Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Today's Theology Paper
Concepts of God Affect Justice
God gave us reason so that we could determine the nature and place of God in our world. Even that statement makes an initial assumption that places God at the origin of our ability to reason, and places us in a position of subservience to the very being of whom we need to ascertain the truth – a seeming conflict of interest.
I've long had a belief that what one believe affects how one acts, and when summed across sentient humanity, affects the state of the world. With that in mind, I am of the mindset that one needs to first, as openly and impartially as possible, consider their values about how the world should be, recognize the actions that are required on their part to help make it that way, and finally identify the beliefs that will effectively persuade one's actions. A people's definition of God, and how God handles (or doesn't handle) affairs in the world is therefore critical to real-world outcomes.
This belief in the context of “The Postmodern Debate,” by Michael J. Scanlon, regarding the need for attentiveness to others' perspectives, as brought to mind a concept for which I'm not sure a compact verbiage yet exists – namely the notion of being able to consolidate two or more models of reasoning or perspectives into one larger set. Viewed in combination, one can then view them critically in order to perform a comparative analysis and search for identical concepts expressed in different terms, for places where the topology of thought differs significantly, and for perspectives that one may offer when the another may not acknowledge it at all.
The term I want to use for holding multiple perspectives or models into one combined model cluster is multithetical unity. Similarly, the term I'd put forward when two models express the same thing differently, or are actually different sides of the same coin, so to speak, is multithetical identity. While the use of these terms may cause the thinker to synthesize new insights, and therefore understand a hybrid (or entirely novel) model of theology, they consider the models as sufficiently partitioned, in order to retain their original meaning and context, and are not intended to cause any theological model to change form, become blended or watered down.
From Scanlon, it appears that models or cultures can have different underlying assumptions, definitions, and structures, and blending two or more can be like mixing oil and water. While deconstructing and reconstructing the elements presented, listeners may hear words from an unfamiliar model and apply it erroneously from their previous frame of reference – one which may lead to either major misunderstandings, or as learning occurs and the two models interact, perhaps new understandings. Thinkers from two different models can only communicate rationally if they agree on terms, and understand the hermeneutics required to translate across cultures. This process of agreement requires a statement of assumptions from each party, followed by negotiations to step into the larger arena of thought contained within the cluster of multithetical unity, and to see where multithetical identities exist. At this point, the thinkers may see their thought processes within the multithetical unity as being loosely expressible in a Venn diagram.
Moving on, one can suggest that a discussion of the conception of the divine, and its actions upon the world, would do well to be considered within the context of multithetical unity. There are so many models to choose from, such that including every conception of the divine and negotiating between them all could take many lifetimes, so it may be best to consider only a handful of models at a time.
I would like to briefly compare the models presented by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, William R. Jones, and an American religious-right narrow definition of family. In Gilman's “His Religion and Hers,” she portrays a compelling array of benefits of viewing God in terms of motherhood, and presents the male-focused God's inability to see life in terms of birth, but rather in terms of death. Considering the interests of yin/yang, and the “one-man, one-woman” view of family multithetically, it becomes apparent that there may be good reason to have more than one God (or at least more than one way of conceiving of God for) bringing up the human race. In the same sense that having a masculine and feminine figure available during the formative years of a child, during these ongoing formative years in the history of the human race, having a conception of God who is able to offer two perspectives to choose from will help us be more reasoning, selective, and provide a wider breadth of understanding.
In Jones' presentation of humanocentric theism and secular humanism, he shows us a model in which the figurative parent or parents have passed on. In this conception, without a God or with a God who only calls from a distance, the former child of God is now grown up, the eldest in the family, and much maturity is required. It is possible that many secular humanists, atheists, and entirely non-religious people choose what they do because their concept of the Christian God is of a parent who is irrational, arbitrary, capricious and judgmental. To the child who has figuratively run from an abusive relationship or grew up an orphan, or been treated poorly by their siblings at the urging of their father, God has no leverage in the arena of justice or non-justice.
Scanlon, Michael J., O.S.A., “The Postmodern Debate,” The Twentieth Century: A Theological Overview, Ed. Gregory Baum, Marynoll, New York: Orbis Books, 1999
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, His Religion and Hers: A Study of the Faith of our Fathers and the Work of Our Mothers, Connecticut: Hyperion Press Inc, 1976 (originally published 1923)
Jones, William R., Is God a White Racist? A Preamble to Black Theology, Boston: Beacon Press, 1973, 1998
Scanlon also mentions Jacques Derrida.
Hope you enjoyed.
"And so, Theodore Donald Karabotsos, in accordance with what we think your dying wishes might well have been, we commit your final mortal remains to the bosom of the Pacific Ocean"