Thursday, July 03, 2008

Why am I a Christian?

James has been pressing me on why I am a Christian as opposed to any other sort of religious person. These are some more-or-less connected thoughts.

1. I said to my sponsoring bishop that if I had been brought up in another culture, I'd still be the equivalent of a priest in the terms of that culture. If it was prehistoric I'd be a shaman, if in a Buddhist country I'd be a monk and so on. In other words I suspect there to be a large genetic component in my vocation, which would have found an appropriate outlet whatever the culture (and note, I don't think there are any cultures without such an outlet, which is significant).

2. Following on from that, I think a large part of the answer as to why I am a Christian as opposed to following an alternative faith is exactly the same reason why I speak English rather than French or Mandarin: this is the culture that I have grown up in. Despite the atheist onslaught of the last two hundred years or so, the roots of our culture remain Christian. As soon as I started to explore the religious dimensions of life in any depth I was led to explore Christianity.

3. Obviously my religious experience has some relevance for this, but only in that the experience was mediated/understood using the Christian categories which I had absorbed from the culture and education, or which were presupposed by them.

4. It's possible that the different faiths are paths up the same mountain, with the same destination. It's also possible that they are paths up the same mountain, but some paths reach to the summit whilst some do not. I am open to the idea that to reach the summit "Christianity" would need to be left behind. I understand that, as a Christian, by distinguishing between Jesus and the religion formed in his name. In other words, I would still hold Jesus to be the summit of the mountain.

5. I consider it to be a snare and a delusion to engage very much time in 'which is the best path'? The essential thing is to start climbing the mountain, to grow in understanding and holiness. Trying to work out which is the 'best' is a displacement activity. You can't work out which is 'best' except from the top of the mountain.

6. We are formed by the presuppositions of our culture in profound ways, not least through our language. Running with the grain of the culture (ie in the West, pursuing Christianity) makes for an easier beginning in the path of faith.

That'll do for now.

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