Welcome to Life in 361˚. This blog is an 'open journal' - a space where I keep notes on bits & pieces I come across day-to-day - including books and articles I've read that I feel are worth sharing, interesting pictures and photos (I'm a visual learner, you see), random musings - and anything else that happens to catch my eye or ear. It also acts as a kind of 'open experiment' in terms of developing my views and writing skills - and networking with other people of a like-mind.

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31/10/2014

To Know

Yesterday, in what was originally intended to be a quick stop-off for a cup of coffee at my parents' house before going on my way, I ended up finding myself in a lengthy theological discussion with my father and youngest brother.

I don't really do theological discussions - I kind of gave up on trying to arrive at a systematic theological position a few years ago which leaves it hard to then advocate for a particular theology. I also tend not to be very open in day-to-day interactions about my thoughts on faith (saving them instead for this journal!). I have been advised by a good friend and mentor that I essentially need to 'come out' and be more open as a Christian - though I consider belief to be ultimately a private matter and that what counts most, in terms of expression of faith, are my actions.

I also ended up drinking tea.

My father has always leaned towards a more radical, non-trinitarian Christianity - largely influenced by contact with Jehovah's Witnesses in his younger years, though never taking up affiliation himself. He did do some seeking as a younger man - it was just the other day he told me how he read the Koran during his younger years (which I guess would have been around the early seventies) - but I would imagine, without the internet and scale of multiculturalism we have now, his access to the wider world of faith beyond Christianity was much more limited. For example, a few years ago when I told him we were getting married in a Unitarian & Free Christian chapel and took him to see it, he was pleasantly surprised that another historically non-trinitarian church other than the Jehovah's Witnesses existed.

My youngest brother, on the other hand, attended an evangelical church during his mid-teens before becoming an agnostic and seeker in his twenties, as he is today. He is questioning and to an extent disillusioned with what mainline Christianity has to offer. His questions are the big ones,

"Does God exist?",
          "What is God?",
                    "Does God answer prayers?",
"Does the worship of Christ not amount to death-worship?"

I sometimes wonder whether we have a genetic predisposition within our family towards a more radical, open-minded Christianity - whether there is something about the way our brains are structured and wired, what with us seeming to have a common tendency to more analytical, divergent thinking, that in turn lends itself to dissenting positions.

Yet I would also say, as much as this is a gift in that it is liberates us from following the status quo and drives us toward new frontiers - not just theologically, but in life generally - such tendencies can be a block to an experience of living faithfully. We can end up too busy caught in the infinitely various, abstract intricacies of theology - it all becomes restlessly hypothetical rather than contentedly lived.

This, I suggest, is a problem for liberal-minded faith in general. It is perhaps what I saw at work during last week's Meeting for Worship where a heartfelt expression of the Spirit became, at least in my humble opinion, reduced to a question of semantics.

Interestingly enough, I finished the discussion with my brother by saying I would send some reading recommendations his way -  namely the Tao Te Ching and the Dhammapada. This may seem odd, coming from someone who identifies primarily as a Christian. But, as I explained to my brother, I have found in my own search that sometimes we need to take a step away from Christianity and encounter non-Christian spirituality for a time in order to then come back to the faith of our upbringing with a fresh perspective.

On browsing through my bookshelves this morning, with the thought of supporting my youngest brother still in mind, I picked up Anthony De Mello's book, 'The Song of the Bird', opening the pages randomly before spontaneously reading what was in front of me:

"TO KNOW CHRIST

A dialogue between a recent convert and an unbelieving friend:

“So you have been converted to Christ?”
“Yes.”
“Then you must know a great deal about him. Tell me: what country was he born in?”
“I don’t know.”
“What was his age when he died?"
“I don’t know.”
“How many sermons did he preach?”
“I don’t know.”
“You certainly know very little for a man who claims to be converted to Christ!"
“You are right. I am ashamed at how little I know about him. But this much I do know: Three years ago I was a drunkard. I was in debt. My family was falling to pieces. My wife and children would dread my return home each evening. But now I have given up drinking; we are out of debt; ours is now a happy home. All this Christ has done for me. This much I know about him!"

Christ as the archetype, as a way of trying to see more clearly and trying to live more cleanly; this is my theology.

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