Monday, 11 July 2011

Onanistic Paradoxes

Have been thinking lately about the seeming paradoxes of Christian belief.  I think that for someone like me who quite likes to be right the temptation is to confuse having or not having correct theology as the defining feature of the true Christian.  Clearly, having correct theology is not identical to knowing Christ, which is both the condition for salvation and the spur to recognise Christ in the poor and dispossessed.  The paradox is that correct theology is also equally essential, in that to know Christ, but not know him as God the Son is not to know him; but likewise, to know him as the Son, but to not recognise him in those he explicitly encourages us to see him in is to not actually know him and - more importantly - to not be known by him.  There is a sense then in which an exhaustive knowledge of Christ theologically is structurally deficient (if not entirely spurious) insofar as that knowledge is not lived out in what can only be called 'good works'.  But this does not mean that one is saved by good works, but rather entirely by placing one's trust in Christ.  In fact, I would go as far as to suggest that there is something intellectually onanistic about the whole discussion so far, as though it were simply a case of striking the right balance rather than throwing oneself wholly in self-emptying trust upon the Son.  The truth is that one is neither saved by good works, nor by correct theology, but in trusting the Son; but this trusting of the Son is partly a product, and the result, of both.  This structural deficiency astounds me!  We are not saved by correct theology nor correct behaviour, but our knowing of Christ is not independent of the love we bear towards those Christ identifies with, to the point where in the parable of the sheep and the goats Jesus makes quite plain that he knows us only through our love toward those he identifies with.  Thus, to love Christ in a theologically correct way but not love the helpless with whom he identifies reveals our love to be a delusion in search of an idol, and our theology to be utterly bankrupt.  
Bad Christian practice can be said in one way to be the result of bad theology, just as likewise bad theology is the result of bad practice, but focusing on either or both as an alternative to throwing oneself upon Christ is what makes them onanistic.