Friday, June 17, 2005


We've recently been discussing the use of inclusive language over at the Ship of Fools. I've said my piece there, but the topic has led me to grapple a bit more with the conumdrums of authority in thealogical matters.

I find the orthodox Christian positions on authority to be vexing. I can understand and respect (though I don't believe in) a view of the universe in which the Divine never communicates to the sentient beings in the universe. And I can understand nd believe in a view in which the Divine continually communicates to the sentient beings in the universe. But I cannot fathom a view that the Divine spoke once and no longer does so.

This inconsistency is related to "the scandal of particularity". Jesus' death in ancient Jerusalem saves all the intellegent lifeforms throughout the universe? And all such beings, if they exist, must follow the Word as written by a bunch of humans living around that time? Either Jesus' death represents something bigger which is not tied to that time and location and, thus, transcends the particular in ways that manifest to all those other beings and in ways that they can know and understand in the contexts of their own lives and cultures, or Jesus' death is matters only for humanity.

I prefer for the sake of consistency a universe where God never ceases to speak to all beings everywhere throughout time. But on what basis can this preference of mine have authority? You might look to Wesley's Bar Stool of Scripture, Reason, Tradition and Experience. Each of these on their own have obvious flaws. What counts as Scripture? What about subjective experience which is not rational? Is the oldest religion really the closet to God. If so, wouldn't we all be animists?

I question that there can be only one absolute authority for any less than omniscient being. I think that there is a lot of wisdom in a wide variety of traditions. The fact that a religious idea has stood the test of time idicates that it has some value. The fact that a religion coordinates with your experience of the divine has some value. The fact that the religion conforms to what we understand about the world in purly scientific terms has some value.

Therefore, the authority that I trust is that of a collective working-things-out that adapts to science and culture, that has room for the passionate interaction between Self and Other which is our living in this universe, and that hears the Goddess speaking more clearly over time.

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