Just sometimes all the wrestling with seemingly competing ideas pays off and there is an epiphany.
Alister McGrath's Heresy takes the reader through the process of heresy, the way in which orthodoxy becomes just that. It is a mixed and sometimes murky journey, but McGrath is clear that we should dismiss the post modernist notion that the heresies must have been good and orthodoxy only won out because of the balance of power.
I have now placed alongside McGrath's Heresy, Karen Armstrong's Mohammad. Thus far, and it is early days, she has made the point, as does McGrath in his chapter on Islam, that so much of the antagonism between the faiths over the centuries has its roots in, well, heresy. Islamic thinkers raged against misunderstood Christianity; Christians attacked constructed images of Islam. Armstrong has many times made the point that mutual understanding is the way to peaceful coexistence.
There is a single sentence in Armstrong's book, though, that seems to say alot about faith and heresy: 'Neither Judaism or Islam share the Christian conception of heresy, which raises human ideas about the divine to an unacceptably high level and almost makes them a form of idolatry.'(Armstrong, 1991:27).
The epiphany moment is really this, that the whole construct of faith is man made, it had to be, the revelation was the incarnation, God in man, and it was then for men to make of it what they could. The evangelists and St Paul had the first and crucial attempt, but then over the early centuries more thinking often drawing on the Greek as well as Jewish world added more gloss to the pith.
It is a journey of discovery that is endlessly exciting and fulfilling.
Saturday, 26 June 2010
Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Pullman's shadowy stranger who is often at Christ's side guiding him, having at heart the interests of the church to be, begs from the reader some big questions. Taking, for example, Alister McGrath's masterly book, Heresy, we can see the process by which, in the days of the early Church, doctrine was formulated and negotiated. It was a matter of preserving the unity and strength of the community. Ideas coming from within the community, which might weaken it, were singled out as heretical. It was perhaps not so much a striving for truth as something more pragmatic.