Sunday, 15 June 2014

Reading the Fundamentals

I've taken to reading The Fundamentals lately. They're a collection of essays produced early in the 20th century to describe the fundamentals of the Christian faith. This is from the preface to the Torrey edition.
In 1909 God moved two Christian laymen to set aside a large sum of money for issuing twelve volumes that would set forth the fundamentals of the Christian faith, and which were to be sent free to ministers of the gospel, missionaries, Sunday School superintendents, and others engaged in aggressive Christian work throughout the English-speaking world. ... Some of the volumes were sent to 300,000 ministers and missionaries and other workers in different parts of the world.
These books are undoubtedly part of the reason that American and American-style Christianity has its current culture. Even after reading just the first chapter, there's no doubt to me that the positions laid out in these books are still held by multitudes of American-style Christians.

Reading them, and especially the history of these books, puts them in a similar space to the doctrinal disputes and ecumenical councils of the earlier church. There's a quest to get things right, to stamp out the heretics, and to clearly define "the faith of the Church."

We Christians have a long history of doing this. Even as far back as Galatians we can see the footprints of the quest for doctrinal purity (Gal 1:6-9). Every story of a council, a heresy, or an excommunication is the story of one part of the church arguing with another part of the church about what Christians ought to believe.

We fight we each other. We claim the truth. We claim the divine position. We assert and assert and assert. But do we listen? Do we take the time to listen to the other person's experience of God?

Even The Fundamentals is part of this history, despite being a product of its time and unable to stand up today. It does raise important questions for theology, especially for the application of theology in the pews. And it raises questions that are important in the minds of the believer. Reading it, or any other theology from our history, informs us and challenges us. It presents us with questions that need answers, even if those answers aren't found in that same text.

I've not finished reading it, but I'm sure I'll work my way through it this year.

Uploaded paper at amgsmith.net

Over at amgsmith.net I've uploaded a copy of the paper I wrote that was included in the student journal Arche. You can find it in the theology section of the site.

It's a paper about Chalmers' philosophy of consciousness and some possible consequences for theology.  I looked at the possible ways of thinking about the nature of God, presuming that a divine consciousness follows the same rules as other physical entities. If consciousness arises from the physical, what kind of God is possible from within that metaphysical framework?

So if you're into that sort of thing, go and download it from there.