Sunday, 22 May 2011

cjbanning: (Trinity)
I'm a big fan of iconoclasm, when it takes the form of questioning previously unquestioned "truths." I'm a big fan of the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche and George Bernard Shaw for precisely that reason. Indeed, I've preached before my parish church my belief that our Christian tradition and relationship with God calls us to to exactly that sort of iconoclasm:
We must work to develop our faith lives, to question why we believe what we say we believe and why we do what we do. We cannot be afraid of the difficult questions, or be ashamed of those doubts which are a natural element of a mature faith.

“Come now, let us argue it out, says the LORD.”

We are called to challenge too-simple truths, to reject fallacious authority, to argue with our God. God does not need or want yes-men and yes-women and yes-persons: God is God, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent. God wants and needs a family of sisters and brothers and siblings in Christ--a communion of saints.
Yet the Protestant form of iconoclasm--the literal removal of icons (i.e., images of God and of the saints) from our Christian practice--is, well, far too literal an understanding of the sort of iconoclasm we are called to practice.

Protestants argue that the use of iconography represents a sort of idolatry: something else taking the place of God. But the fact is, the more we restrict the library of images we have in relating to God, the more likely we are to react idolatrously to the few images which are allowed to remain: thus, e.g., the resistance to using anything other than masculine language to refer to God. The road towards fundamentalism and biblical literalism has already been embarked upon.

In his essay Why Evolution Should Be Taught in Church, Paul Wallace addresses the need for some Christians to restrict the understandings we are allowed to have of God, and how this falls short of our true call as the Church:
[S]ome churchgoers do not attend every Sunday in search of answers. These people understand the church not as a provider of answers but as a poser of questions. That is, for these Christians the task of the church is not to clear away mystery, but to deepen it; to teach its congregation how to bear mystery—and “the truth”—lightly. The unknowns of life may be terrifying, but this group knows that facing them squarely can be fantastically liberating.

[. . .]

The church [. . .] is passing up one of its greatest opportunities to apprehend the very God it claims to represent. This irony is due to a terrible case of what may be called “small-god-ism” and is, unfortunately, encouraged by much popular theology. This theology makes claims about scripture and church practice that reduce God to a cheerleader, or a cosmic vending machine, or some domesticated and pale image of our own confused selves. Such a god is clearly not sufficient to contain all of reality. [. . .]

If “God” is not large enough to contain this universe in all its immensity and complexity and age, then it’s just not God. God is not a thing; God does not exist like we exist, or like the moon exists. God is like nothing we can know in language or image. God transcends these things and all we can know or imagine.
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My Prayer

"This is my prayer: that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best."
-- St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians 1:9-10

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