great suspicion.

16.2.2.1 When evaluating a theological reconstruction, we must be careful to determine which of the two alternatives is proposed. We must be wary in case the two approaches have been confused or, as is more likely, in case the latter approach has been disguised as the former in order to make it appear more acceptable.

16.3 The attempts hitherto to provide a reconstruction of Christianity based on liberal principles have not been successful and have emptied the churches.

16.4 If the arguments and observations in this paper are correct, fundamentalist Christianity, based on an inerrant Bible, is capable neither of complete internal cohesion nor of synthesis with what is normally taken to be a common sense view of the world.

16.5 The fact that fundamentalist Christianity is filling the churches is a symptom of despair.

16.5.1 In the developed world, the despair is caused by the barrenness of modern commercial culture.

16.5.2 Outside the developed world, despair has been addressed by other forms of Christianity, whether traditional Catholic, "liberation theology Catholic" or Eastern Orthodox.

16.5.2.1 In the communist world (as was), despair is caused by the similar barrenness of oppressive regimes without freedom of expression. The problems in much of the communist world are now scarcely distinguishable from those of much of the third world.

16.5.2.2 In the developing world, despair is caused by poverty, repression & corruption.

16.5.3 In all three cases of despair, a quick solution to all too apparent ills is craved, namely, purity, certainty & hope in exchange for the dirt, doubt & despair of life.

16.5.3.1 The above comments apply pro rata to other fundamentalist religions such as Islam.

16.6. Some have tried to jettison the "supernatural elements" of Christianity while seeking to retain its moral code. As we have noticed elsewhere, though there is clearly a great deal of value in Christian morality, its motivation, and a number of specific moral values, depend on its theistic infrastructure.

16.6.1 Western society is still suffering from the effects of the transition from a formerly received morality based on Christian theism to one that is seen to be more securely grounded in the currently received philosophy of secular humanism.

16.6.1.1 Any system of morality must place constraints on those who submit to it. Therefore, if frequent rebellion is to be avoided, it is essential that those who are expected to be subject to any system of morality understand the foundations on which it rests.

16.6.1.2 It is not clear that such a justification of a secular morality has yet been performed, or is even possible. This subject is further touched on in this paper, in an Appendix.

16.7 Despite the arguments presented in this paper, it may be the case that the fundamentals of Christianity are not so completely irreparable that a reconstruction cannot be undertaken. However, this task is far from straightforward. In particular, pretending that no problem exists will not lead to its solution.

16.7.1 I cannot see how a reconstruction of Christianity can be achieved without fundamentally changing at least the form in which the cosmic problems and Christian solutions are expressed. Since this would involve denying the grounds and intentions of orthodox Christian belief, it will not be popular with Christians. Hence, the retreat to fundamentalism, which denies the existence of the problem.



© Theo Todman 1992 - 2000.
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