Monday, 28 December 2009

Holy agnosis

Carl McColman has just posted an excellent reflection on the experience of grace in the Christian tradition. I really admire his honesty about his uncertainty, his 'holy agnosis'.
So I am enough of a “questioner” to be unable to accept the simple, literal story at face value, but I lack the intellectual prowess to really understand all of the issues that scholars and philosophers and theologians have raised in response to the Christ story. So, what am I left with? I’m left with what I have called on this blog, “holy agnosis.” In other words, I am comfortable with saying “I don’t know.” I don’t know if the Christ story is historically true or not; I do believe that at this late date it is not historically verifiable, so I know that only by faith can anyone accept it as true. Likewise, I don’t know if the Christ story is only “true” on a mythic or metaphorical level. It seems to me that those who object to the mythical or metaphorical reading of the Christ story fall into two camps: those who reject Christianity altogether, and those who believe that if you do not accept the Gospel as literal, historical fact, then you cannot be a Christian. Since I am in neither of those camps, I am perfectly happy if people find faith and meaning through a mythical or metaphorical approach.
Personally, if I thought that the resurrection was literally true (which I don't), then I would subscribe to Christus Victor theology rather than vicarious atonement, as it is much more humane; but I think that a physical resurrection from the dead is extremely unlikely. Therefore I regard it as a metaphor. Also, the story of Christ seems to draw on a number of similar stories about the death and resurrection of god-men (e.g. Adonis, Attis, Osiris, Orpheus), which clearly relate to the psychological aspects of the spiritual journey — the death of the ego and its rebirth in a new form that is more in balance with the rest of the psyche. On this level, the story is valuable; whereas, when taken literally, it seems quite harmful, especially when couched in terms of vicarious atonement or penal substitution. And, as Yeshua himself said, "By their fruits ye shall know them" — in other words, the consequences of a belief can be used to demonstrate its soundness or unsoundness.

The consequences of Carl's holy agnosis is that he can tolerate ambiguity and see others' points of view and tolerate difference, and these seems like good consequences to me.

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