Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Dogma v.s History

Yes, I'm evolving, but not knowing what am I evolving into. The religious identity on my Facebook account states 'Postmodern Christianity, Liberal Presbyterian'. Reason is simply that i don't find the Christian tradition as i knew and grew into fit my experience with the world, through constant process of self-appropriation. That is appropriating one self in responding to the world at best. Through this process, I've come to apply these labels as meaning:

'Postmodern' is not only because I can't go back to pre-modern, but also the fact that Modernism is impossible to carry out its ideal and thus betrays its impracticality. I attach to postmodernity not due to its subjectivistic nature but more on its better acknowledgement and appreciation of the 'Other'. 'Christianity' is an exclusive-yet-inclusive worldview by which one interprets the world through the affirmation of the mysterious yet diachronically revealed God's dealing with the ever-changing troublesome creatures 'humans'.

'Liberal' is not the usual 'theological-liberalism', which one does not affirm the 'realness' of God's existence. The term used to denote one's freedom to practice and comprehend one's faith, not bound by constructed authoritarianism, orthodoxy, and tradition. 'Presbyterian' suggests one's adherent to the governing rules practiced by the Church of Scotland, though with its prevalent short-comings.

Nothing is perfect, nothing. (God is not a 'thing'!)

Yesterday Nalika saw my previous entry and the comments left by a caring friend who prefer to stays
anonymous. Nalika is concern over my 'evolvement' and want to talk about it. This is the first time she brought up my religious issue after a long forgotten time.

She said that the caring friend has a good point to make when he/she quotes Colossian 1.21-23. The gist is that If Jesus is not a real historical person, then that would have negative implication to our assurance of salvation.

The sooner her utterance was being digested by my brain juice, i started jumping and jumping. I kept jumping for the next half a minute. She was shocked and worried that my mind has blown off. In an anxious tone, she stopped me and asked why am i jumping. In a calm tone, I told her that I wish to have no wrinkles as i grow old. So in order to do that, i have to believe that i am living in a zero-gravity zone. She was puzzled.

Then i explained, "You see, if the reason why one affirms the historicity of Jesus just because the person wants an assurance of his/her personal salvation, then that is like me wanting to believe that I'm in a zero-gravity zone due to my wanting of an assurance that there won't be wrinkles."

Some might thought this is 'intellectual pursuit' and nothing more than just that. But this really is the problem with dogma and history. In our case, one's belief will not change history. That means, the craving for an assurance of salvation does not guarantee a history. So the way to respond to my kind of evolution is not to go around it with dogmas, but to tackle the problem at its root; that is to find out whether did Jesus really exist. And do the finding without dogmatic baggages. I can't say that i affirm the historicity of Jesus because i don't to go to hell, but rather, i want to find out the truth about the existence of Jesus, no matter the conclusion paves a way to hell or heaven.

Paraphrase from Lee Strobel, "If Christianity is true, it can withstands any kind of scrutiny".


Anonymous said...

Yes truth is important.
But your problem is not as much an intellectual problem but a spiritual one.

The question begging is this,
Have you truly humbled yourself and repented before the cross of Christ?

Without first seeing you need of Christ as savior, your spiritual quest for truth even if you finally 'find the right concept' will amount to nothing if you don't see yourself truly in need of 'saving'.
Faith seeketh understanding.

And get this clear.
Believing in Christ is never a means to salvation.
Salvation is the RESULT of believing in Christ.

Anonymous said...


I think you owe Nalika a apology.

Anonymous said...

We all can see that you are evolving...just try to at least have a clear program.

It's tempting to say, 'well, i dunno, i'll go where my pursuit leads me', but then again, as i've always said, intellectual pursuit is a discipline. We must be rigorous, and rigorous. If our conscience is clear, then go ahead, by all mean.

Btw, in my own project, I would stop using the word "liberal" (i can see u reintepreted that word - use lah another one, such as "free" as in evangelical free, where they sought to break free from the state church - of scotland i think), because i want to undo the whole categorizing of fundy-liberal. the line is getting blurer and both overlaps sometimes. and besides the labels carry with them too much unnecessary baggage.

I am not sure why you use the historicity of Jesus as example. You really think he PROBABLY didn't exist? Or that he is very different from who we know from church teachings? Write more on this, you know this is my area of studies, so i want to hear where you have evolved here.

And, anon,
I think you can just save your breath and pray for him if you like...hahahaha...hopeless liao.


Sze Zeng said...

Hi anonymous,

To me, there is no dichotomy between spiritual and intellectual pursuit. Intellectual pursuit is nothing less spiritual.

Yesterday during CSCA lecture, vinoth ramachandran propose that a post-colonial church should engage more in dialogue, to listen to the 'other'.

During the Q&A, a person asked him what if the Christian in the dialogue had his faith stumbled and apostasize? I can't agree more with Vinoth's reply. He said that if a 'faith is not tested, it is not a true faith.' Faith is tested through sufferings, success, intellectual etc. There is always a risk.

Why do i owe Nalika an apology?

Sze Zeng said...


cut the nonsense. There is nothing such as a 'clear program'. What is a 'clear program'? Go seminary consider 'clear'? In the end, it's clear to you but not to me. Btw, seminary and education institutions are the popular means to get recognition. Nothing more than that.

I'm not interpreting 'liberalism' to my whims. What you meant is 'theological-liberalism', and i'd made it clear that that is not my agenda.

Nothing much on the historical jesus yet. I'm still learning about ancient israel :)

pearlie said...

Thanks for dropping by my blog!

Thought provoking post you have there (well, this is the first one of yours I read, I am sure they are all thought provoking :)

I suppose it won't help if I said it is by faith that we believe ... haha ... but that was exactly what happened to me. Several months ago I was seriously asking the question, what if all these is not real. After awhile, the answer I got was: that is what your faith is for.

However, I am not stopping at just a "blind" faith but going all out to substantiate what I believe - with a phrase I am sure you have heard before: faith seeking understanding.

Sze Zeng said...

Thanks for dropping by too.

I opt to what you said :)