Sitting in a class at Incarnation, my church, tonight, I found myself falling suddenly and swiftly with the most obnoxious slurp into a quagmire of questions and the overwhelming feeling of utter ignorance. I despaired.
The class is for "Inquirer's". Many might wonder what business I have Inquiring into Christianity, having been a believer for quite sometime. However, it is imperative to remind myself in true humility that I know nothing. What I thought I knew is little.
So tonight we learned about the Church-- universal, historic, and Anglican. Father Olver gave a fascinating lecture and at one point, speaking about the Roman Catholic belief in the transubstantiation in the Eucharist, he reminded of how much of the Church's logic was birthed out of Aristotle's metaphysics.
I departed from listening for awhile as I considered Aristotle, and how much I enjoy musing over his metaphysics, especially about how he emphasizes that every being is constantly moving, rushing, racing toward its telos, its final end. This fits so dynamically with Christianity, though I was reluctant to admit it. During my philosophy work at Austin Community College, I learned to have a great skepticism for how the Church has grafted Aristotle into their theology, as if A wrote it for them. Anyway, it does fit dynamically in with the telos of the Church, at least as far as we understand it. Consider how we pass through life with hope only in the final celebration at the end, when we are united together with our Lord. Consider our obsession with knowing God's purpose for our lives, or what potential he has laid into our essence. There are so many connections, most that I am unaware of for lack of study and concentration.
While I was happily pondering away, I realized that maybe one reason that I think that the two make so much sense together is that I was taught to read the Bible by the Christian culture that I was raised in that draws much of its foundational logic from Aristotle, and even recently I was persuaded that much of the New Testament, especially Paul's contributions, were all influenced by Aristotelian logic.
God! I just get so flummoxed when I begin to see all of my understanding about everything that I think I know as cultural conditioning! This is when I felt the squelching of the quagmire and my soul cried out, longing to know more, and purely.
No sucker when it comes to quicksand, though, I feel like I have returned to the stable shores of confidence in my ability to know. I realize that there is no way that I, nor the Church, nor the writers of the letters and books of the Bible can get away from our culture. We cannot be unconditioned. We cannot live in vacuums and void and think purely about anything. We cannot simply turn out the lights and begin at a Cartesian square one in our consciousness. There is no clean slate.
I cannot help my conditioning, but it can help me-- to relate to others, to understand much of what I experience. It gives me the power and tools to reflect. It gives me analogies by which to learn. It gives me patterns to mimic.
Surely God has made this a part of how we know what we know. Surely understanding our cultural influences and resting in our subjective cultural conditioning is a benefit that allows us to actually know him more, even when it seems that this convoluted way of knowing keeps me from knowing him and knowing what I know, at all.