In the business of theology it is hard not to be controversial - Jurgen Moltmann

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

仆街的神學省思 :: reflecting on my fall theologically

The brief moments of total helplessness after my bad fall a few weeks back reminded me of the bare reality that to be human is to be finite.   As finite human beings, our understanding of things can only be partial and limited.  This is especially true for theological endeavours.  Any theological construction, no matter how complete, encompassing, or pertinent it appears, can only an interpretation of the divine and the world by a finite human being or community.  Any attempt to regard a specific theological interpretation as absolutely true is idolatry -- replacing the ultimate with the penultimate, and mistaking the finite as the infinite.  Anyone who walks the path of doing theology must be humbly ready for the possibility that she or he is ultimately wrong.






這個經驗雖然短暫(再過一天我便可以連續戴眼鏡一兩個小時才休息了),卻也令我警覺自身為人的局限(my human finiteness)。我當然從來都知道,生命脆弱,世事無常。只是這個短暫的經驗令我親自嚐到,『有限』正是人的本質(to be human is to be finite)。



反過來說,若有人堅持某一套對神、對信仰、對生命的表述是必然地『絕對』、『正確』甚或『全面』的話,那大概是誤以有限為無限(mistaken the finite as the infinite),是以非終極代替終極(replace the ultimate with the penultimate),是把某一套神學表述偶像化了(idolise a particular theological representation)。



Edwin Tay said...

The Reformed scholastics have two categories that sum up what you've said.

1. Archetypal theology: God's knowledge of himself, which is perfect.
2. Ectypal theology: man's knowledge of God, which is limited and imperfect.

I think that "the Lord Jesus Christ is homoousios with the Father" is an absolute truth. Do I really need to repent of idolatry on this point? I apologise for perhaps putting you in a fix. What would be your advice elder Yam?

Yam 飲者 said...

Deacon Edwin,

Thanks for bringing in the Reformed Scholastics. This is a good proof (or echo) of the ancient Hebrew wisdom that there is nothing new under the sun. All we talk about today, including our follies and our 'discoveries', have probably been touched upon in previous generations. The manifestations could be different, but the essence remains.

That being said, what I had in mind when writing this post was the (quite common, I think) tendency among those from the more/very 'conservative' (?) wing of the Church to regard, perhaps somewhat unconsciously, their interpretation of the Christian faith as THE ONE TRUE ACCURATE representation of Truth. To use the terms you just taught me, they do not / cannot distinguish between the archetypal and the ectypal. They appear not to realise that their understanding is an interpretation and is limited.

Regarding the statement that 'Christ is homoousios with the Father', for the sake of argument, I would say that it is ultimately an interpretation. Yet this particular interpretation happens t be shared by the majority who claim to be part of the Christian Church over the large part of the last 2 millennia in the history of Christian thought. Also, this interpretation is consistent with my interpretation.

Am I risking the Faith by opening up too much to the heretics, Deacon Edwin?

Layman Yam

Edwin Tay said...

Nye, elder, you certainly don't leave room for heretics on your personal convictions (btw, "nye" is my radical innovation of the opposite of "aye" in Scottish!).

But, I suspect, in the face of actual heretics, they'll play the relativistic card on your point that Christ is homoousios with the Father is "ultimately an interpretation".

That is, they'll argue that you, and of course the church through the centuries, claim normativity only for yourselves, not for them, nor for the whole human race since its only an interpretation.

But the scandal of the cross is the absolute normativity of the identity of the one who was crucified for the whole human race, past, present and future.

Thus, imho, your correct point about the Nicene formula as an interpretation needs to be buttressed with the further point of whether the interpretation is true or false. With respect to the Gospel, hermeutics and truth-claims go together.