October 24, 2006

Spiritual Professions and Myth-Making

Posted in church, culture, mythology, philosophy of religion, politics, psychology of religion, science, scripture, theology at 1:39 pm by Jerry

Is it irreverent (or a sin?) to challenge the existence of spiritual professions? Is it unspeakable to question the validity of hiring a pastor or a theologian?

Don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with the hiring of speakers, entertainers, salespersons, fundraisers, counselors, educators, accountants, politicians or administrators. If spiritual professionals are also one or more of these other professionals, I respect that. I just don’t see why they don’t go by one of those qualified titles instead of “pastor” or “theologian”.

Can anybody tell me, what makes a “pastor” or a “theologian” a “Professional”? Have they gained more spiritual knowledge from the “Holy Spirit” than others? Should they be expected to? When I’ve challenged the limits of many theists’ spiritual knowledge of “God” they eventually say things like, “We cannot know the mysterious ways of God,” or “I don’t want to put God in a box,” or any other reference to the ineffability of “God.”

Every theist is a theologian just by finishing the sentence – “God is not…” and yet, so few are courageous enough to develop their own opinions about who “God” is. If “God” can only be described by what “God” is not, then what knowledge does anyone really have of “God”?

Where some theologians start believing in the ineffability of “God,” I’ve witnessed them stop being theologians and rely on professional theologians to do their work for them. Why is that? If most theists are so afraid of misrepresenting God, how come theologians and pastors are not afraid? And how come pastors and theologians think their representations of God are so much more reliable that they think they should be paid for them?

If all theists let their imaginations about who “God” is fly freely, exploring the possibilities, and finding consistency between their theories, how can a theologian do them one better?

Professional theologians may say, “We tread lightly concerning our representations of God. And we’ve been trained to put arduous hours into the studying of texts written by distinguished theologians of the past.” So? What does that get them? What do paid theists have that unpaid theists don’t have? (I’m curious, if theologians believe in the ineffability of “God,” does their job security become a matter of faith?)

But let’s not forget that theologians and pastors, authoritatively, use their personal experiences with the text of a bible to rationalize: the bible is THEE fixed standard. So what? Does that obligate us to make the bible our fixed standard? Oh, but they may justify this claim by explaining that a small minority of the biblical writers saw Jesus in the flesh. True, but does that make them infallible writers of history? Oh, but they may even explain that any mistakes or contradictions found in the bible can be justified, like Bohr’s justification for contradictions…
The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth. – Niels Bohr
I agree. We must recognize a paradox when we see one. But when I find moral contradictions in the bible’s description of “God,” then I too have the opportunity to exercise my own authoritative freedom, and question whether “God” may be better than what that text portrays.
Some may ask, “So, Jerry, if you’re questioning people’s portrayal of God, does that mean you too, can be said to be studying the (supposedly believable) existence of a Supreme Being you can’t observe?” Good question. Help me out, Galileo…

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered: the point is to discover them. – Galileo Galilei

Not good enough. Steve? Can you help me?

There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot. – Steven Wright

Thanks, Steve. I admit, I’m curious to know if in fact, there is a Supreme Being. And my philosophical playing includes an exploration of my imagination’s ability to create a believable portrayal of a Supreme Being.

Why bother? It challenges my mind, it entertains me, but most importantly, I think it has potential to teach me something about myself and what I very well may have in common with the rest of humanity. So, it’s artistically a psychological endeavor.

Myth-making is a great way to discover inner truths. And like any artist, I’m looking to express what others haven’t. Therefore, I will be critical of other expressions in order to find my own working myth.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] After re-reading Becky’s post on our baby blog, I wonder how frustrated our child may get because of how badly we misunderstand him/her. Articulation is such a challenge. I consider it one of my greatest weaknesses. I’m not exactly superhuman in other areas either, but in some sense, ineffability has become my Kryptonite. (Maybe that’s why I’m so hard on those who pursue ineffability.) […]


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