Sunday, November 9, 2008

Competing Systems and the Beauty of the Infinite

Comrade Josh suggests:
that we humans are much more easily amused than we give ourselves credit for. A vast system of thought is like a room filled with shiny toys. If the system is vast enough, has enough complicated trains of reason, enough technical definitions, and at least occasionally lifts itself into the poetic, our minds will stay occupied with it and therefore amused by it. As long as the mind is occupied and engaged, it believes and accepts. This is even more true when set in the context of a religion with its various practices, rules and rites. Our whole selves are engaged, making our beliefs appear that much more true to us, as long as we don't entertain too often the idea that someone else might be equally engaged by an opposite religion. That someone else might have just as total a foundation to his own belief is a little too much for us, so we go back to playing with our shiny toys and imagine that ours is the only such room in the world. [source]
And while I think he makes some good points, I still disagree.

While sociological accounts of theologians certainly have their "place" at the proverbial table of discourse, if we don't go far enough, forgetting to sociologize our sociology, then we commit just that heresy: sociology. Josh, here, in intending to relativize the manifold sillinesses that Christian theology entails, goes beyond merely critiquing inter-Traditional bickering by critiquing inter-Faith bickering. And even that is fine, as far as it goes - but it's what he omits that makes him wrong.

Christian theology is a competition of rhetoric between us and the pagans. That means pleasure (amusement) is the name of the game. Josh employs words and phrases like "shiny toys" with a half-heartedly pejorative tone, almost as though coming to use them is, for him, only the product of a blossoming cynicism. But what is theology if not a speaking forth of the rules of Trinitarian play?

Part of being Christian is learning and loving the Beautiful. This doesn't mean living in denial that pagans are thoughtful, too. But Christian theologians bear the distinct commission of subverting pagan thoughtfulness and pagan constructions of beauty, baptizing them with that shiny light called "the Gospel," bringing them into that grand poetry called "the Church."

This, of course, takes place in a battle of Word, renaming, revising, and thus recreating the world that the pagans would turn into hell if we let them. The most obvious way to fight them is to tell them that they're wrong, that they're stupid, that they wouldn't love the beauty of Wisdom if it entered the created order and paraded into their town on a donkey. They wouldn't recognize the Glory of the Lord if they stuck it on a wooden frame and hung it up themselves on a hill.