Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Belief and Non-Belief

If pressed to identify my position on the faith journey, I would probably reply that I was in the abyss between hope and faith. I have long since abandoned the corner of non-belief, which is in effect the flip-side of faith, a faith-shaped hole, the negative image of faith which admits faith as an option, just as atheism admits the possibility of a god to be without.
I no longer feel that it is necessary to pin one's colours to the mast (or in my case even possible), to come out in favour of either black or white, say on the one hand yes, but on the other no. It is completely possible to hold such matters in tension and agree that one does hope that God exists, not be totally convinced that this is so, but act as if it is. Is this intellectual cowardice? No, because it is a far braver act to admit one's ignorance than blithely opt, without irrefutable evidence, for a particular stance. As Socrates stated, wisdom consists of recognising what one does not know. And I at least know that I don't know very much, but rather than let that trouble me too much, I trust that by enquiry and contemplation I will eventually bridge the abyss.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Apocalypse Again

Ruminating on my earlier post linking Advent to the pre-Apocalyptic period of trial, followed by the climax of the Big Day, it occurred to me that our lives observe a rythmn of waiting/enduring/struggling/suffering followed by relief/release/discovery.
Consider: from our earliest moments.....the egg ripens (waiting) before it bursts from the ovary (release). The sexual act (struggle?) culminates in orgasm (relief/release). Pregnancy (waiting) and birth (struggle) brings forth new life (relief/discovery). Childhood is followed naturally by adulthood. Death follows the self-same process, we either die after a life unpunctuated by illness (waiting), after a terminal illness (suffering/enduring), or following trauma (struggle/suffering) which may be protracted or brief, inflicted by others or ourselves . Which begs the question, do we achieve simple passive relief/release at the moment of death, or is there a moment of revelation, an unveiling, apokalupsis, when all that has preceded finally falls into place and we begin a new ascent murmuring " I see......"?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Wikipedia etc. etc.

Oh for heaven's sake why shouldn't a student use Wikipedia as a study tool? I completely agree that it shouldn't itself be cited as a reference, being mostly derivative, but as a first port of call, as a springboard for deeper enquiry it is excellent! The quality of content is uneven, but it doesn't take an expert eye to detect shabby scholarship. Some of the historical and theological pages are superbe and the array of cross references and links make it possible to find inroads into a subject that may have previously seemed impregnable. If anything, Wikipedia encourages the enquiring mind. I have used it many times for an overview on an unfamiliar topic. By judiciously noting down cited works and authors, I have equipped myself with enough material to go to the university library and start looking in depth at the subject. Wikipedia can be an enormous timesaver. For the naive there are warnings about impartiality and bias issues, so forewarned is forearmed. Used well it is a valuable tool, so I say to the academic nay-sayers " Get out of your ivory towers and show students how to use it properly!"

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Shortening of Days

There is something about this time of year that I love: the sense of the year's dying underpinned by the anticipatory tingle of Christmas. I feel energised, organised, almost elated by a sense of purpose that defies rational expectation. I write lists, co-ordinate and tidy my workspace, books and papers. I am filled with hope.
It is very fitting, then, that I have started to take a deep interest in apocalyptic literature. That too looks forward to the future overturning of the established order, the perishing of the temporal in a furnace of renewal.
It is generally considered that this genre, particularly the Jewish apocalyptic writings, were developed during periods of oppression and hopeless servitude and that it represents a distant hope that all will come to good despite present indications. I am of the opinion that this may not be true - it seems to me that apocalyptic may be the product of an age that has become complacent and morally lazy and seeks to sting the reader into considering 'the bigger picture' rather that present comfort. This appears to be equally true of the NT Apocalypse of John, written circa 100AD. As Christianity became established and spread, the shock value of the new teachings settled to regularity and acceptance, much the same as the Sunday churchgoer who attends out a sense of duty and habit, but no longer examines his/her faith or motives.
'Revelation' (for that is what the Greek verb 'apokaluptw' means, to reveal/take away a veil) comes as a clarion call to look to those things that need doing NOW, so that we are prepared for the Big Day ahead.