Monday, July 13, 2009

On faith and action

I was going to fisk this piece by Karen Armstrong but realised after the first paragraph that, so rich it is in falsehood and misrepresentation, I would be here all night. Norm has some pertinent observations here but I'd like to make a suggestion: not only is Karen Armstrong talking nonsense, because of her background she must know she's talking nonsense - but is hoping that the rest of us don't notice.

Allow me to explain. She posits as two opposites logos and mythos - Greeks words that represent two ways of apprehending truths about life, the universe and everything. Her suggestion is that religion, specifically Christianity, took a wrong turn in the 17th century and responded to the Descartes revolution by responding in a similarly logos, by which she takes to mean rationalist, scientific, sort of way:
"But during the modern period, scientific logos became so successful that myth was discredited, the logos of scientific rationalism became the only valid path to truth, and Newton and Descartes claimed it was possible to prove God's existence, something earlier Jewish, Christian and Muslim theologians had vigorously denied. Christians bought into the scientific theology, and some embarked on the doomed venture of turning their faith's mythos into logos."
I wouldn't blame you for glazing over at this point but let me summarise for you: faith is about mythos, the notion that it's about logos is a modern aberration. Again in case we were in any doubt:
"In the past, people understood it was unwise to confuse mythos with logos, but today we read the mythoi of scripture with an unparalleled literalism, and in "creation science" we have bad science and inept religion. The question is: how can we extricate ourselves from the religious cul-de-sac we entered about 300 years ago?"
The preamble to John's Gospel tells us that, "The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us". The Greek word for 'Word' here is logos. Perhaps with my rationalist mind, I've failed to interpret this incarnation of the logos in the appropriate mythoi sort of way. But there's an alternative explanation. The writer of John's gospel was pretty big on logos and belief and truth and that sort of thing. Here he didn't disagree much with St. Paul who had a fairly big input into the body of writings we now call the New Testament. I appreciate scholars disagree on the dating of these documents but I think most would date them as just a tad older than 300 years. I'm thinking Karen Armstrong, what with her having gone to nun-school and all, knows this - along with the meaning of key Greek words in the New Testament - perfectly well but wrote this article in the hope that no-one else would. Either that or she's just an ignoramus.

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