Ever noticed when you read about illnesses in any detail, whether studying biology or attempting some self-diagnosis via the internet, how you end up thinking you have nearly every disease you read about? I think the same thing is happening to me as I read about various theologies and belief systems. I read about something and I think, "Hey, that's me!" Does that make me wishy-washy? Perhaps it is because many, many theologies and world-views have wisdom to share. Sometimes this wisdom comes from surprising places.
I was reading further about Process Theology when I stumbled upon something else which in some ways fits me well: agnosticism. I would never have thought about myself as agnostic. It would seem my commitment to following Jesus might preclude agnosticism. But, reading this article by Mary Herczog I found a mix of agnosticism and Process Theology which makes a lot of sense to me.
I generally think of agnosticism as the belief there may be a god and there may not be a god but we cannot know either way. As with any belief systems there is variety within agnosticism. Herczog defines her brand of agnosticism this way:
"I will borrow from Scriven and dub my position “wide sense agnosticism,” and present it as a viable alternative to theism and atheism. Wide sense agnosticism is open to the arguments presented by both theism and atheism. It rejects the apophatic notion that there can be no positive knowledge about God, while denying that any one person or belief system can contain all the knowledge there is about God. It also tends towards skepticism, and so that same God-knowledge does not escape such scrutiny. Wide sense agnosticism is dubious that there can be a clear distinction between objective knowledge of God and subjective belief about God."
It makes a lot of sense to me to hold all of our beliefs, theologies, and ideas with this kind of skepticism. After all, if we cling too tightly to our own beliefs we are in danger of making them into idols. And, within the context of community and open conversation it is crucially important to always consider we might be wrong. Otherwise our minds are closed to alternative view points and our own arrogance gets in the way of hearing others.
Yet this does not mean we cannot have our own somewhat firmly held suspicions about God. Indeed if we do not believe anything about God or the way the world works or the greater good or something, it would be difficult to make decisions in our lives. What would we base those decisions upon?
In a fascinating and involved argument, Herczog goes on to show how one could hold on to Process Theology in the midst of agnosticism. Since Process Theology says God is affected by us and that God is within us, Herczog give this final summary: “The process God knows our hearts and is changed by them. In turn we can, and indeed we do, know God. We just don’t know it.”
So, I find myself pondering my beliefs as agnostic process theology, with a dash of anarchism, a tinge of non-theism, and a dollop of liberation theology (these last two I will hopefully address later). I am sure that is only for starters.
As is the case with the afore mentioned reading induced hypochondria, there are always also diagnosis which absolutely do not fit. There are things we read about and say, “holy mackerel, at least I can be sure I don’t have that!” Likewise, I am not completely wishy-washy when it comes to theology. There are theologies I can be fairly certain I do not give credence to: I am not a prosperity theologian, a fundamentalist, an evangelical or at all even dimly related to the 700 club, for example.
How about you? What theologies and world-views intrigue you? What ones ring false? What do you think of agnosticism? How many philosophical, theological, etc. labels might you give yourself?
by Sheri Ellwood