24 January 2008


A weird sort of brainstorm at 11:00 at night and a question:

In a Christian theology which uses Girardian paradigms, is dualism in and of itself a manifestation of sin?

If human sinful nature is all about creating categories of 'them and us' and about expelling 'them' in order to keep 'the in group' pure.....Isn't this process exactly what dualism is about?

I always thought of dualism as being an overly simplistic analysis which failed to see the complexities of any given situation. But I wonder if it's actually our need to scapegoat others that is at the heart of dualism?

For example, why have UK children's reading abilities dropped down the European league tables? The actual answer is probably quite a complex one with no easy answers. But if we can apply a dualistic formula that 'It's because of lazy teachers' or 'It's because of parents who don't want to spend time with their kids', not only do we have an apparently simple remedy ('they' just need to behave more responsibly), we are also able to say 'It's nothing to do with me'.

It's a scary thought with respect to the media as well; dualism sells.

And, as Christians, how do we guard against this when much of Christianity seems to function in the dualistic categories of 'me good, you bad if you don't think like me'?


Cecilia said...

Pam, I believe you may well be onto something. Paul, good, body-affirming Jew though he was, still slipped into classical Hellenistic paradigms of body vs. spirit, with the body always, always losing.

Pax, C.

PamBG said...

Cecilia: I believe you are correct about Paul and body/spirit, yet he broke down the dualistic category of Jew/Gentile which would have been huge for his context.

I believe that Paul's sudden conversion was not a conversion of 'new information'; I believe it was literally a turning-around. I think he understood all along that Christianity was about breaking down the categories of 'them and us'. What changed was his heart - a 'heart understanding' that actually 'all people are invited to the Kingdom' is not what God opposed but that it was precisely God's plan all along.

PamBG said...

Oh. I was going to add that this is both a witness to our sinful condition and to God's grace: we can get it wrong in one area and still be used mightily by God in another area.

Being wrong can be forgiven and God can use us even though we are not perfect!

Rev Tony B said...

Pam: "I think he understood all along that Christianity was about breaking down the categories of 'them and us'."

Yes, true. But the result wasn't so much a breaking down of 'them and us' as the creation of a new 'them and us' where the them are the various opponents in his letters. Of course, the response is that they are only 'them' becaue they choose not to accept the Gospel as 'we' see it. And bingo, back to your 'it's their fault.'

So is Paul guilty of the Girardian sin?

PamBG said...

I think all or almost all human beings are guilty of 'the Girardian sin'. It's why we can look on it as the manifestation of original sin.

How's this for you? 'They create categories of them and us so they are bad. We don't create categories of them and us, so we are good.' ;-)

This sort of sin is practically inescapable and we do it all the time.

You said: Of course, the response is that they are only 'them' becaue they choose not to accept the Gospel as 'we' see it.

I think that Christians - including myself (see example above) do this all the time. Hence the ongoing theology wars on one subject or another.

There is good witness within Christian tradition for a kind of apophaticism that allows for the possibility that we don't know everything there is to know about God.

I can't see anything within the Christian tradition that asks us to judge and to pronounce others as being certainly shut out from the grace of God. We can, of course, say: 'I know my path works and I want to keep telling you that because I'm not convinced yours does.'

We also have the great commandment that allows us to make moral judgements on the basis of whether or not a person is loving his neighbours. And we can call others to repentance when they treat our fellow human beings with injustice.

None of this suggests 'moral relativism' to me although I'm frequently accused of it in internet debates.

Doorman-Priest said...

Yes. I'm with Rev Tony on this.

newsofthespiritdotcom said...

Best example of non dualistic Christianity would be A Course in Miracles or ACIM. Also the writings of Eckhart Tolle are excellent sources of information of the new form of belief that is finally taking the place of the insane, Jesus loves you but if you don't believe it, he will torment you in hell for eternity. donovan newsofthespirit.com

PamBG said...

I was rather put off A Course in Miracles by the first chapter asking me to look around me and to pronounce everything I saw as an illusion. I think the biblical witness is that God engages directly with 'reality' and wants us to do the same.

I'm not looking for a new form of belief. I'm looking to follow Jesus and to name the many places where the church has failed to do that.