Tuesday, May 02, 2006

First post

Why do I start a blog a this time, a few years after all the hip people? Is there any possible justification for such an undertaking, except pure narcissism?

Well, maybe, maybe not. It is my belief that a blog should be about something, and that it should be something that the writer has some real insight in. I have sadly never kept a journal of my personal life, and I will not start now. What I will use this blog for is to explore certain ideas that I as a working academic theologian feel I need to explore, and I think this might be an appropriate medium for this. Obviously a blog cannot replace proper scholarly work that is published in monographs and scientific journals, but this can maybe be a preparation for such work in the future. In a way these are thoughts that I at the moment do not have time to address in my work on my PhD, but there are thoughts that spill over from this work that might end up here. Ore vice versa.

What I want to discuss is the role of the – primarily Christian – religion in a world that is not progressing any more, but is heading towards a scenario with more injustice, suffering and meaninglessness rather than less. It is my belief that this is where our world is heading, and I feel this is something that most, if not all, modern theology does not address sufficiently. Faith in a pessimistic worldview, or God in a shrinking universe, as the title, stolen from a Muse tune, says.

My intuition is that religion is the key to survival in a scenario like this, in the sense that religion can provide the tools to live in a life that is not expanding. This is in part because faith deals in hope, but also because religion is about transforming ones values, something I feel is the key to a constructive way of living in a destructing world. Obviously, life can not be fulfilling if based on material goods, if these material goods are becoming harder to obtain.

In other words, I hope to be able to work out some tenets of a “pessimistic theology”, without becoming depressing. I believe this is possible, from the simple fact that even though I because of various environmental, political, cultural and economical reasons which I will address in time, believe that life in this world is heading towards crisis, this has not (so far) lead to any despair in my personal life. I am myself a bit puzzled by this fact. So, even if I will not be very personal in my writings here, I guess my writings will be motivated by some kind of self-exploration as well.

So, if this blog finds any readers, I welcome you to join in this undertaking. I am sure that I am not alone in having these feelings, and that there probably are others out there try to come to terms with these questions. If so, I look forward to hearing your input.

Patrik

9 comments:

Ben Myers said...

Welcome, Patrik! It's great to see your new blog.

Patrik said...

Thanks for the welcome! Anyone who writes poetry about theological systems is a friend of mine!

Thomas Adams said...

Patrik, welcome to the theology blogosphere! I have enjoyed reading your first few posts, and look forward to more.

A few questions regarding your "pessimistic theology." First, is it really true that the “world that is not progressing any more”? Nobody doubts that injustice, suffering, and meaninglessness are widespread, but aren’t there some parts of the world that are excited about the future? In particular, I’m thinking of such emerging nations like India and China, which both seem to be progressing quite rapidly. Perhaps a “pessimistic theology” is best suited for the West (Europe and North America), and not the entire planet.

That brings me to my second set of questions. To what extent is this pervasive sense of pessimism in society connected to the decline of Christianity in the West, especially in Europe? America still has a fairly vigorous Christian culture, but I don’t think the same can be said for Europe. Doesn’t a lack of religion create a void that is inevitably filled with either nihilism or hedonism? Or am I wrong about this? Is Finland still a Christian nation, despite all the statistics that indicate otherwise? I’m curious to hear your thoughts…

Patrik said...

Thomas,

Thanks for the welcome and the questions! Regarding the first one, I agree that I am proceeding out of a western perspective. Maybe what I am trying to point towards is a kind of contextual theology for the west; there are as you know already various forms of liberation theologies in what is usually called third world countries. I think it is particularly the western culture that is in crisis, and were it not for the risk that the decline of our culture may pull with it the rest of the world, this would not be a global concern at all. Yes, India and China are progressing (economically) but this is only making the global decline faster because it puts yet more stress on the earths limited resources. And one of my main points is that real progress is not concerned with economy and technology, but with the culture.

As to the second question, again, I am coming from a european perspective, and anything I would dare to say about America is strictly an outsider's observations. In Finland something like 86 percent of the population still belong to the Lutheran Church, and a few more to other churches. If that makes Finland a Christian nation depend on you definition, but religions impact in Finland is much less than in america, that is for sure. Finland is usually considered a very secularized country. However, I would not make an immidiate connection between the decline of culture and secularisation, though. The relationship is much more complex than that. I'm sure this is something I will have reason to return to in another post.

Chris Tilling said...

ALl the best with your new blog! It's looking real good already.

drebro said...

Patrik,
Good to see you in the blog world. I hope to read your posts as much as I can, and I expect to learn a lot from your reflections.

Eduardo said...

Patrik, what a great blog you have! It's a pleasure to read your insights. I would like to respond somewhat to Thomas' comment.

First of all, I am not from the developed world. I am from Asunción, Paraguay, in South America, and I live there. However, I consider myself thoroughly Western, and part of what once was known as the "Christendom"; but our people is not excited at all by the future. Of course, you could always dumb your pessimism along the lines of Isaiah 22:13; but it's just not going to happen.

I regard the Book of Ecclesiastes as the best Biblical witness for today, where God speaks with uncompromising sincerity about what is happening to us. By the way, I am blogging about Ecclesiastes.

Best regards,

Eduardo

Anonymous said...

Dear Patrik, Hyvää päivää,

I have a question:

1. I understand that religion is your profession, but have you ever felt God’s presence and seen the wonders he can produce? I don't mean reading about it in books.
2. Have you ever felt evil and really understood how it works? I don’t mean reading about evil in books.
3. Do you really believe in all the miracles Bible speaks about. Do you really believe that Jesus could feed thousands of followers with a few breads or do you – just little - doubt the veracity of the description of the miracles of the Bible.
4. I read with interest about “very interesting distinction between the content of a piece of culture (Inhalt) and it's true sense (Gehalt).” Wouldn’t you say that the same distinction applies to people. You can be a religious fanatic on the surface and something else in a true sense? You can dress as a priest and play the role and then doubt the very Bible that you preach. It is interesteing that works of art can be classified in this way, but I feel it is much more interesting to apply the same hightly useful distinction to living people. Many people live a lie, don’t you think? Some are blind and I used to belong the second category until quite recently when I met REAL evil and REAL good.

God Bless you

George

AmandaLaine said...

Hi!

I really enjoy your blog and wanted to let you know I stop by every now and then. Someday I'll have a more substantive comment to give. For now I wanted to say I love reading your blog!