Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Nonlinear Christianity

In reading through the last issue of Presbyterians Today, I was fascinated by a sequence of articles on Islam and Christianity.  In part, it was because...having read the entire Quran last year...I still struggle with the dynamics of that relationship.  Though I was able to find places of grace in that encounter, it was ultimately somewhat analogous to reading through a particularly unforgiving section of Deuteronomy, over and over again.   The Quran was interesting...fascinating, even...but not quite the joyous love-fest that one might have hoped for.

This being a publication of a significant oldline tradition, there was much effort to talk about tolerance and openness and mutual forbearance, all of which was well and good.  But as I read, I was fascinated by what one of the writers suggested were areas of commonality between our two traditions.   To quote:
Muslims and Christians share a linear view of history, a belief in heaven and hell, and a belief in judgement, individual death, and the resurrection of the body.
Problem is, lately I find myself hanging up on that first one.  My recent thinking and writing on the intersection of Many Worlds cosmology and faith have left me struggling a bit with the whole idea of linearity, of creation only being the unfolding of a single preset narrative.  One beginning, one end, with every step on the way neatly and Calvinistically predetermined.

Fate is a big deal in Islam, as my reading of both the Quran and a deep sampling of the hadiths revealed.  Our destiny, our fate, is completely set by Allah, who knows ever last thing we have done and will ever do.  In that, the observations in the article were dead on.

Moving away from linear cosmologies and into the considerably more challenging views of the universe implied by quantum physics, that messes a bit with both of our respective theologies.

As I'm less of an expert on Islam, I can say that it may not be quite a mortal blow to Christianity.  For example, it isn't problematic for most of the teachings of Jesus.  The core and foundational obligations of the Great Commandment aren't touched by such thinking.  The declaration that the Kingdom of God is at hand still stands.  As does the call to evangelize, and the demand for us to hear the cries of the outcast and the oppressed.  The ultimate judgement of all of our actions is also not challenged, or the salvific power of the Cross.

But the whole "we already know how exactly this ends" schtick?  It doesn't fly so well in a multiverse creation.  Oh, sure, things might end with Beasts and False Prophets and Kirk Cameron floating off into the sky.  But it just as well might not.

If the future is actually open, which it needs to be if repentance is to mean anything, might not be exactly what we think.