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This is by way of an initial response to Strauns’ interesting series, and I’d echo his comments in his final post about not shouting loudly as though the other person isn’t too bright. On the whole, this place is excellent at not shouting at each other, and has created an environment where we can discuss what divides us without forgetting what unites us.

My initial thought is that one reason that discussions turn away from mutual illumination into recrimination is a form of fear: a fear, sometimes voiced, that the other person does not really believe in the Christian God in the way we do; and a fear, usually unvoiced, that what they say challenges our own presuppositions and beliefs in a way which makes us uncomfortable. There’s a third, contextual response, which comes from our membership of a particular Christian community, and which can make the argument degenerate still further; if we feel that our ‘tribe’ is under attack, as loyal members of it we join in the defence.

So, it would be easy to respond to Strauns’ posts as Bosco has by mocking the idea of theology. This seems based on the fact that as he’s had a particular revelation, so what’s the point? That suggests to me he hasn’t actually read either what Jess wrote on Saturday, or what Struans has been writing since then. I could react to that by saying he’s being myopic and a bit selfish, and the modern way would be to say that if that’s what he wants to be, who am I to judge?  If, as he appears to believe, the only way of access to God is via a private revelation, then he’d no doubt be right, but as the history of the Johannine community suggests, even before death of St John, that way of running a church had collapsed. There were folk, as we can see from the Johannine epistles, who said that their revelation was not the same as John’s, and insisted they were right; this seems to have broken up that church, as it does to so many charismatic churches.

The context here is one of intense personal belief. It is a version of the fifth of Strauns’ models – but without the concern for community or others. It is centred solely on the self and effectively says, as Bosco often does, ask God to show himself to you and he will. Well, here’s a confession, I first did that at age 10, and I did it for thirty years, before realising that He already was, but not in the way I wanted. If Bosco is speaking only to those who have had his experience, he is talking to himself; this is not what the Apostles did, neither is it the way they evangelised. So, I wonder here whether the real context is not one of an intensely individualistic culture centred on solipsism in which all that matters is an experience which one cannot communicate to others and which in actuality leaves oneself as the only saved person in the village?  In short, it is not talking about God, it is talking about oneself. That is not so much a model of how to do theology, as how not to do it.

I shall return, in the next post, to looking at some of what Struans says, but recent exchanges with Bosco remind me of the dangers of going just from one’s own personal experience. If others can’t relate to it, and if it simply allows you to criticise everyone else, it is egoloy – talk about the ego, and not talk about God.